Athens in the Rearview Mirror

Headline: Schlossnagles escape Athens alive

Today the whole family hops on a plane and flies to the United Kingdom to start our land invasion of western Europe... but first, some reflections on Athens.

The food

The food in Greece was a carnivore's dream. Beef, pork, chicken; kebabs, gyros, filets, etc. It was great to just eat in the little restaurants lining the streets and enjoy a bit of Greek city life. Amusingly, a small Italian gelato shop won our hearts and tongues. It was hot as hell in downtown Athens, so it's no surprise that ice cream was a big hit. Fortuitously, we visited the home of a friend and had a home cooked meal. Reflecting on the food from Athens has become more difficult because the wonderful meal from Fotini and Vasilis made all of the other meals rather uninteresting even if they were delicious.


The city

The city was hot and surprised each of us differently. Some were surprised at the untidiness of the city (with a bit of garbage here and there, cigarette butts everywhere and an ample spattering of graffiti. Others were surprised by the modernity of the city juxtaposed by older buildings that spread a mind-boggling time gap. Many of us were relieved to be in major city where people dressed better for the hot weather. While in Istanbul, many of us were uncomfortable for the women that were in heavy jackets and/or full-body cover and being uncomfortable for someone is uncomfortable in and of itself. People in Athens dress like people in New York.

Athens graffiti

The history

The history of Greece is truly epic. It is both long and deep. When you can tell truly complex stories from 1100BC and forward, you know you've got real history. Not only that, the evidence of all of these historic civilizations are laid out before you in startling clarity. Frankly, it was too much too consume. Luckily, we had our greek mythology expert, Gianna, on hand to help guide us through and (most often) correct our misunderstandings around Greek mythology. The Acropolis Museum was a fine establishment... it was big, clean, clear and well organized. The artifacts on display were fabulous and eye-opening. It might be the air-conditioning swaying the judgement, but it was one of our favorite sites. The Acropolis itself was simply beyond words.


Greek hospitality

Fotini and Gianna On our second day in Athens, Theo’s co-worker Vasilis had us over for dinner. He and his wife’s cousin picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Vasilis and Fotini’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Athens. They greeted us warmly and made us comfortable immediately. We dined on the most delicious homemade food - see Theo’s post for more - but the one dish I will always remember is Fotini’s pastitsio. It was so delicious and heart-warming that we wanted to cry.

Let me explain. Lisa's Grammy grew up in Boston, surrounded by Italian-Americans but not actually of Italian descent herself. She married my grandfather, who was Italian-American, and they had a family together. (They put the -ini in Schlossini.) Grammy made the best meatballs on Earth. She made them for just about every family get-together, and would even make them at home in Massachusetts and drive with them down to Maryland when she visited. They were heaven in bite-size form, and it’s one of the earliest food-love associations Lisa has. She passed away years ago but dementia took her before then, so it’s been over a decade since any of us tasted those meatballs. Grammy left behind her recipe, but as with many cherished family dishes, it’s not quite the same.

Fotini’s pastitsio tasted like that kind of heaven. As Lisa ate it, she said it felt so reminiscent of Grammy’s meatballs. There was love in the dish. As we sat and ate and talked and they brought out more food for us, there was love in the air. It was as if we’d known each other for years, and language barriers were nil. We talked about our trip and the Greek crisis and they’re lives overseas and now back in Greece with their young puppy. Gianna, of her own initiative, helped clear the table and became attached to Fotini. It was a late night for us, a bit of a rhythm problem on our part, and the kids held up very well. Just before driving us home, Vasilis presented us with a gift from his sister - a basket homemade honey and jams. Can you imagine? So touched.

When they come to America, we’ll be sure to return the hospitality.


General Information

Where we were.

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