27 June, 2010

Possible ISAP Disruption on 29th June

Today I found this in Thissio Station.

ISAP Strike

It says that ISAP (Metro No. 1, Green Line) runs only from 10:00 to 16:00 on the 29th June, the upcoming general strike day. We won't know for sure until tomorrow afternoon, but it looks highly probably.

Besides I read a banner in Piraeus port that the ships will not leave it on the same day. This is less sure, but evidently the port workers (note, however, that some say that the workers who strike are a minority and the majority is hindered by the active union members) want to strike.

Be watchful.

22 June, 2010

Kuzina @ Thissio

We went to Kuzina in Thissio, famous nouvelle Greek cuisine restaurant and I wrote a review on Gate to Greece (click the link below).

KUZINA




Some of the dishes there are variation of the traditional Greek cooking and some are just exotic - no Greek element - with mostly East Asian influence.

It was interesting experience for us, but, to be honest, if this restaurant were in London or in Tokyo, I don't think it could have made such a success. It is brilliant in Athens, but by International standard, it is just ... "fine". I guess this is why the restaurant is recommended in Michelin Guide, but doesn't have any star.

21 June, 2010

King Saron Hotel @ Isthmia

A weekend ago, two friends and we went to the resort hotel King Saron in Isthmia.

http://kingsaron.gr/

It is close to the Corinth Canal and it takes about 1 and quater of an hour drive from Athens. Isthmia itself has not much to see, but it is a good base for excursions to Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Epidauros and Tiryns. We actually took a little drive to Loutraki where a Greek state-run casino is.

King Saron

The friends had a particular offer giving us to pay 80 euros for a double room and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I checked the booking.com and usually the double room for the same period would have cost 95 euros, including half-board.

The hotel looked more dated and tried than how it looked like in the website. But, in the event, I took to liked its aged presentation.

What we did not know was that this hotel was either owned or partly owend by the French tourism company called FRAM and its signs are everywhere. Accordingly most of the guests were French, followed by Russians and Germans. Greeks were very few.



Our room. It seems that all the rooms have balcony. Pretty simple for a 4-star hotel, but all right. Only thing we really missed was fridge. Strangly for a Greek hotel, there wasn't fridge and we couldn't keep cold water in the room.

And, although there is a television in the room, Greek channels are very limited; we managed to find 3, but only 1 was actually watchable. The emphasis is on the French tv and there were 3 or 4 channels. I remember to have seen also Italian and Russian.



The bar area is quite spacious (the space is actually lot more larger than what you can see in this photo). The price looked reasonable for a hotel bar: a frappé was 2.40 euros and most cocktails were around 7.



Dining area. It is buffet style and the lunch is served between 12 and 14, while dinner 19 and 21 (but I am slightly hazy about the dinner time; it might have been more than 2 hours). It is pretty early by Greek standard, but as most of the guests are other Europeans, I guess it is all right.



Food was plenty: there were variety of salads and veggies, appetizers, meat main and fish main dishes, pasta, sweets and fruits. Besides, wine and tap water were also free. Breakfast was all right as well, although we did not taste everything (we are not used to eat much and various for the breakfast), if the coffee wasn't as good as we wanted to be.



And the beach. The hotel has both a beach and a pool. The beach was sandy and essential equipments (sun parasol, beach beds, and some water sports geers) are free of charge.



It is, however, rather small and the sun beds can easily be full. And the sight of industrial area made us slightly uneasy, although the water looked clear and clean.



The sea water pool wasn't as crowded as the beach and we could easily find sun beds.



If we had paid for all foods and beach equipments separately, it would have cost us not less than 60euros (in conservative estimation for 2 people, 20 euros for lunch, 20 euros for dinner, 8 euros for breakfast, and 6x2 days =12euros for sun beds and beach parasol). Consequently our deal was extremely favourable. Even half-board 95 euros, it is reasonable value-for-money.

There were several cats around the hotel and we enjoyed also animal therapy.



By the way, I forgot to ask the staff who was King Saron. I googled it without result except, of course, for the hotel itself. It remains to be a mystery.

16 June, 2010

Brigante Little Italy in Syntagma

Yesterday, I visited a small cafeteria called Brigante Little Italy on Amalias, just off Syntagma Square. It is relatively new. I think was open last year.

