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Posts Tagged ‘Greek’

033 When does a busy Street Corner Diner make the grade? Since 1989, this Athens, Greece taverna, called EVGENIA. after the owner is a not so hidden of a gem, but, that few tourist would know about. The Nicodemou Street of the Plaka/ Constitution Plaza area is narrow and tremendously packed with taxis and delivery trucks, Yes, exhaust and noise is everywhere. The little Greek taverna tables and chairs are on the pedestrian sidewalk; ten in all. Why go to lunch or an early dinner here? The business folks, in suits, and the retail workers understand. The Small fried fish, called Atherina, or minnows, is the reason. There are traditional dishes made freshly each morning, like lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and moussaka. The tables get packed. The fried fish come out in a basket and are eaten like french fries, head and all, and very crunchy and good. An Alfa Greek beer helps the lunch thirst. Some diners linger, and others chow and bolt back to work. The traffic keeps up the tempo. Find the taverna on this street and one block north of the Electra Palace Hotel. Be willing to wait a few minutes for your table. Thanks to Kathy Gasparis, years back, for this great dining location tip.

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IMG_5494The central area of Athens, Greece, near the Governmental Parliament Building, offers a wealth of joy to the visitor or the local.  This area has something for everyone.  From the people watching, to food, to touristy trinket stores, and to some fine specialty stores, all engage the traveler on foot.  The narrow and cobble-stoned streets warrant good walking shoes.  The vendors of the small establishments often lean outside the doorway and beckon the foot traffic. Smaller side paths lead to more treasures and more obscure wares.  A store that is a wall on which hang antique door-knockers could be a good example. The owner would be a specialist in that trade.  Commerce is brisk in many shops, as there are lots of people.  As it is said, “better buy it now, as it won’t be here next time”, is very true in the Flea Market.

Take a stroll through this area. Getting to the flea market is easy. If you are coming from Syntagma Square you will be walking down Metropolitan Street, past the Cathedral and the square of shiny marble. There is a small Byzantine church in the shadow of the cathedral that you should take a look at called Agios Eleftherios.  I love the peace and solemn quiet in this space. The church has an Icon inside which they say performs miracles. There are some cafes in the square and this is where Pondrossou Street begins. This section of Pondrossou is the high-end section of Monastiraki. There is a lot of touristy stuff here. I bought a wonderful Bouzouki guitar here from John’s Music Store.  But in my opinion, the really cool stuff is on lower Ermou and across on small streets. If you seek originality and real antiques leave Monastiraki behind and wander around Psiri.

If you continue through the square you will come to Ermou and if you cross into Psiri there are people selling there too. The further you go the weirder it gets and by the time you get down towards Pireos Street you have very poor people buying and selling from piles of rags and little gypsy children running barefoot.  Some shops are not even stalls, only things hanging a some wall. All is for sale.  So… Gypsy, bad, bad, bad!

vendorGypsies are skinny and invisible to the human eye. They know where every wallet is in the world. Then they are quicker than the fastest I have ever seen, ( personal ). Your Sock “might” be safe.  Here is an example of one stealth group gypsy action, [sadly from personal experience, from a time ago] : I don’t look like a tourist, just a Westerner, Plus, I stay away from the logos on the clothing and designer accents. These are a beacon of light to the gypsies. The thieves work the odds and the angles.  Groups in skinny teams quietly surround the mark, i.e., the Metro train commuter, a narrow cafe; close in, as in a crowded space; press against the (now) victim; and fleece every zipper, pocket, nook and crannies. When the train opens at the station, the Gypsies evaporate and all is gone. Do not get in that position ever. Hint: position a mouse trap in your back wallet pocket! Wait for the …snap and scream!

Check out the morning meatmarkets, if available to your schedule in Psiri.  In the evening, the tavernas, ouzeries, and little restaurants are authentic & the nightlife is excellent ( Cab it back to the hotel in a metered vs. “Gypsy Cab”).

The Tourism Police are an integral part of the Hellenic Police (ELAS), consisting of men and women especially trained and competent to offer tourists information and help, whenever they have any problems. They are also competent to solve minor differences between tourists and enterprises. They all speak foreign languages. You can recognise them by the shoulder badge Tourism Police on their uniforms. Tourism Police operate an emergency telephone line on a 24 hour basis (just dial 171 any day, any time, from all over Greece).

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Greek doors sport color and style

Greek IslandsI get it.  If your decorating your Greek Island villa threshold, do it with a flair.  I have searched out the antiques of the colorful doorways on these Cycladic Islands and the thrill of finding a rare door-knocker is around every corner.  The weathered brass ones have character and personalities.  The woman’s delicate hand on the wooden door reaches out for your grip, has the warmth and smoothness that makes you linger before the strike of metal on metal.  But, expect a loud retort from her, when you apply a bit too much force.  The faces on the painted metal strikers give a sad expression. Their personalities warrant kindness toward the thankless job that they do.  I use them boldly and then pass on by, relishing the joy found on the other side and leaving them behind to face the emptiness of the narrow whitewashed lane. Photography abounds here.

Mykonos is a good start to find them. The Mykonian maze of paths and terraces enjoy this unique embellishment on many doors.  More treasures lie on the little island of Hydra, just an hour and a half away by Flying Dolphin ferry ride from Athens.  They, the residents, enjoy no motor vehicles, only donkeys and small fishing boats. True bliss!   Mule hooves on the cobblestone streets compete with the door-knockers.  A nice combination in the village on this great Greek Island.

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Vacationing on Mykonos is a 9 to 5 Job:   Nine in the Morning to Five in the Morning!

