People to avoid, Athens
Yes - George of the Acropolis and locality is a real person and I can prove it. See the attached photo.
Today while making my sunburned way towards the Theatre of Dionissos on Dionissiou Areopagitou, I was hailed by a well dressed and tanned elderly man - first in Greek and then in English. Something about the Acropolis. Sounded like he was asking me a question. He then flatteringly told me I looked Greek (far from true) and asked me where was I from etc etc. He stood chatting to me about himself (he was an exporter of oranges!) asked me how old Iwas (again flatteringly told me that I don't look 60 (true). He claimed that he was 75 (possible) and i had to admit he too looked younger. But he admitted not to be fit...needs a hip replacement and his three brothers died in a car accident and other such confidences. He began talking religion and politics and started addressing me as 'brother'. Charming old chap. I was waiting for the sob story and the request for cash. it didn't come. He suggested we go for a drink...did I have time? Where was my hotel? What was I doing tomorrow etc. Could he invite me to his home tomorrow for a meal with his wife.... i was bemused but catious.
I saw no harm in indulging the old chap thought I might learn something about local life. He led me down some off the main track streets, past the Hadrian's arch and and seemed to pick a small corner cafe bar near Nikis Street or that area. He led the way in to the back. There were no customers. After some chat he insisted in showing me a photocopy of his passport which showed a possibly younger darker haired man but the date of birth was 1936. His walled seemed to have a number of €100 notes which he wanted me to see. He ordered an 'orange and ouzo' and I a cappucino. After a short time we were joinmed by the two barmaids. One was about 26 the other more than 30; the older one was called Ioulia. They asked if we wouyld buy them a drink...a here it comes I thought. George, acted as if he were caught off guard but half heartedly accepted the offer saying we would split the bill. the girls had three drinks of what might be interpreted as champagne but was unlikely to be anything but fizzy water or a drop of Cava wine. They drank quickly. Then the big fat guy presents the bill...€100 + on a hand writtren chit...one for each of us! Yes €200 for the lot. George seemed uncomfortable and started mopping his brow but forked out one of his €100s. I refused and shook my head. There was the usual production of the 'price list' etc. The cheapest drink 'even for Greeks' was €15. I stupidly decided to cut my losses and give €50 and clear off.
George took me out on the street paternally and was philosophical about his loss. He likes girls. He loves Greece etc but his heart (now!) is weak. Began crocodile crying... I said 'You had bettter go and get your money back. He shrugged and began warning me of rip-off taxis etc! He was going to see me back to my hotel but I declined. So he darted off. Funny thing I noticed that the fat guy from the bar seemed to be on the street too. Returning his cash? Sure a great scam.
Tomorrow I'll find the exact location of the rip-off joint and will publish it here.
Beware of old charming Greeks bearing (or promising) gifts!
I was not aware of the bar scam, but managed to see this first hand. I bumped into an elderly gentleman called George not far from the acropolis underground who looked impeccable - he had a nice tag watch (probably fake), lots of money in his wallet and very well dressed. He told me the acropolis was closed for the day (this was around 5pm) and so suggested he buy me a drink nearby and tell me more about it's history. Regrettably I trusted his kind face and followed him to a small cafe in the plaka area. Weirdly enough he took me to an empty cafe, near the back and offered me a drink, then this girl behind the bar sits down with us and asks us to buy her a drink (champagne). After my OJ, her big fat boss walks in and hands us the bill. €210 each!!!! I of course was shocked so I got up and wanted to leave, but the big guy was in my way. George of course paid his €210, but I only coughed up €20 as I kept my other euros in a hidden pocket and then ran for my life!!! The fat boss wanted to take my credit card!!! Beware of this old man near the acropolis! The message here is don't be stupid and DON'T TRUST ANYONE!!!!
