Narrow streets, narrow sidewalks and parking

skinny sidewalks for narrow streets. Most have these upside down U shaped poles to (I thought) prevent people from parking half their cars on the sidewalk.

Of course that doesn’t stop motorcyclist’s from using them and blocking the side walk.

Then I discovered that some of them are actually just inset into pipe holders cemented in the sidewalks and locked with a padlock. This enables the “owner’ to unlock and then remove the upside down U pipe so that can half park their car!!! Again rendering the sidewalk unwalkable.

I’m sure it’s not legal. But there are more cars than there are street parking spaces. For that matter than there are parking lots. So you can understand why it happens.

But that means everyone just walks mostly in the streets on these narrower roads.

Λαϊκή (la-ee-KEY) – street farmers markets

Seasonal, fresh, and affordable produce markets.  Each neighborhood in Athens has one once a week.  There is also a central market every day but Sunday.  Most have produce, fish, and home goods.

I love going for the kefi, but also for the interaction with the vendors.  I have a few favorite ones I go to, but as the seasons change, some of those vendors do to.  Pomegranites are almost out of season.  I’ve been buying freshly squeezed juice for the last 3 months it seems.  I freeze the juice into ice cubes for drinks!

 

Now, blood oranges, purple and white eggplants, cucumbers, and small zuchinni are in season.   And peas!  Strawberries have been out about 3 weeks, but are finally coming in sweet.  Artichokes have been out over a month as well… but now they are bigger 🙂

Since strawberries are finaly sweeter, I’ll be buying kilos of them to make spoon sweets and marmalades.  I think I’ll also give turning blood orange juice into jelly this year.

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Have you ever made your own jellies and jams?  Spoon sweets are a Greek thing, which tries to keep the fruit whole, and surrounded in a sweet syrup.  Not for diabetics!

The purple eggplants are going to be roasted on an open fire and the smoky taste will be great in eggplant salad.

What is your favorite method of serving artichokes?

 

 

 

Language lessons – grrrr!

One of the most important things I had to convince myself about being able to live in Greece, was to feel comfortable.  That meant, a home in a good location.  Friends with whom I can share life’s ups and downs.  But one of the most important things to me, was to be able to feel I could actually learn the language.  While English is widely spoken (at least on some level), it is my responsibility living here, to be able to speak and understand Greek.

To that end, I’ve been studying and making progress, but it’s challenging.  Today, I learned there were two different words to say, the last thing I do today, or last week I did.  I have also learned you make/do a lesson.  You don’t say to a friend “let’s go for a coffee”.  Instead you say, “let’s drink a coffee.”  You aren’t sleepy.  You take a sleep.  Or what I had previously learned, you have sleep.  You don’t talk about your house’s garden, but rather the garden of the house.

The challenge I face now, is learning phrases (or as my teacher calls it, the interlanguage) that is used in common speech.  Part of gaining fluency.  I know in my head that this is something that is going to go on for the rest of my life, but my kefi is feeling a bit dispirited.

I guess it helps somewhat knowing that in rating of difficulty of language learning, Greek is 3rd most difficult language to learn.

Leave me a comment of what you think the first two are.

Joyous cooking

I love cooking.  Especially after shopping for fresh produce at the street farmers market.  Buying produce seasonally has been one of the joys of living here.  At first, I had to get used to not being able to get strawberries in December.  Eggplant in May.

14589632_10154728409169214_387170717869269182_oCombining that with my love to make dough and I’m in heaven.  Kneeding and rolling dough for bread or pies.  Makes me feel alive.

The other thing I’ve learned to do, is live without most convienced processed food.  Even a simple thing as canned soup, is not something you can buy here.  And after a bit, you actually wonder why anyone would buy something like canned soup instead of making it from scratch.

Rediscover flavors.  Live more seasonally.  Feel the rhythum of life around you.

How do you experience this in your cooking?

 

 

 

 

 

Balconies

It’s rare to find an apartment building in Athens without a balcony.  Even if it’s just a narrow ledge for plants.  A railing to hang laundry.  (Hardly any Athenians own dryers).  A place for a TV dish.  They show a lot about life.

14595652_10154743861099214_9027520803943183357_nHere you can see balconies with soul… and those that are sterile (well, nothing in Athens is quite sterile).

15027399_10154807260989214_2715521352683131934_nThese back balconies are made for utility.  No plants or chairs. Mix of older and new awnings. Mostly to handle laundry.  Storage.  Summer ventalition.  A place to put air conditioners.  Windows open or shuttered.

