4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the category “Greece”

Past, Present and Future (by Carmen)

PAST
Looking back on our trip is an adventure unto itself as it provides me a rapidfire onslaught of memories and emotions.
 We had such a variety of experiences this past 14 months, how do I begin to summarize it all?  Fortunately, we have done a couple summary posts already.  Therefore, I’m going to pick up where we left off.  Here is a selection of favorite memories from the last part of our trip, Cambodia through to Hong Kong:

Clockwise from left: cooking amok, hanging out with Dalat locals, banh mi

Clockwise from left: cooking amok, hanging out with Dalat locals, banh mi

  • Squeezing fresh coconuts for milk and adding it to my fish curry in ultra laid back Battambang
  • That first bite of banh mi in Saigon – crispy, crunchy, sour, sweet, creamy, savory goodness
  • Being invited by locals for watermelon and rice liquor next to Pongour Waterfall near Dalat
Clockwise from left: Halong Bay, Thai stewed pork, mushroom bun, Laotian jungle

Clockwise from left: Halong Bay, Thai stewed pork, mushroom bun, Laotian jungle

  • Chilling on the deck of our boat with Julia and Jonathan in Halong Bay
  • Observing a simpler way of life in the jungle villages of Luang Namtha
  • Being served delicious stewed pork by a street vendor in a cowboy hat in Chiang Mai
  • Sampling Yunnan’s famous mushrooms in steamed bun form at the early morning market in Kunming
Clockwise from left: monastary in Zhongdian, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, stinky tofu, rice terraces

Clockwise from left: monastary in Zhongdian, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, stinky tofu, rice terraces

  • Getting up close and personal with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the intense rapids at its base within Tiger Leaping Gorge
  • Devouring dumplings then getting a taste of Tibetan spirituality at Ganden Sumtseling Gompa monastery in Zhongdian
  • Trying to get my head around the incredible rice terraces of Yuanyang while making new friends Michael and Albert
  • Eating the infamous black stinky tofu of Changsha and actually enjoying it
Clockwise from left: hot pot, hong kong high rises, tied tofu skins in Chengdu, tea house in Zigong in Sichuan province

Clockwise from left: hot pot, hong kong high rises, tied tofu skins in Chengdu, tea house in Zigong in Sichuan province

  • Dipping fresh tofu in a bubbling red hot pot while sitting in a converted bomb shelter in Chongqing
  • Hanging out in the convivial tea houses of Sichuan
  • Finding my food mecca in Chengdu – mapo tofu, gong bao chicken, twice cooked pork, fish fragrant eggplant how I miss you so
  • Absorbing the vivacious energy of Hong Kong in its streets, dim sum halls, hidden bars and Michelin starred hole in the walls
"This food will change your lifestyle" from a 2009 trip to Malaysia

“This food will change your lifestyle” from a 2009 trip to Malaysia

Many of my memories have to do with food because I don’t eat to live, I live to eat. Throughout our travels I was struck by how much difference it made to eat a cuisine in the place it had originated. And it’s not just because things taste fresher. It is a about the environment and the people too. Take dosa for example.  I had eaten dosa, the Indian roll stuffed with potatoes and veggies and served with daal and chutney dipping sauces, in Berkeley.  But it wasn’t until I was in India – eating my dosa at breakfast on a metal plate with a metal cup of chai tea, breathing in the thick humid air, watching other groups chatting happily in their sing song accent – that I really got it.  Dosa is filling but not heavy.  Basically, it is a damn good way to start the day.  In each country, I learned more about foods that I thought I had known with the result being that I now have a greater appreciation for these cuisines.

Of course, travel is about more than food.  Travel changes you but not necessarily in a dramatic way.  I had experiences that caused me to do some thinking, yes, but no light bulb epiphanies that changed my life. When confronted with so many new or unique experiences each day it’s hard to gauge change within yourself. Perhaps a better way to put it is a better sense of self.  Because the saying is true – “wherever you go, there you are.”

Sleeper bus to Yuanyang

Sleeper bus to Yuanyang

And we went a lot of places.  Over the past 14 months I have ridden high speed trains, a 27 hour sleeper bus, overnight ferries, small vans overburdened with 22 people, and what I like to call the rickshaw roller coaster. Powered by my own two feet I weaved through traffic packed streets on a bicycle and walked 500 mile across Spain.  My career is in transportation and I can’t help but feel that these experiences brought greater insight to my work.

