Home of the Classics: Athens, Greece

August 2, 2012 § 32 Comments

Greece gets all of the oohs and ahs when I share my travels, and with good reason. Athens acted as the take off point where our Boston flight connected to our Tel-Aviv flight so my time there was a bit segmented.

Despite our time limit  Shann and I were able to visit the Acropolis, a rocky hill on which the Parthenon is located. Like the astounding view from the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus, and the Erechtheion were beyond impressive.

Some time during our few hours in the city we visited the main market in Plaka, the city center of Athens. The market was relatively small but boasted the best (and least smelly) collection of pristine seafood I’ve ever seen.  Red mullet, sardines, octopus, sea urchins, clams, mussels, squid and a cornucopia of other creatures were splayed on beds of ice mounted in front of prideful vendors. As if the Mediterranean seafood was not enough, the nuts, legumes, lentils and dried fruit proved why the Greek diet is considered one of the best in the world.

Along with all of the seafood, pig hooves and whole rabbits were also being auctioned off with great excitement.

After some trekking we were ready to eat so we headed back to a tall staircase that was nestled between more taverns and cafes than anyone could imagine. There we ate at Sissifo’s Tavern and were not at all disappointed. To quiet our stomachs that were still sour from the thought of airplane food, we indulged in grilled octopus (a local specialty), eggplant stuffed with soft cheese and basil, vine leaves in a lemon sauce and boiled wild greens drenched in extra virgin olive oil topped off with crusty bread and a couple glasses of the house red.

Aside from the food,  Athens did not strike me as memorable until I spent the night. With the mass amounts of tourists, the daylight hours felt a bit artificial. After dark the artificial Athens dissolved into the beauty we found roaming the back allies hoping to stumble upon a quality spot to get drinks and dinner with the locals. Quickly I found myself wishing we had more time in the city.

The heat of summer in Athens is intense, but makes for a perfect place to grow just about anything.

It was then, our only night in Athens, that I tried Moussaka, a Greek specialty with some serious competition behind it. Moussaka is a compilation of  fried eggplant and ground meat topped with a fluffy Bechamel sauce. Each tavern claims they make the best Moussaka, and each time all you can do is smile, nod and tell them you’d like to judge for yourself. The Moussaka we had in Athens was the only Moussaka we ate, but I bet it was just as they said it was; easily the best in all of Athens.

There is more of Greece, both islands of Santorini (Thira) and Crete, to come!

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