When Thanksgiving rolls around each year, Jeremy and I reflect deeply on what the world has offered us. And while we haven’t had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner since moving to Europe three years ago, turkey, sweet potatoes and green bean casseroles dance in our minds as we explore the continent.
In 2009, we had pasta in Rome on Thanksgiving Day; 2010 was Türkei for Thanksgiving, complete with dürüm döner; and last year, while in Amsterdam for what we coined bikesgiving, we had Thai food. This year, while in Greece, we dined on Greek salad, feta cheese, tzatzki, souvlaki, grilled octopus, moussaka (think Greek lasagna), homemade yogurt and halva (χαλβάς in Greek - the tastiest dessert to have ever touched wandering lips).
After a train, two planes, a long bus ride and an hour and half ferry, Jeremy and I, along with our travel partners Bianca and Eric, landed on Hydra (pronounced EE-drah). The small island is home to a few thousand residents, two dozen hard-working donkeys and numerous stray cats and dogs. The long, narrow streets wind up the hill from the harbor, and cars, which are not welcome on the island, couldn’t fit anyway. One’s own feet, or a donkey taxi, are the main modes of transportation.
The island offers breathtaking views, mom and pop-style restaurants and hotels, and a chance to slow down, breathe some fresh air and soak it all in. The two-day side trip fully prepared us for the hustle and bustle that is Athens.
Greece, particularly Athens, hasn’t been on the right side of the media lately, but, according to one tour guide, a waiter, and the guy who drove us to the airport, Greece isn’t perishing. The protests are peaceful, the riots nonexistent and the economic crisis is slowing moving … what direction is yet to be determined.
Regardless, winter was a great time to visit as the prices were cheap; the locals were willing to chat, the sun was shining and history stared us right in the face without the normal overcrowded background of other tourists.
Everything that we know – the influences of American and European culture - started centuries ago with toga-clad Greeks as they meddled in mathematics, dabbled in democracy and flirted with philosophy, creating an unprecedented civilization. Getting a glimpse of the Athens civilization that is thousands of years old made me realize how slow the transformation into the technological age was.
Probably the most well-known and ancient site in the Western world is the Parthenon on the Acropolis. It was a masterpiece in its day dedicated to the goddess Athena. Construction started in 447 B.C. and took nine years to complete.
The Parthenon was architecturally sound for centuries as the temple traversed into a Catholic church, then a mosque when Greece was occupied by the Romans and the Turks, respectively.
In 1687, the damage was done when a cannonball hit the Parthenon which was being used to house Ottoman ammunition, reducing it into the structure that stands today - largely in ruins, no roof, dilapidated, but still impressive.
With four days in Athens we perused museums, posed as Zeus, trampled through Greek work-a-day life and ate our way from neighborhood to neighborhood. While we didn’t experience the beach life the coastal country has to offer, city life sure was sweet, sun and all, especially as the snow starts to fall here in Germany.