Greece 2018

Greece 2018 was a very good trip.

For us, all Greece trips start in Athens since we have connections and fond memories of friends and places there. Between arriving and departing from Athens we had a number of days, and enjoyed the Niarchos Cultural Center (SNFCC), the Athens downtown Triangle, a cool spot with new and exciting places to eat, and pedestrianization on the way. We also had dinner in Exarchia with friends, not to mention a quick visit to the Acropolis and lots of fun wandering in Koukaki. I also visited friends out on the Greek Riviera, as it is known, down the coast in Voula and Varkiza.

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SNFCC – Summer Nostos Festival 1

Anyway, more about Greek food and places to eat later on in another post.

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Fresh made hortopita, filled with garden greens. At Hyiati Coffee Bar and Restaurant, Alonissos.

After Athens, our first stop was Mykonos to visit friends. Tourist season is not the time to visit Mykonos, if you can avoid it. The small town becomes overwhelmed, especially on days when the 2-3 cruise ships disgorge 6000+ tourists for the day. Be very careful on the roads. But if you visit a beautiful spot like Fokos Beach for a swim and a leisurely lunch at the exceptional seaside restaurant, you will know why people love Mykonos. And seeing the ruins on nearby Delos should be on everyone’s itinerary! Thanks to Anika and family for a wonderful stay with them in Kalafati…far from the crowds!

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Ikaria was an experience from the minute we got in the taxi from the port of Evdilos over to our hotel in Armenistis. Dashing over the hilly roads along the coast, Fotis told us about the Panagiri in the mountains that night. So off we went after freshening up in our lovely room at the Cavos Bay Hotel. Panagiris happen regularly over the summer and this one included all the wonderful dancing, live music and local foods that is typical. Coming down the mountain later that night, we knew we were in a magical place. And the next 7 days proved it true, with lots to enjoy combined with a slow pace. Think no crowds, safe roads, good food, very nice beaches, and friendly people living in a stress-free way. That is Ikaria!

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With no itinerary in mind after Ikaria, we decided to go to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and explore places like Naoussa, and Halkidiki. But after a nice couple of days in the city of Thessaloniki, the islands were calling again, when we found a ferry direct to the Sporades Group, including Alonissos.

So off we went to Alonissos without a hotel reservation. This led to us staying at the lovely Pension’ Votsi, as well as a lovely small villa down the coast in Vamvakies’, complete with private swimming dock. Alonissos is a small island that has a great vibe as well as beautiful waters and beaches all around. It looks to be ideal for a sailing vacation. We swam in some beautiful spots, ate great food and stayed with some very nice people who made us feel very welcome.

Leaving Alonissos after too few days, we took a ferry down to Kymi where our driver Vagellis awaited to drive us to Athens. Much better and faster than the bus connection. Resting up in Athens and visiting friends included a trip to Poros for Vicki. As for me, I stayed in Athens.

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As for all the great food and places to eat in Greece…we’ll write more about that later.

Thanks to all our friends, new and old, for your time and friendship during our stay.

Were we ready to leave after 29 days? Yes, we wanted to get back home, but the lure of Greece remains and I can envision more time there in the future.

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Refugee Children in Greece

A photo exhibit by GMB Akash at the Benaki Museum of Athens. 21 May 2016

This exhibit brings the refugee crisis to life. My compliments to Mr. GMB Akash for his efforts in documenting the people caught in this struggle. The work is artfully presented, using only the photo roll paper set low to the ground, which is so often our vantage point when looking at children.

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http://www.benaki.gr/index.asp?lang=en&id=202010001&sid=1939

My Island – Poros

Most Greeks have either “My Island” or “My Village”. For us Poros has become ‘My Island”, probably because it is close enough to our family roots in the Peloponnese, but mostly because we have been welcomed there for many years by some very close friends. They have taken us into their family and included us in many events. We are so fortunate!

Poros is a short ferry ride from Piraeus. Close enough for a day-trip. And it is just a stone’s throw from Galatas in the Peloponnese. A day-trip to Epidaurus, or Mycenae is entirely possible.

Like everywhere in Greece, people like to sit for hours over a cup of coffee, or drink ouzo and eat grilled octopus and other mezes at a very leisurely pace! Everything starts later. There is no such thing as 7:00 in the morning, and meeting in the afternoon usually means at 5:00 or 6:00. Ask a friend where you will meet for coffee tomorrow and they will say at the port…or at the corner…and “I will look for you”. Ask them what time and they’ll say “in the morning”. Plans are rarely more firm than that! The summertime routine will include swimming, followed by a nap…then coffee in the afternoon! And a light dinner about when you should really be going to bed!

In Poros one must enjoy the simple routines that are common around Greece. But to enjoy them on Poros…now that is something different indeed!

Early morning ferry to Poros - on a brilliant day!
Early morning ferry to Poros – on a brilliant day!
In town on Easter Sunday - our last night.
In town on Easter Sunday – our last night. Galatas is just opposite…a few hundred meters away.
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Kids at the beach in Askeli.
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High up in the village – Poros.

 

 

Kalo Pasca

Today is Easter Sunday in Greece! Athens is a ghost town during Easter because whenever possible, Greeks return to their Island or to their Village for this biggest holiday of the year! We had the pleasure of spending two Easters on the nearby island of Poros to enjoy the holiday with our friend Dina and her large family.

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Poros, with the Pelepponese Across the way

From the candle light processions around the village and to the church on Saturday night, followed by the traditional midnight meal of a soup called magirtisa to prepare the stomach for the Easter feast, it is quite an event!

By mid day on Sunday the cooking is well underway and finally in mid afternoon it is time for dinner! Spanakopita, tyro pita (cheese pie), traditional mezes of tzatziki, melitsanosalada (eggplant), tyrokefteri (spicy cheese dip) and taramasalata (fish roe dip). Greek tomato and feta cheese of course. Maybe some keftedakia (meat balls), gigantes (large beans in tomato sauce), dolmas, and the Greek sausage known as loukaniko. And finally the roast lamb or goat with oven roasted potatoes, and horta!

Take a look at some of these delicious dishes here:

http://realgreekrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/03/16-popular-greek-mezes-and-side-dishes.html

All of this will be enjoyed with Greek red and white wines, and thee are many good Greek wines, as well as ouzo and raki.

As you can imagine this is a long slow meal to be enjoyed along with the fine company of family and friends!

Kalo Pasca!

 

Clean Monday!

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Yesterday was ‘Clean Monday’ in the Greek Orthodox Religion. “καθαρά Δευτέρα”. It is the first day of Lent in the Orthodox Religion and marks the first day of the fasting diet. It is also a day to celebrate the beginning of Spring, and it is common for people to take a picnic lunch and go somewhere to fly kites. Sitting in this Taverna in the Peloponnese Region of Greece back in 2010, we celebrated this day with our friend Dina. Sitting on the shores of the Saronic Gulf looking across to Hydra made for a wonderful afternoon. Dina made it clear before we ordered that we couldn’t eat ‘anything that bleeds’, so aside from vegetables, Greek Salad with Feta and bread, we enjoyed calamari, shrimp and mussels. And some white Greek wine, of course!

And by the way, the ‘Mardi Gras’ period in Greece begins about 10 days before Clean Monday, on a day called “Tsikno Pempti”, or Barbecue Thursday. On that day everyone goes home early to have a dinner of barbecued meats with family. Most people say it’s best if the meats are burned and charred a bit! The smell of barbecue is everywhere and the streets of Athens and most villages are obscured by smoke!

Greek Easter is on Sunday May 5th.