Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the abcs of greece

currently greece is on my mind.

a lot.

the magazine interested in my story about the dig is still considering if they want it for this year, next year --- or at all....... so i don't know when i will return. and with two kid graduating i will not be digging this year.

yes, the country is in upheaval. i should be mad......their economic mess is affecting everyone. but fiery, inconsistent, maddening and petulant greece, i love you anyway.

sometimes listing things helps me brainstorm. so in the mean time, while i'm missing greece, here is a list of things i love about the country, from a to z:


a: athens. noisy, polluted, overpopulated --- but also thrumming, electric... a place of eye-burning whiteness against a cerulean backdrop of sea and sky. a city with a heart and soul. when it rains, the streets flood. when people want to protest, the trolleys stop....mid street. but in a way, my adult life began amongst that mixture of ancient marble and canyon of modern concrete...

photo courtesy of matt muth
b: oh.................those beaches. where do i begin? watching turquoise loops unravel off st. john's beach on my beloved ithaki. the smell of souvlaki wafting down from the seaside estiatorio in sifnos.

c: cats. they are everywhere. one once jumped on my lap when i sat eating at an outdoor taverna in athens. not so good. but at times they will happily sit nearby, like this grey one at a tiny eatery in kefalonia. waiting for the odd fish head.



d: drachmas.....they exist no more, but i still have a handful in a coinpurse. emblazoned with an athenian owl. thank god the euro has tried to emulate your singular form.

e: eggplant. preferably sliced thinly and fried in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt. consumed rapidly.

f: farmakeion - pharmacy in Greek - specifically my friend Costis' pharmacy on Ithaka. purveyor of fancy european face creams, mosquito repellents, birth control pills and even insulin shots to local diabetics.

g: Geramismos. the good shepherd on ithaki.



h: holidays. any orthodox festival celebrating a patron saint in a greek village will involve a live band, tons of local wine and really good food. and dancing. under the moon.

i: ithaki. best. island. ever.   my soul home.

j: jet which takes me to greece.

k: kataifi. baklava, everyone knows. this is the overlooked stepsister to that famous dessert. think of shredded wheat drenched in honey, walnuts and rosewater.............

crunchy, sweet. almost too sweet......

l: Lykavittos. athens has two main "hills" - one has the acropolis atop it and the other is lykavittos - a tall, conical rise in the midst of the city with the best views all the way to the aegean. see the sun set, see the moon rise. with a glass of ouzo in your hand.

m: moussaka. only eat this at lunch --- no greek eats it for dinner. that square beyond compare of greek cuisine, best made with ground lamb, eggplant slices (better than the lesser version with potato) topped with an everest of bechamel...........

n: nostos.   translation: longing.   what i feel much of the time when i'm not in greece.

o: ouzo. lightning in a bottle. pour it over a shot glass of ice cubes and BAM - the clear liquid explodes into a contrail of milky vapors. licorice-y, sharp, smooth. pair it with a small plate of appetizers known as meze (small pieces of sausage, cheese, cucumber and tomato speared with toothpicks), a sunset, and you're in heaven.


p: parthenon. temple of the virgin. sits atop the acropolis hill and is an example of greek architectural perfection. face the front and stare at the foundation from end to end. notice it's not flat, it's curved.......the smart ancient architects knew it would give the building its spring.
photo courtesy of matt muth
q: questions about this amazing life we all share. what i do a lot when i'm in greece. with an ouzo in hand.

r: retsina. unless i have a retsina in hand, my other greek vice -- no licorice flavor here. this is a pine scented wine, from ancient times when vino was shipped in barrels and sealed with pine tar.

s: santorini. a mirage when you first see it, a mirage every time you see it. an island formed from the remains of an ancient volcano that exploded, leaving only a sliver the shape of a new moon -- standing on its vertical cliffs provide some of the most amazing views in the world.
mother and daughter about to backflip into the aegean

t: telly's. my favorite taverna on ithaka. named after the owner, Aristoteli, who handles a mean spit. his roasted pork stuffed with peppers and kasseri cheese.......well, let's just say i dream about it.

u: understanding myself better. when i'm questioning all the stuff in greece, this is the ultimate goal.

not there yet.

