Yesterday morning (May 26) we all packed our bags and headed for the airport. A sad day! After a short flight from Chania to Athens, our group split. One of my fellow students found a bus to another Greek city where she would be meeting family for a vacation; the bulk of the group got on a plane to begin the arduous trip home — and I took the train into Athens on my own.
I would be spending the next two days in Athens meeting with people about my embryonic dissertation project. The American Hellenic University would help me out, from securing a good hotel, to connecting me with various potential interviewees, to finding some of the best lamb chops in the city. But for now, I was a little bummed to be without the “girls” I had come to know over the last two weeks.
Yesterday was really a rest day. After getting lost about four times on the way from the airport, I checked in to my hotel room and just hung out for several hours — with one quick trip out to a nearby cafe for (you get one guess …) a Greek salad.
Later I was whisked away to dinner by Eileen from the American Hellenic University. She led me to a street corner that looked like any other street corner. But this one had “Γύρω-γύρω όλοι”: Gýro̱-gýro̱ óloi.
The chef’s special of the night was lamb chops with fried potatoes, pita and tzaziki. It was excellent, and one of only two times I had been offered lamb in Greece. I had expected it to be everywhere, but it turns out it’s a more expensive meat that’s not always available. We had a fantastic meal. Pro tip: Try tzaziki on french fries. It’s quite tasty!
I slept well in my new hotel room at the Athens Way, and set out today (May 27) to meet and chat with interesting people about interesting things. I began by returning to Kafissi on the train to meet with a professor at GAIA, where we had toured a couple of weeks ago.
Next, back near the center of the city, I found a bakery that offered pies: phyllo dough wrapped around anything you could imagine. So lunch was a Mystery Pie!
And inside was … cheese! Well, not the most adventurous meal I have had on this trip, but highly delicious, and super cheap: with a bottle of water, this lunch cost me only two and a half euro ($3.40). Not bad!
My afternoon consisted of two more meetings, plus finding my way around town. With a good map, great public transportation, helpful Greeks (and, as a last resort, taxis), I made my way around the city without too much trouble. A few pics from my wanderings:
I met with people from two impressive groups. BOROUME (see the door in the pic above) means We Can, and works to connect people and groups in Greece who have extra food with organizations that supply food to those who need it. Just for the record, their offices were light and airy, in spite of the building’s front door. 🙂 And their work is important; since Greece’s 2008 crisis, homelessness and hunger have increased tremendously, especially in Athens and other big cities. I was glad to learn about BOROUME’s work and how it might connect with my project.
The SYNZO cooperative formed in the Zografou neighborhood in late 2012, and now runs a store selling Greek products at fair rates, as well as acting as a community center for classes, meetings, etc. They also spoke about the difficult times during the crisis, which has not completely resolved even now. SYNZO sees access to healthy, local food as a starting point for people to become self-sufficient and improve their lives. I was very impressed, both with their spirit and their project’s quick success.
After a long day, for my dinner I simply went back to Gyro-Gyro. It is a testament to the quality of the two meals I had there that I forgot to take photos of them both! Oh well; you’ve probably seen enough pics of Greek food by now!
After dinner I packed my bags once again and prepared for another plane trip — unfortunately, this time, to leave Greece! But that meant I would also be arriving in Norway!