This bar scam has been happening in Athens for years, and they do such a good job that even a seasoned traveller can be scammed. After getting money from an ATM I went shopping, and happened to ask a random person for directions to a store. He gave me complicated directions which I could not follow, and then said - "Come, I show you." One thing leads to another and we start talking. He then says that his family owned bar is near by and invites me for a drink. I don't know why I went and kick myself. I was given a full bottle of Heinekin and asked to remove the cap myself and pour myself a glass. I'm not sure whether the drugs were in the beer or the glass. They scammed me 4 ways. 1. Beautiful woman asks me to buy her a drink, I comply, she leaves, bar tender says she ordered the finest champagne on the list. 2. Bar tender takes my 5,000 Drachma Bill and swaps it for a 500, I'm drugged so I don't think twice and give him another $5,000. 3. Prostitutes proposition me, I say no, prostitutes go away. 4. Bar tender doesn't have change, asks me to pay with exact change. Person next to me puts their money on the table and offers to make change for me. Being drugged, I lay my cash on the table, big bills get exchanged for small bills, suddenly I have exact change to pay with. Being drugged, I barely realize that I'm being completely swindled. 5. Drugs wear off, I call them on the scam, demand money back, get mad. everyone in on the scam tries to calm me down, says that the "tourist police" are being called (I later learn that there is no such animal). I walk out and am blinded by the sun, due to whatever they drugged me with. I stagger through the streets, running, scared out of my mind about being arrested, being followed, and having lost a lot of money. I jump on trains, in taxis, etc. and eventually land back at my hotel. Frankly, I feel lucky to be alive and can't believe how stupid I was. I went back the next day to try and find the place but was unable to. It was somewhere North of Placa, the main tourist trap shopping area near the old neighborhoods leading up to the Acropolis. I was somewhere near the new underground subway station that was being built at the time (it was either during 1999 or 2000)
The guides at the historical and archeological sites and museums are YOUR friends. They burn for their job, and they want to share you with all their knowledge about the Greek history. Dont make them angry, dont bother them and listen to what they say! They are there because they want to serve you and all other people from all over the world. It means, listen to them when they say SOMETHING!!!
The Kamaki (fishermen) used to aggressively chase foreign women coming to Greece on holiday. Their heyday was in the 70's when mass tourism first hit Greece and it was a far more conservative country than it is now. Foreign women were percieved by many Greek men to be easier than Greek women.
The true centre of the Kamaki was on the Islands, where many actually were fishermen. In Athens I've seen a couple in Plaka who press their attentions on passing women. A firm "OHI" and walking on will be sufficient (the Kamaki is a quantity operator; there are plenty more fish in the sea). Girls who are obviously nordic looking are likely to get more attention generally in Greece, but it is normally easy to brush off. Unusual hair colouring like red-heads also get a lot of attention, as many Greek men nowadays have Kamaki like tendencies ;-)
In the interests of fairness and because my friend Maria will kill me if I don't say it, could be argued that many men in other places have kamaki-like tendencies as well!
Greece in General is a safe country, specially Athens with hundreds of tourists running around at night, but BEWARE of the card game scam. Its called PAPANTZIS... a 3 card game shuffle that people huddle around and bet to find the card.
In the first couple of tries it seems easy and YOU WILL FIND the card... they are trained for you to find the card. In the next few rounds though .. you will loose your share of Euros so beware of street betting.
More times then not, as you are in the huddle betting away ... an accomplise is making your pocket lighter ... taking your wallet, mobile ... etc.
Just be smart ... if it was SO EASY TO WIN .. he would not be there.
There is a common scam that goes on in Athens, where a man will ask you what time it is. He only does this in the hope that you will take your cell phone out to look, and if you do he will snatch it and run away.
If someone you don't know asks you the time, tell him from a wrist watch, or if you don't have one, say you don't know.
Ladies be warned...if a Greek man approached you, this is called kamaki, he is trying to get to know you. And whether you welcome the attention or not...I suggest you just politely thank him and tell him go away. And dont let yourself be in a situation you dont want to be in. Ochi mean NO...
You will find many interesting people doing stunts, or crazy things on the streets to grab peoples attention. I once saw a woman painted completely blue, her costume was blue too; she looked like the genie from 'Aladdin.'
I stopped to take a picture of her because she was so hillarious. But then she expected me to pay for the picture I just took of her with my own camera!
You have to watch it, sometimes these people are doing odd things just to get people to take pictures of them so that they can make some money.
Here's the picture I took of that blue lady. See her motioning for me to come pay her for the photo?
While you're in Athens you will probably take a stroll in the Plaka district where you can do some shopping for Greek souvenirs.
