Our introduction to Greek culture began before we even got on the plane in New York. I think we were the only non-Greeks on the plane, and people were talking to us in Greek. Everyone seemed to know each other–we felt very foreign.
Upon arrival, we found our apartment in a quiet family neighborhood near the Panormou metro, slept for a while, and then went out to have our first meal under the acropolis. Everyone was relieved to easily order vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free meals!
The next morning we had a Greek lesson with the owner of the apartment we were staying at. Now we are armed with the basic words to get by. Jackson has the alphabet down, so he can read all the signs.
Then it was off to meet our guide, Stella, at the Acropolis for an evening tour. She suggested this time as a cooler, less crowded experience, and we were really happy we didn’t have to get up early to meet her!
She was wonderful! She chose some stories about Athena and the founding of the city to focus on and showed the kids how they all came together. She had fun activities prepared for the boys, and we all learned a lot. I realized that I also get overwhelmed with a tour around a site like that, and I really enjoyed her presentation of the history. Sam and I could ask questions, and got so much out of it. We will definitely use her next year.
Frozen Greek yogurt! It’s everywhere in Athens, we were happy to see! Jackson was able to order a yogurt-free smoothie.
A traditional herb shop
The food an the people always end up being the best memories, and our food tour of Athens with Tina Kyriakis of Alternative Athens, was the best of all possible combinations. Tina is fun and full of info, and most importantly, the boys really liked her! We will definitely work with her next year!
We met Tina and a small group at Monistiraki Square for a food tour, which we were all looking forward to. She took us to about a dozen restaurants, cafes, and shops that are local favorites and offered us samples and explanations of traditional foods. We tried olive oils and vinegars, olives, relishes, breads, pastries, and stopped in at a coffee shop to see how Greek coffee is prepared. She also took us to the local produce, meat, and fish markets, and although the vegetarians didn’t spend much time in the meat and fish markets, it was interesting for everyone else. Tina made sure that Sam had something gluten free, and Jackson something vegan to try whenever possible. By the time we sat for a final souvlaki sampling, we were all stuffed
souvlaki in vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free versions
It’s been many years since I’ve spent time in Greece, so it’s hard to say how things have changed there in recent times. We did notice many closed shops, and a lot of graffiti and street art. Sam started documenting the graffiti, here are a few of his favorites:
A woman behind a burka? A face looking out through a gap in a jumbled society?
We kept seeing the clover symbol, along with the number 13, all over Athens, often next to anarchy and communism symbols. We were never able to pin down its meaning. [MYSTERY SOLVED! Not as exciting as we had hoped, the clover is the symbol of the Athenian soccer team, and GATE 13 is a popular fan group!!]
Marilyn Monroe? Maybe… although beautifully disfigured.
Between Athens and the Gulf of Corinth
Driving our rental car out of Athens was not quite as scary as everyone had made it out to be! But it was a Sunday morning as we headed out of the city toward the Gulf of Corinth, to meet Aliki Ammerman, a children’s book publisher and retired children’s librarian, who had graciously invited us to visit her at her summer house right on the water outside the coastal town of Galixidi. We spent a few hours with her and her husband Chip (who happened to be from Connecticut) brainstorming ideas for interesting Footprints activities. They had many great suggestions, and helped me understand some of the regional traditions and what types of activities we might be able to find. The boys swam in the brilliant blue waters of the Corinthian Bay and ate homemade cheese pie. It was with great reluctance that we left them and their lovely spot and drove on to Delphi.
If you’re interested in children’s history/activity books about Greece, you can buy Aliki’s 3 books in English at Nostos Books. We downloaded them and read them on the Ipad before we got to each site, and the kids did some of the activities. They were good for a range of ages, but two 10-year-olds definitely found enough of interest
Gorgeous view from Aliki and Chip’s house
We arrived in Delphi in the evening, as the light was settling into the mountains. It was a spectacular drive up the mountain. Delphi is a nice little town with a fantastic view.