14 December, 2009

Lunch at Faros, Coffee at Senses

Yesterday afternoon, lunch at a psarotaverna near our flat.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/pireas/faros_en.html



I ate for the first time deep-fried mussels. They were quite nice with condensed flavour.

And then we paid our first visit to a new cafeteria called Senses which has an excellent view to the Saronikos Bay.



A double Greek coffee and a single espresso both cost 3 euros. For this view, we will be back!

12 December, 2009

Restaurant Reviews

I am trying to reorganise Gate to Greece to add restaurant review section for Athens and Piraeus.

Athens:
http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/athensrestaurants_en.html

Piraeus:
http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/pireas/piraeusrestaurants_en.html

Some pages have already been there, some have been published in this blog, and some I wrote before but have never published. I had a similar project for Birmingham when I lived there and it was quite successful. I hope to do something similar also for Athens and Piraeus, although I cannot aim at any completeness for Athens.

The first new pages I added are for

Gia Mas (Γεια Μας) in Piraeus

Garidomakaronada

and

Koukouvagia (Κουκουβάγια) in Gazi/Keramikos



The content is still small, but will increase over time. Hope it will be some of use.

11 December, 2009

Where Did the Smoking Ban Go?

Yesterday evening we went to Gazi for dinner.

Frankly we were put off by many restaurants because they looked like Nazi Gas Chambers from outside.

Let's remember. In Greece smoking in closed public space has been banned since July this year.

Back then the change was not immadiately felt, as in summer most of the Greeks eat and drink in open space, not inside the buidling. Everyone was saying that we would not know the outcome until the winter.

And here it is!

Greek Government need money. Why don't start by collecting fine from shops allow their customers to smoke inside!

Athens Rubbish Chaos

In Athens the garbage collectors' strike has been on for almost two weeks and now the central Athens is full of garbage and is actually quite stinky. Thank God this was not happening in summer.

We went to Gazi yesterday evening and look how things are!

Athens Rubbish

And

Athens Garbage

It is not only in Gazi. Even in Syntagma and Ermou Street, the situation is almost the same.

I heard that they will start collecting the garbage from today, but the clearing up won't be immediate. I understand that the garbage people have the right to strike, but leaving things as they are is irresponsible. The workers will say that it is government's responsibility. I don't buy that 100%. If you get the pay to do something, it is ALSO their responsibility.

On the other hand, the recycling finally came to Piraeus.



Checked the container if the people are behaving well.



I did not see any kitchen garbage or anything, but someone already thrown his/her recycling-bag which we are supposed to be keep on using. Don't know what to say.

06 December, 2009

Thinking About "Unfriend"

About a week ago, I learnt that New American Oxford Dictionary selected "unfriend" as the new word of the year. Probably people in America and UK heard about it before me, but, you know, it takes time for news to arrive in Greece! (I am just joking).

http://blog.oup.com/2009/11/unfriend/

It is a verb meaning "removing someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook". It is in a sense an antonym of "befriend", but in a limited context, i.e. happens only in the world of Internet.

This word provoked me some thoughts. In person, we make friends, but we usually do not have to "unfriend". We just gradually lose contact. Of course, we do have fight and slit up with friends, but this happens only rarely to normal people, I think. Act of "unfriending" is something more casual.

What I am thinking are these "friends" or rather acquaintances that we don't have much contact/relationship anyway. In social networking sites (SNS), there is no such thing as "acquaintance": people are all either friends or non-existent (or friends of friends). On SNS you can make 'friends' without even exchanged any word. This happened to me recently and caused some stir in my mind, as until now, my 'friends' were either real-life friends or family members/relatives. In real world, you won't label as 'friends' those who you have never spoken with. (those who you exchange(d) views and thoughts with some frequence on Internet without actually meeting them is in a different category; they are like "pen pals" in snail mail age, they are "www pals").

With the coming of Facebook and the like, "making friends" has become ever easier (not slightly because it changed the definition of "friend"), but naturally we humans cannot keep friendship with all these casual "friends". Consequently there is sometimes a need to "unfriend", if you don't want to list as 'friends' those who you have never spoken with or even you don't remember at all (there are people who list more than 1000 people as 'friends' and I am sure that they - if they are not gifted with an exceptional memory - won't be able to identify all of them in 10, or even 3 years later).

