30 December, 2008

Greek Diary (Day 4)

Today is Monday and Hubby went out to work.

Being an employee of an educational institution in UK, I am in a long vacation over the Christmas and New Year.

I passed all day writing blogs and websites, while waiting for the painter to finish painting the wall. I was told that he would have finished around lunch time, but in the end he did not finish it until 3 in the afternoon.

I was to meet the Hubby and a brother-in-law at Petralona in the evening. I was planning to take a walk in Athens before that, but after some fuss the plan was changed (happens very often in Greece, or maybe in this family; I don't know) and he was to come to pick up in Piraeus. This meant a still longer wait at home for me.

I did not go out until 7 in the evening. Then 5 of us went to Ikea, not far from Piraeus. Hubby and I went around to see beds and tables. We might be a bed from there. We should buy a table as well, but maybe later; with all my recent savings tied in GBP, I am reluctant to change money now.

I noticed the Greek Ikea offers a plate of English breaskfast for 1.40 euro.



I have heard it costs 1 pound in UK, meaning it was the same price in the last summer, but now it is cheaper in UK. UK used to be a very expensive country, but now everything looks bargain there.

Trachana

Yesterday I ate something called trachana (τραχανά) for the first time.

I have heard about its existence for some time, but as the Hubby does not like it, I have never eaten it till yesterday.

It was described to me as kind of small pasta made of flour and milk. The colour is like that of spaghetti before it is cooked. Normally, the Greeks make soup boiling it with water and sometimes use it as stuffing of gemista (stuffed vegetables baked in oven).

The trachana I ate was soup version. It looked similar to oat meal porridge, only the colour being yellower. I don't know what kind of grain they use. It might be mixture of more than one. It tasted also of butter, which should come from the milk used to make the pasta. It smelled of oat meal porridge and corn soup at the same time. I loved it. With a bit of lemon juice, it was even better.

I think the soup can be added with a bit of veggie and chicken to make it more substantial. And may be a dash of olive oil.

29 December, 2008

Xoriatiko Psomi (Country Bread)

Generally I like Greek bread as all the other Mediterranean bread.

The one I like in particular is Greek yellow bread. I asked my Hubby what it was called, but he did not know. Although he is a Greek native speaker, his knowledge of food is very limited and it is not strange he does not know it.

So, when we go to bakery, we often end up in asking "please give us yellow bread" (said in Greek by Greek Husband). Usually bakers look blankly at him for a few seconds, and then give him the bread they think is yellowest.

The other day we tried the bakery close to our new flat and they decided it should be Choriatiko psomi, or Xoriatiko psomi, meaning Country bread like "Pain de campagne" in French.

They said it is "prozimi". It probably means "sourdough" in the sense that it is natural leaven.

Choriatiko Psomi


Can you see that it is yellow?





The colour evidently comes from the semolina flour which gives an unique flavour as well as the colour.

This is not as good as the best ones I have tasted, but acceptable.

My quest for ideal yellow bread continues.

Flight from Birmingham to Athens on Christmas Day

I travelled from Birmingham, UK to Athens on 25 December 2008 using Swiss Airlines and here are some snaps from the trip.

I took a private hire from my flat to the Airport as there was no train or bus on Christmas day. I got a quote of "between 18 and 19 pounds" from the cab company, but on arrival my cab driver wanted 22 pounds. I simply mentioned the quote and he backed down only with a few words of murmur. This was not the first time private hire drivers did it to me. I think the company takes the quoted some and the drivers want some more money that they don't have to give to their company.


ANYWAY

The airplane was only about 10% full.




The food I got between Birmingham and Zurich was a brie and cranberry sandwich. There is nothing sadder than a sandwich straight from the fridge and that was it. As it was a Christmas Day, I was expecting something like a turkey sandwich, my expectation proved to be too high. But, as turkey goes often with cranberry sauce, may I say that I got a half of it? Maybe not. At least we got a "Season's Greetings" sticker on top.



Besides, it counted 3 types of E numbers in its ingredients.


Tasted like a loser's food.




I waited for 4 hours at Zurich airport. Meanwhile I had one tortilla wrap that I brought from home. Nicer than the one I had in the airplane.



