Adventures In Greece (Part 2)

When is the last time you touched or stood next to something from the 6th century BC? I remember thinking several times as a little girl how much I would love to be an archaeologist some day (and a professional ice skater), literally digging up and discovering history. Well, I got to at least see the careful work and findings of archaeologists in Greece, and it was pretty exciting.

This is the Temple of Apollo in ancient Corinth, built around 540 BC. Before archaeologists started excavation on this ancient city, these columns were all that could be seen. Monolithic, they are made from single pieces of limestone. Incredible.

On our way to Corinth (which was a half day tour and about an hour from Athens), we stopped at the Corinthian Canal. After nearly 2000 years of vision and attempts, this canal (one of four like it in the world) was completed in 1893.

And here’s where I have to give a shout-out to my history geek major friend, Alena. I sent her a selfie of Robert and myself in front of the canal at about 4am her time, and asked her “Guess Where?” She didn’t even mind, and said she loved waking up to a pic of the CORINTHIAN CANAL.

I mean, doesn’t everyone discuss their spiritual lives AND the Corinthian Canal over coffee in the UMass Campus Center on a regular basis? No? Well, we are just an extra-special duo, I suppose. 😉

Corinth was fairly advanced for a city of its time – running water toilets, bath houses, and more. Here’s some evidence of those things…

We got to see the location of the Corinthian church which Paul started and wrote letters to, and we also stood on the Bema seat. This is the raised platform (for speeches/decrees) before which Paul was brought by the Jews to stand in judgment before Gallio, the proconsul, for “persuading people to worship in ways that are contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:12-17)

We spent some time in the museum there, seeing beautiful pottery and mosaics and statues before taking our bus back to Athens.

Dinner at an outdoor restaurant (of which there must be a million) in one of the shopping markets was our next stop. Greek Salad and Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, olive oil for dipping) here…

…and “mixed grill” to go with it. Robert was pretty excited about the “mixed grill” which is a plate of piled up, grilled meats with potatoes underneath. So good. Pretty sure we had this for every subsequent dinner with just slight variations.

The next day (and our last one in Athens), we went on a Four Hour Gourmet Food Walking Tour of Athens. So much fun, and incredibly interesting. Very friendly, our guide, Eirini (“Irene” in “American”), was a young woman born and raised in Athens.  She had a lot of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, knew her culture and history so well, and was lots of fun.

After sampling some breakfast items (Robert tried all the gluten savory pies and sweet pastries for me), she took us to the local meat market, the fish market, the nut, seed, and spice market, and the fruit and vegetable market.

They eat a lot of seafood in Greece…a lot of interesting sea food. I don’t know who first saw an octopus and thought it would be a good idea to serve it for dinner, but octopus is a seafood staple in Greece. And squid of all sizes. And eel.

And no, we weren’t THAT adventurous in Greece. I know that will be a disappointment to some of you.

We did eat camel meat, though. Water buffalo, too. We’re from Texas, what can I say? Anything that resembles beef (or venison) seems appropriate to make a meal out of.

 

Eirini liked taunting the crabs with her tongs. “I’m just saying hello,” she insisted, “but they snap at me.”
Nuts, seeds, grains.

Just casually sampling the olive selection. Not staged at all.

Eirene bought tomatoes at the fruit and vegetable market, so that she could make us a Greek salad at our next stop: a local gourmet food shop.

She put up a map of Greece and pointed out various regions while she let us taste olive oils from those regions. After we chose our favorite (Spartan?), she poured it over our salad and then gave it a couple of sprays with a balsamic vinegar/truffle oil combination. Wow.  So delicious.

We also tried plain Greek yogurt with local honey – yum.

Next we visited a delicatessen. Those dark red club shaped hanging meats are pastourma – or cured camel meat. We sat down here for a while for a sample plate of pastourma, water buffalo, stuffed grape leaves, and two different kinds of cheeses. All very good. In fact, we even went to another deli for more camel meat to pack for a ten mile hike we’d go on a couple of days later.

A cafe for Greek coffee was next on the agenda. They don’t really grow coffee in Greece, but they drink a lot of it. There is a big “coffee culture” in Greece. A smoking culture, too, as you can see. Greek coffee is just like Turkish coffee with fine grounds in the bottom of the cup.  You don’t drink them, you pour them out on your saucer and read your fortune in them.

The last stop on the tour was for souvlaki – or what we call gyros here in the states. A gyro is really the contraption you see above – a “gyrating” or rotating skewer of stacked chicken or pork. It cooks from the outside in as it passes by hot grills and is periodically shaved off and put in pita bread – taco style. The meat filled pita (or sometimes a kebob) is called souvlaki. We left the pita and ate the meat and grilled veggies. Delicious.

There was absolutely no need for lunch or dinner this day! We were full, and headed straight to Mars Hill (Areopagus) for that view of the sunset our tour guide had told us about two days prior. It was jam packed with people, but beautiful still. We’d get our private sunset/moonrise viewing a couple of days later in Crete.

From this perch we could see the sunset and part of the city (the domed building is an observatory) to the west and the Acropolis to the east. Pretty amazing.

We absolutely loved our time in Athens and Corinth. Our next adventure was on the largest Greek island, Crete. Stay tuned for the biggest adventure we had on our trip – a missed flight, standby status, last flight out by the skin of our teeth, and a hiking trek through the longest gorge in Europe.