Greece: A place where food, history and scenery intersect

June 1st, 2016 by | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Alex and I both have been living in Cameroon for one and a half year, and we both very much needed a break from our challenging current lifestyle.  We needed to be in a place where we could forget about work and focus on relaxing and also continuing to expand our minds.  Greece was the place to be.

Greece is a country where food, history and scenery meets at one place.  When standing at the top of Hotel Plaka and looking at the stunning view of Acropolis at sunset, one pauses for a moment and marvels at the stunning construction of the Parthenon.  Then when walking through the narrow streets of Plaka neighborhood and seeing people eat feta cheese, sausages, olives and ice cream, one can’t help but want to eat as soon as possible.  As soon as we arrived at the hotel after traveling by plane for more than 12 hours, we didn’t wait too long to get a taste of feta cheese and honey.  Feta cheese made in Greece tastes like nothing like any other Feta cheese found outside of the country.  The honey found in Greece is so sweet.  Alex and I not only ordered a fried feta cheese soaked in honey, but we also ordered sausages which was also very appetizing.

Over the course of two days in Athens, Alex and I visited various ancient sites throughout the city and also the Acropolis Museum while also tasting Greek yogurt, baklava ice cream, and olive oil and bread.  No one has ever tasted Greek yogurt until they have eaten it in the country of its origin.  Greek yogurt purchased in the US is not Greek yogurt.  It’s a yogurt that just happened to be called Greek yogurt.  Eating Greek yogurt in Greece is like eating a spoonful of whipped cream.  It’s light and fluffy and less sugary but oh so good!  We also met up with a classmate of mine from grad school who took us to a Greek-Japanese fusion restaurant called Nolan.  The chef is half Greek and half Japanese and prepares appetizing food that combines the best of both cuisine.  We enjoyed chicken covered in tempura crumbs, smoked fish and boas with pork stuffed inside.

On the second night when I was tired and contemplating whether or not I wanted to walk up a large hill, Alex and I agreed to take a stroll to Philopappos Monument.  It was a decision that I was glad not to say “no” because walking up the hill during the sunset turned out to be so relaxing and when standing by the monument, we were gifted with a stunning view of the Parthenon.

Right before Alex and I got the plane to head to Crete, we stopped at Scholarhio, a restaurant nestled in the Acropolis that allows us to taste variety of Greek food.  At 30 euros for two people, Alex and I were able to enjoy five different plates which included calamari, fried cheese, meatballs, sausages, and tiropita.

Once Alex and I landed in Chania, the second largest city in Crete, we were given a very warm welcome by the hosts of our apartment which we booked through Airbnb.  We were greeted with wine, raki, olive oil and honey which were all homemade from the hosts’ home village, Vouves, and also cheese and bread.   We then ventured out in the old town where we witnessed a beautiful sunset over the blue Mediterranean Sea.  We had our first taste of Greek lamb and sheep and also loukoumades at Chrisostomos, a place known for its lamb dishes.  The following day, we continued to explore the old town, visiting the Maritime Museum, the oldest practicing synagogue in Greece, and lighthouse.  Then we spent a romantic evening eating mussels and octopus by the water while the sun was setting.

The following day, we explored the stunning countryside of western Crete with Safari Club.  We traversed the White Mountains, both on paved road and road with gravels, viewed the Samaria Gorge from the top, ate lamb in the mountains, and saw the oldest olive tree in the world which is three thousand years old.  After spending the day touring the countryside, we visited the Archeology Museum in Chania, which was a small museum exhibiting various old potteries, coins, tools, jewelry and tombs.

Alex and I then spent the last four days in Rethymnon, an old Venetian fortress city, at a lovely hotel made for foodies.  Avli was first founded as a restaurant and then it expanded by adding a hotel.  We took an incredible private cooking class with the owner and founder of Avli, Katerina, which was a highlight of our trip.  I will save all the info about the cooking class for another blog post.  I do have to note that when one visits Avli restaurant, their cheesecake is a must to eat.  It is the best cheesecake I have tasted in my life.  Like Greek yogurt, it’s light and fluffy.  I am guessing that it’s made with goat and sheep cheese instead of cow cheese.