On the Zurich-Athens flight, I got a seat in front of emergency exit. I don't know why they don't give this kind of seats to tall people. I am only 155 cm tall and hardly need any extra legroom. As it was in front of the emergency exit, I was told not to put any luggage under my seat and the person who was seating next to it was taken away even a handbag.




On this flight I got a better food.

Usually, between Zurich and Athens, they give us something they call 'calzone', but this time they gave me an 'Italian Chicken' pasty from Monty's Bakehouse.

Italian Chicken pasty from Monty's Bakehouse

It was made in UK. I have been living in UK for past five years, but I have never heard of this brand.

The package says "We only use ingredients from the kitchen cupboard".


Monty's Bakehouse pasty

What it meant was that it was made from kind of ingredients you and I can easily find in supermarkets. In fact, there is no E numbers and anything sounds like medicine/chemical.


Inside there are some bits of chicken (20% of the components), veggie and cheese. I suppose that what makes it Italian were mozzarella cheese and basil leaf.



I don't like pasties in general, but it was acceptable as airplain food.


Then we got this pretty biscuit.


Swiss biscuit
It tasted nothing special, but I would have given it "Good Design Award".

We landed in Athens 10 or 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

28 December, 2008

Greek Diary (day 2 and day 3)

Did not have time to write until now, so I start from yesterday.

Yesterday (Sat., 27 Dec. 2008), we went to the new flat to open the door to the Mr. Nikos the painter.

Then we headed for another Mr. Nikos who is a hairdresser. On our way we found a furniture shop and decided to ask prices of beds for our new flat. He tried to sell us 190euro all inclusive one on offer at this moment (that is what he said). What we wanted was a better one, and after 20 min of conversation that was not leading to anywhere (this is typical line of inquiry Hubby does), we finally found out what we wanted is between 360 and 480 euros depending on how good mattress we wanted. OK.

Mr. Nikos the hairdresser is a very nice guy and Hubby and I both go to him for the hair-cut. There was already one female client with her boyfriend who was smoking all the time. In Greece, it is not yet prohibited to smoke in public places and it really annoys me. Hubby paid 13euros for his hair-cut (I think it included festive tip).

In the afternoon, we were planning to go to Ikea to see more beds, but the brother-in-law who should have come to take us by car did not turn up, so we went to a shop elsewhere. We took notes of the prices of washing machine and cooking stoves.

In the evening, we went to a friend family's house for festive greetings and we came back with presents.

Then we dined at 11 o'clock.

===================

Also this morning we went to the flat to open the door for our painter. He said he will finish tomorrow.

And, then, nothing new now. We made a couple of calls and now we are waiting for the lunch. No plan afterward. Hubby said he wanted to go to see his god-father, but I am skeptical if he goes.

====================

P.S.

In fact, we did not go to see the God-father. I can read Hubby's movement, but there is not much to be proud of, as he is the most predictable person.

Instead we went to a coffee shop nearby to meet-up with a friend. These days, a coffee costs 5 euros (including 10% doro, which is the special service charge during the festive season). Now that 1 euro is almost 1 pound, it is really a matter of luxury.



OK. I finish here, as this is not my pc and have to give it up now.

26 December, 2008

Greek Diary (Day 1)

I am in Greece. Arrived yesterday night.

Without any respite, the preparation of our new flat started.

Today the wall painter came to paint the walls. He is an Albanian and acquaintance of my mother-in-law. He offered us a friendly rate of painting the whole flat for 250 Euros including the expenses.

The poor guy came in at 8 in the morning (mind; today - 26 Dec. - is Greek national holiday) and started to paint, but after a while started to complain about his head ache. He drank too much yesterday (Christmas Day evening), and, per consequence, was suffering from hang-over.

After a few hours, without even finishing the whole living room, he gave up and went home. He did not have the will to work and even while painting he could not stop talking to Hubby, who was there to work on the wooden floor of the bedroom.

He said he would return tomorrow and finish all.

But I am rather sceptical.

He still have to paint the half of the living room, bedroom, kitchen and corridor (fortunately for him, not the bathroom which is tiled). Let's see what happens.


==================================

Then we went to take a look at the laiki agora (weekly market) in front of our flat. We bought a bottle of fresh olive oil for 5 euros. It was opaque and very very green. Tastes really fruity.




