Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Greek Thanksgiving

By Claire
We are enjoying our week driving across Greece on our way to Turkey but I have to say, it’s the food that drew us here. We love Greek food at home so naturally we had to come. Our fridge is now stocked with our most important staples: Kalamata olives and feta cheese. Our diet now consists of Greek salad with Greek yogurt and honey for dessert. Oh my God. We are in ecstasy. The yogurt is so thick you can literally stand a spoon up in it.

We really enjoyed Camping Chrissa back in Delphi even though we were the only ones there. The owner and another guy were doing some work around the place, but other than that and the occasional buzz saw, it was very quiet.

Camping Chrissa

We were in a location 6 km from Delphi with Mt. Parnassus looming above us. I didn’t expect so many mountains. It feels a bit like Idaho or Arizona.

Our next stop was a tiny village called Variko which is connected to the town of Litochoro at Camping Stani. It doesn’t have a web site but I did find out that it’s open year round. Well, kind of. No hot water and in fact, no water at all! We do have electricity and we are again, the only ones here except for a very large man who seems to be the caretaker. The owner is across the road at his farm with multiple very large chickens, and dogs and cats. There are about 15 of the cats and a few dogs here at the campsite. We started noticing the large number of stray cats and dogs when we arrived in Pompeii, Italy. They all look well fed and they mostly just sleep but clearly, spaying and neutering is not encouraged. I don’t have a photo of this place because it’s pretty much a dump. We’re just glad to find someplace safe and off the road.

In fact, we would never have found this place on our own. It had no address, just Litochoro, Variko, Camping Stani. We drove into Litochoro, Chuck spotted an ATM, I jumped out and was able to get €300. Just as I was making my way back to Homer where Chuck was double parked, I spotted a young guy and asked if he spoke English. He nodded and I asked him if he knew where Camping Stani was. He told me to follow him and we walked across the town square into a restaurant where he worked behind the bar. After some shouted discussion with his two colleagues, one of whom was thrusting a bottle of Johnny Walker Red as a pointer, he drew me a map heading in a direction that seemed all wrong. He told me to go to Gritsa, find a hotel and ask there. We ignored the advice and found several campgrounds but they were all very bleak and completely dead. We couldn’t rouse anyone and I didn’t like the vibe. So we decided to try his directions. We came to a hotel and I ran in to ask about camping. The guy there spoke reasonable English and directed us further down the road to the Village of Variko (ah ha! It wasn’t a street at all!) where we would fine lots of campgrounds. We did! They all looked closed so we continued on and found ours. What relief. It’s so nice to be snug in our “homer” where we can kick back and read and relax.

We left early the next morning for the town of Kavála and after the usual driving around in frustration over the meager directions given in the camping book, we finally located Camping Bati and once again, we are the only ones here. The beach is gorgeous but it took awhile to get them to turn on the electricity. We are assured that we have hot water. It comes with free WiFi but that means outside in the sun by the café, which is closed. Ever try seeing your monitor in sunlight? How about that cursor? Almost impossible. We plan to stay here for 3 days then cross the border into Turkey.

Lonely campsite

Campground beach

Along the way, we saw the usual smoking fires but this one was just too much.

The roads are incredible. California, eat your heart out.


We left this morning to explore the town of Kavála and to find the perfect place for a Greek Thanksgiving feast. We started with finding a parking place. Impossible! We drove all the way through town and to the other side where we finally found a place on the side of a road and nervously left our Homer there, hoping he wouldn’t be broken into.

Off we went to find the Tourist Information—we couldn’t believe this town even had one—to get information about the local castle. Armed with our map we made the climb up the steep lanes, stopping at some interesting things along the way.

Water at Kavála

Old Town Kavála with castle at the top

We made it to the castle, with the help of an old gentleman walking down the street who greeted us with gia sas! (yah sahs—hello!). He asked “German?” but we had to say “no, American.” “American!” “Have you seen the castle?” We assured him we were on our way and he told us about Mehmet Ali’s home with the statue of a horse in front. This was told mostly with basic words and hand gestures. Chuck figured out he was talking about a horse. The castle was a very reasonable €2 each, no discounts for age or teacher cards. We wandered around and took in the views on this gorgeous day of perfect blue sky.

Harbor view—our campground is on the point sticking out in the background.

We wandered back down through the old town, found a taverna and went in to check out the menu for our feast. The vibe just wasn’t right and although we found some of the appetizers we wanted, we couldn’t find a good main course. So, we handed back the menus and said goodbye.

Walking a few steps, we came upon the perfect place. We were greeted by the owner who turned out to have lived in Canada for 20 years. His English was good and we talked about his life and Greece and where we were from for awhile. He presented us with menus and we studied it over and quickly determined the proper ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal, Greek style. The wine was the only question mark. House wine? He said it was a bit sweet and recommended a local wine if we wanted dry. Otherwise, it would have to be white. Since we both prefer red wine, we went with his recommendation. What a good decision! I have to say, it was the best I’ve had on the whole trip.

A plate of grilled bread was brought out immediately, along with a pitcher of ice cold water.

Next came the appetizers: tzatsiki (the white stuff--cucumber, yogurt and garlic), eggplant salad (the green dip) and stuffed vine leaves along with a Greek salad. We were a bit astonished at the generous amounts.

Soon the main course arrived, souvlaki.

Greek music was playing, we were outside in the sunshine with awnings overhead, the food was the best I’ve had and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves and counting our blessings. A large crowd of people started arriving and the owner and his son moved motorbikes and arranged parking all up and down the narrow street. Turns out it was graduation day for the local college. It was nice to be surrounded by other people. The off season has the disadvantage of being very, very quiet.

Naturally, we had to finish it off with a pair of Greek coffees.

When we complimented the food to the owner’s son, he told us his mother had made everything herself. We could tell; it was all so fresh.

After our 2 hour lunch, we decided to go shopping for bread and yogurt so we could have a snack later tonight with the leftover eggplant salad and tzatsiki.

Chuck managed to slip in quite a few dessert type things from one bakery, while I got two loaves of fresh bread, one round and one long,from another. We even have a little less than half of the bottle of wine left to go with our evening feast.

Walking back to Homer I felt so happy and content. I couldn’t resist this photo of a cat on a roof.

Cats are literally everywhere. I had two with me in the bathroom this morning, purring, meowing and circling around my legs, rubbing up against me. There were a couple at the restaurant too, looking like mother and daughter hoping for handouts. At the town square there was a small park and I noticed a sheet of paper with cat food on it and lots of cats indulging themselves.

We’ll be here another day then move closer to Turkey for one more day.


Forever on Thanksgiving Day
The heart will find the pathway home.
~Wilbur D. Nesbit

1 comment:

Paul King said...

Greek Thanksgiving - now that's a welcome change. The food looked great and the descriptions and the scenery are compelling.
I have a rare and wicked cold. But luckily it did not affect my taste buds and I am one stuffed bird right now.

Consider yourselves lucky that you are not being bombarded with ads for stores opening at 4am(!) on Friday.
Serves me right for turning on the TV…

Enjoy the rest of the time in Greece. Looking forward to hearing about Turkey. (the country that is)