 

14707036_10154743855404214_4652183080261628081_oFront balconies on the same types of buildings can tell a much different story.  Living spaces.  Especially in a climate where winter is only about 6 weeks long and the sun shines 300 days a year.  Plants, furniture, lights, awnings…

Enjoying life on my balcony.  Awning pulled back on a sunny March day.  Bowls of bread dough rising in the sun.  And an informal summer evening.

 

 

What time is afternoon???

elliniko

Some days ago, I texted a friend in Athens, asking to meet for a morning coffee.  It was about 10:30 am.  The answer was… “oh no, I don’t leave the house before 11 for coffee ever… and even then, 1 is better for a morning coffee.”

 

My first arguement with a friend over the term ‘afternoon’, was quite interesting.  The term actually varies a bit.  Here it is anywhere from 4 until 7.  Some of that depends on working hours.  It also has to do with daily life broken by a mid day (2-4) siesta.

So, when someone says, yes, let’s meet in the afternoon or evening… I always ask… what time is that for you? (I always get that, so you are a wise ass American right now, look).

So from what I have gathered among my varied friend’s lives here, the time of days relate to these hours:

  • Early morning (6-9)  Πρωί Πρωί, pro-E pro-E
  • Morning (9-noon)  Πρωί, pro-E
  • Midday (Noon till about 3) Μεσημέρι, messy-MERRY
  • Siesta (2-4  Never call anyone at home during this time)
  • Afternoon (4-7)  Απόγευμα, ah-POE-yev-mah
  • Early evening (5-8)  Βραδάκι, vrah-THAH-key
  • Evening (7-11) Βράδυ, vrah-THEE
  • Night (10- early morning/morning) Νύκτα, NEEK-tah

Of course not all people here do siestas, or stay up late, or wake late in the day…  jobs have a lot to do with this just like anyplace in the world.

But there is a definite structure that is assumed for the most part.  Banks, goverment offices, and even some stores are open from 8-2.  Some stores re-open on some days from 5-9.  (There is that siesta or late midday lunch thing).

Weekends are up in the air like everyplace.  However, no banks are open.  No Saturday mail delivery.  Most stores are only open Saturday (including grocery stores!) and close around 5-8.  Sundays are for the most part, family days.  It reminds me of my life growing up in the US when blue laws still existed.   There are a few exceptions to these.  Special grocery stores that are open every day, but not 24/7, and with higher prices and less selection (think 7 11 but bigger).

How does this tie in to kefi?  Well, there is a big emphasis on family time.  Quality time.  Time to enjoy life.

The exception is that the crisis has made many Greeks work more than one job.  Longer hours.  Less pay.  But even with that, unless you work in a tourist area, or at an eating/drinking establishment, Sundays are not work days.

Thessaloniki…

The White Tower from a side street line with lifeAgia Sofia  functioning since the 8th century

Just spending the weekend seeing the family and getting lost here. I’ve never really had the chance to wander the city by myself. The weather is perfect and I want to discover why people love it here.

I’ve seen some things on previous trips, but I’m not so interested in the touristy things. I’d much rather go from coffee to coffee.

So far, the area I’m in between the waterfront and Agia Sofia is very much like Lincoln Park. Shops restaurants bars cafes one after the other. I’m not even sure I could say there is a spot quite like it in Athens.

Packing….

I admit it.  I am a last-minute packer.  I do think ahead about what I need to go buy. or what I have already on hand… but that is about it.  Then, the night before…  panic hits. I need to wash that shirt… those jeans.   Then it’s electronics, toiletries, some essential medicines (most for just in case – you don’t want to go looking for a pharmacy that is open in a strange city when you nauseous).

Then clothes… especially when the weather can be cool or warm from day-to-day, hour to hour.  Wet or dry.  And all the sudden the back pack you were going to use for 3 days… is impossibly small.

Wait did I mention I’m hoping to carry my bouzouki too?  And… snacks/drinks…  all the sudden I realize there is only one thing to do… purge the pile!

More on the actual journey in a future post.  But for now, let me soak in the kefi that is all about me in the house.  Clear my mind.  Have a shot of tsipouro (like grappa).  Then remember, this is going to be a fun time.

(OMG I have some books I want to take along to read! Well maybe just one.)

Valentine’s Day

Forgive the double posting today, but I’d be remiss not writing something about this.  It’s great to celebrate your love and commitment on this holiday or any day.  A comment from a co-worker reminded me that, for her, everyday was Valentine’s Day.

Of course it’s nice to go out to dinner, get all dressed up (or not) and mark the occasion.

What is even nicer to my mind, is celebrating at home.  Coffee table picnics.  Talk about kefi 🙂  Whether the food is prepared by you, or bought, or delivered… cuddling, talking, eating, drinking, and hopefully lots of smooching.

Just some of the examples of ours.  Celebrate your love and BE MINE!

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