..comes around and so here I am one year on and petrol bombs are still being thrown to protest against the killing of Alexis Grigoropolous despite the person responsible being given a hefty prison sentence earlier this year. What has changed is that riots in Syntagma and mass strikes around Greece don’t get headline billing on BBC World anymore, not now that they’ve got the Irish and the Portuguese to bother.
For me it’s been a great year here despite strikes, protests, delays and general shenanigans of living in a country that doesn’t function at even 50% 100% of the time. Interestingly when I had my few Greek lessons the first verb that I learnt wasn’t ‘to be’ but ‘to wait’. The next thing I learnt was ‘siga-siga’ which is ‘slowly, slowly’ and we certainly put that into practise whilst waiting for my telephone and internet connection; living the language. Now I’ve got used to the fact that just because I took the metro somewhere in the morning doesn’t mean that it’s going to be running when I want to come home.
Originally I’d thought that I’d write about the highlights of this year but there are too many and we’d all get bored and you’d be asking me if I actually knew what a highlight was. Being able to go to islands so easily wasn’t just a highlight but a lifesaver during those hot days of July and August, but the highlight for me was being able to go to islands during November when hardly anyone else does. The downside to this is that there aren’t a lot of hotels and restaurants open but the ones that are will be inexpensive and you’ll discover just how generous the Greeks can be. On a visit to Aegina in November we were given so much free wine that my liver is still talking about it now. After a weekend on Poros I came back with three litres of olive oil that five days previously had been on a tree. Zefi and Takis who owned the hotel gave us eggs from their farm and two bags of oranges from their trees after charging us 30 euros a night for a room overlooking the bay.
I’ve learnt just enough Greek to deal with the important things: I can say please and thank you , order food and wine in restaurants and I can ask if someone speaks English. I also understand when I’m being told to wait, which happens a lot.
This year I discovered Saganaki Tyri which is fried cheese. When I was told about this I was expecting haloumi but it’s not that staple of what carnivores offer to vegetarians at barbecues, it’s much more hard-core than that. Like Nigella, the Greeks believe that there is nothing that can’t be improved by being deep fried so when they made a cheese with a very high fat content they decided to stick it in a frying pan and see what happened. Done well it’s a bit like fried fondue. I say ‘done well’ but it can’t really be done badly. It’s cheese and it’s fried and if you cut my veins cheese would pour from them. This combined with the dozens of varieties of yoghurt means that I’m destined for a heart attack in about three weeks but I couldn’t care less.