Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

On Home and Other Gifts – A Visit to the Mercouri Estate

Mercouri Estate, Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Mainland Greece is dusty, like a sucked out sponge bristled with underbrush and spindly trees. There’s the whirr of cicadas screeching a constant soundtrack and the hot sun that broils the land and people on it with impunity. Olive groves shudder up from their sun-soaked torpor with the shake of an invisible breeze. Their silvery leaves are thick and strong, like hammered metal sheened in blowsy earth. Grape vines slither up stalks, their leaves looking wilted in this heat – but the clusters of grapes are crowded and plump like overperfect plastic fruit.

We are boat people, spilling out the mouths of our luxury cruise liners and crowding the tiny port towns for mere hours. We breeze along the rows of shops, buying linens and gold jewelry to take home as proof of our having been away. When you’re a boat person, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be on the other side. All you know is the heat and press of people, the frantic crush to buy a few souvenirs and snap pictures of the shattered vases in the local archaeology museum. But I remember what it was like to be in Stavanger, Norway when the boat people came. All week, the town felt sleepy and small, lethargic with its slowly chugging ferries and stone-paved streets arbored with flowers. One morning, there they were, Germans mostly, flocked into the little shops and even smaller streets. It felt like another city, a many-headed hydra roused and ready to devour you in any of its maws.

Sneaking cat (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Grecian grapes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Olive tree in Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Mercouri family house, Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Here in Greece, we don’t know any better, so we just do the best we can. We try not to shove and we wait our turn in line to photograph the shards of vases and buy our linens and shrink-wrapped bags of olives and souvlaki spice. » Continue reading this post…

Go Big, Go Greek: Classic Greek Salad

Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Michael, my youngest brother, has this fraternity shirt that reads “Go Big, Go Greek” in giant letters across the chest. He wore it all over Greece, which was rather amusing. Can you go any bigger than by going to Greece?

Everywhere we went in Greece, bouzouki players plucked out the same song, which my grandfather identified as the theme to Never on Sunday, a black and white 1960’s comedy flick starring Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited Greek prostitute. And everywhere we went in Greece, we found ourselves la-la-la-ing along. It’s a catchy song.

And everywhere we went, we were entertained by traditional Greek dancing. It’s an interesting kind of dance to be entertained with. It’s not particularly fast, and not particularly athletic, but it’s mesmerizing in its own way with its slowly repetitive steps that sometimes build and sometimes don’t. And sometimes there’s some quite athletic kicking, and sometimes everyone joins in the circle for a little swing step.

Ingredients for Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chopped veggies for Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Greek salad dressing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Red wine vinegar, lemon, oregano, olives (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But best of all, everywhere we went, there was Greek salad. I wasn’t always impressed with the food in Greece, but the salads were consistently good. Big, ripe hunks of tomato and cucumber, salty olives, sweet red onion, crisp green bell pepper and a feta quite unlike the kind we buy in Berlin. It was creamier – and later, I found out, made with part goat’s milk (I found this out by trying to feed it to David, who hates the taste of goat cheese. Now I have a brick-sized chunk of Greek feta I’m slowly trying to make disappear.).

Greek salad recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Tomatoes, green pepper, feta, cucumber, red onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I loved the simplicity of the dressing – a little more acidic than oily, a perfect fit for the ripe vegetables’ natural sweetness – and rife with dried oregano. It was so uncomplicated and so eminently eatable.

So when I think back on how to “go Greek,” I think of those three things: bouzouki music, dancing, and big plates of salad. » Continue reading this post…

Coming to Terms with History – A Trip to Greece

A view from Poros (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Your humble author, with ruins (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
A boat on the Greek islands (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Family, sightseeing in Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Growing up in the US, you have no real concept of history. Old is Washington chopping down the cherry tree, and ancient is the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. In Greece, old is the founding of Western civilization and ancient is a Neolithic human making pottery some 8,000 years ago on a rocky outcrop by the sea. Take that, George.

At the site of ancient Corinth, a city famous for getting some letters, you see the layers of history. You can walk along the centuries-old road, slick with pinkish rocks from 2,000 years of sandaled feet scraping it smooth. There’s a Bronze Age grave and over that the Greek marketplace. The Romans built a fountain, and as BC chanced to AD, a little Byzantine church appeared. The city was razed a few times, and each time built back up again, always a little bit higher, the new burying the old.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The ruins of Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Sightseeing in Greece (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Iced lemonade for hot days (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Today, the materials we use for construction are too lasting for this archaeological strata effect. Our new cities aren’t built on top of old ones, but integrated into them. Concrete has leveled out history. In Greece, too, it seems like history stops in ancient days. Unlike in Berlin, where the story starts with WWII and pummels into the East-West German divide, in Greece, the thread goes dark with the Byzantines. Yet somehow, somewhere along the line, modern Athens was born, as if a tired Zeus had spilled a shimmering pile of white Legos inside a ring of dusty green mountains.

Temple ruins in Athens (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Brother at the Acropolis (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
An ionic column (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
The Greek flag (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Modern-day Greece is not without its real problems. On the way home from our tour to Delphi, the bus driver asked us if we could skip the bathroom break and just head straight to Athens. There was a demonstration planned, and she wanted to get us back before the roads closed. » Continue reading this post…

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