I love every hour of it, and have for summers for about twenty-five plus years. Yes, I have the routine down pat. You really need to stay on the island for several days minimum to get the rhythm and fall into a hypnotic state. I drink in the hours into their own zone of continuity.  Mornings are leisurely, breakfast is light, Photo opps prevail.  Noon is the time to mobilize to the beach, Paradise or Super Paradise or out past Ano Mera Town to a secluded cove.  Taverna food on the beach fits in somewhere.  High Five Hour is for partying on the beach bar [ literally, standing on the bar to the euro disco beat].  The  sunset brings its joy. Nap time back at the Villa.  Then the rest is open.  Dinner out in Mykonos town. Then to the clubs.  Five A. M. comes around darn fast.  Repeat all above as often as necessary.

 

Mykonos

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Good or Evil, they do the trick.

The black iris surrounded by the clearest bluest color of the crystal Aegean Sea is a required staple of Greek life.  I have several. Why not? One of these items on a keychain or on a rear view mirror will ward off those pesky evil spirits and bring me great luck.  Hanging a Blue Eye on the inside of my door at my residence assures a very peaceful existance.  Ask any vendor in the Athens Plaka or the Flea Market: Monastiraki, several block down the way.  These Blue Eyes come in every size.  They are attached to leather lariats, chains, mounted on earrings, and formed into ashtrays.  I have wonderered about the various factories that might manufacture these items. How many tons of glass are smelted?  Do little villages focus all resources to tie little cords on them?  How about a museum of these?

OK, the name is Mati, some may call it  “the evil eye”.  It is a Greek staple in life, as much as a strand of Komboloi beads or worry beads(Greek: êïìðï~ëüé).  Evil Eye Beads go back thousands of years.

It was believed that, this eye saw  all the wickedness in the world and  removed poverty and ignorance. When Horus opened its  eyes the world was enlightened, when he closed, it became dark. From Egypt, the eye talisman had spread to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Europe. The bead reflects the evil intent back to the onlooker. It somewhat resembles an eye and it is said the typical blue color is a factor in protecting the user.   I know the trick to ward off the evil.

At almost every stages of human history, man has looked for the assistance of magic objects called talismans to defy evil forces.  Accordingly the  first recorded by the Mesopotamians about 5,000 years ago in cuneiform on clay tablets, the Evil Eye may actually have originated as early as the Upper Paleolithic age.  That’s old.

So, “…the technique we use for nazar boncugu – evil eye bead making is primitive. It’s totally hand made. We use a thick and a thin iron rod. We roll the base of the nazar bead on the thick rod. This is the base. We add the white and the blue of the eyes with the thin rod. Just these two rods are our tools”, according to RASIM ALTMISKARA, beadmaster in Turkey, from a work on this subject by Kemal Güzelsin.

I’m sticking with mine and I suggest a keychain or two for you!  Or: maybe you have one now?

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The Greek  Seaside Village of Stoupa Maintains Idenity

Some years back, my friend Michael, packed the rear of his little SUV with our duffels, and we left Athens in the dust. Quite a bit of dust was left behind. We were heading to Peloponnese or more specifically the Mani Peninsular of Greece. At that time, the traffic just to get to the Corinth Bridge to leave the “mainland” towards the southern point was thick.  The route is southeast and lined with the empty oil tankers at anchor in the Aegean bays. Eventually we made the hard left to the routes south and on to the peninsular.  Hello?  No traffic here, all was left behind.  Some of the highways were beautifully paved and so modern.  Then the road narrowed and started the switch back and forth. It was an interesting drive, but tedious. Four and a half hours in the car is much!

Thanks to the Greek Summer Olympics and some World Bank EU funding, five years had rebuilt the route to a streamline breeze. I especially love the new tunnels, borne through the Mountain spine that runs in middle of the region, and the modern rest stops perched in the blue sky peaks. Two cities break up the drive along the way.  One of them is Tripoli, the other is Sparti, of the “Spartan”  fame; worth a discussion of its own.  This city is a transition point from mountain travel to farmland plains for an hour before the Mani Peninsula and more mountains.

The Laconia Prefecture is dotted with villages along the southwestern coastline.  From Sparti, I prefer the southern route on Number 39 to Aeropoli and then west towards The City of Kalamata.  We all know calamata olives, yes?  This whole area is an olive grove.  A museum to olives is on Route 39 just 15 minutes out of Sparti. The blue grey sheen of the trees on the slopes is unmistaken on the landscape. The road is shared in the late summer months with RV Campers in caravan, building material trucks, farm equipment, and heavy CC motorcycles. Several kilometers may find no vehicles around.  One and one half hours of driving through beautiful one lane wide hillside villages brings you down to the coast and Stoupa.

On the map Stoupa is not large. It holds two bays, where one is a perfect sandy beach. A breakwater and marina are to the east of this cove. There is a stone wall and sidewalk that lines the entire beach.  Modest Aegean surf laps the shore of this clean sandy bottom. Tavernas line the town side of the street. Small hotels are back two streets from the town. Gift shops and art galleries are then sprinkled about in a “good way”.  Stoupa is really laid back with a sedate proper English crowd.  Swedes and German tourists have found the area.  English is spoken regularly. 

Seasonal Apartment rentals abound.  The in-season rates in Euro run at 50 to 60 per night with continental morning breakfast.  Travelers also rent flats by the week or month in the village or sloping hills near town.  The Mani designed “castle” style town home is available at 600-900 euros per week for four to six beds. Realtors and agents are active.  Lefktron Hotel is two blocks back from the beach with a small pool at 65- 100 euros per night and is the largest hotel with 32 rooms and reviews come in good.  A new little restaurant named Ladi, greek for olive oil, was opened last year by a Brit and they have a great little menu.

Summing up: this relaxed coastal village offers a peaceful glimpse to a melting pot of happy travelers and a comfortable Greek alternative trek.

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