Getting to Know the Greeks
Last night we went out and had a lot of fun in Kolonaki. We went to this bar that we had seen that has a happy hour and we all sat around and drank ouzo. Ouzo is a local liquor that everyone here drinks. It has the taste of a strong black licorice. It is so strong I need something sour to get the taste out my mouth, but I like to drink it because I want to become accustomed to the Greek culture.
At this small bar, I met a young Greek couple that were very nice. I starting talking to Anna, a short skinny brown haired woman, and she told me of many places we could go. She introduced me to “Gazi”, an area we would have to get to by train where we could meet people our age and experience something different. She also told me she would take us to the sister bar that was playing live Greek music a little bit later in the night. She walked me outside of the bar and pointed to a small orange sign and told me that if I turned left at that sign and walked up the stairs, I would reach a local live Greek music area. The place was very dark, but so crowded and seemed like a local hangout. The band was in the front of the bar and it was lit up with stage lights while everywhere else was dark. The music was loud and upbeat and people were either dancing, or sitting and enjoying a drink. It was a great experience and I am very glad I met someone to show me the little local niches.
On Saturday, we had a different experience: class! Usually on a Saturday, I sleep in, have a nice breakfast, and lounge around the house. Instead, today we had a class at 10 AM with Rich. It was hard to make ourselves wake up for class, but we did it so that when we go on our long trips we won’t have to have as much class.
We first met at the university, and then all of us walked to the local café, Teddy’s. The streets here are very uneven and I have weak ankles to begin with. If take my foot off the road for one second, I have a high chance of getting hurt. While we were walking downhill towards the café, the group in front of me distracted me took my attention away from the ground. I felt my leg weaken and my right ankle buckle under the pressure of having to support my weight on uneven ground. To make it worse, I rolled my other ankle the night before so it was especially hard to walk.
We held our class in a small room in a different building and discussed our readings from the night before. The reading was titled, “Bitter Oranges”, and it was about an American student that studied abroad in Greece for the spring semester. Her life in a way was a lot like our life today, and it was easy to make my own connections. For example, she lived in a university apartment in Kolonaki, just like us, and also liked going to local bakeries and cafes. At home, I go to Dunkin Donuts and little family-owned bakeries, but here it is different. The bakeries are more authentic and use fresh ingredients. Every time I walk into a bakery in Athens, I can smell the freshly cooked doughnuts and pastries, rather than greasy, over cooked hasbrowns that I smell in Dunkin Donuts.
After our class, we had some time to relax before we met back up with Rich and Lily to go to a taverna Ioanna recommended. It was a small place that had only a rooftop deck that had a stunning view overlooking the Acropolis. Everyone ordered something small, like a Greek salad and a small plate of calamari. The boys got a big mixed meat platter that contained different kinds of meat prepared in different ways. I ordered a shrimp saganaki. When I ordered it, I wasn’t sure what it was, but decided to try it because it was a traditional Greek dish and I love shrimp. When it arrived, the shrimp was in a bowl in what looked like soup. The shrimp was very flavorful and the sauce it came in was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. It was a tomato base with basil and a Greek cheese. I also dipped bread in it, which was delicious! It was like how I usually dip my bread in marinara sauce when I eat spaghetti, but the flavor was much more rich in basil, tomato, and cheese.
We finished up our late lunch, and walked around the shops in the Plaka. Plaka is a very touristy area. It is basically the downtown of Athens, with nice hotels, restaurants and shops. There is a street named “Ehrmou” that is a pedestrian-only street filled with all different kinds of shops. It is a lot like Newberry Street in Boston, because I feel like it is a little bit of an American shopping area and I am stepping away from the Greek Culture. There are American things on that street like McDonalds and H&M that remind me a lot of home. There are also classy shoes stores, cheap clothing stores, and small kiosks with little trinkets like watches and iPhone cases unique to Athens. It was the first chance we had to shop since being here so all the girls were pretty excited!! It is sale season right now so there are some great deals on everything. The shoes were half off and some stores were even seventy percent off everything. The street was very busy. Because it is a Saturday, it seems like people go out to eat and enjoy their day with good company. I love being in a different culture and trying to live in a way a Greek would.
We did lots of walking around today. Once we arrived back to the apartment everyone laid in bed. The busy schedule and jet lag had finally caught up with us and we needed that rest. Tomorrow we are going to the Dionysian Wine Festival, which we are all really excited for. It happens once a year, and hundreds of wineries from all over Greece travel to showcase their selections of wines. I am personally very excited for this because the only other wine tasting I have been to was one in Rome, Italy. We only got to try 5 different wines and didn’t get much of a feel for Italian wines. Ioanna tells us that we will be able to try some of the most unique wines in the world from the small islands like Santorini and Kythira.