Where to begin to talk about this land of love that has
captured my heart and imagination.
I could sit and observe the Greeks go about life for hours on end (and I actually have.)
They’re a mesmerizing people. Their passionate love for others and unflinching loyalty to family reflects their deep-rooted sense of philotimo.
To see a married couple of 30, 40, 50+ years still giggling and romancing one another like they’re young lovebirds on their honeymoon has restored my faith in relationships. In America, a country where more families are torn by divorce than those that stay together, what a delight to see a couple kiss the ice cream off the other’s lips so they can try each other’s flavors…kind of odd, I know. But the way her eyes lit up is something you only read about in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Authentic Greece is laissez faire, eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die, yet they sweat blood and tears to open that family-owned restaurant with their great-great grandmother’s recipe of moussaka, or to work the hands-on, grimy jobs during the day so that they can leave work behind them at 5 and finally relax with family and friends off the clock. (As opposed to the 60+ hour work week in America.)
For the Greeks have realized it’s the little pleasures and sweet moments in life that mean the most in the end, and they live accordingly.
Despite their recent political issues in the country, they continue to be welcoming to people from all walks of life. In the global community, they’re the proverbial 89-year old grandma baking cookies for the neighborhood kids, happy with their simplicity and small joys, and always ready to be there for another in the community.
Before I go further on the Greek lifestyle, I have to rave on the restaurant I went to my first full day in Athens. I was headed to a family-owned, traditional Greek place recommended on another travel blog when I passed To Kati Allo.
It was off the beaten tourist track, the old Greek chef with his big apron sat on a stool outside just watching passersby. I would’ve stopped, or my rumbling stomach would’ve made me stop, right then and there if I wasn’t so focused on finding the other place.
Much to my dismay, I found the whole family of the other restaurant renovating and painting it; mum tearing down wall plaster, son and daughter painting the outside, dad observing from a lawn chair. It looked as if it’d be closed the rest of the month. I pulled a U-ey, and headed straight for To Kati Allo, just a couple blocks back.
They remembered me and welcomed me excitedly into their restaurant. I asked their recommendations, found out the wife of the owner (the man in the apron, big surprise), made all the food herself fresh each morning.
I ended up with the most delicious, divine Greek salad one can only dream of. They kept telling me not to rush, enjoy it. I must have looked like a ravenous American, scarfing it down. I focused on enjoying each bite, mimicking the slow pace of the Greeks as they experience each small moment like it’s the last. (It was actually extremely difficult to do! It turned out to be a great exercise in chilling out, being okay with your own company. All those lessons you forget to learn in the rush of everyday life.)
Greeks know there’s a time stamp on life, and I believe that’s how they’ve remained strong and united throughout their past and in their most recent political and economic situation as well.
Greece is now one of those places set deeply in my heart that I could always return to and never tire of or know enough about. I learned some profound lessons, and I wish the same for you in the Land of Love whenever your travels take you there.
the tall girl
EXTRA TIP: It’s considered very rude in Greece not to finish the full plate of food given to you. Order just the amount you want or what you’re sure you’ll enjoy. It’s an insult to the chef to not eat everything you’re given.