Our visit to Athens was short, but oh-so-sweet.
We arrived in the early evening to a clear sky with air deliciously dry and warm. Between the garish lights of the shopfronts and the chaotic city traffic I wondered, with traveler’s caution, if I was going to like this place.
Starving, we dumped our bags and took to the streets. Within minutes we had found a restaurant in a small, leafy plaza and had ordered beers, souvlaki and salad. It was a sign of things to come…
I had booked a food tour of the city for Jez and I that would take us around downtown Athens. We met with our guide, Despina, and she took us to a whole range of traditional food shops. We tried sheep’s milk yoghurt, honey fritters, pork souvlaki, fresh Fetta cheese, camel pastrami (yes, made from camel meat!), fresh honeycomb, a walk through the meat and fish markets followed by ouzo and mezze, and then finished with lunch of zucchini fritters, meatballs and calamari. Phew!
The best part about the tour was that each shop and restaurant had a legacy. It was either the same family that was running it, or the same farm supplying the shop for over 80 years. One shop had products that were highly prized in places like Armenia and the UAE.
As we walked around the city with our guide, she pointed out the numerous shopfronts that were empty. In fact, almost every other shop was empty in some parts. The recession and GFC hit Greece particularly hard and everybody has heard that the country is in trouble. It was so interesting to hear the local perspective of what is going on.
Despite my description of all the foods we ate, we did get to do lots of sightseeing – the Acropolis, Temple of Olympic Zeus, the Acropolis Museum and Olympic Stadium. My favourite would have to be the Acropolis and the view from the Parthenon down on to Athens. When I thought about how many thousands of years ago someone was looking down on Athens from exactly where I was standing, it took my breath away.
If a city’s core is a culmination of experiences and impressions, left on the streets by citizens of the past and present, Athens is not only a product of it’s time but of all time.