A pristine Greece goes beyond the Google photograph

img_1786Scenic image searches on Google only encompass a small portion of what Santorini, Greece, is actually like.

Santorini is home to unique landscapes of picturesque cliffs and beaches, and it is actually quite different from what I had pictured before visiting. I was surprised to find that the island does not only consist of the pretty blue and white houses that we often see online. The beautiful white and light-toned homes on the hillsides of Greece that we see in a Google image search are actually sparsely dispersed throughout the island.

My impression from Google was that the island was completely covered in these exotic-looking homes. However, the island seemed to be mostly desert terrain and looked extremely dry with only a few of these types of homes scattered across the island.

The trek down to our little house contained the most remarkable view. We overlooked a majority of the island as it wrapped around in an almost complete circle in the Aegean Sea. The home we stayed at was at the very bottom of the hill. When we looked up, there was an entire cliff side filled with unique houses in various light tones and bright, exotic doors.

It felt strange to be a part of that picturesque moment, a moment that many seem to obsess over on social media or dream to visit one day. It was very odd to be physically present on such a beautiful island—no longer a fantasy but a reality. I found myself in the middle of all the Instagram photos, and it was quite a surreal experience.

Our days consisted of relaxing and tanning while looking out at the island, exploring the town of Oia, swimming in the clear blue ocean of Perissa Beach, and eating authentic Greek dishes such as gyros and chicken souvlaki.

USD junior Maaron Tesfaye is Greek Orthodox. She explained that she enjoyed her time experiencing the Greek lifestyle.

“I loved the sightseeing, the food, and the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture,” Tesfaye said. “My friends and I lived by the beach that had the clearest water and black rocky sand, which was not as soft, but [it was] still really pretty. I even faced my fear of cliff jumping.”

Many of the places we visited in Santorini epitomized the quintessential picture of Greece that would pop up on a Google search. However, as with many places, the beautiful, scenic spots are scattered between some less-than picturesque locations. Santorini had its fair share of shabby buildings covered in graffiti, but nothing compared to the battered city of Athens.

I was shocked to see how many dilapidated buildings populated Athens. Some of the buildings were in such bad shape that they looked as if they were going to fall over. Tesfaye was also surprised by the many impoverished parts of the city.

“I was aware of the bad economic state of Greece; however, when I was in Athens, I realized just how underdeveloped some parts of the city are,” Tesfaye said. “It caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting the buildings filled with graffiti. I even watched someone graffiti a glass window in broad daylight without getting caught. There seemed to rarely be any police force of some kind, and the city seemed very unstructured.”

Many visualize Greece as the place with hillsides filled with unique-looking blue and white buildings. Those who imagine the country as so may not realize the harsh realities of living in Greece after the country experienced severe economic disparities and hardship upon entering the European Union. It seems that the government is more interested in preserving the backdrops for pristine photo albums than cleaning up its own communities. Every city has another side of the Google image you don’t see. Every beautiful story comes with a darker, less exciting side.

For every picturesque tourist hot spot, there was a larger area of Greece that could have used improvement. Experiencing these places firsthand, opens your perspective to the reality behind the picture.

Written by, Tayler RV, Staff Writer