26 December, 2010

O Vrachos @ Rafina

For the first time we went to the mythical Rafina.

To you, there might be nothing mythical about Rafina, but for us who had not had car for a long time, it was a place where every one of our friends has been to and so much talked about, but we have never seen in our own eyes.

To be honest, to be such a mythical place, we did not find anything special.

We entered one of fish tavernas with view.

These photos were taken from the fish taverna.

There is a view, but we think Piraeus has more scenic tavernas.

The taverna was called O Vrachos, the Rock.

Some tables were occupied, but considering it was a Sunday afternoon, there should have been more people.

Having eaten too much on the previous day (i.e. Christmas Day), we ordered modestly.

Fried squids, Assorted boiled vegetable, fried potatoes, and tyrokafteri.

Nothing specutacularly good, but quite acceptable.

Psarotaverna O Vrachos
Plateia Tachydromiou Rafinas
Tel. 6936 3961 138

Here is our bill:
Bread €1.40 (for 2)
Tyrokafteri €3.50
Boiled Vegetables €5
Fried Potatoes €3
Fried Squids €8.50
Water € 1.50
Bottle of Coca Cola €1.90

Total € 24.80

OK sort of price, isn't it?

When we went out from the restaurant, a Greek man came to us and said hello shaking our hands as if he knew us. He said he admires yellow race. I think he was drunk.

25 December, 2010

Καλά Χριστούγεννα!

Happy Christmas and other holidays!!!

But this year Christmas coincided with Saturday and we lost one national holiday. A shame.

Never mind. Yesterday Friday we Hubby & I finished work (I was ousted from the office, although I had not really finished work!) at 2:30 and met up in Syntagma.

It was not only us who want to do the same and most of the restaurants and cafeteries were absolutely packed regardless of the fact that the customers are constrained to pay 10 obligatory gratuity.

We headed for Valaoritou Street thinking that there we should be able to find a table as there are several cafeterias. The best tables of course were occupied but we managed to find space in Sofia's (free tables were only two!).

This was the second time for me to be here (the previous visit dates back 1.5 year ago).

Hubby, how had not eaten yet, ordered chicken club sandwich and frappe, while I got a pot of tea having already eaten and drunk coffee.

Hubby was disappointed to find crisps instead of French fries, but said that it was the best club sandwich ever.

My tea was served in heavy iron tea pot.

It was called "Silk Road" (on the menu it was written "Way of Silk" or something) and tea leaves were blended with pink pepper, cinnamon, ginger etc. It was similar to Tazo Tea of Starbacks which I like.

It was about 16 Euros in total incl. Christmas gratuity.

Valaoritou 15, Athens
106 71
Tel. 210-3641530

Stoa of Spyromilios was nicely decorated.

Then we went home to clean and prepare the Christmas tree.

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas, everyone!

19 December, 2010

One Week To Christmas

Next Saturday is Christmas.

Did you know that?

As I had a very busy week, I was not thinking about it and now I realize it is so close. We did not even manage to prepare Christmas tree (and if it isn't ready yet, I am not sure if we can make it in time until 25th Dec.)

Today, although it was Sunday, the shops were open for Christmas shopping. The shops were to open also last Sunday, but it did not happen because the Public Transportation decided to strike. The shopping districts were quite busy yesterday and today, but they say that people were not really spending.

The income was decreased (maybe not salary itself, but many people do not get traditional Christmas bonus which is usually to be spent on presents and Christmas/New Year fests), but the value added tax was increased.

Yesterday at laiki (weekly open market) near my house, I did not find almost anything costing 1 Euro for a kilo. Aubergine 1.50 Euro per kilo, leek for the same, pear 2.50 Euros for a kilo...

When were were having pie and coffee at Grigoris, eldery people were shouting each other whose fault was this economical crisis, while a sick man came in to beg for some coins so that he could eat something. In such an environment, it was difficult to enjoy our humble coffee and pie.

I look around for hope which is nowhere to find at this moment.

