For part of our time in Greece, Sarah and Joc decided to take an overnight trip to Nafplio. While they were gone, Haley, J.T., and I took a day for ourselves to discover Greek food and go shopping. We began by getting breakfast at Ktistakis, a restaurant established in 1912, that only serves Loukoumades, effectively the Greek version of a donut. The Cretan recipe consists of honey inside a fried ball of dough and served with cinnamon and sesame seeds on top. We ended up getting two orders of ten.
We then headed to the Central Market of Athens, a traditional covered meat and fish market. The smell was overpowering and it was very loud as every stall called out to the visitors to buy their wares, but it was worth going for the experience.
We then headed to the Athenian neighbourhood of Plaka, one of the oldest areas of the city, but therefore also one of the most touristy. We got lunch here at a taverna. I ordered my favorite appetizer of Tzatziki, a yogurt dip made with cucumber and topped with olive oil, in addition to a ham and cheese pastry. At the end, the owners gave us all hot Grappa with honey on the house.
Athens is a city of contradictions. Ancient sites and Classical Greek art impact a lot of the city’s design, but there is also a lot of modern influence from cars to graffiti. You can see this wherever you walk.
After lunch we felt like something sweet. I had read about food before (the plane magazine gave some tips) and we decided to head to the best gelato place in Athens. Le Greche, located on the edge of the Plaka neighbourhood, is owned by Evi Papadopoulou and was opened in 2014. They use all local ingredients, such as Ricotta cheese from Crete, figs from Kalamata, and lemons from Argos. The flavours offered when we went included Baklava, Cookies & Cream, Cioccolato (Chocolate) Earl Grey, and Mascarpone with figs. I got a mix of Hazelnut, Gianduia (A chocolate and Nutella mix), and coffee; it was exquisite.
We had planned to do a half-day trip, but after the ice cream decided to delay our plans until the next day and relax and enjoy exploring downtown Plaka instead. While exploring we discovered a beautiful Greek Orthodox church.
We then headed out to buy souvenirs. At one shop, J.T. bought some silver earrings with the classical Greek maze design, though he didn’t yet have pierced ears. We three decided to fix this and asked a local shop owner where he could go to get piercings. We were directed right across the street where J.T. could get studs for €6 and so we went. It was the fastest and, according to Haley, the sketchiest process. The man sprayed a disinfectant then eyeballed where to punch the ears; it was over in about two minutes. There were no care instructions given afterwards leading J.T. to use ouzo as a disinfectant until we could buy some real stuff.
We decided to treat ourselves to some smoothies and lemonade afterwards at a juice stand across the street. I got the lemonade with Greek mint and ice; it was the perfect refreshment.
By the time the day was done I had gotten quite a few things for myself, including a scarf, a ring, a bowl, some soap, and multiple postcards, and a tile for my mother. Because we were all worn out from the walking, shopping, eating, and piercing adventure, we ate again at Rakor (the restaurant from our first night). The day was one of fun and laughter and a great break from non-stop sight-seeing.