An Unexpected Greek Odyssey


If we put masala in dosa, it becomes masala dosa. If we put onion in Kulcha, it becomes onion kulcha. But apparently, this Indian logic does not work in Greece. I discovered this the hard way during my maiden Greek vacation. The restaurant guy offered me a choice of souvlaki and chicken souvlaki. I was not feeling like having non vegetarian, and decided to go without the chicken. However my two friends opted for the chicken. My initial suspicions were aroused when my dish did not look too different from what my friends were having. When I bit into it, it gave a funny taste. I decided not to go by first impression and gave it a second bite. It continued to taste funny. Then I tried a third and a fourth bite! And guess what? It still tasted funny. So I decided to call the waiter, and checkup. What I heard made my stomach churn in horror – souvlaki was traditionally a pork dish wherein chicken was substituted for pork in chicken souvlaki. So trying to avoid chicken, I had ended up consuming pork.

From then on, I was careful to seek all necessary information before venturing into culinary adventures. And that did help me, for if I had not, my aversion to consumption of mutton would have kept me off some wonderful goat yoghurt with honey. Apparently no goat had to sacrifice its life for this cause – it was just yoghurt made out of goat milk. Lest the reader assume this trip was nothing but food, let me move on to other things. but not before a passing mention of the wonderful Greek coffee offered by our hosts. However I must mention I am no coffee connoisseur, and all I can say is it was some kind of dark coffee - not the usual espresso, and it tasted good.

Let us now go back and start where it all began like one of those lengthy English classics. It all started one lazy afternoon at the 18th floor of the tallest building in Bonn, the erstwhile capital of West Germany. I was doing my summer internship and the coming 4 day weekend had sapped away any enthusiasm for work. I was idly browsing through travel websites when suddenly an offer caught my eye. To and fro tickets to some place called Kavala for a mere 99 Euros! I had never even heard the name of the place but a true blooded Indian I would have grabbed a journey to burning pits of hell with both hands if only it came cheap. A bit of internet research showed me that Kavala was the closest airport to a Greek island called Thassos. We had never heard of that island either but we were able to book an economical bed and breakfast place through HostelWorld.com. If we could book accommodation through the internet, the place must be having internet. And any place having internet can’t be too bad, eh?

I had traveled a bit around Europe and thought I had a good measure of the continent. But I was not at all prepared for the sights that greeted me at Thassos. The vegetation, the housing, the people – everything was so different. Lovely looking olive trees dotted the entire landscape. The buildings were exactly like those of Greek Civilization in the ‘Age of Empires’ game. Looking at those buildings from my window, I almost expected hoplites and phalanxes to emerge out of those buildings. The people there seemed larger than rest of Europe and friendlier. Most of the people we met seemed so eager to make our acquaintance and were very chatty in their singsong Greek accents. The place had a nice rustic feel to it with a hill at the center and the sea all around. It was a small island that we could traverse entirely on foot.

One interesting thing I noted about the place was that I did not see a single Indian during our entire three days stay. In case one fails to see the significance of this fact, let me contrast it with my experience in rest of the Europe – nowhere else in Europe have I walked more than 10 minutes without catching sight of an Indian face! That took away the whole novelty and special feeling of doing something different. But in this island, the utter lack of Indians made us feel almost like the first men on moon – the first people to hoist the Indian flag on this Greek island. We were further flattered by the attention the locals were giving us. As we walked through some interior streets, old grandmas, lovely village lasses and children could be seen peering at us in wonder from balconies and windows. We felt grand like some adventurers landed on an unexplored alien planet.

The Mediterranean cuisine coupled with anise flavor of Ouzo completed our culinary experience while the fragrance of olives combined with the fresh sea and hill air to enrich our olfactory experience. The scenic beauty was balm to the eyes while the gentle Mediterranean breeze gently caressed our hands, feet and faces. Greek music playing everywhere from taxis to shops to restaurants completed the entire spectrum of sensory experiences. Seeing our fascination with their music, the guy at the restaurant was kind enough to gift us a CD containing the songs that were playing to take back home as a souvenir. That was just one of the numerous experiences we had of Greek generosity.

The entire trip was like a dream and it hardly cost us anything with flights booked at an offer price and lodging at a home converted into a bed and breakfast place. I really wish I could experience the whole thing again sometime.

This post is for a contest sponsored by Sky Scanner where they have asked us to write about out dream travel destination for 2014 and how we will travel smart. I am not sure what destination I want to travel to, but would definitely like a trip to a surprise destination with experiences similar to the one I have described here. The accompanying picture is not clicked by me but a free for use or share taken from here.