On one of the days in Rethymnon, we ventured out to Knossos with a taxi driver who was also a tour guide.  Alex was dreaming of seeing the Parthenon and Knossos since he was 11 years old, and so it was a dream come true for him.  We also visited the Archeology Museum in Heraklion which was necessary as many of the artifacts found at Knossos is displayed at the museum.

We also spent some time relaxing at the beach and enjoying the beautiful turquoise water.  We also toured the fortress and visited the Contemporary Museum of Art.  We also enjoyed the nightlife by eating a waffle with chocolate and bananas, a beer and hot chocolate at midnight.

On our very last night in Greece, Alex and I witnessed a stunning full moon while dancing on top of Avli hotel.  While Alex and I enjoyed the sceneries, history and food, what we have enjoyed the most is being able to hold hands and kiss in public spaces without being stigmatized by others around us.  In Cameroon, because of the cultural norms, showing any signs of affection is forbidden in public places.

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Kissing by the Acropolis at the top of Hotel Plaka

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Eating Baklava ice cream

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Flowers were part of the beautiful sceneries of Greece

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Temple of Olympian Zeus

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View of Parthenon from Philopappos Monument

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Waiter shows us 18 different Greek dishes to choose to eat

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Loukoumades, doughnuts with honey

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Flower pots are spotted everywhere in Crete

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Cretan cheese pie with honey

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View of Chania from the lighthouse

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Eating by the Mediterranean Sea at Monastiri

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Sunset in the old town of Chania

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Mussels at Monastiri

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Romantic dinner at Monastiri in the old town of Chania

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White Mountains

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Samaria Gorge

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Cretan Salad by the White Mountains

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Alex eating lamb by the White Mountains

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Cheesecake at Avli in Rethymnon

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Greek yogurt

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View of Rethymnon

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Touring Knossos

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Fresh fruits, olive oil, homemade honey and homemade wine being sold on the side of the road

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Venetian Fortress in Rethymnon

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Various Cheese of Crete

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Bread with Goat Butter

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Rethymnon Beach

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Lighthouse in Rethymnon

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View of Rethymnon with the moon from top of one of Avli’s buildings

 

Places to Eat in Athens:

Cookie Land || Delicious Baklava ice cream.

Scholarhio || Two people can eat five different Greek dishes for 30 euros.

Nolan || Japanese-Greek Fusion Cuisine.  The chef is half Greek and half Japanese.

Osterman || Delicious chocolate peanut butter souffle.

Twister || Fabulous fried feta cheese with honey and other Greek food.

Ydria || Good general Greek food.

 

Places to Eat in Chania:

Chrisostomos || Known for their lamb and sheep.  They also make delicious loukoumandes.

Tamam || Located inside an old Turkish bathhouse.  Delicious goat-sheep cheese and Cretan cheese pie.

Monastiri || Located right on the harbor by the water.  Sit outside to see a stunning view of the sun setting behind the lighthouse.

Colombo Kitchen and Bar || Located inside the old town.  Delicious smoked pork and Cretan cheese pie.

Agora Market || A public market where one can find cheese, honey, olive oil, and fresh bread.

 

Places to Eat in Rethymnon:

Avli || Stay at their hotel to enjoy their lovely breakfast which includes Cretan cheese pie, omelette, fried goat cheese and rice pudding.  Eat their cheesecake.  Take their cooking class.

Prima Plora || Located a mile outside of the old town but it sits by the water offering a stunning view of the old town and offers delicious seafood.

The Italian Job || Variety selection of pasta.  Went there to enjoy a good bowl of Carbonara pasta.

 

Where to Stay:

Hotel Plaka || Athens || Great central location in Plaka neighborhood.  Very close to all historical sites.  Lovely bar at the top overlooking the Acropolis.

Airbnb || Chania || Thirty second walk from the harbor in old town.  Fantastic hosts.  Clean apartment and comfortable bed.  Provides complimentary olive oil, honey, wine, and raki, all homemade.

Avli || Rethymnon || Great central location in old town.  A must-to-stay for foodies.  First opened as a restaurant.  Offers cooking classes.

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