===============

In the afternoon, we went to my brother-in-law's house. His wife offered us a couple of her hand-made melomakarona, one of the typical Christmas sweets in Greece, which were very nice. Bravo tis!

==================

So was my first day in Greece.

Good night!

24 December, 2008

22 December, 2008

Stadium of Epidaurus

Another page on Epidaurus.

http://www.mesogeia.net/trip/epidauros/stadion_en.html

Stadion of Epidaurus

Actually I did not go down to see the stadium well and I deeply regret it. It is really difficult compromise my interest and my hubby's and I often run out of time and patience. There is no perfect world...

21 December, 2008

New Entry: Sanctuary of Epidaurus

Phew! It has been some time since I posted the last time.

I have been busy writing other things, and did not have time to update the English edition of Gate to Greece.

But, yesterday, finally, I uploaded the Top page of the Sanctuary of Epidauros in Argoris, Peloponnese.

Sanctuary of Epidaurus

http://www.mesogeia.net/trip/epidauros/epidauros_en.html



I am leaving for Greece very soon for New Year vacation. I might able to witness the unrest in Athens, but the main pourpose will be choosing and buying the furniture and electronic appliances for the new flat in Piraeus.

Have a nice weekend everyone, and very merry Christmas and happy New Year if I don't have a chance to publish a new post until then.

Cheers!

17 November, 2008

New Upload: Mycenae Palace and Museum

This week I uploaded two pages, last batch of Mycenae Site.

Mycenae Archaeological Museum

http://www.mesogeia.net/trip/mycenae/mykmuseum_en.html




Nice museum with lots of stuff, although the large part of the most important treasure of Mycenae are now in Athens.


Palace

http://www.mesogeia.net/trip/mycenae/mykpalace_en.html



I was totally buffled by this palace. The remains are very scanty and difficult to have an idea of the former glory.


********

I bought a ticket to go to Greece over Christmas and New Year. Don't think to move to anywere from Athens-Piraeus area. Probably will go back to the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

03 November, 2008

Gkazi, Athens

This summer, we visited Gkazi.

I have been to Keramikos site several times, but have been to Gkazi. With the completion of Keramikos metro station, this area is now much more convenient to visit.



Gkazi means 'gas' in Greek and this is why it is called Gas.



Gas tanks.



These do not contain gas any more, and at least one of them is used as radio station and the buildings around them are used for exhibitions, cultural event, beer hall, etc. (We were told by a guardsman not to take any photographs, but he could not tell us why.)

This is Keramikos metro station.




Still new and clean.

In Gkazi area, there are lots of restaurants, cafes and bars. This is one of them: Mamacas. I don't know how it is, as we did not eat here.



"Not here" does not mean in this restaurant, but in Gkazi. We had plan to stay here for some time, but everything looked too artificial, like newly constructed shopping complex. I was rather underwhelmed and called the day off.



When we were about to leave, dogs from one of these bars came after me barking. Dangerous.

It will take a couple of years for this place to grow into something interesting. I said good bye until then.

02 November, 2008

New Upload: Tombs of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra

Uploaded yesterday.

Tomb of Aegisthus (Mycenae)



Tomb of Clytaemnestra (Mycenae)




As is the case of Treasury of Atreus, the names of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus are modern association and these tombs were constructed hundreds of years apart.

Mycenae section is almost complete and I will proceed to Epidauros.

Kalo mina to every one!

24 October, 2008

Bougatsa shop in Piraeus

As it has been two years since the last time I stayed in Piraeus, I walked around a bit to see what is new. Not so much change to say the truth, but I did find some now shops.

This is one of them: specialised Bougatsa shop. By Greek sweet shop standard, the premises are large.





As you see in this sign board, Sharai sells Constantinopolitan style bougatsa. It says Bougatsa with cream, cheese, or without anything. Cannot imagine how is bougatsa without filling.



We could see behind the glass window the guys making bougatsa and other pies.

I entered the shop and asked the guy behind the counter a piece of bougatsa with creme. He cut a piece from a large piece, put in an aluminium container and sprinkled powder sugar and cinnamon powder. 2.10 Euros for this.

It was possible to eat it inside the shop, but I took it home.



When arrived home, it was still warm.




To be totally honest, it was not as good as I wanted, but it was nice nonetheless.