I have Facebook only for 2 years. I cannot help but thinking what shall I do with these 'friends' I don't remember who they are in 5 years. Unfriend them? Probably.

04 December, 2009

Baklavas from Themis

A friend brought us a Baklavas.



It was excellent.



Thank you, Friend!

Themis
Filippidi 1, Nea Filothei
Tel. 210-6912243
Panormou 11, Athina
Tel. 210-6462832
Panormou 111, Athina
Tel. 210-6910044

Θέμις
Φιλιππίδη, Ν. Φιλοθέη
Tel. 210-6912243
Πανόρμου 11, Αθήνα
Tel. 210-6462832
Πανόρμου 111, Αθήνα
Tel. 210-6910044

03 December, 2009

Flocafé Liquid Tiramisù @ Marina Zea

Sunday late afternoon at Flocafé in Marina Zea, Piraeus.



Coffee in Marina Zea is probably the most expensive in Piraeus, more than in Mikrolimano, but the cafeterias here are always full during the weekends. We would like to avoid them, but most of our friends seem to prefer here - many live in the neighbourhood - and consequently we are constrained to come back.

The tree nearby was wearing Christmas decoration.



There was a new item on the menu.



Tiramisù caldo?

Wanting to try something new, I ordered it.



The left one is Tiramisu caldo. The white floth is mascarpone cream and all the rest is mixed together below.

It was quite unusual. It contained a lot of savoiardi biscuits, enough to soak up all the coffee. It really was tiramisu in liquid form. It is supposed to be hot coffee, but all these stuff, the temperature was lowered to lukewarm. Both the texture and the temperature made me think of baby food. Except that baby should not take in cafein.

On tasting it, Hubby seemed pretty disgusted, but I did not dislike it. Not bad. Just... weird. Maybe it was better to be eaten with a spoon, and not with a strow.


On this day, we had an appointment with someone who was coming from Daphni with a car. She was caught up by a heavy traffic near Karaiskakis Studium, because there was to be a match of Olympiakos and football fans were making a lot of fuss (eventually the match was postponed for some time). Unfortunate situation it was.

02 December, 2009

Syntagma Square at 7 O'clock

Ilektrikó work continues. To make it punctually to my appointment in Syntagma Square, I leave home quite early, at 6 o'clock. By doing so, I arrive too early for my appointment, but in later time, I can never know how is the traffic and I am constraint to do this.

In the other morning, I arrived at 7 o'clock, i.e. 30 min earlier than the appointment. I won't call 7 o'clock really an early morning, but seeing such darkness, I cannot avoid this impression.

Not knowing what to do, I did a bit of sightseeing.

Koulouri man already at work.

Koulouri man

Syntagma Square still deserted.



Handsome Parliament (Voulí) building.



And I attended the Euzones Guard changing ceremony. There was no one else around me.



Now you know see that they don't do this only for the tourists! ^_^



And a cappuccino and a butter croissant at Grigoris. 3 euros, if I remember well.

Croissant

Later, I went down to the toilets. The Syntagma branch of Grigoris has separate gent's and ladies' toilets. I went into the ladies'. The one cubicle was stained, so I tried the other cubicle, of which the door was half open.

I saw a man pissing!

Taken by surprise, I said "sorry" and close the door.

It did not take much time for me to realise that it is him who was in the wrong section and who was supposed to close the door anyway. I was really pissed off! ha ha ha

29 November, 2009

Psipsina @ Psyrri

Yesterday, I had an odd job in the afternoon and then I met up with Hubby in Syntagma for a walk. In Syntagma Square there was a nice rock concert dedicated to World AIDS Day. No wonder that one of the sponsors was DUREX.



video


The musicians were all very good and succeeded to attract lots of audience.

Then we continued toward Monastiraki and then to Psyrri, where I met by chance a former schoolmate of mine. He is a Chinese who speak a bit of Japanese. He said he studies in Patras (that much I knew), but comes to Athens weekends to see his friends.

I cannot help feeling that central Athens is quite small. There I just keep on meeting people I know, just by sheer chance. And I don't know so many people here in Athens. This did not happen to me in Tokyo.