Women skillfully carrying their goods

Women skillfully carrying their goods in Hubli, India

To remember all these places, experiences and transport modes gives me an immense sense of gratitude.  I know how fortunate I am for the health and resources to do this trip.  As a woman, I’m also grateful for the fact that I was born in the West.  Sexism is alive and well in the USA but I’m happy we got past the women as second class citizens thing.  Not so in many other parts of the world.  It was annoying to see groups of men and women working in China because often the men were sitting around while the women were shoveling or raking or doing whatever job had to be done.  Of course in Turkey there is gender separation as a result of religious norms, though as a tourist I personally did not feel any discrimination. The country we visited where I felt it most was India.  The culture is positively obsessed with gender and the idea that men absolutely can’t control themselves in the presence of a woman.  Women must cover, must hide away, must have their own train car in order to not be groped.  It wasn’t until I arrived in Thailand just after India that I realized how oppressing it all was.  I could finally wear a tank top to deal with the heat and nobody looked twice!  There were more women walking the sidewalks, women riding scooters, women sitting next to the men they didn’t know on transit (gasp!) and life went on.  I do hope that India finds a better balance of equality in the years that come.

This tower of dolma was one of the few things we got to "cook" during our travels

This tower of dolma was one of the few things we got to “cook” during our travels

PRESENT
Given my tales of culture shock and exhausting bus rides, it’s no wonder people often ask if I’m tired of travel. I think I surprise them when I say not really. If someone offered me a ticket to Italy leaving tomorrow, I wouldn’t hesitate to pack my bags.

That said, I am excited to resume some of my hobbies that I haven’t been able to do because of my travels. Cooking and having my own kitchen is a big one. I’m looking forward to have those lazy Sundays when I get to dedicate my day to making a delicious bolognaise. Also, learning about some many cultural histories has me thinking about my own familial one. I’ve always wanted to make a family tree and now I’m more inspired than ever.

Therefore, we are now in the process of settling down. At least for a short while. The big question is where. Part of the impetus of this trip was an was a desire to move from the San Francisco area, where we had spent nearly 10 years. We are looking for a new place to call home. Our main desire is a big city that supports our lifestyle of exploring by foot and eating good food. Will it be New York? London? Hong Kong? I wish I knew! But the main determinant will be where we can land jobs.

In the immediate future, there is our wedding to plan which is both exciting and anxiety-inducing. Meanwhile, we will be posting on some of our local travels to see friends and family as well as advice on how to plan your own trip.

Clockwise from left: the Camino, Hong Kong clay pot restaurant, baklava in Turkey, Santorini, Chengdu delicacies, sunset on the beach in Koh Tao, spring rolls in Saigon

Clockwise from left: the Camino, Hong Kong clay pot restaurant, baklava in Turkey, Santorini, Chengdu delicacies, sunset on the beach in Koh Tao, spring rolls in Saigon

FUTURE
But just because we are staying in one place doesn’t mean I can’t already plan my future travel adventures. Taking a year off just opens your eyes to more places to visit and explore.

My dad asked me where would I return of all the international places I’d been this year, which is much better than asking what my favorite place is (impossible to answer!).  For some places, one visit is enough.  But it’s the ones that call you back that indicate that there’s something special there. Here is a list of places I would return (* means I visited pre-blog):

  • The Camino
  • Greek islands
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Southern Vietnam
  • Thailand beaches
  • Sichuan
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan*
  • Anywhere in Europe*
I want to have a wall map in my apartment (photo credit: Urban Outfitters)

I will definitely have a wall map in my apartment! (photo credit: Urban Outfitters)

And then of course there are the places you hear about and see tantalizing pictures of.  A list of countries I have never been but want to explore:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Korea
  • Western China
  • Nepal
  • The “stans” in Central Asia
  • Russia
  • Croatia
  • Lebanon
  • Jordan
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Botswana
  • Northern Brazil
  • Southern Argentina

It’s time for us to put down some roots and have a bit more routine in our life. But wherever we end up one thing is for sure. A map will be posted on the wall. Pins will be pushed in to the countries we’ve been to, the ones we need to go back to, and the ones we’ve yet to explore. It will serve as a reminder of fortunate we are to have seen all that have as well as an indicator that the next adventure just around the corner.

But this is not the end!  Stay tuned for Nathan’s thoughts on the trip coming up next.