20 October, 2008

New Upload: Imerovigli restaurant in Piraeus

I have been to Portugal for a week and did very little on the website.

This summer we managed to visit this restaurant in Piraeus.

Imerovigli



This place is always pretty busy. I know this because it is very close to Dim's parents' flat where we stay whenever we are in Piraeus. It is an unusually elegant restaurant for Piraeus, and maybe the people like it for this reason. Personally I would rather prefer traditional Greek tavernas.

04 October, 2008

New Upload: Lion Gate and Grave Circle A (Mycenae)

I uploaded two pages this week, both about Mycenae Site.

1) Lion Gate (Mycenae)



This probably the most iconic monument of Mycenae and it really is pretty imposing.


2) Grave Circle A (Mycenae)



This one is not as famous as the Lion Gate, but the golden mask known as Agamemnon's mask, found here by Heinrich Schliemann, is probably as familiar as the Lion Gate.

For more photos and information, please go to the Gate to Greece website.


When we visited Mycenae at the beginning of September, it was not very busy and I did not see any of my compatriots (I am Japanese). Apart from Greeks, I saw many Italians, who tended not to be in tour group, maybe because they come to Peloponnese with own car by ferry. I started to see also Russians and other East Europeans, but not many yet, even though beaches are full of them.

27 September, 2008

New Upload: Mycenae Site

I started to write pages on Mycenae archaeological site.

Mycenae




Mycenae: Treasury of Atreus (Tomb of Agamemnon)




To tell you the truth, we were very tired when we arrived at Mycenae site, after a long stroll at Akrokorinthos, and I could not explore the site as much as I wanted to. I did my best, though.

More to follow.

22 September, 2008

Plaka and a Sleeping Cat

Usual stroll around Plaka (north east fringe of Athenian acropolis). I love Plaka. Not for the souvenir shops or for tourists, but here I can get the feel of old - not ancient - Athens. It is so full of atmosphere.


I never manage to come around here in the evening. I really have to, as it should show me another face.




Although the streets are busy and noisy, in an old town, there always a relaxed air.



Just hiding behind something, he was deeply asleep....



while tourists from all over the world were passing by.

21 September, 2008

Ethiopian restaurant in Athens

A page about an Ethiopian restaurant in Kypseli, Athens was added.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/lalibela_en.html

I am not repeating what I have already wrote on the web page above, but I want to go a bit more in detail about what we ate there.

This is Kifto.





According to the menu description, it is "finely chopped lean beef with spiced butter and mitmita (special red pepper)". "Finely chopped lean beef" is minced beef for you and me.

When I ordered this, Elizabeth - the owner and chef - warned me that it was hot (kafteri), but I said it was ok, because I like chily food and, if it is not endurance contest kind of heat, I can eat.

Well, I did eat all of it, but it was close to the limit of delectation. Elizabeth kindly gave me extra chili powder (in the photo), but I did not use it. Although it was fragrant and delicious, there was another problem. Minced meat was very difficult to eat only with hand and injera bread. I would have enjoyed more it with rice and with a spoon.

It came with a small dish of Ethiopian fresh cheese made of buttermilk. It was a kind of cottage cheese, and helped to take the edge of the chili heat from the dish.

Another dish: Lalibela special



Menu description: beef cooked with spiced butter, onions, tomatoes (with or without hot chili peppers or red hot pepper) in a variety of spices.

We could choose how hot we wanted when we order, and Dim wanted "slightly hot".

This one was very delicious without any reserve. Again, it was fragrant and spicy, and had multiple taste layers in it. 10/10 from me. Dim said the meat was tough (it was not slow-cooked dish, so was normal).

Highly recommended if you like spicy food.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/lalibela_en.html

18 September, 2008

Black Cat near the Roman Agora, Athens

I befriended with this black cat near the Roman Agora in Athens. He was resting, but when I invited him to play, in accepted it.



We played like for 5 minutes. I could not take photos of him while we were playing, because both of my hands were occupied and he was too close to me anyway.

So this was taken after we finished playing.



Hoping to see him again.

16 September, 2008

Travel from Athens to Birmingham

As I wrote about the flight to Athens, I now write about travel from Athens to Birmingham.

The flight from Athens to Zurich was very early, departing before 7 o'clock (I woke up at 4!). This is the breakfast.