We went to Psyrri wanting to try a creperie called "Picasso di Crepa" on Takis Street which I found on Internet (here). We indeed found it, but was closed. There was no sign of life and there was a remnant of yellow paper advatising premises for lease.

We know that there was a branch Crepa Crepa nearby, but, as I have already mentioned here many times, I don't like chain eateries (I repeat: not because the food does not taste good, but because it lacks in character). The alternative we found was Psipsina (Ψιψίνα) on Agion Anargyron Street.

I forgot to take a picture of the shop, but you can at least see this friendly femal cat in front of the shop. Unfortunately she cannot won't be available as a landmark. ^_^


Psipsina

It is catered both for take-out and eat-in. This is a seating section inside the shop, but they also have some tables alongside the street and in half-open corridor.

Look at the furniture to understand the quality of decor. I can also mention that the toilet wasn't really clean (there is only one both for men and women). The coffees are very cheap. Single Greek coffee still costs 1 euro: the price you can see only in neighbourhood kafenio nowadays. In this photo frappé was 1.50 and tea was 2 euros.

They sell sandwiches, crepes, waffles and loukoumades (Greek doughnuts). Althouth they offer ready made combinations, we selected "create your own": base crepe is 3 euros and toppings - sweet and savory - are 0.50 euro each, except for ice cream which is 1.50 euro. Ours is a crepe with banana, chocolate, and almond. 4.50 euros.

Crepe

I was surprised to find our crepe on a small paper plate. It could have come in a paper wrap as take away, but on a paper plate? For 4.50 euros? Although this rather careless presentation, crepe itself tasted fine. Much better than the one from Creperie Parisienne in Monastiraki. The crepe did not taste of uncooked flour and had right texture. Chocolate and almond were also generous.



Although the crepe was good, it missed the value-for-money target. Neverthelss, if you are ordering it with cheap coffee, the bill will be somehow balanced. Conclusion: I might go back to savour their nice crepes, but, before, I would like to explore more elsewhere to seek a better value for money.

Psipsina
Ag. Anargyron 43 Psyrri, Athens
Tel. 210-3312446

Ψιψίνα
Αγ. Αναργύρων 43, Ψυρρή

P.S. I am surprised to find out that apparently it used to be a fish restaurant cum gallery.

27 November, 2009

Creperie Parisienne @ Monastiraki, Athens

We felt famish walking down Athenas Street on Sunday.

The most obvious choice was a quick souvlaki from Bairaktaris, but passing in front of this crepe shop, we changed our mind and decided to try it out.



Its precise address escapes me, but it is at the bottom end (Monastiraki end) of Athenas street.

They don't offer any ready-made combination of crepes. This means that you have to choose every single one of toppings. I ordered cheese, mushrooms, and cabbage-carrot. The seller girl tried to convince me to add some more ingredients, but, to be honest, I don't like too much toppings on my crepe, so I declined. As Hubby was softy, he added one topping suggested by the girl (or, did he just want to please the girl; who knows?)



I think that mine came to about 3 euros and Hubby's 4 euros. I cannot tell you precisely, because I did not have time to check the receipt or was allowed to keep it. After we paid the bill, the girl kept the receipt to complete our order. I.e. the receipt functioned also as our order form, and that is why we could not have it. I am not sure if it is legal.



Now the crepe.

Leaving aside the toppings, the crepe for me was too doughy and tasted raw flour. Being think, it was very filling, but I did not want to fill my stomach with stodgy sheet of flour.

That is why I don't think I will go back.

25 November, 2009

Ilektriko Disruption Faliro-Tavros

As many Athenians knows, Ilektriko (otherwise known as Attica Metro No 1 or Green Line) has disruption between Neo Faliro and Tavros from 14 November until 16 December.

There is a temporary bus service in between two stations, but during the rush hours it is hardly enough. Apart from the bus capacity isn't as large as Ilektriko, it takes more than double the time as it has to run busy roads between Piraeus and Athens.

I need to go out half an hour earlier to go to school in the morning and have to suffer, with all the other passengers, pushing, bustling and cursing. On the way return is almost as much tragical.