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Crossroads Rhodes (by Ναθεν)

Essential theme to life

He leaned over the table for what felt like the thirtieth time that night to fill my wine glass; he looks at me straight in the eye and says “Se kalo.” Then he downs his entire glass of wine. Then I choose someone, “Se kalo” and again my glass is empty. We are at a Cretan tavern in Rhodes. Our table is a battleground of Greek and Cretan specialties: dakas, feta, fritters and fries have been landing endlessly on our table all night. The jug of wine always seems full and the traditional music from Crete can be subtly heard over the constant clinking of glasses and loud conversation in the room. This was the conclusion to our time in Rhodes, a celebration of Greece and new friends. We were at crossroads of Europe and Asia and tomorrow we would be going to Turkey. At 2am we stagger walk with dignity through old town to grab a few hours rest.

Our new friends in Rhodes

Meet my friend Mike, who is actually from Crete, and his lovely girlfriend Alexandra. We met them in Rhodes and our three days have been filled with nonstop adventures and good food. They are university students here in Rhodes, studying to become teachers. I am always impressed by the seemingly instant friendship that is possible with people. There is a little bit of circumstance, some willingness and a whole bunch of letting down guards, but we quickly became friends.

Local eatery with stewed meats, veggies and village salad

I should have recognized how the weekend was going to turn out. In our first hours of arriving to Rhodes, Mike pulled out a 5L jug of clear liquid from the back room. “Want to try Cretan Tsikoudi.” Mike’s dad distills his own moonshine in Crete and sends it with his son to keep him company while at school. It only takes a few minutes before we are all talking about hunger. They take us to lunch at this local restaurant around the corner. The waiter ushers us to the glass case in the back; we are shown an array of stews and specialties of the day. Everything looked and smelled fantastic. It only takes a few minutes before steaming plates occupy every free space on the table.

Cosmopolitan buildings for the Knights Hospitaller from the crusades

Sunlit arches

There is substantial history in Rhodes. It has been inhabited for millennia, but the most prominent occupation was during the first crusades. The Knights of St. John established a fortress in the fight for Christianity. The most impressive part of old town is the street that the knights lived, the hospitalier. Each nation had their own building for meetings, organization, dining and lodging. Walking along the cobblestones we saw the Spanish, English and German headquarters for the crusades, each over a thousand years old.

The Colossus of Rhodes (Credit: WikiCommons)

For centuries Rhodes was a stronghold. After defending themselves against Cyprus, they built an enormous statue, The Colossus of Rhodes, to symbolize their victory. This 107ft (32m) wonder of the ancient world no longer exists, but the entrance to the harbor where he once stood is still there.

Old town Rhodes typical street

Walking through old town in Rhodes is wonderful. The stone buildings and cobblestones reflect a time hundreds of years ago, but most everything is still in use. Carmen and I walked ancient alleyways and underneath buttresses bracing buildings. It is easy to get lost meandering around Rhodes, but that is the fun of exploring these cities. Eventually we would run into the enormous wall that surrounds the city. Beyond it is a moat that is great for walks and runs.

Medieval town wall of the Knights Hospitaller

Our time in Rhodes was filled with new friendship and the history of an old city. We soaked up the atmosphere, snorkeled one last time in the Mediterranean and wondered through the stone streets. Rhodes is a crossroads between the old and new, but also between Greece and Turkey. We were excited to head east, to a place we’ve never been before. We boarded onto our last ferry boat and said goodbye to Greece.

Swimming In A Volcano In Santorini (by Ναθεν)

… and then we found ourselves on one of the most beautiful places on the PLANET.

Firostefani and ocean

Golden Fira

Santorini deserves all the hype, all the magazine cover shots, and all the glory because it truly is a spectacular place. We arrived on a commuter ferry that chugged along the Mediterranean from Naxos. The arrival to this island was different than the others, everyone on the boat was anxious and giddy in anticipation. When the boat wrapped around the crescent tip of the island, people rushed to take photos. If there is such thing as hunger for sights, then there was definite drooling and jaw dropping as the curved white buildings that frosted chocolate colored cliffs came into focus.

Oia cave and cliffside homes

Carmen and I also became bleary eyed at the sights. Unfortunately for us we were already in island mode. We slowly exited the boat, drifted over to the tourist office and chatted a bit for a map. We went back outside to board the public bus that climbs the steep switchbacks and we realize we missed it. And it was the last bus of the day. A moment of panic when understanding hits us that the closest city of Fira is too far to walk and taxis are expensive because we are the last tourists on the port. We work out a deal with a hostel owner for a one night’s stay and a free shuttle to Perissa. Not exactly our plan, in fact, it is on the opposite side of the island from where we wanted, but we load into the van and set off for a spontaneous adventure.