Little Italy in Syntagma

I have meant to eat Italian ice cream for a long time, but it has never realised till now, but just by chance I managed to eat a foccaccia.

This one is called "La Greca" and has provolone cheese, feta, spinacchi and rocket on top.

focaccia alla greca

They reheated it on order and, when I told that I would eat it in, cut it up and served on a plate.

The bread part wasn't as soft as I wished, but combination of feta and half-cooked spinacchi did the trick and was pretty satisfactory for 1.90 euro a piece.

They have also pizzas, similar as focaccias, but with some meat ingredient on for €2.90.

While I was there, quite a few guy in suits and tie came to buy their food - mainly sandwiches - to take away.



Most of the sandwiches are between €2.70 and €3.75. The ice creams are €2.20 for a scoop, thus €0.30 more expensive than at Mattonella, my favorite gelateria, but I will try to see the difference, hoping that it is not just because of the location.

Brigante Little Italy
Leoforos Amalias 4
Tel. 211-182.1400

While I was there, a girl at the casher was having some kind of an argument with an customer over the phone; evidently she messed up with the check of a delivery over. I had an impression that she was not handling the claim very well. Actually she wasn't particularly nice comparing to the other guys working in the shop. Shame.

14 June, 2010

Filipino Festival

On 6th June (Sunday), I visited the Panathenaiko Studium, now open to the public for 3 euros (including audio guide). I did not expect much, but it turned out to be quite satisfactory. It has much more to offer even to those who without much interest in sports like me.

After the visit, I noticed there was unusual number of people on Zappio side.



First I thought it was a school festival, but then I realised that the people who were gathering were all Filipinos. I did not get the meaning of the festival, but no doubt it was a Philippine festival (later I learned that it had something to do with their Independence Day).



While some events were going on, my attention went to food. There were many stalls selling interesting Filipino food which was/is almost unknown to me. I went for the easiest option: BBQ.



It was not a souvlaki, OK? It was Filipino Pork BBQ. The meat seemed to be marinated in sweetish sauce and was pretty tasty. Interestingly, it included something like pig skin.

Then I picked up another BBQ from a different stall.



This one included a big bit of pork fat. I presume that the Filipinos enjoy eating different parts of pig beside meat.

Being a good Asian, I ate them all up, including skin and fat. I felt proud of myself. :D

Then dessert; Halo halo.



It is made of shaved ice with nata de coco, beans, sweet corn, young coconuts, yam potato, condensed milk. This is my favourite. It was the first time I ate Filipino version, but the same thing is ubiquitous in South East Asia and I have eaten the same sort of thing elsewhere.

I just hoped I to be able to come across this sort of festival from time to time. :)

10 June, 2010

Pure Bliss @ Romvis Street, Athens

Last Saturday afternoon we visited a cafeteria called Pure Bliss on Romvis Street, a short and narrow street between Monastiraki and Syntagma.

Pure Bliss

It is an environment conscious bio-food cafe and I have been curious about it. It take care also of vegetarians and vegans.

Pure Bliss 2

As we were not hungry, we had only a flappe and a cheese cake. The cake looks very hand-made, doesn't it? :D



The flappe, which is not on the menu but they were happy to make one, was not Nescafe flappe, but I guess from some fair-trade-instant-coffee flappe. It was more bitter than Nescafe and I liked it better than usual flappe. Costs 3.5 euros.

The cheese cake was neither good nor bad. Cost 5 euros.

What surprised me was the interior. As we sat down outdoor we did not notice until we went to the toilette that the indoor space was much larger than from the outlook and the decor reminded me somehow of jungle (in a positive sense). In the toilette, there were cloth hand-towels instead of paper ones, and wat is more, the towels were placed on pot-pourri so that they took nice odour. I was impressed by the attention to detail.

The price here is higher than in cafes in neighbourhood, but it always attracts discreet number of customers, mostly women including many foreigners. I thought I understood why.

In the same Romvis Street, there are one taverna, one mezedopoleio and one psitopoleio.

This is the taverna Miniatoura.



It is usually less busy than the mezedopoleio Filema, but I intend to visit it one day.

This is the psitopoleio.



I ate here once and liked the meat. I will be happy to go back.

05 June, 2010

Where Did the Money Go?

Πού πήγαν τα λεφτά? (Where did the money go?)