Alternative is 040 bus service between Piraeus and Syntagma. I tried it this morning, at 7 o'clock. Fortunately I live not far from the starting point of 040 bus and could get a seat, but it got busier and busier and in Kallithea already it did not even have space for standing passengers.

The whole situation is totally ridiculous. It is just so Greek life.

As I said, it will continue until 16 December (sigh).

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



As I arrived bloody earlier (like 6:45) in Syntagma, I stopped at Grigoris for breakfast. Banana-choco croissant and regular cappuccino for about 4 euros. Banana-choco stuff was too sweet for me, although the combination of warm banana and chocolate was good.

To Pithari @ Monastiraki, Athens

In between two meeting-ups, I stopped at this souvlatzidiko to give a quick fix to my stomach.



It is a very small place on Ifestou Street between Monastiraki and Thissio. I think it is mainly for take-out, but has some tables.



I wanted to order pork skewer in pita wrap (pita kalamaki hirino) (1.80 euros), but it was ran out already. So I ordered pork giro (pita giro hirino) (2 euros) instead.

This is it. Nothing particularly noteworthy, either in good or in bad sense. One thing I found positive was that the pita wasn't at all oily or greasy. I cannot stand oily pita.



While I was eating it, I noticed it was chicken gyro, not pork, as I ordered.



Chicken gyro is sold more expensive than pork gyro, 2.20 against 2 euros. So I guess it was a honest mistake, but I don't understand how could it happen, as they were not busy and it was made by the same man whom I placed the order. Well, not that I don't understand. It is called incompetence, I am afraid.

To Pithari (Το Πιθάρι)
37 Ifestou Street
Monastiraki
Tel. 210-3215420.


21 November, 2009

Livadia @ Omonia, Athens

When I went to Polytechnio on 16 November, I stopped at the souvlaki shop Leivadia (read 'Livadia') near Omonoia Square. It is a pretty famous souvlaki place and you can find it even on foreign guidebooks.

Here, there is only one main dish you can order: pork souvlaki for 1.20 euros. In this sense, it is similar to Telis Pork Chop House.




In this case, souvlaki means grilled pork skewer, and not pita wrap with grilled meat and accompaniments. I should rather call it 'kalamaki' to be clear and have to stress that Livadia does not sell pita wrap version.

Now, this is the procedure:

1) Go to the cashier and pay for whatever you want (besides pork skewers, you can order side dishes like chips, Greek salad, feta etc, and drinks).

2) Go to the bar counter to order drinks and side dishes (except chips) showing the receipt given by the cashier. If you want wedges of lemon, you need to ask here.

3) Then go to the grill man and tell him how many pork skewers you paid for. Here the grill man snatch the receipt from you, so be careful. The grill man will hand you the skewers on metal plate, after dipping them into lemon juice. If you don't like non-fresh lemon juice, you'd better tell him beforehand.

4) You can either go to one of the tables or counters, and serve yourself with bread and water, if you want.

5) Livadia's kalamakia are not loaded with salt as in many souvlaki joints; you can splinkle as much salt as you want at table/counter.

6) Eat!


The grilled pork cannot too wrong in general, but Livadia's pork souvlakia are more special because 1) it has right amount of fat content (if you don't like pork fat, it is not a place for you), 2) they don't cook the meat to death and the meat remains pink and juicy.

I will take Hubby there next time.

Leivadia
Gladstonos 7

Check out "Gate to Greece" http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/leivadia_en.html for more photos!

19 November, 2009

A Greek Gentleman

The other day, Hubby and I were waiting for bus in Piraeus.

Bus arrived. At entrance, there were two of us, 3 Greek teenagers, and an old man in marine blue suit. The boys jumped in first. We two waited so that the old man would pass before us, but he did not move.

We said to him: "After you".

But the old man said "No".

He continued: "Lady (=me) first, then you (=Hubby) as you accompany her, and me last".


Taken by surprise, we obeyed him.

As you readers don't know me, I also have to mention that I am the least lady looking woman in ... Piraeus, at least, and look pretty healthy and young as well.

We wished we can maintain as much dignity as he does, when we'll be old.

16 November, 2009

Polytechnio One Day Before 17th November

Tomorrow is 17 November, 36 years since the Polytechnio uprising.

