Next stop romance on Greek love buses
By Helena Smith
Greek authorities are laying on bus trips to countries that might solve the plight of lovelorn farmers desperate for wives.
"We have got no women left; they have all gone off to be educated," a farmer grumbled to Greece's STAR television from a village near Zacharo, in the western Peloponnese. "Once they do that, they never come back."
"Love buses" abroad have been organised by worried municipal officials. The first coach, carrying 40 men, is expected to leave for Ukraine from Zacharo soon. All hope to find wives, says Spyros Bilionis, the deputy mayor who has vowed to end the men's plight.
"There are many (Ukrainian) women who would like to live in Greece," Mr Bilionis told the Greek daily Kathimerini. "The standard of life there is not satisfactory, and they regard our country as a kind of paradise."
Loneliness is said to be a huge problem in Greece's countryside, where men far outnumber women.
But some have criticised the tours as upmarket sex tourism. "Women are not goats, they're not there to be bought," said a man in Zacharo.
"But the truth is we are really lonely. If we want families, some say this is what we have to do."
In northern Greece, more men are finding wives in neighbouring Bulgaria. "The border crossing is packed every night," a frontier guard said. "And it's all men, not women, going in one direction, Greece to Bulgaria."
The farmers going to Ukraine will have five days to find a bride. Hundreds of Ukrainians are reportedly already lining up for a preview of the visitors.
If lucky, the Greeks will exchange civil vows on-the-spot to get around visa regulations for their new wives.