P.S. Tommorrow's 24 hour strike is confirmed for Tram, all 3 Metro lines, and Trolley. The Blue Buses (ETHEL) work from 9 to 9 o'clock.

18 December, 2010

Zachos @ Varkiza

It was a difficult week for me (and probably for most of the Athenians).

The public transport was paralized for about 3 days and the commuters were constrained to use private car. Obviously the roads were heavily congested and many people spent twice much time than usual to get to work place and to go home.

It was even more painful, as the gas price went up again by 7 or 8%. 1 litre of gas costs 1.50 - 1.60 Euros, sometimes even close to 1.70. I see that the Greek government needs money, but by increasing so much fuel, I am afraid it decreases people's will to travel and to spend, and consequently less tax income for the government. It is a vicious circle, as the Government needs to increase the tax even more. As many economists and many people with common sense point out, this circle should be cut open at some point to get out, but the Goverment seems not to know what to do.

Besides, my colleagues were on holiday and I had to do 3 people's work by myself. It will get better, as they will return on Monday, but the strikes continue. I heard that the public transport stops Monday and Tuesday. sigh...

Two Sundays ago, we went to Varkiza.

We have past here so many times, but have never actually stopped.

It was Sunday but a fisherman was selling live fish at the fish market. How nice to live somewhere you can buy live fish every morning.

But we went to eat meat. Because this souvlaki place was full of people and looked welcoming.

Usually souvlazidika are full of young people and families, but this particular one was populated by elder generation.

Tyrokafteri, Lachanokaroto (cabbage and carrott) salad, and fried potatoes with cheese as starters.

As main we had one portion (merida) of pork souvlaki and one kebab in pita.

Meat was soft and tasty enough.

With a bottle of coke, the bill came to slightly above 20 Euros.

Maybe not anything excellent, but it is a good souvlaki/grill restaurant, in our opinion.

ZAXOS (Zachos)
Τηλ: 210 8975652 & 210 9656879

07 December, 2010

Public Transportation in Athens Strikes, Again

I heard that all the public transportations in Athens & the National Railways will stage 24 hour strike on 8th December 2010 (Wednesday).


Yesterday I went to Omonia station at 6 past.

I know. I should not go there, but I had to for my job.

Getting off the metro, I saw a young woman with her face covered with white powder. I was wondering if she was sick or something and then more and more young people covered with white powder coming toward me.

Then my eyes started to sore and some other people who got off the train started to cover their face with clothes.

Evidently tear gas that the police used to disperse the demonstration in Omonia square was lurking underground.

As soon as I got out of the station and breathed in the open air, I did not feel the pain any more, but there still was rioteous mood in the square. I speedly walk off to Athinas street, away from Omonia.

Yesterday was the second anniversary since 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a policeman.

05 December, 2010

If you want to get VAT refund...

I have of some cases of foreign tourists who shopped in Ermou avenue and were refused VAT refund forms. They could not get the refund.

I am not sure how many tourists read this Blog, but I want to warn anyway.

So, what happened?

These tourists were falsely convinced by the shop sellers that the VAT refund forms were available only at the airport and they should bring the normal receipts to the VAT refund counter to be issed refund form.

This is FALSE.

The VAT refund form can be issed only by the shops where you buy the goods and at the moment you arrive at the airport it is too late and there isn't anything you can do.

Now, the VAT level of Greece is 23% and the refund makes a big difference.

As the tourists do not have do not have responsibility in the current Greek economic crisis, they are fully entitled to refund.

If you are visiting Greece or you are working in tourism industry in Greece as I do, please be warned.

04 December, 2010

Agora @ Ampelokipi

It was Friday yesterday and we felt a need to do something different.

This something different wasn't so different after all: we met up in Ampelokipi and were to decide what to do.

When Hubby arrived he was very pale. He said he was very tired. So we did not walk around (although I did it alone before he arrived)and sat down in a cafe-restaurant called "Agora" just by Ampelokipi Metro station.