While I was shopping there with my friends, there were a number of people on the streets trying to sell rubbish. The hardest ones to avoid were these older women trying to get us to buy their white table clothes. Simply saying 'no' didn't work. The women were SO anxious to get rid of the cloths that they kept downing the price until it went from 120 Euros to 10! Regardless though, I wasn't interested, so I smiled and shook my head.
I learned fast though that ANY friendly gesture whatsoever (a smile, eyecontact, or saying 'no thanks' instead of just NO) does not even register into these peoples heads, and they think it means you really are interested in what they're selling even though you're saying no. It got to the point where the women were even yanking on my shirt, saying "buy, buy buy" and didnt want to let me leave until i agreed!
I had experiences like this several times in Athens, as well as in Turkey. Some of the salespeople are very pushy to the point where they will almost grab you, or pull you.
I found that the best thing to do is to make no eye contact with them at all; dont even glance at the product if you don't want it...don't smile, dont say thanks any way...just keep walking and say no.
This is one I read about in a guidebook before going, so I didn't get caught, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Men walking on their own in or around Syntagma Square are approached by a local who starts a conversation, then says they know a good bar and invite you to go with them. Once there you meet attractive women who ask you to buy them a drink, and you get stung with a huge bar bill. Like I said, I didn't get caught, but I did get approached several times. One guy started by asking me the time, which led to a conversation about where I was from, which football team I supported… they are persistent, and the best approach seems to be to say no firmly and laugh it off in a 'I wasn't born yesterday' manner. It's a shame to have to be so suspicious as the Greeks are in fact very friendly.
I HAD MY WALLET STOLEN FROM MY BUM BAG WHICH WAS TURNED ROUND SO IT WAS ON MY BELLY WITH MY T SHIRT OVER THE TOP SO ITHOUGHT IT WOULD BE SAFE BUT SOME GUY AT THE BUS STOP UN ZIPPED IT AND TOOK OUT THE WALLET AS WE WERE GETTING ON THE BUS I COULD FEEL SOME ONE PUSHING AGAINST ME SO IT MUST HAVE BEEN HIM. FIRST PROBLEM I HAVE HAD LIKE THIS IN 20 YEARS OF TRAVEL TO GREECE. TOLD THE POLICE BUT THEY WERE USELESS DIDNT EVEN GIVE ME A CRIME NUMBER FOR MY INSURANCE.
Men, be careful.. alot of people will offer you very beautiful young women, Don,t go with them, yes the girls are young,charming and beautiful, but it is only a trap to hunt you, they will force you to offer her drinks, after couple of hours, you have to pay round $400 without doing any thing
SCAM ALERT: [targets single males traveling alone]
I hate to admit being suckered into this one, but after being conned the first time, I was approached three more times (in as many days) with the same scam, so I thought it best to post it. Maybe save someone some cash.
The scam goes like this:
A man approaches you and engages you in conversation by asking for the time or for directions, etc in Greek. Once he hears that you are obviously not Greek, he asks where you are from. Coincidentally he [has been there, lived there, has a cousin who got married and moved there, went to a place near there on business last year, etc.]
He is from out of town but comes to Athens ocassionally on business. 'Hey', he says 'I know a great pub around here. Let's go get a drink.
When you get there, he'll buy you a drink. The house will buy you a drink. Everyone is very nice and friendly. The girl at the end of the bar comes over to you and shows an interest in you. She asks if you'll buy her a drink and you say 'of course' because, hey, you've been getting free drinks since you entered the place. What will be opened for this lovely and friendly girl is a very expensive bottle of Champagne (or mineral water in a champagne bottle, most likely). And you end up paying for it becase you did agree to it, after all.
Something that happened to me and a friend of mine: we were looking for the tourist office (which was closed), and this guy came up to us in Sintagma Square saying he knew where the tourist office was, but that he had better info for us, all we had to do was walk into a building across the street and he'd give us info about ferries, pensions and stuff. That sounded quite strange to us, so we managed to get away. Of course the guy's reaction (he got quite mad) proved that we were right to do that.
This may sound obvious to those who have traveled around a lot, but for those who are beginners I think it is good that you hear these stories.