This is a phrase coined out of the Prime Minister Papandreou's speech and now we are using in a different context. Evidently many Greeks cannot even afford bread.

The bread used to be 0.80€ a piece (the normal Greek bread pretends to weigh 'half a kilo' at bakery, but actually is 350-400g) and now some bakeries selling it for 0.60€.



When I saw the news first on tv, it sounded like in a far world, but now I found the situation at just out of our door. I wonder if this cause domino-effect to the bread price in my neighbourhood.

The same night we went to Gazi.



It was Friday evening and was busy, but wasn't as busy as it should be. Cafeterias were full, but restaurants generally were struggling.

I would be surprised that there wasn't any change. I am afraid the majority of the Greeks are earning less than in the same time last year. A part might getting the same amount, but because of the recent inflation cased by increase on fuel tax and by higher VAT, they have less purchase power.

Where did the money go and where we are going?

*************************

Cats photos from Gazi.



This one below was sleeping in front of a club/cafe. When I saw it, I thought it might be dead, as the club was quite noisy and busy. On being touched, he woke up and looked around surprised, but still sleepy.



How could he?

03 June, 2010

New Entry: Benaki Museum of Islamic Art

I added a page on Benaki Museum of Islamic Art to the Gate to Greece website.

Benaki Museum of Islamic Art

It is a sympathetic middle-size museum near Thissio metro station. Although I guess it has lesser interest to the Tourists, as it does not contain anything related directly to Greece, it is no doubt an excellent cultural treasure for the residents.

As the other Benaki museum it is also conscious about cafeteria and giftshop. The cafeteria is at the top of the building and the visitors can enjoy drinks looking the Acropolis and the Keramikos archaeological site.

When I visited the museum I came across a Synagogue nearby.

Synagogue

As it was closed then, I visited it on another day. It is open for visitors from 10-12 o'clock except Saturdays, but when I tried to enter, I was stopped by a guardman and asked to produce my ID (passport) and to show him contents of my bag. And I was asked why I speak Greek; I am not sure if it was out of his curiosity or because I looked suspicious. Anyway, it was the day when the Israeli troop attacked the "Free Gaza", cruiser carrying humanitarian aid to Palestine, and that might be why he was particularly attentive.

Inside, a group of Israeli tourists was having a meeting (I don't understand Hebrew, but it looked to me that the visitors were being told about history and situation of the Jews in Greece).

According to the guardman, the synagogue was built in 1939. It is quite interesting that it was built just before the beginning of the World War II. I need to dig its history.

01 June, 2010

Piraeus Port Yesterday

Yesterday, the Greek port/ship workers' union went on 24hour strike from 6 in the morning and for this reason many ships remained in the port.

Piraeus port

Piraeus Port

I went to the Port this morning as well and found it filled with ships.

Besides, there is a protest in the port staged by Greek fishermen. At this moment they are not obstructing other ships, but declared that they might do it.

At the last port strike, there was a physical confrontation between striking workers and the tourists trying to get off from their cruise ship "Zenith". Yesterday morning, to counteract this negative publicity, merchants from Athens and Piraeus went to the cruise port to welcome the tourists handing them flowers and showing Greek traditional dance and music. I saw it on tv and it was hilarious. According to the report, however, at one point it got ugly as the merchants and port/ship workers started to argue.

OK. Workers have right to strike, but at the same time, they don't have right to damage other worker's business. The state sometimes have to intervene to ensure least possible damage is done to its people, but in Greece, it is not effectively done.

The Zenith, the ship that suffered last time, changed its course and avoided Piraeus at all, stopped at Malta.

Greece cannot bear any more loss of business, can it?

*******************************

This Saturday evening I went with 8 other people to the cafeteria/mezedopoleio Dioskouroi on Adrianou Street in Monastiraki. We had beer and mezedes - not too copiously, but quite sufficiently - paying 12 euros a head (including reasonable tip).

If you have a big group, there always is someone who is not eager to pay much. Not necessarily he/she earns little, but just find it useless to spend in eating out (just as I find smoking total waste of money).

I thought a place like Dioskouroi is perfect for such an occasion, offering not-offensive food and cosy environment. It is so central that no one can complain for inconvenience.

Dioskouroi
(Dioskouroi on Adrianou in the morning; it is usually very busy from the early afternoon on).
There was an error in this gadget