It’s been 25 years, more or less, to my last land-based trip to Greece and a whole new world of olive eating, alcohol drinking, Cyrillic reading opportunities have presented themselves. I outline five points of difference to this first two days in Athens of a beach holiday to what I remember from the early 1990s through adult and child eyes.
I can remember drinking a non-too-diverse range of bottled water, sprite and lemon tea as a child with memories of a choice of Dutch import Heineken and Amstel as the sole beer choice. A smell was enough to remind of the horror of pine-and-olive-enhanced Greek wine offering of Retsina. This has definitely moved on come 2017 with local beers Alfa and Mykonos a definite step up from the imports. Greek wine, I have since discovered, is a bit of a hidden gem. Syrah grapes are indigenous as well as Greek St George’s variety, which makes a dry, oaky red a favourite over the whites.
I’ve come close to a 100% pork only diet in many countries with Souvalaki proving the pig staple in Greece for multiple childhood summer breaks. I’m happy to report no loss of standards here with Greco Project just off Syntagma Square providing any number of mini skewers with olive oil and oregano seasoning, padded out with Greek Salad and Pitta. Comfortable chairs too, 1990s Taverna were always kitted out with narrow rickety rope padded chairs that cut off the circulation to the backside (subsequent edit: still very much present outside of metropolitan Athens, cannot handle even a half of an adult rear end)
I can remember lumps of shark, huge prawns and sea bass being ubiquitous in the late 80s and early nineties though I’m coming to the conclusion the UK has a comparative advantage on seafood over The Mediterranean, hence haven’t got too involved in the seafood this time around. I’m eying up a lump of lamb next. Food-based entertainment in 2017 has paled into insignificance following my old man’s attempt to break up a dog fight by squeezing lemon juice in their eyes, a manoeuvre that led to an ape shit dog smashing up a table of confused-looking Germans.
Having seen this second time around a little context is probably required to get the most out of sightseeing. A typical ten year old probably isn’t that aware of the historical significance of Ancient Greece and has to take sites at face value: usually a bunch of rocks. Having since learnt Cyrillic and undertaken a politics degree with significant Philosophical learnings, it’s all a bit more interesting and a Plato museum, the various sackings of the Acropolis and a museum of the Acropolis site all make sense as an adult.
I actually had a direct comparison of Acropolis viewing from a height. In 1990 I can remember sitting on one of the adjacent hills to take in commentary and a light show of the monument, most memorably of it being set on fire by the Persians. In 2017 we took in Dinner in the Sky to be hoisted some fifty meters in the air on a dinning table for 20 people. Toilet worries aside, this provides a great view of the city, both historic and, with a few gas holders and a converted industrial estate, contemporary. Given the circumstances of serving, it was an excellent dinner for two hours with perhaps the best wine deal I’ve seem for a while to offset a selfie orgy. Good spot by Becky for something I was initially sceptical of.
Being the sole blond haired and fair skinned person on my family I can remember getting a bit of a rough deal with the then unheard of highs of a non-humid early thirties climate. Altitude training in the swampy high thirties in Asia means I’d say this is now comfortable for an adult and in retrospect not too excessive for children either. What was odd this weekend was a biblical shower after a humid morning that swept tree branches down the street and saw centimetre-wide pieces of hail clatter onto tin roofs. Man-made climate change in a polluted big city or freak event? I’m not too sure but it does seem to be the case these flash weird weather events are city based affairs.
The old lament ran that the Greeks invented the first flushing toilet around the birth of Christ, but with little development since. An output of this was I can always recall childhood toilets that couldn’t deal with paper, therefore having a stinking bucket of refuse present for solitary times. Not great for a hot day or a dicky stomach. I have no idea how my Dad managed to deal with an epic whisky hangover in one of these set ups. Luckily, that does seem to have been solved now, with some decent toilet technology in evidence in most locations.
Not being able to fully converse in the local language while getting a hair cut left me with a David Beckham fluffy curtains effort in 2002 Japan, so it was with some trepidation I tracked down Sir Barbers, just off Symtagma square. I’m happy to report EUR 15 here gets some reading material (and inspiration for the Plato museum), a cool retro decoration and an espresso with dessert. It also gets sincere English spoken to get a Brad Pitt haircut. Thanks for the reassurance here, Sir Barbers! No too long hair for patchy sun tan for me.