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A short travel blog of Greece: Pelion, Meteora, and Athens


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It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.

Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.

 

 

Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.

 

 

We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.

 

 

 

 

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~ Shai N.

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I'm looking forward to this! Yes, some countries are still suffering quite badly, and many are still unable to travel, but for those of us who can't travel, I think it's nice to see images of those who can so we can live vicariously.  Can you also please comment about the differences/challenges you experienced when traveling because of the covid situation?  Extra tests, time at airports, etc.

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I hope you did walk all the way back down to Kalambaka at least once! I did it twice taking different paths down each time. The views seen on foot were nothing short of amazing. I saw tourists on big coaches trying to take photos through tinted windows. I took my time walking and making photos. Wild herbs everywhere along the path, no wonder their goats and lamb taste good (in your case, the cheese and honeys).

 

I took the bus all the way up and walked all the way back down. Saw no one else walking both times. Late afternoon and near golden hour produces the nicest photos.

AWskqs3.jpg

 

Same monastery as above but from another angle and elevation. People and vehicles for scale.

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The most photographed monastery here. It's used on many printed and online adverts.

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It's said that Greek honeys are the best in the world. As soon as I crossed over from Albania I saw villagers' stalls along the road:

yc48MzB.jpg

 

How nice that you can travel. I'm not even inoculated.

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Posted (edited)

As for entering Greece, there were a few forms to fill, no tests are needed for those vaccinated.

The airport and flight went smoothly. No meal is served, only water, not that I care, it's just a 1:45 hours long flight to Athens.

Landing at the afternoon at Athens, I was randomly chosen to be tested (because of course I do...). It was very quick and left me sneezing for a couple of minutes, but we got to bypass the passport check line :P

We got our rental car and started a ~4 hours long drive to Pelion.

 

First stop was for food, obviously. At a quite neighborhood at the outskirt of Athens, chosen as to minimize the detour time as well as for great reviews.

 

A nice yard, with more people than you'd expect given the location and time of day. During our trip, it was easy to see that restaurants and cafes are integral to the Greek culture. At all times of day, you can find locals sitting at restaurants with friends or families, having a coffee (a cold one), a snack with drinks or a meal. Many restaurants are family owned and the older generation will often sit there while the younger one cooks / serves, or sometimes do the cooking or part of it.

Covid ruled require restaurants to only sit guests outside, but that's not an issue with the current weather. They are also required to close at midnight, which might seem late for some, but it seems most locals have their dinner at around 10PM, with most restaurants normally open up to 1AM or even 2, pubs and cafes often later. Bottles of sanitizer are placed on every table, or at least in the entrance.

The lack of tourists is also notable, while most restaurants opened up, they are often quite sparse (other than the very popular ones) with dinners mostly being locals or Greek tourists. They might to be compensating for the recent closure period, but as I said, I think restaurant culture is very ingrained.

 

Much like in Italy, bread is served with any meal, and is often a sort of cover charge (though quite a fair one). However, unlike Italy, the bread served feels less like an after thought (in Italy, I was often served stale or tasteless bread). Bread served in Greek restaurants is often wholemeal/rustic, sometimes toasted or grilled, if it's plain than it will usually at least be fresh.

 

We were served taramasalata "on the house", a dish I don't usually eat (my line of vegetarianism passes between seafood and fish - i.e. I don't eat fish, but I eat most seafood other than octopuses). I sampled some, and it tasted mostly like mayo with a hint of fish. The bread was nice.

Then we received the main dishes:

Grilled clams with garlic sauce, a bit too chewy and the mustard was quite dominant, but still tasty enough.

Razor clams with lots of garlic and oregano - much better, though still a bit too aggressive with the spice.

Lemon shrimp saganaki - shrimps in creamy lemon sauce, with some garlic, peppers and a cheese I cannot recall the name of but tasted a bit brainy and a bit funky-hay like, with a softer texture than feta. That was a very fine dish, unlike with clams, I don;t mind shrimp flavor being overtaken by other ingredients. BTW, "saganaki" refers to a serving vessel with two handles, in which food is cooked directly and often served in. So there are many saganki dishes, the most common being shrimps, eggplant (cooked in sauce with cheese) and also feta and other cheeses, which is simply fried cheese (not usually served in a saganaki).

