Several years ago, I spent the night before «Clean Monday», as Greeks call the first day of Lent, baking the traditional Lenten flatbread lagana with a local Athenian baker. Even though he went about his business methodically and professionally, turning out more than a thousand or so loaves, he didn’t fail to observe all the traditions of th fast. Indeed, he was a part of those traditions, for lagana, which traces its roots to the flat grilled porridges of the ancient Greeks, is the lenten bread par excellence.
Byzantine hymns wailed softly in the background as his assistant cut off quarter-kilo rounds of dough. The baker took each piece, slapped it onto his floured work table and proceeded to roll it into perfect ovals with a special studded rolling pin. Every half hour or so he walked over to a counter at the back of the bakedry where he had his evening meal laid out: a container with taramosalata, the Greek fish roe spread, which he ate with fresh tender stalks of young garlic; small pickled green peppers; a small plate of mixed pickled vegetables and olives; a few pieces of rice-stuffed squid and some octopus preserved in vinegar brine. A wedge of halva lay on its side, waiting for the baker to sprinkle some lemon juice over it and wash it down with some retsina. In that small array of dishes, I realized, the whole philosophy of the Greek Lenten table was apparent.
Thinking of Lent as a period of culinary significance might seem ironic–after all the Fast is meant as a period of spiritual and physical cleansing. Yet, some of the best fare in all of Greek cooking are the dishes culled from the tradition of abstention, from the 40 day period before Easter when one shuns all animal products. Until just a few decades ago, the majority of Greeks abided by the dictates of the religious calendar, fasting not only before Easter but before many other major holidays, so that they actually kept off meat and dairy products for nearly half the year. As a result, a whole culinary repertory evolved that is a mirror of the ingenuity of home cooks who relied on the bounty of the season to provide filling, nutritious meals. Greek Lenten recipes are delicious!
In the well-known ancient myth about how the Athenians chose their patron deity, the Greek goddess Athena won the sympathy of the city’s people by offering them the olive tree as a gift. This myth, placing the origin of the olive tree in the hands of the goddess of wisdom sometime in a very distant past, is but one of many stories about how important the olive tree is for the Greeks and the Mediterranean in general, from Palestine to Portugal and Tunis to Trieste. For example, on the island of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the production of olive oil dates back to the Minoan kingdoms (i.e. around 4,000 years ago); some of the island’s olive groves are actually thousands of years old, having grown under the care of countless generations of Cretans…
GREECE AS THE APPLE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
An article by Peter Economides
The article that appeared in TO VIMA newspaper on 21 December 2014, translated into English.
It encapsulates my new year wish ….. Greece as the West Coast of Europe.
Maybe it won’t happen this year.
Maybe not next. But it can happen.
If we want it …..
GINETAIIt’s inevitable. One day soon we’ll pick ourselves up from the rubble of this crisis.
We’ll stand up, dust ourselves off and move forward. The question is who will we be on that day? How will we think? What is the motivation that will drive us forward?Will we finally understand who we are and where we live?
Without clinging to the past but moving fast forward into the future.
Will we have leaders brave enough to encourage us?
Smart enough to know when to be there and when to get out of the way…This is what I imagine.
And this, I am sure, is what we can be ….“The crazy ones.
The ones who see things differently.”The Apple of the Mediterranean.
The West Coast of Europe.
The fresh young edge of this tired old continent.
The creative corner.It’s an idea that I put forward three years ago.
And Nick Malkoutzis from Kathimerini replied: “It’s a crazy idea. In fact it’s an idea that is just about crazy enough to succeed.”It is succeeding….
In the space of a few short years Athens has transformed into a city with a vibrant startup culture. Greek mattresses are the rage in New York. Supermarket shelves are filling up with beautifully designed, high quality food products. Indigenous Greek wines such as Malagousia and Asyrtiko are winning top awards on the wine lists at top restaurants from Sydney to London at prices upwards of €100 per bottle. I love it.Greece is the new cool.
Willem Sodderland talks about it in his buzzable.biz piece, “Why Greece is in better shape than Germany.” We’ve become creative through necessity. On a continent that is generally lazy, complacent and defensive and has not, for the past 70 years or so, had any need to be otherwise.I was in Silicon Valley a few weeks ago.
And it had me thinking.
Whatever the West Coast of America represents today, that’s what Athens once was.
And the startup ideas then were democracy, philosophy, medicine, mathematics…I want Greece to be the West Coast of Europe.