30 comments:

Alka Gurha said...

Three days and no Indian? Surprising.
I have not been to Greece LF, but I am sure it is a pretty place.

The Fool said...

It was a real surprise, Alka. It is a wonderful place. You must visit if you get a chance. I wouldn't mind visiting again if I got a chance either.

Shesha Chaturvedi said...

Wow! I love such travel experiences! All the while I was imagining about the place, those olive trees, old grandmas and street interiors... What best was connecting the discription of the place to AOE- made me dreamy! :)) And I can totally imagine how it would have been to be the only people from your race in that part of foriegn land...
Though for me pork was a shock- I am a vegetarian- I was like "Omg to Ohhhh no..."
All the best for the contest :)

The Fool said...

Glad you liked it, Shesha. Good to see you are a AOE fan too. Pork indeed nearly threatened to spoil the trip for me but then the place had a magic that required more than pork to ruin.

jaish_vats said...

Your narration has triggered the wish to go ona vacation ASAP Tf.

The Fool said...

Long since I have been on a vacation, jaish - contending myself reliving past vacations on blog posts.

Pankti Mehta said...

Wow....it seems you had a great time. I don't think I'd ever be able to visit this place, with me being vegetarian :( Best of luck for the contest :)

The Fool said...

Well Pankti you do get veg food everywhere. You just need to ask and make sure. I was into semi non veg that point in life and made a mistake of venturing in with assumptions.

Seeta said...

Oh, you took me there through your post.. btw i completely understand what you mean about not having Indians around at all, how rare that is. When I visited Liberty Island, all i could see were "desis" everywhere and the aromas of tamarind rice and curd rice engulfed the place.. made a decision then and there never to visit Niagara Falls, that is infested with Indians all over :P

The Fool said...

I am glad you found my post to be so. Not being into photography, travelogues are a challenge to me - I need to struggle with 1000 words what others will be conveying through a single snap.

Ha Ha - Curd rice and tamarind rice!

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Looks like a wonderful place for a visit TF! I sure hope that this post of yours does not flood the place with Indians :)

The Fool said...

Ha Ha, Suresh. That would indeed be a pity.

Saket said...

Greece in 99 Euros! You turned me greek(n) with envy!

Real life experience is toughter to write about that a fiction since you don't have the liberty of imagining things there. But you made it interesting with your food adventures!

iwrotethose.com said...

Brilliant piece, TheFool. I've always wanted to go to GReece . Oh, and the souvlaki odyssey...it's happened to me, even in a greek restaurant in london ! Good luck for the contest buddy. Great post this :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Saket. Glad you liked my real life experience. I have wanted to write this for a long time but took me lot of time to figure out how to put it across in an interesting way.

The Fool said...

Thanks Sid. Interesting to know I am not the only one who has had this kind of misadventure with Souvlaki.

Anita said...

Greece is an interesting place to visit. nice to read your post. Will watch out for the food thanks to your advance warning!
Best wishes! :)

The Fool said...

Thanks Anita.

prettypinkpebbles said...

Interesting post. I like the way you’ve weaved in the benefits of sky scanner. Greece is on my list of must travels too. Its beautiful! with all those stark blues against whites.

Kokila Gupta said...

Say Greece white against blue comes to mind.The way you wrote about masala Dosa and onion Kulcha tells the Indian way of doing things which we take for granted as its in our blood.Same feeling I got when a foriegner describes an Indian character brushing teeth by finger or drinking water with hands in some book.... II was suddenly reminded of how I take such things as life.
I liked that chicken/pork 'trifle' the most. All the best for the contest.

Rachna said...

Good luck, TF! Greece has always fascinated. Apparently, you can find good deals now with their economy in a shambles.

umashankar said...

It began like quintessential a Greek Tragedy that ended happily. As usual, I love your contest posts. All the best!

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Ana.

The Fool said...

Thanks Kokila. The cultural differences are interesting.

The Fool said...

Thanks Rachna. Yeah - should be cheaper now. Only expensive part is going to be the flight from India to Europe.

The Fool said...

Thanks umashankar. Yeah it did turn out wonderful eventually.

Afshan Shaik said...

Going to place so quiet is my dream too and ya all the natives and less of Indians will for sure be gooood ! :)
Loved this real life anecdote. Could visualize it all including the Mediterranean...

The Fool said...

Thanks Afshan - That is a luxury we find in a very few places.

Rajlakshmi said...

hahaha I am still laughing at your souvlaki fiasco. 3 days and no Indian!!! haiiii how could that ever happen... the place sounds exotic :)

The Fool said...

Thanks for reading Rajlakshmi. The place is indeed worth a visit.

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