Sunset Santorini

As expected, Perissa wasn’t our style. The resort-like cafes and lawn chairs in the black sand were beautiful, but we came to Santorini to see the magic of a civilization that lives and dies along the volcano.

Fresco of 3500 year old building

Three story building from 1500BC

The Minoans inhabited Thira (another name for Santorini) for thousands of years. Their civilization was immensely successful with tens of thousands of inhabitants throughout the Greek islands. Unfortunately all these great islands existed because of a dark past. This section of the Mediterranean is a boundary zone of the European and Asian tectonic plates. A volcano erupted around 1,600BC that wiped out their civilization. This was not just any eruption, it is the largest eruption ever recorded and documented by humans. The sound was so enormous that Chinese records describe the sound of it twice as the wave reached them from different directions around the world. Enormous amounts of material blew into the sky, the whole island grew a thousand feet taller and tsunamis expanded the havoc around the world.

Akrotiri excavations

Evidence of ash and volcanic eruptions

Akrotiri was an ancient city on Thira. When the volcano exploded, the city was covered in thirty feet of pumice and ash. This rare circumstance allowed the what was left of the buildings, that survived the earthquakes before the eruption, to be remarkably preserved for 3,500 years. The city was discovered in the 1960’s and slowly they uncovered buildings and intertwining streets rich with painted frescoes, advanced multi-story buildings and sewer systems. This was an advanced civilization, and there are no records to their existence beyond this enormous volcanic event.

Satellite view of Santorini Volcano (Photo credit: WikiCommons)

Walking on the center of the volcano

The volcano around Santorini has shaped and reshaped the islands for millions of years. Each explosion destroyed whole mountains and continued to build up the layers of Islands that remained. We took a boat to the center of the volcano; we walked on the cooling magma center. Standing on the foreign landscape is surreal, perfectly silent and covered in jagged dark brown rocks. There are small craters on this island showing minor eruptions, but it is the whole group of islands, the caldera that is many miles wide that shows the enormity and unrelenting unimaginable power of the earth. The cliffs communicate this history with portions of black crumbly stone, or jagged red boulders or loose pock-marked ash and pumice. And like all beautiful, but dangerous places, the people eventually forgot the catastrophic event and they reinhabited the island.

Rustic door

Chapels of Santorini

Fira is the main city on the island. It is built on the cliffs in the middle of the crescent-shape and the city is packed with thousands of cute whitewashed buildings that curve and flow with the contours of the mountain. There is a beauty in the haphazard construction of all these buildings right on top of one another. Stairways twist and weave in between the buildings, paths start and stop almost randomly, and buildings occupy every little bit of space. I may even make the jump to say that the buildings on the steep slope remind me of a favela. Trash free, plastered and painted with sewers; Rio could make its densest neighborhoods into high-end real estate.

Locally brewed beer

Moussaka from Nikolas Taverna in Fira

Lamb kleftiko

Reward for hiking from sea to cliffside village

We drank locally brewed beer on a picturesque patio. There was moussaka, and kleftiko dinners paired with wine and of course ice cream rewards for those climbs up the steep path from water to city.

Firostefani in the morning light

Carmen and shadow

An essential activity for any visitor to Santorini is to walk the ridge line of the island. The end points of the walk are Oia and Fira and it is about 12km (8mi). We walked it one morning starting at Fira at sunrise with a destination of Oia for lunch. The path works its way through Fira, into the picturesque Firastefani. Outside of town the dirt and cobblestone path follows the ridge and cliff’s edge allowing for endless views around the island. Occasionally a small lonely chapel appears on the path, a remnant of a gracious sailor who braved a storm and lived to fish another day. The sun beats hot on our backs and slowly the buildings of Oia come into view.

Oia, the most beautiful city on the most beautiful island

Blue domed churches and contours of Oia

Walking into Oia, is strange and exhilarating, it is hard to believe that a town can be so gorgeous. Every building has a dome or a curved arch or rounded balcony; straight lines are the minority which creates a natural and harmonious addition to the glowing Mediterranean sea below. Churches with their bright blue domes scatter the cityscape and every surface that is not a walkway is a patio for sunbathing.

