Τhe Camping Theory
While camping as a recreational activity originally became popular among elites, over time it grew more democratic and varied. Modern campers often visit publicly owned natural resources such as beaches, national parks, and wilderness areas in general. Whether someone has a tent, or drives a motorhome, the ability to set up close to the nature is a great temptation for the Greeks. So, as a tradition from the 60s, thousands of people keep enjoying themselves close to the nature for large periods of time, having only the necessities for their basic needs.
Wild camping away from official campsites is strictly prohibited in Greece. Particularly in the high season this is regularly checked, as the law says that a wild camper can be fined and even imprisoned. In practice, however, wild camping in the last decade was much easier, as these penalties were rarely enforced off-season and inland. In most cases, local authorities and residents tolerated wild camping and free campers have gotten away from punishment. As a result, certain places were at times filled with dozens of tents illegally. This has changed since 2017, when the Greek government decided to run after illegal camping and enforce the law. Many wild campers were penalized and many more spontaneously demonstrated for their right on enjoying nature without restrictions, fulfilling the intent and pursuit of spirit rejuvenation in public.
The complexity of the matter reveals other viewpoints as well, nourishing a serious battle for dominance over the public space. On the one hand there is the hospitality sector that loses money from wild camping. More than that, the COVID-19 crisis had a significant impact in the sector because tourists from abroad (on whom Greek economy largely relies) will not visit Greece due to quarantine restrictions. As a result, government tries harder to punish wild campers. On the other hand, there is a generation of unemployed people who can’t afford hotels, or others that won’t tolerate the total prohibition of wild camping. The tragedy of urbanization and over-populated towns is a serious factor driving these people to opt for a shelter in the wilderness for their holidays and to defend their rights. According to them, excluding the possibility of free camping is an exclusion for those who do not have the financial means required for other types of holiday and an exclusion on the undisputed right over the public space that everyone has.
Today, more young people set up their tents to famous wild camper spots, trying to avoid and hiding from the law enforcers. The whole situation made clear that camping has turned out to be a protest trend among people and a way of opposition and counteraction to government practices in a country which is in a deep economic crisis.
This long-term project documents the life of wild campers in natural resources along Greece. It is an effort to understand what a contemporary Greek camper is in 2020, as well as to look for the difficulties of the camping practices in a country that does not tolerate free camping any more. Protagonists are the wild campers themselves and the scene is their temporary “home” during their vacation in Greek camping spots.
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