Two cups of good espresso to keep us going.

 

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You may notice with later posts that seafood is quite prominent on our plates. This is because A) unlike meat it's something both me and my father enjoy, B) fresh seafood (other than fish) is not usually available in Israel :( 

 

Parámalo, Kifisia, Greece. A decent meal, but I can't recommend it over other restaurants in Athens.
 

 

 

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, MokaPot said:

 

@shain, what's in the bowl / dish, below the bread and the lemons?

 

That would be the taramasalata (fish roe salad with mayo). We got it complementary, and while I don't usually eat fish, I tasted it, and found it tasting mostly of mayo with hints of fish (we'll have a better rendition later on).

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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Looking forward to this @shain - thank you for taking the time to share and take us along for the journey.

 

From my limited experience taramasalata usually has little discernible fish eggs in it - my grandmother, (Austrian/Israeli descent, not Greek; mind you) used to make it with flying fish roe.  Was sooo good!

 

 

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Yes, I'm looking frwd to this too, thank you!  Greece has been on the list for so long but haven't made it (yet).   Guessing you don't speak Greek?  Was there a language barrier?

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That wasn't chicken

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12 minutes ago, Eatmywords said:

Yes, I'm looking frwd to this too, thank you!  Greece has been on the list for so long but haven't made it (yet).   Guessing you don't speak Greek?  Was there a language barrier?

 

 I know only a few basic phrases. Though I can mostly read the Greek alphabet (thanks math classes...). The Greek seems to have very good English skills, those that come to contact with tourists (servers, vendors, hotel stuff, etc.) in particular, as well as the younger generation, but most others as well.

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~ Shai N.

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The mayo in the taramasalata threw me as I'd always known it as made with bread and olive oil as the binder. The honey! - with the bees finding nectar on those pungent herbs - I can imagine. Like Corsican with the maquis and my bees foraged in the local chaparral. http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/chaparral.html  Also if you choose to share the background of your line of your vegetarianism - sure interest exists.  That bread looks hearty and lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your trip. Looking forward to more.

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8 hours ago, heidih said:

The mayo in the taramasalata threw me as I'd always known it as made with bread and olive oil as the binder. The honey! - with the bees finding nectar on those pungent herbs - I can imagine. Like Corsican with the maquis and my bees foraged in the local chaparral. http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/chaparral.html  Also if you choose to share the background of your line of your vegetarianism - sure interest exists.  That bread looks hearty and lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your trip. Looking forward to more.

 

I actually have no idea how they made the spread, but that's what it tasted like, it seemed too smooth to have bread in it. Might have had olive oil, but I couldn't tell. Some garlic, some fish flavor. It was, all things said, light fluffy and quite tasty.

 

Regarding being vegetarian, I just stopped eating meat while being a kid and never started again. I don't have an ideology, and I'm too cynical to think that it has any meaning, with animals in the wild eating each other en masse. It ends up just being a que of what I feel good eating, and what makes me uncomfortable. I think that you can compare to how many avoid specific animals such as rabbits and dogs.

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~ Shai N.

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7 hours ago, shain said:

I actually have no idea how they made the spread

I have always thought of it as an eggless mayo. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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1 hour ago, Anna N said:

I have always thought of it as an eggless mayo. 

Right, the blend of roe, lem juice and OO just tastes a lot like traditional mayo

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That wasn't chicken

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16 minutes ago, Eatmywords said:

Right, the blend of roe, lem juice and OO just tastes a lot like traditional mayo

 

Exactly, especially since this rendition was mild in falvor, quite rich and somewhat smooth. We later had a much more interesting and tasty version where the roe flavor was dominant, the texture less smooth and also less rich with oil.

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~ Shai N.

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Posted (edited)

A stop mid way for coffee and leg-stretching at the small town of Skala. The dying sunlight, the quiet, and the somewhat rundown nature of the place gave it a beautifully melancholic vibe.

