Greece Plans To Keep Rowdy Tourists Out Of Town

Greece club signs
Roger Price, Flickr

Disrespect the locals a few too many times and they may decide to shun you from the local enclaves and relegate you to tacky tourist ghettos. Unfortunately, that may be exactly what’s in store for visitors headed to the Greek islands.

Locals there say they’ve had enough of debauched tourists who have been wreaking havoc in the otherwise beautiful and peaceful Mediterranean region. Their solution? Set up segregated tourist zones to keep the riffraff out.The drastic plan is under consideration after a recent spate of incidents involving bar brawls, rowdy behavior and the stabbing of a British teenager on the island of Crete. The Greek islands attract huge numbers of young pleasure-seekers who are eager to party, much to the unhappiness of locals. To get around the problem, they’re looking at establishing “tourist strips” far from town where foreigners can go wild without bothering anyone.

If the Greeks do agree on the plan, it’ll be a sad day for travelers who actually want to experience everything the islands have to offer. Visiting a city that’s split in half — with locals on one side and tourists on another — is not really visiting the city at all. Think of the tourist strip in Cancun, which is nothing like the real Mexico, or Times Square in New York, which is far from representative of the Big Apple. Do we really want all of our travels to feel like a trip to the Vegas Strip? If we want to continue having authentic travel experiences, it’s time to step up and treat the locals and their way of life with respect.

The Green Book: A Guidebook For The Age Of Segregation

Green Book, segregationIt’s hard to imagine nowadays when the only limitations to travel are money, time and health, but for much of America’s history a large segment of the population had trouble traveling just because of the color of their skin.

During the days of segregation, most hotels were off-limits to African-Americans, as were other facilities like restaurants, movie theaters and campgrounds. Those that did allow blacks to enter had strict rules of segregation. Stopping at the wrong restaurant could lead a black family to being insulted or worse.

Yet a rising black middle class had just as much hunger for travel as anyone else. The problem was: how does one travel safely? One answer was “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook that listed hotels and restaurants open to black people. While it wasn’t the only such guidebook, it was one of the most popular and long lasting. It was started by Victor H. Green in 1936 as a guide just for New York City, but soon expanded to include the whole country and eventually Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.

I’d never heard of this book until I saw it mentioned on the excellent website I’m Black and I Travel. I downloaded a free PDF of the 1949 edition from the University of Michigan website and found it a fascinating read. The book introduces itself as a resource “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.”

Then come the listings. I took special note of places I used to live. Tucson, Arizona, only had one listing for a restaurant and no lodging mentioned. Columbia, Missouri, had a hotel and a tourist home, which was a private home that rented out spare rooms to travelers. The hotel has since disappeared and the land on which it stood is now taken up by an adult store and theater. The guesthouse is now a private residence. New York City, of course, had plenty of listings. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing and the Harlem listings are longer than the listings for many states.

%Gallery-153462%Another city that has a sizable listing is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Only 28 years before, the thriving black neighborhood of Greenwood had been burned to the ground and hundreds of black people killed by a white mob in the worst race riot in American history. By 1949, numerous black-owned businesses had literally sprung from the ashes and got into “The Green Book.”

The advertisements open up a different era too. How long has it been since hotels boasted they had hot water and radios in every room? Only two national companies advertised in this edition: Esso, which was a leader in selling franchises to African-Americans, and Ford Motor Company, which placed an ad for its very cool 1949 convertible. Green also advertised his own reservation bureau, noting that a shortage of beds for black travelers made it essential to plan ahead.

There are also a couple of articles, including one on what to see in Chicago, highlighting its large black neighborhood as well as more general interest sights. Another article talked about Robbins, Illinois, which was of interest to the black reader since it was a prosperous town owned almost entirely by black people. The guidebook notes that with “no prejudice and restrictions” the community was able to boom. The article finishes: “It is worth the trouble to go out and take a look at what an experiment of an exhibition of what Negroes working together can do. Indeed, it would not be a bad idea to pitch in and help.”

One thing that struck me most about this book was the absolute lack of rancor. The problem of segregation is noted, and in a couple of places Green hopes for it to end one day, but there are no angry tirades against the injustice that black people were suffering. If I had been black in 1949, I doubt I would have been so charitable.

“The Green Book” is a sobering reminder of a sad time in U.S. history, and also a reminder that things occasionally get better – not 100% better, but time has seen a major improvement. Green stopped publication after 1964 after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It is now a rare item and it’s not even clear if a copy exists for every edition. If you think you or your grandparents may have a copy tucked away in the attic, go check. It should be preserved.

Do you have memories of travel in the age of segregation? Tell us about them in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy University of Michigan]

Women barred from men’s dining room at private golf club

Whoa! Wait a minute. How can that be? Where have I been? I keep thinking I have more freedom of movement about the world than I actually have. Here’s one more place I can’t go.

I just read that at the Phoenix Country Club women are not allowed in the men’s grill room where the serious business deal making and dining occurs. No, the women who want find food to nosh on are pushed off into the women’s grill which is smaller and without the buffet, the bar or the lovely view of the golf course. The women’s grill has a hotplate.

There’s a bit of a fuss going on at the country club since some members want to move on into modern times where a couple can eat eggs together for breakfast, for example. Some of the men are as appalled by living in the days when women weren’t allowed in saloons–“respectable” women mind you and are having a time of it for standing up for their wives. This is true. Here’s the article that covers the details. The story involves peeing on a pecan tree as well as other juicy grammar school-like tidbits.

But before you go to the article, consider this. Several years ago, and I’m talking many–when I lived in Columbia, South Carolina during middle school, my mom took my brother and me to a roller skating rink. When we found out we had to be members in order to skate, we decided that rink wasn’t for us. Why not? Becoming members had to do with religion and skin color. We just happened to be the right religion and and the right skin color, but we didn’t like the rules. We thought the rules should change.

Since then, I think, rules have changed. But, I often live in La-La-Land where we all get along, so I can’t say if this is 100% so. *Before those of you from the south start sputtering, let me assure you I loved so much about South Carolina. Seventh grade was my Renaissance year and I was sad to move.

But, this story is about men and women and not race and religion–so perhaps, they aren’t similar. After all, there are men’s clubs and women’s clubs–and most people wouldn’t argue about that, so what’s the difference?

If the women had a grill as good as the men’s, and the business deal making happened outside the men’s grill so women could participate, I wonder if there would be as much of an issue?

Here’s what I mean. When I was in the Peace Corps, I had some friends who lived in my village who were from Pakistan. The women in the family–18 year-old twins and the mother, didn’t interact with men other than their dad/husband because he was the only family member who lived in The Gambia.

These were wonderful people who treated me extremely well. Once there were men coming for dinner. Since the dad was to have guests, I was invited to keep them company where they would eat in another room. The food was put in the dining room. While the men filled up their plates, we waited in a bedroom with the door closed.

After the men went to the living room, and the door was closed to the dining room, we got our food. Okay, sure the men at first, but there was plenty left.

But, this isn’t the same as the men’s grill either. I was told I could go visit with the men if I wanted to. I didn’t want to. Probably because I had a choice–and I was already in the best company.

As for the women who are at the Phoenix Country Club looking for some equity, I hope they have a frying pan if they want to cook up those eggs on their own.

And if any of you are heading off to a private club somewhere, check to see who can get in. It might surprise you.