Greece is home to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world, but many in the region aren’t always the most welcoming to black travelers. Christane Njatcha, who went to Greece with friends Charlene and Denise Osei, gets real about what it was like experiencing Greece as a black woman, telling Travel Noire about the beautiful highs and disappointing lows of a recent trip to Santorini and Mykonos.
Travel Noire: Why did you decide to go to Greece?
Christane: Greece had been on my bucket list for the past five years, or ever since I started traveling. It was in the back of my mind but never really an option financially. A year ago, my best friend Denise found the cheapest tickets of all time for a flight to Santorini. We thank God for our blessing and bought them instantly. The tickets were about $650 round-trip!
Travel Noire: Where did you stay?
Christane: We had the opportunity to squeeze in Mykonos because our original destination was Santorini. We spent four nights in Santorini where we stayed at the Luna Suites in Pyrgos. We picked that location because of the views. We woke up to the most beautiful sight at a lesser cost. Breakfast was included and that was a plus. The historical village of Pyrgos was built like a maze, a lot of beautiful alleys to discover, private restaurants, and beautiful doors. We loved it!
In the Mykonos, we spent three nights. We stayed at the Villa Pleiades, near Ornos beach. Perfect location as it wasn’t in town but it wasn’t too far from the town. The villa was gorgeous and cost us less than $150/night. Although they didn’t offer complimentary breakfast, the owner had a driver pick us up from the port and take us back to it at no charge. We appreciated that. We originally booked a spot next to paradise beach, but they called to cancel our reservation 1 hour before our arrival. Thankfully, we found this place, which turned out to be perfect.
Travel Noire: Where were your favorite places to eat?
Christane: In Santorini, we ate at Rosemary in Pyrgos and Floga in Oia. We particular enjoyed Floga because it was right at the edge of the cliff. The sight of the city won’t leave my mind for decades. These were the two restaurants we dined at, and I can tell you we weren’t disappointed. We love aesthetically pleasing locations and this satisfied that thirst. We also had the opportunity to try street food in Fira, and man oh man. We had gyros with the best falafels at Nick’s Grill. Super fresh, tasty and cheap! I recommend all three places, because the experiences were wonderful.
In Mykonos, we dined at Mamaloukas. This is a complete five stars for me, so I will strongly recommend it. Who goes to the Mykonos and doesn’t try gelato ice cream? We saw this recommendation on Yelp so we had to try it: Trio Bambini. The people were the kindest at that parlor and the ice cream was absolutely delicious. Tell them I sent you!
Travel Noire: What was the coolest thing you did?
Christane: We obviously did the tourist things because it was necessary to explore what a city is known for, like a city tour, sailing and cooking class. We added the cooking class because our suitemates attended it on the previous day and raved about it. It was the best decision we made on the whim. The class is called Petra Kouzina. The instructors were lovely, the prices were affordable, and the experience was unique. I definitely recommend a cooking class in Greece, and especially with George and Paula.
Travel Noire: What would you do differently about your trip?
Christane: I would add Athens to my itinerary. I think we were so caught up in the picturesque travel destination that we forgot the historical part of the country wasn’t in Santorini. That is the only thing I could think to do differently.
Travel Noire: What was the highlight of your trip?
Christane: Other than the beautiful architecture that is the village of Oia, it would have to be our cooking class with @Petra_Kouzina. We learned so much about the origins of the Greek cuisine all while laughing and exchanging stories with strangers. The recipes we learned and the memories shared are what we hold on to as we remember Greece.
Travel Noire: What surprised you the most about this destination?
Christane: What surprised us the most is how uncultured Greeks were to the world outside of theirs. I could personally see a shift in culture, especially having traveled to many other continents. Europe, in general, could be quiet unwelcoming but Greece took the cake. For a destination that is quite costly, the people were completely ignorant to the idea that every human being should be treated equally, independent of their ethnicity or cultural background.
Travel Noire: Did you feel welcomed there as a black traveler?
Christane: The truth is we experience a lot of adversity as women of color. The presumption that we couldn’t afford luxurious items when we walked into a luxury brand store was real. Maybe we can’t sit at a table in fancy restaurants because we are probably unable to afford it. Yes, we most certainly felt unwelcomed, disrespected and insulted. In the Mykonos, we got thrown out of the bar for the silliest thing, and the male owner put his hands on my best friend. I’ve never experienced anything like that! All the while, everyone had their phones out waiting for a fight to break. Greece is indeed a beautiful travel destination but we were disappointed. The airport employees seemed unbothered when we lost our luggage and the list goes on.
Nonetheless, I take this opportunity to encourage us, people of color, to travel more and explore more! Do it proudly because there is something about a confident black person who can’t be shaken by the winds of cultural differences. The more we travel, the more we educate those that just don’t know about us. Additionally, it makes you grateful for the place you have chosen to call home. This experience fueled our desire to share our story with our community because often time we want to highlight the good parts only. The unfortunate experiences happen too, but how do you deal with it? You learn, you share hoping to avoid someone else the same pain and you re-shift your crown as you keep traveling!
It was this situation that prompted us to create @TravelingCocoaGirls on Instagram, a platform for us to share these stories and equip black female travelers with knowledge as they journey to these countries. So please give us a follow and join our journey.
Travel Noire: Would you go back?
Christane: I would go back to Greece with my spouse but in search of a completely different experience. In my current travel journeys, I am constantly looking to connect with the locals, dance with strangers and assimilate with whatever culture I am in. Greece didn’t give me that. Instead, it gave me a great wall of ignorance that isn’t going down anytime soon. I would go back to enjoy Oia and its views. I wouldn’t want to do much of the tourist thing, other than camp out with my significant other at our villa and eat up the views. Greeks are a long way from accepting that people of color bring a lot to the table, and the color of our skin doesn’t make us less deserving of their culture.
Source: Travel – Travel Noire