“Den kanei kryo stin Ellada …”
Athens is not only a city full of history, it is also a city with a vibrant night scene. Regarding nightlife the city has a lot to offer from wine bars, beer gardens, bars and clubs to venues with live music. There is something for everyone. One of my favourite places to go out in Athens at night are the rooftop bars where you can have a drink while admiring the city’s landmarks.
Here is a list of my favourite rooftop bars in Athens:
Skyfall restaurant and bar
Next to Kallimarmaro stadium Skyfall restaurant and bar has a big rooftop veranda offering magnificent views to the Acropolis and the historical centre of Athens. Skyfall is divided in two levels; the restaurant that serves quality dishes and the bar with its signature cocktails and delicious tapas and finger food.
Nicopolis is probably the biggest archaeological site in Greece people have never heard of. OK, fair enough, SOME people have heard of Nicopolis, but not many. Is this because it’s really Roman in origin? Is it because it sits quite isolated on the west coast of Greece? Or is it because no-one can decide if they should spell it Nikopolis or Nicopolis? Who Knows?! Come and discover a less known part of Greece with Dave’s Travel Pages…
Nicopolis is a massive archaeological site, located near the modern Greek city of Preveza. Unlike many ancient Greek sites, such as Delphi or Mycenae, its name does not appear in Greek myths and legends. In fact, describing it as an ancient Greek site at all is perhaps a little misleading. The reason for this, is that Nicopolis was founded in 31BC by the Roman Octavian to commemorate his victory in the Battle of Actium against Antony and Cleopatra.
The name Nicopolis literally means ‘City of Victory’, but it was far more than that. It was a symbol of a reunified Roman Empire, and was also perfectly positioned as a trade, communication, and transport hub between the Eastern and Western parts of the Mediterranean. This was all fine whilst the Roman Empire was all powerful. At the point that wandering gangs of Goths, Heruli, and other assorted tribes started sacking cities, its isolation was a little more apparent.
While 80% of Greece is mountainous, you associate Greece with the sea, and Greeks have a very strong sea culture. Let’s not forget that Greece has a coastline of over 13000 km making it the country with second largest coastline in Europe. Fish have always had a special position in Greece. In antiquity it was a major part of the local diet and the main source of protein. In modern Greece they are equally special. The photos above are significant because they show how common and important fish was in the daily life in Greece. The illustrations are from a Greek school book first published in 1955, it was used in Greek schools until 1978. Every time I see these photos, especially the one with the mother holding fresh fish and the daughter bringing the olive oil and the pan to fry them, I remember the smell of frying fish taking over the whole neighborhood and how it tasted so good.
Fish consumption in the traditional Mediterranean diet was mainly limited to small fish like sardines and anchovies sometime fresh, but many times salted or marinated. Those who lived near the coast had easier access to fresh fish while those who lived in mountainous areas bought their fish from the fishmonger who would come once or twice a week in summer, less often in the winter.
Apart from eating fish at home, going out for fish is a special occasion. Taking someone out for fish in Greece is the equivalent of taking out someone for a filet mignon if you were to eat meat. It is the ultimate honor for your guest. When I say fish, in this case it is usually supposed to be some huge extravagant fish grilled and accompanied by one of my favorite sauces latholemono (olive oil and lemon-see recipe below) and simple steamed vegetables or boiled horta (wild greens). Since the fish is the centerpiece, there is no need for rich appetizers or complex side dishes.
Greece is principally famous for its exceptional olive oil, the agricultural products, its unique Mediterranean cuisine and its rich history dating back to Ancient Times. The one thing left out of the list is the domestic production of high quality beers, a section that fairly claims its participation in the “Quality Greek Products” list!
The history of beer is vast and beer lovers around the globe just countless! Travel with us in this hidden part of Greek tradition and be a Greek beer lover too!
Divers returning to the site of an ancient wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera have found artefacts scattered over a wide area of the steep, rocky sea floor. These include intact pottery, the ship’s anchor and some puzzling bronze objects. The team believes that hundreds more items could be buried in the sediment nearby.
The Antikythera wreck, which dates from the first century BC, yielded a glittering haul when sponge divers discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century. Among jewellery, weapons and statues were the remains of a mysterious clockwork device, dubbed the Antikythera mechanism.
Bar a brief visit by the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s (featured in his documentary Diving for Roman Plunder), no one had visited the wreck since, leading to speculation about what treasures might still be down there. The locals told tales of giant marble statues lying beyond the sponge divers’ reach, while ancient technology geeks like me wondered whether the site might be hiding another Antikythera mechanism, or at least some clues as to whom this mysterious object belonged to…