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Five Reasons I Love Greek Food

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Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.
Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.
Gyro. Taken by jeffreyw via Flickr.

When it comes to cuisine, the Greeks definitely have got it going on!

In the past few years I have been lucky enough to visit the Greek islands of Ios, Naxos and Santorini as well as the metropolitan cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. I took away many things from these trips- great memories with friends, some historical and cultural knowledge and a pretty solid tan. One thing about Greece in general always stand out in my mind, however- it has some of my favorite cuisine in the whole world!

Being able to visit both islands and mainland cities means that I had the chance to try a variety of dishes, which are typically highly influenced by the natural surroundings. Fresh seafood is everywhere on the islands while you can typically find more diversity of choices in the cities. Regardless, it’s all delicious and I’m going to tell you why…

Five reasons I love Greek food:

1. It is SO fresh

If I were to estimate, I’ve eaten about 20-25 meals in Greece. Maybe once or twice was I disappointed in the freshness of ingredients. There’s a reason for this. The basis of many traditional Greek food dishes (such as Greek salad) include fresh ingredients such as fresh fish, vegetables, legumes and cereals. There’s really no way to fake it or substitute with processed ingredients.

Greek salad. Taken by Karl Bohn via Flickr.
Greek salad. Taken by Karl Baron via Flickr.

2. Full flavor

What I especially enjoy about Greek food is the variety of full flavors in every dish. Many herbs and spices such as dill, garlic, oregano, onion, mint, thyme, basil and parsley are necessary ingredients to most dishes, which give each one a unique, full flavor.

Dolmades: stuffed grape leaves with rice, onions, herbs, pine nuts, raisins. Taken by kennejima via Flickr.
Dolmades: stuffed grape leaves with rice, onions, herbs, pine nuts, raisins. Taken by kennejima via Flickr.

3. Pita, need I say more?

Head into any bakery and you can find a variety of fresh pitas (pies) to choose from. My favorite is the Spanakopita (spinach pie), which is made from filo pastry with spinach and feta filling. This is really similar to the versions found in the Balkans known as Burek, also equally delicious.

Spanakopita. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.
Spanakopita. Taken by Alpha via Flickr.

4. You can never have enough Feta cheese

Feta may be my favorite type of cheese and the Greeks definitely know how to do it right. Made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or a mixture, this crumbly white cheese is the perfect addition to salads, hence the famous Greek Salad, pies and pastries or simply served on its own. Once in Thessaloniki we were served Feta with sesame seeds and honey as an appetizer. Here is a similar recipe for a fried version. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!

Feta with sesame seeds and honey. Taken by Rachel Bickley via Flickr.
Feta with sesame seeds and honey. Taken by Rachel Bickley via Flickr.

5. Gyros are the ultimate fast food

Made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served in a pita with vegetables and tzatziki sauce, gyros are the perfect fast food treat. They also come vegetarian with a feta or haloumi cheese substitute, so no one has to be left out! Everytime I had gyros in Greece they never felt super heavy like Kebabs here in Germany or typical fast food in the U.S. Plus they are so cheap! I once paid one euro for a breakfast gyro in Santorini (I couldn’t pass up a deal like that, no matter what hour!).

Check out this list from BBC Good Food for must-try Greek dishes!

The Acropolis of Athens

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The Acropolis of Athens represents the quintessential symbol of ancient Greek culture.

It provokes the ideas of the spirit and civilization of one of the most well known ancient cultures, famous for providing modern ideas, artistic and architectural marvels and deep philosophical thought to our world today and throughout history.

Perched approximately 150 meters above city level over the city of Athens, the Acropolis is visible from many points in the city below and it almost appears to be quietly watching over the city, keeping a silent wisdom that only comes from a great history and age. The meaning of the word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, “edge, extremity”) and πόλις (polis, “city”). There are many acropoleis throughout Greece, however, this is the most well known and therefore is just simply referred to as “the Acropolis”.

Evidence suggests that the hill of the Acropolis was inhabited many years before the structure was built, even as far back as 4,000 BC. From the 2nd millennium BC the area served as a fortress protecting places of worship and royal palaces, with a wall known as the Pelasgicon providing protection from invaders. Up until the mid 5th century BC there were various attacks and the wall was destroyed.

The Acropolis of Athens. Taken by Kirstie.
The Acropolis of Athens. Taken by Kirstie.

Following a victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, Athens became a leader among the other city-states of the time. Philosophy, thought and artistic expression flourished during this time period and Pericles, an Athenian statesman, dreamed up construction of a unique monument. Through the help of artists and designers in the 5th century BC, especially the sculptor Pheidias, Pericles began construction of the sites most important structures.

Though they have suffered much damage throughout the years, today, visitors can see the remains of four ancient buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.

Walking up to the Acropolis.
Walking up to the Acropolis.

For me, visiting the Acropolis was a great experience on two levels. First, the ruins of the buildings are still so stunning, with small details still visible in some parts. Also, they are much larger than I would have imagined. It almost felt as you were in another universe. Secondly, it was astounding to conceive how long these buildings had stood. Essentially it was impossible, but if felt so incredible to know that you were standing in the same place that humans had for thousands of years.

We visited the Acropolis during the middle of July, which was very, very hot. Since it is perched above the city, there is little sun protection. I would recommend going in early morning or during a different part of the year such as late winter/early spring or late fall/early winter. It is open from 8 am to 6:30 pm everyday, with hours subject to seasonal change. It costs about 12 euros to enter, but with a European student card you can enter for free.

It is also relatively easy to access the Acropolis on foot from the plaza near Monastiraki. It takes about 45 min to 1 hour to walk up the winding hills (getting lost a few times of course), but it was relatively pleasant when there was shade.

[UNESCO], [Wikipedia], [The Athens Guide]

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