People to avoid, Athens
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.
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?
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.
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.
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)
BEWARE of any man striking up a conversation with you near Syntagma Square.
I met a man named Nikolas in one of the side streets near Syntagma Square who asked me for the time. It was a sunny day and early on a Saturday afternoon. He was friendly and outgoing and he asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Athens and where I was staying. Then he said he had a brother living in my hometown who had a restaurant. The man was about 60 years old, wore a black felt baseball cap, sunglasses and a sheepskin coat. He was overweight. He said that he had a shop nearby and why not go back and he would write down his brother's name and the name of the restaurant and I could say hello for him. He had not seen his brother in eight years. So I followed him up a few side streets and we ended up on Navarchou Nikodimou Street at a bar called "El Greco." It's just a couple streets away from Syntagma Square. He motioned to the restaurant across the street and said that it was his, but that it was closed now, so let's just go into this bar and get a pen and paper. We do that and instantly I realize that something is wrong. There are two girls dressed like hookers sitting at a table and behind the bar is an Asian woman, about 55, who looks like an ex-hooker. There was no one else. I've seen these sorts of bars all my life and knew instantly what sort of bar this was. He orders an ouzo and orange juice for me (he had mentioned earlier that I should try it) and a whiskey for himself. It was probably iced tea. He tells me to sit down at the bar. I do. And so does he, but not next to me, but rather one stool over. So now there is an empty stool between us. Gee, I wonder who is going to sit there? He begins writing down the names, etc and our drinks are now on the bar. I have a couple sips of my ouzo and orange juice and suddenly a blonde woman sits down next to me. She says that she is from Mykonos but probably she is Eastern European. Not Greek. She asks me to buy her a drink. I refuse. But the barmaid has put out a Champagne glass on the bar for the girl. The barmaid tells me to buy the girl a drink. Then suddenly I notice that Nikolas has disappeared, probably into the back room. I realized that I have to get out of there as soon as possible. I ask how much my drink is and the Asian barmaid shows me a drinks menu and says "Ten euros." Fine. "But finish your drink, what's the hurry?" I take another sip, lay out ten euros, and split as fast as I could. I only had perhaps three or four sips of the drink. At most I drank half of the glass. As a daily drinker I can hold my alcohol very well, but within 15 or 20 minutes I was as high as a kite. I knew instantly that the drink had been spiked with some sort of date rape drug or strong sedative. Certainly they wanted to get me delirious and relieve me of all my money, credit cards and perhaps my passport.
By chance I see Nikolas again and begin following him. He is wandering aimlessly around the streets in his sheepskin coat. He is overweight and his big gut is hanging out. He sits for awhile and smokes a cigarette. He then pees in a doorway. I see him ask other men for the time but hardly anyone pays any attention to him. Then he meets another man and there is a familiar and amicable exchange between them. So I follow the other man who has short gray hair and is about 60ish as well. 5'6". He stops in Syntagma square and I wander past him and pretend to admire the Parliament building. He begins to chat me up. He says he is running a bar for a friend and that there are some girls there and would I like have a drink with him there? I ask him how much he earns for bringing men to this bar. He looks a bit surprised and then says flatly, "15%." And do you ever put drugs in the drinks for these men?" No he says, no drugs. But sometimes a little sugar. Whatever that means. I tell him to get lost and he does. Watch out for the El Greco Bar and any man who asks you for the time or seems too friendly.
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!!!!
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.