Our seafood cantina lunch spot

Tomatokeftedes and sliced feta lunch

Swimming hole below Oia

We decided to walk down the several hundred stairs to swim and grab lunch in the tiny marina. Katina served us delicious tomato fritters, a hunk of feta cheese and a grilled whole fish. We walked left from the harbor to a tiny beach overlooking a small island. The water was cool, but not cold, turquoise and crystal clear. There is a thrilling concrete platform on the side of the island that made it possible to cliff jump into this beautiful water. Swimming in a volcano has never been so much fun.

My gracious jump into the Mediterranean

Sunset Santorini x4

The challenge of any Santorini tourist is where to watch the sunset. I love sunrises and sunsets (as you have seen), but the tourists on Santorini push and shove to get the perfect view of the sun hitting the water. A sunset in Fira showers the city in golden light, in Oia it is possible to stand on the ridge of a peninsula with all periphery consumed by sun, ocean and other camera-wielding tourists. My favorite was Firastefani, a tranquil setting with a more local feel. And the sunsets on Santorini are amazing and worth it. Perched high on a cliff we could see a world vast with beautiful ocean and a scattering of islands. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful place.

Oia silhouette

Sunset from Firastefani

Beaches, Whitewash and Scooters on Syros & Naxos (by Καρμεν)

Bougainvillea on the Greek Island of Syros

View of Syros from the ferry

“Wow. This is perfect”

These were my thoughts as I ate my first meal on the Greek island of Syros. Nathan and I were sitting at a table squeezed onto a lovely, narrow lane. I had just selected some dishes from To Kastri, a restaurant run by a local women’s cooperative. The food was homey and comforting – fish baked with potatoes, broccoli, tzaziki, cabbage rolls stuffed with rice. A wonderful welcome to our first of four islands.

Lunch at To Kastri

After eating, our next thought was beach. We caught a bus to a small cove on the other side of the island and dug our toes into the sand. The water was crystal clear and the beach largely deserted because it was off season. This meant that the restaurants in town were also empty so for dinner we bought a gyro and called it an early night. From our room we could hear the chants of a small, civil protest against the German chancellor’s visit in the distance.

Nathan at a window in Ano Syros

Quaint buildings of Syros

In the morning we awoke early to visit Ano Syros, a picturesque part of town high up on the hill. We snaked our way through adorable alley ways and rustic arches, past weathered doorways and down steep stairs. It was exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of a quaint Mediterranean island village.

Temple of Apollo with Naxos in the background

Rooftop terrace of our hotel

View from our balcony

Next we hopped over to the nearby island of Naxos. At the port we we greeted with another whitewashed town, this time with the ruins of the Temple of Apollo overlooking the water. We also encountered a gaggle of hotel owners vying for our business. Thanks to Nathan’s master negotiating skills we scored a lovely hotel for under $30 a night.

Street in Naxos old town

Cubic church

After settling in we explored Naxos old town, which I found even more charming than the one on Syros. It was a true labyrinth with low arches and endless twists and turns. It was the kind of place that beckons your return with the thought that there might be one more passage left unexplored.

Beachside resort

We walked back to our hotel along the beach and stumbled upon a small resort serving a simple BBQ. We joined in to pig out on Greek-style salads, rice, stuffed grape leaves, and grilled meat skewers.

Scooters make you look tough

Naxos is one of the bigger islands in the area and there were more villages in the interior to explore. We decided that the best way to do this was to rent a scooter. Now I always knew Nathan had some experience with motorcycles before I met him. But I was surprised to see how well he picked it up again as we sped off from the Naxos harbor. What an excellent hidden talent. It’s nice to know that after nearly 10 years together you can still learn new things about each other.

Stony path

Nathan on top

Views from Mt. Zeus

Our destination was Halki, a tiny town with a hundred year old distillery producing citron. This is a drink that uses a citrus fruit unique to Naxos distilled with the local grape liqueur, raki. We then scooted on over to Mt Zeus, a 1000m tall mountain with views all around the island. Nathan braved the steep climb while I enjoyed the Mediterranean views from the trailhead.

Lunch at Meze 2

By the time we made it back to Naxos we were hungry for a late lunch. At Meze 2, we ordered a large Greek salad and a mix of dips including tzaziki, eggplant and two feta based spreads. Accompanied by grilled octopus and a jug of retsina wine, we abolished the need for dinner. After lunch we scooted to the beach, albeit more slowly because of the extra weight.

Yogurt, honey, pomegranate…breakfast of champions

Prasopita

The next morning was another beautiful day. On our balcony we enjoyed a simple breakfast of yogurt, local honey and pomegranate. It was delicious and light, which meant it left room for another delectable snack later that morning. As we passed a small cafe a round filo pastry caught our eye. Within minutes we were devouring a slice of prasopita, a cabbage filled pie of sorts. As the last bite passed my lips I was already plotting my return to the beautiful island of Naxos.