On 17 November 1973, the military dictator Georgios Papadopoulos decided to send an army and armed police, including one tank, to suppress the students and other civilians who were protesting against the dictatorship in and around the Polytechnio. In the course of military action, 24 civilians were killed and many more injured. This event lead to the fall of Papadopoulos. Although the dictatorship did not collapse immediately, those students and civilians who fought for democracy and freedom were known as the Heros of Polytechnio.

So, I went to check out Polytechnio today. There will be a march and demonstration tomorrow from Polytechnio to the American Embassy (because, back then, the US was backing the Greek junta), but it is expected that some destructive/anarchist elements will join it and consequently I was advised not to go there on 17 November.


Politechnio

This is the monument commemorating the incident. Many people were coming to dedicate flowers on it. Later, I saw on TV Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou putting flower.





I presume this is the gate destroyed by the army tank in 1973.



Damage made by it.




I look forward to see documentaries on this incident on TV and also to follow how the demonstration will go tomorrow. In 1973, the students were unarmed and had clear causes (democracy, freedom as civil rights, against foreign influence etc.) to advocate. Their slogan was "Bread-Education-Freedom (Ψωμί-Παιδεία-Ελευθερία)". On the other hand a part of recent demonstrators is just destructive (smashing shop and car windows and throwing molotov cocktails) without any clear reason. It will be sad if this day to commemorate democracy and freedom is made to turn into just a day of violence and destruction.


Taxi Fare from Piraeus Port

[I published this article first in April 2009 and updated it in May 2009 with new tariff. This is the second update]


In the port of Piraeus, I found this notice board about taxi fares from the Port to Athens and elsewhere. I publish this, as it can be some use for those who want to travel to and from the port by taxi. I know you cannot read it on this photo, but if you click it, you can see the enlarged version.



And following is the previous fare table. We can see that the tariff is up about 30%.



This 'indicative' fare includes flat rate, toll, and luggage supplement. In each row, the upper price is for daytime and the lower one is for the night (0:00-5:00).

This is correct at the moment of writing, but it will go up again in May 2010. (I read on newspaper that this planned hike was scrapped considering the current economic situation in Greece).

(Not everyone wants to show the tariff!)



15 November, 2009

A Taverna in Agiassos, Lesvos

I added some food photos to Agiassos page on Gate to Greece.

And these are the photos that I did not used on the site.

When we visited Agiassos in Lesvos, we had a lunch in a local taverna. They had a very long menu, but when we tried to order from it, most of the dishes did not exist at all. Only with my prompt, the waitress told us what they had on offer. It is rather odd. It is usual that family-run tavernas in Greeks serve a limited variety of dishes, but in such cases, they don't bring menu at all and list the dishes only orally (I have seen this style many times also in Italy). We were mystified.

They, I asked her if they had anything local, typical dish. She said: "no". OK.




This is gida kokinisto (she-goat cooked in tomato sauce).



And aubergine papoutsakia.



Both tasted very average, but I have to tell also that the food was very cheap. With salad, tyrokafteri and fried potato, the bill was a few euros above 20.

The tyrokafteri we ate here tasted very unusual (the photo is on the page on Agiassos). We asked the woman what cheese they used. Being unable to answer, she asked another waiter. He said that it was a blend of 5 local cheeses.

OK, tyrokafteri is a standard Greek meze, but blend of 5 LOCAL cheeses sounds quite LOCAL dish to me.

Moral of the story is that knowledgeable service staff can sometimes make our meal memorable and vice versa.


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

In this taverna, I met a Greek Cypriot lady called Fanny (I guess Fanouromeni is her real name) of certain age. She was part of a pilgrim group of Greek Cypriots living in UK. She said to me that she is working in a hotel and has a great sympathy for Japanese guests. And then, on leaving, she greeted me with her palms pushed together in front of the chest. The Japanese do this gesture when they pray to god/gods, but never to greet people (I think it is the Thai people who greet people in this way). I explained it to her, but she insisted it was OK, as her Japanese guests in UK did so as well.

Message to my fellow Japanese nationals: Stop mimicking just to please her! ^_^

14 November, 2009

Souvlaki in Plomari, Lesvos



A piece of memory from this summer.