The same sultana bun as the one I had in the plane from B'ham to Zurich, but this time with a pot of yogurt. We were given a small tablet of Swiss chocolate, too.

The girl sitting next to me was reading a book written by Russell Brand. It is totally irrelevant, but I remembered it now. I like Russell Brand.

Swiss airplanes look like Red Cross planes.


This is the waiting lounge of Zurich airport. Cool, isn't it?



Lunch hour approaching, I felt hungry. Everything was pretty expensive. A coffee is about 5 Swiss francs, or a cup of soup at self-service cafeteria is 6.50 or so.

I settled at a cafeteria called Corbeille and ordered a coffee/tea + a slice of cake deal for SFr. 9.90. These are milk coffee and a cake with berries and custard cream cake.


The cake looked delicious but was pretty ghastly. No interest what-so-ever. The coffee was really good, however.

While I was eating, an American guy sat down behind me (there were lots of Americans in Zurich airport). To order, he asked the waitress's suggestion. It was not a specific question. Something like "I think I'd like to have lunch. What do you recommend?". I felt it was quite alien to my culture, or the cultures I have lived in. In my culture, if you want to order, you read the menu and choose what you would like to eat. If you want to know some details about the items in the menu, you ask the waiter/waitress, but never such a general question. In America, the waiters/waitresses are not just the people who ask your order and bring your food, but the people who coordinate your meal and your eating experience at the restaurant.

I finished eating thinking about these things, and then headed for the boarding gate.


This is the lunch in the flight from Zurich to Birmingham: brown bread sandwich with turkey ham and artificially formed egg.

We had also drink and a tablet of Swiss chocolate again. Food with no joy.

When I arrived at Birmingham, the temperature was 14 degrees and it was raining, while the temperature of the room where I was sleeping in Piraeus was 35 degrees during the night. Shock to the system, it was.

15 September, 2008

Travel from Birmingham to Athens by Swiss

28 August 2008.

The departure.

As I wrote in a previous entry, this time I took Swiss fright from Birmingham to Athens stopping at Zurich. I paid about 170 or 180 quid. The cheapest combination was 20 quid less than that, but I chose a slightly convenient combination time wise.

It was a morning flight but it was not too early and I did not have to get a cab to the airport. Although we used a private hire from the home to the town (£5 and £1 tip), I could use the train to the airport (ticket was £3).

At the airport, I checked the currency exchange rate of Travelex.




£1 could buy only €1.10! You must be joking!!! It is sooo close to £1=€1 level. Although I had enough euro and did not have to buy any, this rate scared me.

I managed to secure a window side seat (to be able to take pictures for my websites and blogs) and enjoyed a sultana sweet bun and a cup of coffee on the flight from Birmingham to Zurich. The bun was chillingly cold, but tasted rich and nice.




Sultana bun and coffee

Coffee was pretty good for in flight freebee. It tasted fresh and bitter as I liked.


Then I changed planes at Zurich. I waited about 45 min and embarked (but we waited about half an hour in the plain because of the airport was too crowded).

This is my seat from Zurich to Athens.



For some mistake, they gave me a seat with large leg room. You don't know me in person, but I can tell you I am pretty short and small, about 155 cm high, 48kg in weight. I have never get one of these in my life.

Now, lunch time. We were given this bag. It was warm. I said "What is this?" in my mind. Stewardess said something but I did not get it.



It was a kind of calzone. The stewardess, who was evidently a French speaker, pronounced "calzoné" instead of "calzooone" as in Italian, and that was why I did not get it.



Inside, there was meagre quantity of cheese and tomato sauce. The bread was chewy and not particularly pleasant. Just something to fill the stomach.

We were given also Mövenpick white chocolate ice cream.



I learnt that Mövenpick is a Swiss company. I heard many people asking for normal chocolate ice cream, but white choco ones were all they had. They gave us, however, small Swiss chocolate tablets as well.


The ice cream was already half melted and it was like semifreddo without meaning to be so. A shame.

At Athens airport, I checked again the exchange rate.



€1 for 82.50 p., which is about £1 for €1.20. Evidently the exchange rate at Birmingham airport isn't good. If I need currency exchange, I should not wait until the airport; lesson learnt.

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