Hello All. Been there. They wanted to rob me in bright day light as well. I met a guy, he said he's a tourist from Italy, he went my direction so we talked for a bit. He offered a dring in a pub nearby. And it was near, so I agreed - why not have a nice cold drink in the hot. We went into Hollywood Pub. I ordered an Ouzo, he too, then the waitress joined and asked if we could buy her a drink -we agreed to share the bill. Little chit-chat and the bartender brings a bill for 300 EURO. The Guy takes out 150 like nothing happened. I say -it's way too much. They block my way out and want me to pay. Luckily I had 50 EUR with me and gave them only 30 from my one pocket. But they wanted more, so I sy I'm calling the police. They won't let me use the phone. So what I do, is I push away the bartender away, jump the table and chairs and run out of the place. I find a policeman, ask for help, but he only points me to the police station to search for help there. Overall long story with the police and a couple of hours lost, but in the end after some more sightseeing I return early evening to that pub and call the police station where I was earlier as we agreed with the lady officer that if it would be open she would send a patrol there. It was open, police arrived after 45 mins!!! The bartender was fu**ing surprised to see me and the police. There was no discussion, as soon as he saw me he had my 30 EUR in his hand to give it back to me. All in all- a happy end, could have ended differently had they drugged me. Maybe a lesson learned for them and will think twice before trying to fu*k a Polish tourist again :) Police told me they know about it but....it's Greece, so what can u expect.
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!
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
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!
Yes as promised I tracked down George and the Fat Man.
The attached photograph shows them as chums and partners on the Acropolis Museum way.
I watched them in action. George does the touting. Fat man follows if the net is sprung.
George is so smooth and plausible if he catches you (literally) unawares. He is so nervy and agile with his walking cane and cravat or tie that you couldn't but be fascinated by him. But cast your eyes around for the fat man on the sidelines... Then get out of there as quick as yhou can.
The joint George will lure you to is called HOLLYWOOD (about 5 mins brisk walk away) and is on the corner of Skoufu and Nikis streets in the Plaka district. Its a small bar that had no customers when I checked it out at 10pm on a Saturday night. The Fat Man pulled the shutters at 10.30pm and went off with the 20s girl in the direction of the Acropolis underground station where I lost them
George is by no means the only tout on the Acropolis beat but he is the most noticeable and the most plausible. I saw him leading off two American teenagers to his honeypot. Hope they managed to get out of his clutches with some cash left.
I challenged George to his face (he didn't remember me) and told him he was going to be published on the internet. He protested that he was 'a businessman' and 'didn't care'. I might send his reviews to the HOLLYWOOD address!
Tell him you read about him here.
Ok, so I have to admit I fell for George the dinner/drinks scammer hook line and sinker at first. I knew something was up when he asked me the time and took me to what he said is his restaurant. I forget the exact one. But they must have been in cahoots as they were totally playing up the I'm the waiter who is so scared of the owner barking at me in Greece. He's a fairly tall wiry old man with steel gray and white hair and a really funky nose, boomy rasp voice not in the greatest of health. Says he's 58 but looks talks and moves more like 75 and has rotten teeth. He has the marks of a barely literate, or illiterate Greek Islander. He could not read nor write anything I asked him to, in Greek or English.
So just like the others he had a story this time about being an oil man in Houston years ago and now in Saudi Arabia. The dinner I have to say was amazing, and the conversation good to a point. I figured might as well play this out since I'd be dining alone anyhow. So, The bill for 79 Euro for a nice piece of fish and I'm sure they charged me for the wine and salads he took part in too. I only had 75 so I offered to have the 'owner' show me to the ATM and I would pay in full with tip. But the nervous waiter just took my 75 and thanked me for my patronage. At this point as George entered me into the famous Hollywood bar I was presented with an attractive friendly Polish woman who served me a VERY stiff Greek drink. The all of a sudden she was gone replaced by some fat slob Greek guy at the bar and a rather portly Russian/Greek (hooker I'm almost sure) girl appeared and started to really work me at the bar and was really interested in me. She is now quite fat and engorged from consuming so many alcoholic drinks there. I wouldn't even "do" her for free. Being from a Mediterranean culture myself I was always suspicious and purposefully planting false info such as when she asked how much I make in the states (George did too) and what my birthday is. I never used my credit card and the bill was 70 Euro for about 4 drinks. The Russian volunteered herself two of them. She did ask "may I have a drink" and I cut her off after the second one and she was kind of dispirited that I only sipped on my stiff Greek Whiskey drink and showed no signs of drunkenness afterward. I wondered if they put stuff in the drinks to make people vulnerable. Still worried that George might be somehow connected to the Greek Mafia I decided to just pay and leave cordially as this money is well within my means and I didn't want to get beat up on my first night in Athens. Then George made some drunken ruckus about wanting to go clubbing like he was 20 when we left and I told him to *** off and go screw those ugly hookers.