I took this photo quickly before leaving and that is why it is so blurry.

Agora in Ampelokipoi

A friend of mine had been to the other branch of Agorá in Evangelismos and she said she liked it.

It was still around 7.30 but there were a quite few people eating dinner, while some were enjoying beer or coffee.

We decided (or I convinced Hubby) to have a meal. A bottle of mineral water (2.10 Euros) and bread with cream cheese dip (1.80Euro x 2) was brought to our table: these seemed to be the obligatory order.

Hubby devoured a piece of bread with cream cheese, although he said he was not hungry.

Mexican salad (8.10 Euros) was brought to us as a starter. I say this because they waited to serve other dishes until we finish the salad.

Mexikaniki salata

What is Mexican about it is avocado, red kidney beans and sweet corn. Otherwise nothing really exotic. It was quite satisfying, although I would have liked little more chicken. Anyway it is a nice change from the usual Greek salad variety.

This is chicken, bacon and mushroom crepe (7.60 Euros) we ordered from "Starter" section.

Although it is a huge crepe, the supposedly not-hungry Hubby ate it from head to tale (except for a small piece he conceded to me). How the Greeks dare to call it a "starter"? I asked Hubby, but he could not answer.

The presentation leaves something to be desired, but generally it was a good dish, with big morsels of chicken and fresh mushrooms.

This fried sole with almond crust with leek & mustard 'sauce' served with risotto (9.10 Euros) from the recommended main courses section.

I was disappointed in this dish. It tasted like a failed attempt by Master chef contestant (which I used see this programme when I was in UK, but not in Greece, and guessing it is something similar). It lacked in sense of harmony (of tastes) and in technique. The crust tasted burnt & risotto was sticky.

We were offered two glasses of mastiha liqueur.

Besides above dishes, we had also a bottle of sprite (2.60 Euros) and the total bill was 33.10 Euros to become 35 Euros with tip.

Not a bad place for a casual meal as far as we don't choose anything over-tentative.

Agora Restaurant-Cafe
Vournazou 31, Ampelokipoi
Tel. 210 6426 238

On our way back we stopped at the metro station of Monastiraki to admire the new projection art of the platform. It is a video projected on the wall and of people and animal coming down with escalator. I like it very much and I had to show it to Hubby who for some reason has never noticed although he uses this station everyday as I do. It eases the tension of waiting metro in the morning. I don't know the name of the artist, but to whoever made it and put it in the station, "well done!".

01 December, 2010

Mezedes @ Galaxidi

When we went to Arta, we stopped at Galaxidi on our way back.

We found this attractive mezedopoleio and decided to have lunch.

As Galaxisidi is by the sea, most of the restaurants are concentrated in the seaside area, but this one is inside the down and there is no view whatsoever. The traditional architecture, however, is charming enough to make it up.

On seating, a waiter brought us 3 small jugs of wine saying that these are for tasting. We were afraid of rip-off, but eventually it wasn't. Evidently we should pay as much as we consumed.

Hubby drank only red wine and paid 2 Euros.

With bread, we were given these dips, one is olive paste and the other is tomato paste.

These are stuffed onions. We ordered it, because on the menu it was described as "Galaxidian".

Oblong onions were stuffed with minced meat and rice mixture. Maybe not particularly imaginative, but tasted very good.

This is pork morsels stewed with prunes we ordered as main dish.

It was served with crumbled feta cheese.

It was tasty and hearty, but it was too salty for me. I am afraid they add much salt to killed the sweetness of prunes. They should have used less prunes to avoid oversweetness.

The oven baked potatoes were brought to us when we were almost forgetting to have ordered it.

Surprisingly, the potatoes were served with blue cheese, which is unfamiliar type of cheese in Greece.

Baked potatoes cannot go wrong, but I thought it was a unsuccessful attempt to sex up potato to 5.50 Euro dish.

When we asked for bill, we were offered this homemade sweet.

It looked like ravani, but it wasn't. The waitress told me that it was just a oven baked semolina cake, but I don't believe her. It should have some other grain like rice and the syrup should be made from brown sugar. We liked it very much.