v: vangelis. remember the theme from chariots of fire? composed by a greek!

but my favorite greek singer/composer is giorgos dalaras. here he is doing a duet with sting at a concert in jerusalem...... and a very popular greek song called stin alana

w: when can i return?

x: xenos -- which means foreigner. what i am and long not to be.

y: yes. like Joyce's character Molly Bloom in Ulysses, greece asks - and answers - the eternal YES

z: Z, the movie by Costa Gavras, a great political thriller from 1969 starring Yves Montand.
 

the word zie means "he lives, he is alive" in Greek. or alternatively: she is alive...

fitting, because to me, when one is in greece one feels more alive...


there's something in that dirt over there that has gotten in my blood. probably why i became an archaeologist. i've always called greece a dirty fingernail place and i mean that in the best way - there is nothing sterile about it. sterile is void of life.....and greece is full of life.



celebrating dirt. celebrating greece. celebrating life.

xo♡a


some images courtesy of more feasting, matt barrett's guide, imdb

21 comments:

  1. It is a lifetime since I have been to Greece and it still calls me like a siren's call. Thank you for posting this today.

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  2. Hey, you really love that country and its people and its food and its water... fabulous! I like enthusiasm anywhere I find it!
    I`m sorry about your boarding school upbringing, we were always told it was like with Hanni and Nanni - all fake. And haha, yes, I know the teenager stuff. The problems they face are very real.
    If parents only remembered...

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  3. epistrepho sidoma adelphi mou

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  4. I've never visited Greece but reading your a-z I can understand why Greece is on your mind so much. Fingers crossed the magazine comes through.

    I had tears welling over the description of your conversation with the old man returning to Ithaki after 30 years*!*

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  5. Yoli - the siren's call is powerful indeed!! i hope you are able to answer it sometime very soon with a return trip to greece.....

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    Angela - please tell me who Hanni and Nanni are!! would love to know -- are they characters in a book?

    i attended Catholic boarding school in England for two years, but as a 'day girl' as they called them, so i didn't live at the school. but i had my share of adolescent angst like anyone else...so even if we were on the receiving end of discipline doled out by the nuns it makes for great storytelling later on in life! ;-)

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    Adelphi mou - ne, tha epistrepsoume poli sindoma elpiso!!!

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    Hello Bimbimbie!

    Thanks so much! - i hope the magazine comes through as well but can't control these things...

    so happy you read the earlier excerpt of my initial trip to ithaki....i can still see the old man standing at the bow.....Greeks have such a powerful connection with the earth of their homeland. i am envious, yet completely fascinated by that sense of deep love and bond with one's place of origin--

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  6. p.s. Bimbimbie --- thank you for signing up to follow my blog -- i am so honored!!♡

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  7. I enjoyed reading your list of loves.

    When you got to Z, I thought, ah, she's going to mention the movie Zorba the Greek. But you didn't. I love Zorba (I've read the book as well). I know Anthony Quinn isn't Greek but I loved his portrayal of a man grasping life with both hands.

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  8. Dear Amanda,
    I loved your list.And I love how much you love Greece. Now you have me wanting to visit and experiance all these things (preferably with you) I think you would make the best guide.
    As I was reading I kept thinking of substituting Africa for Greece since that's how i feel about the Dark continent. And so i very much understand how you feel. These places get under our skin, and stay in our hearts.

    great post.

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  9. Dumdad -

    how did i miss that one?!? you are SO right - Zorba is the definitive portrayal of the Greek soul -- i was just watching a clip of the scene when anthony quinn dances across the beach at the end...love it too....

    maybe i will do another list at some point and this time around Z will absolutely be Zorba -- thank you for the reminder ♡

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    Lori - what fun it would be to travel to greece together! don't know what kind of guide i'd make but in addition to all the usual antiquities any tour of mine would have to include frequent stops for roast chicken, greek salad, french fries and beer.....(did i miss ouzo....and dancing on table tops? ;-)

    i would very much enjoy reading an a - z list outlining your love of Africa♡

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  10. Ah, I'm hooked on Greece after this beautiful ode of yours. You should work for a travel site.

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  11. I found you through lakeviewer whom I follow because like me she's writing a memoir (I also have an autobiographical novel scheduled for publication this summer).