All in all I had a good time playing the game but should have bailed before Hollywood. If these guys were real mafia they would have waxed the floor with me, but I later dressed down the people at the restaurant in front of everyone, and the big fat Greek slob who came out, the REAL owner looked like the Mafia type so I didn't press my luck from there.
***UPDATE**** Revenge time!
Ran into "George" again in front of Hadrians Arch for the second time sitting on a bench. He acted like he would get physical so I chased him and nabbed his photo, told him I'd break his face in several places if he tried anything I taunted him in Greek and English curses in front of a crowd which was good enough to get him to turn around and nab a pic. He then very nervously ran as I chased him down the temple of Zeus by Hadrians Arch and he actually ran across a very busy street without a crosswalk to get away from me, as I cursed him out some more and told him he's going live on the Internet!! I also egged the motorcyclists on to run him over. In Athens crossing traffic without a crosswalk is a pretty unsafe game. One local guy thanked me for humiliating him saying he deserves it for doing what he does. Revenge is sweet!!
I recently met the same men George, and I was ripped off in much the same way. I am actually surprised there are that many topics on it here, so this scam must be widespread.
For me it went much the same way as said before. This old men came to me in the neighboorhood of Syntagma Square, gave me a hand, and started to talk to me. I immediately had the gut feeling that he wanted something from me but I let him talk. He acted surprised when I said I was from Holland, and he acts flabbergasted about how much I look Greek. He actually knew a lot of details about my country, said he was married to a Dutch lady, and has a son who studies there. The names, Dutch cities he tells you about, it all checks out. Then indeed he told me some story about business in oranges which I didn't understand, and after a while he says let's go for something to drink. Again my instinct says don't do it, and I was afraid he is gonna let me pay for his drink. Again foolishly I said ok. After a while we arrive at the Hollywood bar, empty, a blond older woman behind the bar, and he says let's sit down. I ordered a beer, he takes orange juice. Indeed, he whispers something in the ear of a girl sitting there (probably an eastern-european prostitute, I realized afterwards). Also indeed, the fat guy enters the bar. Girl took place next to me and asked me "do you buy me a drink". Gentle as I wanted to be, I said ok, although I found it strange. Then she came with a bottle in a bucket, and started drinking. She kept talking and talking, acted really interested in anything I said. After a while I asked what are you drinking, "Champagne" she said nonchalant. That's when I realised that I was gonna have to pay for my stupidity. Soon after that the blond older woman brings the handwritten bill, 10 for the beer, 160 for the champagne, and shows me the menu to proof her point. I said, I'm not gonna pay for that. The whole atmosphere changed from extremely polite to mildly agressive. Then after some words they said I can pay 40 and fat man gets in my way. I instinctively acted defensive so to let him think, if you touch me I hit you back (I'm 24). Then he got out of my way, and I threw a 20 euro bill (the lowest that I had unfortunately, I wanted to pay 10) on the counter and walked away, in the meanwhile them shouting and calling me names. Again stupid, I should have left without paying, but I wasn't used to these situations.
The lesson to be learnt from this is simple. Ofcourse these people are lowlife scum, but I have foremost myself to blame. I accepted everything, the drink etc. I had the gut feeling at several times that this couldn't be right, but I ignored it. That's why I had to pay, and I consider it learning money. While 20 euros is still too much, I had the luck there weren't any trained guys in front of me like in other experiences I have read, because I might have been intimidated into paying a lot more.
People like this are profesional scammers, they can identify people who may fall into the trap, don't fall into it. Trust your instinct, when something seems too nice to be rationally true, it usually is.