It’s All Greek To Me In Athens (by Ναθεν)

Greek flag in the breeze

Temple of dolma

Walking into Athens is a step back in time. The city began as a village, blew up into a metropolis and has cycled in glory and defeat for centuries. The historical successes of Greek accomplishments of democracy, astronomy and philosophy were predominantly within the 5th and 6th centuries BC. The other years were controlled by disjointed reigns of Greeks, Persians, ottomans, Romans and even Germans. It is the modern Greece that we visited- rich in culture, deep with history, vibrant with hospitality and delicious with Mediterranean food.

The Acropolis Propyaea

The Erechtheion

People had warned us not to spend much time in Athens as it was an unattractive city. This confused us since we had always related Athens to Rome and we expected centuries of history from the once glorious civilization. Wouldn’t the city be full of beautiful architecture? We learned that at the end of 4th century BC the population of Athens has dropped significantly to village-like numbers. The city’s population of today can be directly attributed to the Greek/Turkish people’s exchange of 1923.

The Caryatids

The Parthenon

Thus, the city is rather modern in feel with large boulevards and rather plain buildings. The spectacular sight is the mountain in the center of the city, the Acropolis, that prominently holds beautiful temples that are 2,500 years old. Everything shows evidence and elaborate detail and a passion to build fantastic structures. The Romans emphasized the use of the arch, but much earlier, the Greeks designed buildings with brute force by increasing the frequency and number of columns. One of my favorites was the Caryatids, the female carved columns supporting the porch of the Erechtheion. The grandest of all is the Parthenon, an enormous building for 2 1/2 millennia ago. And they even bulged and tapered the columns to create an optical illusion of greater height.

Tourist shot on the Acropolis

Gyro heroes

The Parthenon and Acropolis are beautiful, but all this history tends to make our heads hurt and stomachs growl. We descended the mountain and found one of the numerous souvlaki shops. We watched as they sliced off pork and chicken from the sizzling and rotating spike. It was stuffed into pita with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and parsley) and what’s this? Fries. Mmm we found Greek street food, gyros.

Temple of the Olympian Zeus

Ancient marble heads

We hit all of ancient sites. The Temple of the Olympan Zeus showed roman perseverance to complete great temples. There were countless marble statues majestically glorifying gods, heroes, distant queens and prominent merchants. Keramikos was an ancient grave yard and Mount Lycabettus provided stunning views of the city.

Tightly fit roman stonework

Temple of Hephaestus

Ancient ruins are tucked all over the city. The stonework of the Romans showed that many angles and superior tightness could be done 1,500 years before Machu Picchu. The temple of Hephaestus is almost entirely intact, and it was built in 400BC.

Baked whitebait at Cafe Absynna

Baked spicy feta and fava at Cafe Absynna

It has taken no time for us to adjust to the Mediterranean food here. A plate full of gavros (whitebait), baked feta cheese and puréed fava beans made an amazing meal at Cafe Absynna. We lingered at our table overlooking a small plaza, but we wanted a place with more action.

Tailor Made coffee and cocktails

A calm Syntagma Square

Artsy Athens graffiti

Tailor Made demonstrated the cafe culture we wanted. They served delicious coffee and cocktails with a chic rustic atmosphere. The cafe was in a tranquil neighborhood but there were still acres of graffiti on the surrounding buildings. We wondered if the graffiti had increased due to the protests surrounding the economic crisis. Much of the craziness in the last few months was in Syntagma Square which was calm when we saw it. Protesters were absent during our stay, but we left town just before the German chancellor arrived and they started up again. In the meantime we enjoyed meandering through the market streets with an occasional pleasant piece of urban art.

The Black Sheep all Greek menu

Various mezedes at Black Sheep

One factor making our Athens experience so great was the smooth transition into the city, culture and food. Our friend Theodoros took us to a rock ‘n’ roll/swing dance party, hosted us in a beautiful apartment and deciphered Greek menus for us. Greece is the first country in the last ten months where we have not been able to use Spanish or English. It was special to know a local in the area to provide insight on Athens and the Greek Islands. Athens is a wonderful city with great people and history, but the beach was calling us. We boarded our early morning ferry and within a few hours we would be in the sun, toes in the sand and crystal waters across the skyline.

Fun with Theodoros

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