Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Baklava for Breakfast or "How Was the Food?"

I was going to save this post for last, but I've had a lot of folks ask me "How was the food?", so here is my answer.

First of all, as a mom that has had to do lots of cooking and cleaning the kitchen, I hesitate to ever complain about a meal that I did not have to prepare or clean-up after!  What a fun treat to just eat!

Secondly, keep in mind that this food was cheap!  We never spent more than $8 each on a complete meal, and several meals were less than $2.  

Thirdly, consider that I do not like raw tomatoes or cucumbers.  Those folks that love them might have a different opinion of the food there.  

So, with all that in mind, here is my opinion.  Do not go to Greece for the food.  The "Greek food" that I have had in America was far tastier.  I judge how well I liked a dish by whether I am willing to hunt for the recipe and make it myself. There was only one dish on our trip that met that challenge.In general, I thought that the Greeks actually did a better job making Italian dishes (like pizza), French food (crepes), or American food (the hamburgers we had were excellent, but take your own ketchup for fries if you want a reliable supply - it is hard to find).

I took a lot of pictures of food just for fun.  I will share some superlatives:

Best meal - Cafe Alme in Anavissos.  We shared a huge Caesar salad (hint: great option in Greece when you don't want tomatoes or cucumbers) and a pasta dish that I would gladly purchase the recipe for.  Also, eating right on the Aegean with little lights twinkling on the seaside was pretty special.

Worst food - for me it was this classic appetizer we had on our first day.  Kind of tasted like a funnel cake filled with feta.  It really needed a sauce or something.

But I didn't care too much because of this view from our table:

For Terry, he didn't like this one.  The meat tasted weird and there was not the possibility of ketchup.  

However, keep in mind that even this lousy meal was eaten with this view.  Notice a theme?:

Best presentation - fried cheese in Athens

Sweetest breakfast - this waffle Terry had in Mytilene.  It was a little over the top.  I had Baklava for breakfast once as well.  A sugar rush for sure.

Most interesting-looking breakfast -

Most prevalent food - fries.  They were served (minus ketchup) with almost every meal. They even put them on your gyros so that they can become nice and soggy (so eat fast!). 

Best snack - I loved these teeny ice cream bars in a shop near our hotel in Athens.  They were just 50 cents, and just the right size for a quick treat.

Favorite dessert - Greek yogurt!  This did not disappoint!  Turns out it is also 10% butterfat, so how could you go wrong?!  I would have eaten this for breakfast every day, but it was actually a little hard to find.  

Favorite drink:  For me it was fruit slushes.  It was so hot while we were there, and these tasted so good (all other cold drinks would be lukewarm within a few minutes of walking in that heat).  Terry liked the Greek beer.  One of the brands was called "Fix", and I kept teasing him that he needed his "Fix" after a hard, hot day working on renovation.  He was a little hesitant to buy one while were were walking around and asked both a kiosk owner (who was incredulous when she finally figured out what he was asking - "You mean you cannot do this in your country? ") and a policeman to make sure that it was legal to drink and walk.  Here is Terry's favorite kiosk.  

Favorite venue (runner-up):  Cafe Skiniko's in Panagouda, Lesbos.  We ate many meals here!  Right on the water and just a 2 min. walk to our hotel.

Favorite venue: this place where we watched sunset over the Acropolis on our last night and watched them light it up after dusk.  

Also, while in Greece we ate some ethnic food prepared by refugees, and Mary Beth and I even worked in a kitchen for four days feeding some hungry teenage boys.  I was going to include that in this post, but it is already too long.  

My conclusion:  While you might not want to travel to Greece for the food, the dining experience is world-class! I have never eaten so many meals surrounded by beauty and with such a relaxing vibe. And someone else did the dishes. No complaints here!  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lesbos Tour

Before we started planning for our trip, I did not even know anything about the island of Lesbos and could certainly not have located it on a map.  I knew that refugees were coming to Greece by boat, but frankly I never considered their path.  I had no idea that there was a Greek island just 4 miles from Turkey.  Now that I've been there, I've found that I was not only painfully ignorant of geography, I was also not very informed about the refugee crisis.

In our five days there, we enjoyed some of the beauty of the island in our down time.  But I was also haunted by the suffering of the refugees and of the Greek people (who have an economy in the toilet and a version of Christianity that is mostly tradition instead of relationship with God).  I learned a lot by talking to William and Geeta Splitberger, who are experts on this crisis and also by reading the book "Seeking Refuge:  On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis" while I was there.  I highly recommend this book!  It handles the subject of refugees and immigration from a Biblical standpoint. I also recommend a trip to Lesbos if you ever get the chance!  It's a beautiful place with very kind people.  The kind of people who welcomed the refugee.

"Hide the fugitive; do not betray the refugees.  Let them stay with you, and be their shelter from the destroyer." ~ Isaiah 36:4

Here are some photos that show some of the charm and beauty of this island.  First these photos of Mytilene's fortress and harbor.  Mytilene was visited briefly by Paul in Acts 20.

Mytilene is the biggest city, but we stayed in the town of Panagouda, which is the closest to the two refugee camps, Moria (now almost all men), and Kara Tepe (families).  Panagouda is a charming little town, with little outdoor restaurants all along the waterfront, cute little hotels, several Greek orthodox churches, and a fun little swimming hole:

We also visited the little town of Skala Sikamineas.  It is one of the towns in the north that is very close to Turkey.  Many refugees landed first here. It was so pretty:

There was also a stark reminder of the crisis in the little harbor - a rescue boat:

And on the hill above, a lookout in case a rescue is needed.  

And a hillside full of lifejackets - see this post.  


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gateways 2 Life

In my last blog post, I promised to share the more positive part of our story here.

First, we met an awesome brother and sister in Christ, William and Geeta Splitberger.

These two gave up great jobs in the US as an attorney and an accountant to come to Europe to respond to the refugee crisis and the crisis in the church (less than 2% evangelical believers). They live in Frankfurt but also work in Greece and Italy.  They have started a NGO called Gateways 2 life.  Their goal is to share the love of Jesus with those who have been traumatized by this situation.  At the center, they will provide laundry facilities, a place to get some tea and a snack in an AIR -CONDITIONED facility., a place for young children to play and get a posicle, etc.  All for free!  Or I should say all provided by those that believe in the ministry.

Our little group of five spent this past week is Panagouda, Lesbos preparing the Gateways 2 Life community center for women and children that will open this coming Monday!  This was very familiar work for Terry and me as it was very similar to the last week of a house flip - with me doing the cleaning and Terry doing the skilled work.  Terry worked getting mirrored film on all the windows, and the rest of us did a lot of cleaning. There were many layers of dust on everything!  Just watch the progress:

Mirrored film helps with security and combats the heat

This was before we got a dustpan and had to use a shovel

Figuring out how to program with washers and dryers

Painting the floor

Set up

Ready for business!