Parting thoughts on Greece
Sep 24, 2007
|Some random thoughts that we had on Greece. We'll also add a "Logistics about Greece" later as well, in case some of you are interested in travelling their at some point.
Wine - Nick
Wine is cheap. Dirt cheap. And good. Wine at every meal is the norm, and is usually cheaper than having a coke. Good on you, Greece! The other thing we learned is that local, homemade wine is great to sample. Sure you swing and miss occasionally, but a bad local Cretan wine is still better than Pelee Island, and only cost 3 Euros. And most of the local Cretan wine was great - in Crete, there is often not much of a difference between whites and reds. Some of the local wine we had was just labelled "Wine", and was kind of a tan colour. But good. Some tasted very port-like, and a few were so smooth I found myself gulping them for refreshment.
Ouzo and Raki - Nick
In Athens, and may of the islands, the spirit of choice is ouzo. Not, though, by any choice of my own. It is strong (not always a bad thing) and flavoured like licorice (a very bad thing, in my mind. The only good licorice is the red stuff that is really some bizarre flavoured edible petroleum product). It only came out once, where Kyla and Mel gave it a try (and wound up leaving a fair bit). But the Athenian men drink it like water, sitting at small tables on the sides of the streets, chatting, playing backgammon and swinging their worry beads.
Raki, by contrast, it the Cretan spirit - real Cretans don't drink ouzo. It is strong. Very strong. It's made from the grape skins after they have been crushed for wine, and is a lot like italian grappa. But, in my mind, stronger. How strong, you ask? Well, in my mind, think about swallowing a mouthful of mouthwash, but without the minty flavour. Every sip of raki made me shiver involuntarily. And we found that raki made an appearance much more often - Cretan hospitality was incredibly generous and warm. At almost every meal, without any prompting, we were brought a small bottle of raki after the food with small glasses.
And every time it burned. But every time we felt the genuine pleasure that the Cretans had in having us at their restaurant, their hotel, and on their island, so every time the raki was very welcome.
Portions - Nick
I'll just leave this at one word.
Jack Layton - Nick
Greece held a general election while we were visiting (note: those two events were unrelated). The candidate for the official opposition looked identical to Jack Layton. This was fairly unnerving, though his party was also left-of-centre, so at least the universe was still in good order. His party lost, though, and had their share of parliament reduced from the last election, prompting his imminent stepping-aside. The Blues, the party in power which was about middle of the road, or slightly right-of-centre, held power, but went down in seats.
It was fun to be here during the elections, which were followed with a lot of fervour in Chania (and across Greece, from what we were told, except in many of the smaller villages). It happened on a Sunday, but it wound up feeling like a big party night, with results going on late into the night, and TVs at all of the waterfront restaurants on with lots of watchers.
Eating at Restaurants - Nick
Most restaurants in Athens and Crete have the bulk of their tables outside, which makes sense, given the almost-complete lack of rain, snow, hail, sleet, and the high temperatures. This invites dogs - not mangy curs, but rather sleek and friendly creatures who usually (but not always) belong to someone who just lets them run around downtown.
Dishes are often shared. With a few appetizers, mains, bread, water, wine, olive oil, etc. all fighting for space on the table, we learned that Greek tables are too small. Meals became humourous attempts to juggle everything between the four, and then even the two of us.