Although some of the dishes looked overpriced, he total bill was only 31,50Euros which looked just right.

We will be visiting this mezedopoleio next time we will be in Galaxidi.

Mezedopolio "O Bebelis"
Μεζεδοπωλείο Ο Μπεμπέλης
Tel. 22650 41677

27 November, 2010

Food in Arta

Continue about Arta...

This is a view of a commercial street in Arta from our hotel room. We stayed at a hotel called Amvrakia I think.

There are only 2 hotels in Arta town and this is the cheaper one. We paid 45 Euros per night for a double room inclusive of breakfast (standard Greek, i.e. basically continental).

Driving past Arta's countryside, we saw a lot of cattle. They should have good meat.

And I regret that we did not have chance to eat meat while we are in Arta.

Although Arta itself is not on the sea, it is fairly close from Ambracian Gulf and, evidently, the population eats lot of fish. We saw as many fishmongers as butchers.

I am delighted to see eel, another of the things I regret not to have eaten. But we managed to eat the other fish in the photo, Gouvia. Unfamiliar fish in Athens.

We ate it in a fish restaurant in Kolonisia, which is a sort of island, but not really.


Gouvia were white meat fish with sweetish flavour which we liked very much. Just the look is not very attractive as the meat has many black vein.

We would like to go back when we visit Arta next time.

Psarotaverna I Myrtaria
Ψαροταβέρνα Η Μυρταριά
Κορωνησία Άρτας
Τηλ. 26810 23021

20 November, 2010

Garidomakaronada @ Amphilochia

On the way to Arta, we stopped at Amphilochia for a late lunch.

As the town is on the Ambrachian Gulf, our choice was necessarily focused on fish restaurants. Not knowing any place, we just entered in a restaurant which had more people inside (to be honest, it wasn't so much people, as it was really late lunch even by Greek standard).

We ordered 4 dishes. First to arrive were, as always, cold plates: horta and melizanosalata.

Both rather average. Not bad though.

(Unfortunately) the highlight of the meal was fried potatoes.

Freshly cooked and the potatoes had potato-taste.

The main dish was King Prawn Spaghetti (Garidomakaronada).

Usually, garidomakaronada comes in two portions, but this one was rather meagre for two. The spaghetti was plainly over-cooked (cooked twice, I guess). The most unforgettable thing was that the prawns were old and not cleaned of guts so that they were smelly and contained sand. Even in Greece, I don't see often such a badly cooked dish. 18 Euros was clearly overpricing

The service was very good and the service staff (I think they were owners) was genuinely nice, but I won't go back.

60 Adr. Stratou Street
Tel. +30 26420 22213

18 November, 2010

Rio-Andirrio Ferry Trip

Since 2004, the year of Athens Olympic Games, the Streit of Rio-Andirrio can be crossed through bridge.

However, it is still possible to cross it by ferry, just as in the past.

During a recent weekend trip, we used a ferry to cross the streit, after visiting the Fortress of Rio, also known as the Castle of the Morea.

The ferry is more for vehicles than for humans. We paid 6.50 Euros, about the half of the bridge toll.

The trip lasted about quarter of an hour, but summing up the time to load the cars and the time to get off from the boat, it took like three quarters of an hour.

Rio-Andirrio Bridge is a beauty, but the ferry trip is also pleasant, if you are not in a hurry and the weather is good.

06 November, 2010

Yuzo @ Glyfada

One day, walking around Glyfada, we found this Japanese restaurant called Yuzo.

It is a very small shop specialised in sushi. It had very good reviews on Tripadvisor and food4you, though they are a couple of years old, I thought it was worth a try.

It was wrong. :D

Yesterday, we went back to the restaurant. Walking inside, we saw a young Greek waitress, an East-Asian cook (who turned out to be Chinese) and an owner who should be of Middle Eastern origin (his name being Karim).

