Get her to the Greek
12.09.2013 - 23.09.2013
It’s 9:15 a.m. in Athens and we have just crawled off a 9 hour flight that followed an 8 hour layover in Philly after a 2 hour flight from Knoxville. Our internal clocks are confused and we are bleary-eyed, wrinkled, our hair is a mess, and I’m pretty sure we smell. I am desperately in need of coffee, a bed, and a bath, not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately, we have a 7 hour layover in Athens before catching our flight to our final destination, the island of Milos.
We know better than to sleep at this point which would just confuse the clocks in our heads even more than they already are, so instead, we hand over €15 to the bag check guy at the airport and catch the metro to downtown Athens.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve been awake for 22 hours, but Athens seems unbearably hot, loud, and dirty.
We are trying to find To Kafenio, a quaint coffee shop I had read about. Yes, leave it to me to try to find a single, tiny coffee shop in a huge, strange city with no real directions and streets designed like a maze written in a language that doesn’t even use the same alphabet. Armed with nothing more than a Google map printed from the internet, we dodge speeding cars and tourist hordes for about 30 very sweaty minutes before figuring out we are going in a circle.
I give up and slump down at a wooden table outside a closed café, defeated.
Our nerves are shot and we are seconds away from murdering each other in the street out of sheer frustration when I see a sign on the street corner, “To Kafenio.”
We sigh and slip into a quiet oasis in the midst of bustling Plaka.
The coffee shop is quaint, filled with odd chairs and wooden tables flanked by benches strewn with cozy, mismatched pillows. Light streams in through the open back door as a steaming cappucino is placed in front of me.
Aaahhhh…..coffee……..It’s like nectar of the Gods. I feel I might survive this day after all.
We rest for a bit and then steel our nerves, ready to tackle the obligatory visit to the Acropolis.
It is what we expect: a juxtaposition. The massive ruins of the gateway, the temples, the Parthenon, and the statues stand as a testament to the Greek civilization….they are beautiful and stately and speak of a rich history.
It is hard to appreciate them, however, because thousands of sweaty tourists cover every inch like swarming ants, shouting to one another, jockeying for position to get their photo op, carrying their big gulp lemonades and peering out from under their sun visors.
We love it and we hate it.
We move on. We find a quiet neighborhood and wander through the streets.
It’s 5:00 a.m. Tennessee time, but our stomachs disagree. They have already adjusted to Greece time and tell us that it is, indeed, noon. We are hungry.
We skip the restaurants in Plaka which seem to be as crowded as the Acropolis and head for Oinoscent, a fairly new and highly lauded wine bar near the Syntagma Square metro station that I discovered in my internet research.
Unlike the rest of Athens, Oinoscent is clean, fresh, quiet, and smoke free.
The menu is in Greek, so we use the “point and grunt” method of ordering that served us so well in Italy. Unfortunately, we have NO IDEA what we are ordering, so the young man helping us translates for us. It turns out he is one of the young brothers who own the place, and as we get the food order out of the way and move to wine, it becomes quickly apparent that he is passionate about his wine.
We are honest and tell him we know nothing about Greek wine (or any wine for that matter….a good bottle of wine to us costs about $8). He asks if we’d like him to bring us some things to sample and tell us about them.
We are tired and hungry, but he is so enthusiastic, we nod an exhausted “yes.”
Within moments a platter of local meat and cheese arrives along with a bowl of olives and barley rusks (think big, fat rustic croutons soaking in olive oil).
As we munch, he sets down two glasses of different wines, along with the bottles, and proceeds to educate us about the grapes, the vineyard, and probably about the mule that carried the bottles from the farm in a donkey cart.
Seriously. He knows everything.
I’m sure if I wasn’t half asleep, I might have better luck understanding his accent and broken English, but as it is, I catch about every 6th word. It sounds a lot like, “gadf kadflda sdkjagk TANNINS alda dkjfldjfdk lakjf d kafdjldf lkjfajf sdfaiuere GRAPES adfjklsdf lewuer aewepeule sdfaskjup maaz FLAVOR….”
He is gesturing and emphatic, showing me the bottle, letting me see the cork….I keep looking at Matt for help, but he is pretending to study his shoe so intently that the young man keeps his attention focused on me.
At one point, he draws me a map of Folegandros, the island that we will be visiting after Milos. He hands it to me on the back of a receipt….a few circles and lines….and tells me something about somewhere and I have no idea what he is saying, but I nod vigorously as Matt stares at his shoe some more.
I take the map/receipt and thank him assuring him we’ll go there…wherever “there” is….
He is so nice and he is so zealous about his wine that I wish we weren’t so tired that all we really want to do is beg for another bowl of those fat croutons.
In all, we sample 4 wines and he tells us a great deal about each one and I sincerely wish I knew what he said.
I leave as ignorant about Greek wine as I arrived. Maybe more, because I am pretty sure I am losing a significant number of brain cells as each additional hour without sleep passes.
We manage to make it back to the airport without incident (unless you count the shouting match I got into with a rude street cart vendor over whether I could or could not take a photo of the street) and finally climb onto the final airplane of the day…our flight to the island of Milos. It is 4:30 p.m. in Athens and we have been awake for 28 ½ hours.
I’m starting to feel a little bit pathetic. And ragged. My hair is limp, my feet are hurting, and I’d sell my kidney for a toothbrush. The flight attendant must sense this, because, as she hands everyone else a small bag of peanuts on the flight, she asks me if I would like a chocolate croissant.
Um… yes, please?
I eat the croissant like a woman who has just spent 3 years in a Turkish prison.
Matt eyes it longingly and I remind him about the staring at the shoe business while I got a 2 hour lesson in Greek wines as I shove the last bite in my mouth. At this point, it’s each man for himself.
At long last, I see Milos shimmering in the distance like a mirage.
It is possible? Are we finally here? Or am I so tired I’m starting to hallucinate?
My dream of a vacation in the Greek islands is about to come true.