    I'm SO glad I found you. This blog is absolutely beautiful, interesting, intriguing. I'm going to start reading through your chapters. I definitely want to follow. I love Greece - the idea of Greece, its history, its beauty. Yes, everything seems to be deteriorating today, economically and otherwise. But you have captured the beauty in word and pictures. I'm impressed.

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  12. hi lakeviewer! hey, that's me - just trying to convert people to greece-lovers, one by one!

    thank you for your kind comment - i would love to work for a travel site! on that note, i will be pitching a story soon to world hum....will let you know if they accept it☺

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    welcome Ann!!

    thank you so much for your lovely and supportive comments - so glad you found me through lakeviewer! i try my best to convey greece honestly through my writing - not all my posts will be about the country, but as it is on my mind much of the time there will be more stories in the future~

    i visited your blog and read your biography -- you truly have an amazing story to tell... i look forward to reading more of your memoir as well. also i wish you much luck with the publication of your novel -- many congrats on that - getting a novel published is a huge accomplishment!!

    i am so touched that you signed up to follow my blog - thank you♡

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  13. Hi Amanda, I remember the first time I went back home to England for a visit after ten years in Australia, I wasn't expecting the intense reaction I felt when I glimpsed the streets of toy town houses through the plane's window. I had a lump in my throat and tears running down my cheek ... the old man did well to stay upright on his ferry ride home*!*

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  14. Hey, Panda-really enjoying your posts: abc's of Greece. Greece could use you as their Minister of Tourism-aka Melina Mercouri (sp)-loving the fotos, too-especially those columns. See you soon-Famous

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  15. Oh how you capture the feeling of being there--it's like I can smell it! And the photos are perfect--the blue of the aegean, indescribable and I know I met that cat...

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  16. Bimbimbie - the old man did do well staying upright on the ferry that day....but you can bet he was hanging on to that railing like his life depended on it!!

    have you written about your return to your home in England? it sounds like it would make a lovely story --- one that i would like to read♡

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    Famous One!!!! Welcome to the world of blogcomments!! thanks so much for your kind words - and by the way, that foto you mention was taken by none other than your and my very own talented nephew!!! love ya dear and see you soon!! xoxo

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    cindy love!!!! thank you for visiting and for your lovely comments - so glad you found me dear!!! yes...that cat epitomizes the archetypal greekeverycat - but this one was special, sitting patiently by while elena and i finished our meal that night. much better behaved than the one that jumped in my lap mid bite in athens!! xoxo

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  17. Hello! I'm here via Dumdad's site looking for the post you promised on Jethro Tull. Mind you, I loved this one while I was waiting. And can you believe I've never been to Greece? No, me neither...

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  18. welcome The Dotteral!! sorry about not having my Jethro Tull post up yet - it's scheduled for later this week so please check back for more crazy ian anderson vid--

    thanks so much for your kind comment and for following my site....i write about Greece frequently so i hope it suffices as a virtual trip to the country until you take an actual one... !!

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  19. I adore this post. And all the mentions of eggplant and olive oil! Yum, yum, yum.

    Maybe you have answered this before, but do you have one very favourite place in Greece? Athens and Santorini are on our list of places to visit, but is there someplace else we should go?

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  20. thanks so much japra!! and yes - eggplant and olive oil combos cannot be beat...

    oh boy, my favorite places in greece...where do i begin? athens is a must because of the parthenon and the national museum just for starters, but many don't like the traffic and pollution -- but a couple days here is important.

    santorini ranks right up there with some of the greatest views in the world - a must see, yes. both athens and santorini are very crowded in the summer so if you can visit off season (sept-oct is best) all the better.

    as for me, i love places off the beaten path. islands i love are ithaka in the ionian sea, and leros in the aegean - opposite ends of the country. if you'd like, please email me and i'd be happy to help to give more itinerary suggestions when you do get ready to travel there - done it many times before and love it as i feel i am traveling along vicariously!!

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  21. Thank you, Amanda! Greece is high on our travel list... maybe next! I am glad to hear about Sept and Oct being good times to travel. We do prefer to travel off peak :-)

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Thank you for visiting♡