On the table there were two menus, one normal one with hard cover and another one looked like take-away menu, so I ordered from the hard cover menu.

Here are a California roll, salmon roll and cucumber roll.

They arrived already deformed as the chef did not roll well. It is a bad sign as it means that he wasn't trained as sushi chef.

Then the rice was too wet and there was too much sugar and vinegar. Poor quality.

Ebi Fry (deep-fried king prawns in Panko crust) again were not what we eat in Japan.

And they came with Chinese sweet-chili dipping sauce.

But, until this point, things were not outside my expectation. It is difficult to find good or even average Japanese food in Greece.

The surprise came with the bill. It was 40 Euros and 3 of the 4 items we ordered were charged more than the prices indicated in the menu. As the result the bill was 6 Euros more than the total based on the menu prices.

So I called a waitress over for an explanation.

She said that the hard cover menu I saw was actually their old menu and the prices had gone up sice, showing us the paper menu.

However, 1 item was still more than 1 Euro more than is written on the 'new' menu and I did not understand her logic that we had to pay according to the 'new' menu while they had given me the old menu. I asked the waitress to call the owner and she looked quite relieved at my request.

The owner repeated the same explanation blaming the rise of prices on the rise of VAT (Value Added Tax) which went up from 8% to 9% and then to 11%.

But again I pointed out that the rise of price was about 10%-20%, while the VAT rise was 3%.

(Another thing he said was that the Ebi fly dish used to be 7 Euros because there were only 2 pieces and now it is 10 Euros because there are 3 pieces; but how could I know and verify this?)

The owner at this point was rather upset and said that he would waive the bill all together. It was, of course, only a gesture and in the end he took 35 Euros instead of 40 Euros he had demanded.

And he did not give us the receipt. He blames the tax rise, but I am not sure if he really pays the due amount of tax.

What I don't get is why the people who visit this place do not complain about this fraud (I don't call this a mistake because the owner was fully aware that the menu prices are lower than what he actually charges). The residents of Glyfada are so rich that don't barely notice it?

Who knows.

Tel: 210-8983675-6

03 November, 2010

Peloponnisos @ Parnitha

We visited Parnitha mountain with friends.

The idea was to have a coffee at the casino establishment on top of the mountain enjoying the view. Then we found out that the restaurant serves coffee in an area where there is no view whatsoever.

That is life. We just enjoyed coffee & chat. Without view.

On the way back, only Hubby & I stopped at one of many psistaries lining the road leading up to Parnitha. There are much more restaurants than on the Vari-Kolopi street. Not have any idea which one should be good, we just stopped at the one that looked relatively busy (it was not meal time and no restaurant was really busy).



Curiously, the restaurant did not have paper menu and the items on offer were communicated verbally to us by a waiter. It is a common practice in restaurants in countryside, but it is rare to find this practice in a place where a lot of tourists/visitors. In this sort of restaurant, you don't usually know how much each dish is if you don't ask the waiter explicitly.

Peloponnisos salad (mixed salad with balsamic vinegar), fried potato and tzatziki.

Later we found out salad was 8 Euros (!), tzatziki was 3, and potatoes were 2.50. The salad came in a generous portion, but I did not think it was worth 8 Euros.

Saganali of Talagani cheese, 4 Euros.

We have never seen this cheese before and we liked it very much. Consistency was close to haloumi cheese, but not at all salty and had a very strong milky taste.

Kokoretzi (7 Euros).

I ordered this because I wanted to try and the waiter told me that he could bring me a small portion.

Actually it came in a normal portion and the price was also full.

It was just OK.

Grilled pork chop (8.50 Euros).

Again the meat was very average and the potatoes were so salty that we could not eat.

With a coke and bread, the total bill came to 36.50. Probably OK for the amount we ordered (6 dishes), but we thought that the quality of food was poor for what I paid.

I had an impression that this is just a tourist trap; once trapped, we should learn to avoid.

And a photo of a lovely cat just outside the restaurant.

19 km leof. Parnithas
Tel. 210-2463318