One of the places we visited in Lesvos this summer was Plomari on the southern coast. During the two days we stayed, some sort of town festival was being held and in the evening the town was full of people. It wasn't a sort of festival to attract tourists, but rather for the people living there and in vicinity: there were concerts of local amateur/professional musicians and big souvlaki catering.

I wasn't so hungry in this evening and did not want a sit-down meal. Neither was Hubby and he bought a souvlaki from a psistaria, which was packed with locals and we waited about 20 min to buy one souvlaki.

To our surprise, a souvlaki cost 2.20 euros, i.e. more expensive there than in Athens and tasted just the same. As there was no way that the rent cost more in Plomari than in central Athens, it should be due to lack of competition. So, if you are planning to open a souvlaki shop, do it in Plomari and not in Athens! You earn 10% more at least! (But of course, you must ignore me, as I am not considering the fact that in Athens you probably have costom all year around, while not necessarily in Plomari).

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

This nothing to do with Plomari.

Yesterday, there was Sixth Sense on TV (Star). It is one of our favourite films and I think this was the third time to watch it. Even after the third watch, it still impresses me. This sort of supernatural stories very rarely gives a satisfactory solution/conclusion, but Sixth Sense does. And this time I realised how well represented the relationshop between the boy (main character) and his mother. It was just moving.

12 November, 2009

Syn Athina @ Thissio

I don't remember any more why we ended up there, but Hubby and I stopped at a cafeteria called "Syn Athina..." at the beginning of Iraklidon Street in Thissio.

Syn Athena

The name comes from a famous (i.e. famous to the Greeks, but not necessarily for us foreigners!) Greek proverb "Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει", i.e. "together with Goddess Athena, move your hand", i.e. (again), "if you want to achieve something, it is not enough to pray to Athena, but you have to make your move as well".

I said it is a cafeteria, but the truth is that it serves also meze dishes together with crepes and waffles.

But we ordered only drinks.



Ice espresso for me and frappé for Hubby. I don't remember the exact price, but it was between 7 and 8 euros for both of them, which is an average price you pay in "nice" cafeterias in central Athens.

The best thing about this place is the view.



If you are lucky enough to grab a table near Apostlou Pavlou Road side, you get the Acropolis for free.

Well, you get the same, or maybe better view from another cafeteria-mezedopoleio Athenaion Politeia nearby, but it is a good thing to have alternative, isn't it?

I found the website of this place, but it is still under construction (but at least, address and phone number are there).

http://www.sinathina.gr/

08 November, 2009

Sushi Experiment

I decided to make sushi for the first time since I arrived in Greece. When I was living in UK, buying Japanese foodstuff wasn't difficult and price was UK, if not cheap, while in Greece some of the ingredients are unobtainable and, when they are, very expensive.

To make sushi, it is indispensable to get hold of 'Japanese' rice. It does not need to be import from Japan, but should be 'japonica' rice. The one I found was "Shinode" from Italy (2.90 euros). I bought it from an international grocer in my neighbourhood, but later saw the same thing for the same price in Skravenitis Supermaket.



"Shinode" should actually be "Hinode", Japanese word for sunrise. In some dialects, "Hi" tends to be pronouced like "Shi" and probably this rice was named by one of these people who speak this sort of dialect. It is rather funny for the Japanese who know standard Japanese.

And vinegar. It is obligatory to used rice vinegar and this one is Japanese Mitsukan bland.



4.50 euros are rather too much for a bottle of vinegar. It is almost 4 times more expensive than in Japan. But, what can we do? Anyway, one bottle of vinegar makes quite a lot of sushi.


I did not manage to go to buy fish this time, so I made cucumber rolls. I used the nori (black seaweed sheets) which I had bought in Japan, but it should be obtainable from a Japanese foodstuff shop in Syntagma. I don't know exactly how much does it cost, but won't expect it to be cheap, as, different from vinegar, it is not cheap thing even in Japan.



The result was OK, but the quality of rice wasn't up to the Japanese standard. When I was in UK, I could buy Chinese rice of very high quality for reasonable price, but, alas, here such choice isn't available.

Next time, I will try with fish!

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