And while it was already quite chill, a cold coffee felt suiting. This was the happened to be the best frappe I had (and non we'll have later would have surpassed it).

We continued to arrive at our hotel in Portaria by night, and fall fast asleep.

 

 

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Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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I didn't know that saganaki referred to the serving dish. That explains a lot of my confusion in past years. :) But it looks as though the dish containing the shrimp doesn't have handles, as such, whereas the dish containing the razor clams does. Does that mean the term "saganaki" has evolved to a broader meaning than its original?

 

I hadn't heard about the legendary quality of Greek honey. Now I want some!

 

I'm looking forward to this, too. I was in Greece once, years ago, loved it but have never yet made it back. Blog on, please!

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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21 minutes ago, Smithy said:

But it looks as though the dish containing the shrimp doesn't have handles, as such, whereas the dish containing the razor clams does. Does that mean the term "saganaki" has evolved to a broader meaning than its original?

 

I'm no expert, but it seems so. Exactly like a tajine - originally the name of the earthware, now used to refer to the dish.

 

Regarding the honey, we haven't had it straight, but dishes that uses it were good. Generally, the Greeks seem to be more excited about "spoon sweets" (a type of fruit preserves, usually with larger pieces than most jams).

 

I'll also shout out Israeli honey for being very good (our fruit preserves not so much, on average). Most honey in Israel comes from wild flowers and is quite complex.

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~ Shai N.

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Posted (edited)

After a good night sleep, we were able to appreciate the beauty of Protaria's main square in which our hotel was located.

Many of Pelion's villages are centered around a main squared, which is always shaded by one or more old plane trees. Those squares are well maintained, and house cafes and restaurants. Those places seem to be populated at all time of day - lively and full during dinner time, or quiet and pleasant in other times, with a few but ever present groups of people having their coffee, cold coffee that is.

 

Protaria's square is quite small, but very pretty. The view in the first couple of photos is from the hotel balcony. In the third you can see a fountain, the like of which is found in every village. THe water is cool and tasty, and used for a quick drink or for washing the square's floor. It's very convenient for us travelers.

 

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We went for breakfast at the hotel, which was served in the dining room, but proceeded to sit outside, as indoor dining is still not allowed in Greece. No complaints, with such a location and weather.

 

Home made pies - first a hortopita with flavorfull greens, lots of dill, some onion or similar, strongly flavored feta. So good, the phyllo used for those types of savory pies is usally thicker than the common one mor eoften used in Greece for sweets. It is termed "country style" with the pie having 3-4 layers of pastry (on top and bottom each). It is more crunchy than regular phyllo (as opposed to crisp/flaky), more hearty, the inner layers having more byte to them, a bit like lasagna. It is also easier to eat out of hand, if desired, since it holds together better. I don't think I'd could ever go back to regular thin phyllo for this usage.

The other is a sort of pizza with mushrooms and sausage.

 

Good local cheeses, the feta in particular is very good, as would be expected, a bit funky, you can taste the goat milk and aging.

Thick yogurt, very light on the tartness, with a slightly savory edge.

Nuts and dried fruits, very good home made jams spoon sweets :) I had to go for the cherry one first, but we also tried the orange one, both very good with the yogurt (and without it).

 

Galatopita, a custard with a base of thin pyhllo sheets, which are not crisp. Flavored with vanilla, a little cinnamon. Very eggy.

A cherry jam tart, with a crumbly dough which was a bit too dry and thick, but interestingly flavored with orange and cinnamon.

Both sweets were no my thing, so it was another slice of pie for dessert. We didn't try the croissants.

 

We were also served coffee, boiled eggs and fresh orange juice.

 

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Not my plate :P 

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Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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You mentioned that there's not a lot of seafood in Israel, so you're indulging in Greece. I would have assumed it was available given Israel's location, so I'm guessing it's due to the impact of folks following Kosher law?

 

Food blogs are my favorite aspect of egullet, so I really appreciate this. At the end of the day, I'm not a very adventurous traveler so I love seeing other countries through this lens. :)

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Joanna G. Hurley

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