Tag Archives: Food

Athens Again

All this time, and we still hadn’t yet seen the most famous places in Athens. So that’s what we did on our last few days.

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Normally “indoor” plants – which couldn’t withstand a frost – were permanently left outdoors everywhere in Athens. As a plant lover, I couldn’t help but notice.

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It’s nearly 1900 years old.

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Okay then.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the sights I didn’t get to see when I was last here in 2002. I was so glad I had the opportunity to do so this time.

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We made kitty friends here, too.

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Roman baths.

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The Temple was finally completed in the 2nd Century, 638 years after construction began.

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Another gorgeous ruin.

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A plaque about the plant which only grows on the south side of the Acropolis.

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The Theater of Dionysus, south of the Acropolis.

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According to wikipedia, “the site has been used as a theater since the 6th century BC.”

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Another view.

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One of the surviving shade umbrellas used by Pericles.

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Beautiful.

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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is still in use.

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Growth on the south slope of the Acropolis rock.

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The Temple of Athena Nike, part of the entryway to the top of the Acropolis.

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Restoration work in the Propylaea.

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Looking down on the Theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis. You can also see the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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The Parthenon, currently undergoing renovation.

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Another view.

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Another friendly kitty.

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Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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The Erechtheion, originally built around 2400 years ago.

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An olive tree, planted in modern times, but redolent with symbolism – in ancient times, a holy olive tree was said to have sprouted here after a strike by Athena’s spear.

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Areopagos Hill. In AD 51, St. Paul delivered his first sermon here, and the convert he gained became the patron saint of Athens. Just like I did 15 years ago, I climbed to the top of the slippery rock after seeing the Acropolis. And like 15 years ago, the hill was covered with young people, playing music, smoking, talking, and hanging out. 

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It was cold that day. Our fingers froze. So after the Acropolis we retreated to the indoors for a warm lunch.

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Hadrian’s Library, built in 132 AD.

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The columns still stand.

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A pretty view of the octagonal Tower of the Winds.

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The Acropolis above.

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The Tower is located within the Roman Agora.

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Here you can see where the shop-seller stalls once were, and Lykavittos beyond.

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Through the columns, you can see the entry gate to the Agora. It was built with donations from Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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The interior of the Tower of the Winds.

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“The structure features a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane.”

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A pretty view.

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The Tower of the Winds is “considered the world’s first meteorological station.”

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A newsstand in Athens. You can buy soda, gum, and newspapers from what – a dozen countries?

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The meat market in Athens.

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An impromptu produce market on a street corner.

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Markets everywhere.

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Santorini

I’ve wanted to visit Santorini since Levar Burton went there on the PBS show Reading Rainbow. It’s not only renowned for its beauty; its history is spectacular. From wikipedia:

Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 mi), is surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high, steep cliffs on three sides. The main island slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest. The depth of the caldera, at 400m, makes it impossible for any but the largest ships to anchor anywhere in the protected bay; there is also a fisherman’s harbour at Vlychada, on the southwestern coast. The island’s principal port is Athinios. The capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon.

The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami.

This is what it looks like now – you can see the caldera, out of which a new island is rising because of volcanic activity.

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The lines through the water are ferry routes.

The first thing we visited was ArtSpace winery. We’d heard amazing things about their wine, but the place was nearly empty when we arrived. It wasn’t just the off-season: the owner just got back from a long vacation the day before. But he was kind enough to open up the place on our behalf, and give us a personalized tour.

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Deep caves carved into the earth.

The wine is entirely organic, and made using natural methods. The owner took great pride in describing many of his innovations and distinctions, like the use of gravitation, temperature control, and aging.

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The space lends itself to climate-controlled aging.

Naturally, we did a tasting, and the wine was spectacular. Santorini is known for its wine – the volcanic rock, dry climate, and native grape varieties all lend themselves to unique and intensely flavorful wines. Yet his were unquestionably the best we had there. We bought several bottles.

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Notice the barrel-vaulted architecture, which is common throughout Santorini.

Instead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk to our next destination, SantoWines. It was up the hill to the lip of the Caldera- a beautiful walk, even if it was raining and kind of icky outdoors.

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Trudging through the rain.

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Prickly pears are surprisingly common as an ornamental planting.

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Vines are everywhere – some planted; others naturally rooted.

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Often they’re formed in order to protect the plant from the fierce winds.

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Despite the winter rain, it’s a dry clime.

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A playpen with a view.

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We ordered a single wine-tasting at SantoWines. Little did we know that the “tastings” would be this full. More than enough to make two people drunk, as it did.

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Nevertheless, it was good wine with a great view.

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After all that drinking, K took a taxi back, but I wanted to walk along the lip of the Caldera. Look at those views!

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The huge ferry looks minuscule from this height.

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Off-season is the season for construction in Santorini – it’s less likely to interfere with the tourist trade. And there was construction everywhere.

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Instructions not followed.

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What is ‘mega’ fashion?

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I walked from one end of the island to the other, and came across several roadside memorials like this one.

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Just in case you’re curious about the price of gas. 3.79 liters to the gallon times 1.86 euros per liter times 1.23 dollars per euro = $8.67/gallon.

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A windswept field littered with attractive plastic bags.

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It wasn’t all drinking. We also ate. I love plants, so I loved this place – a restaurant that’s also a cross between a trellis and a greenhouse.

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If you look carefully, you can see the drying grapes still hanging from the vines.

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I thought this conifer was attractive.

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At a different place – Kokkalo – we received complimentary ouzo and a Santorinian specialty – cherry tomatoes. Given the dry climate, they’re especially flavorful and delicious.

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They even brew beer on Santorini, which is a bit surprising given how water-intensive the process is. The beer was okay. 

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Tomato fritters.

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As usual, K’s dish – seafood risotto – was better than mine.

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The beer menu.

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It’s quite common to see doors that, like these, appear to lead nowhere but a steep drop downward. They often lead to stairs to cliffside restaurants or residences.

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So many of the passageways are just beautiful.

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Even this, I would argue. This is from the next day, when I walked from Fira, in the center of the island, out to Oia, at the uppermost extremity of the crescent.

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As I mentioned, walking through a place is one of the best ways to see what it’s really like.

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The school playground has a view. Because of course it does. What doesn’t?

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A backyard trellis.

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Not much to look at now, but the prospect of living here is tempting.

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The view towards Oia. It so happens that there’s a pedestrian path along the lip of the caldera which I followed all the way there.

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Down, down, down.

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Way down. Don’t trip!

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Some attractive work with stainless steel.

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Looking back towards Fira. You an see how precariously the houses cling to the cliff-face.

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Another pretty passageway.

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People actually live here.

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Sloping away from the caldera, on the other side of the island.

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It’s still a long way down.

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The path along the cliff-face.

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The shadows of clouds on the water.

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Looking back towards Fira. Here, you can see the water on both sides of the island.

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Towards Oia.

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Santorini isn’t small, but it’s small enough to cover by foot, as I did. And it can be very disorienting – as it was for me – to be in a place with such circumscribed limits.

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A resting place along the path.

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Houses in the stone.

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Steps and barrel architecture.

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The long way down.

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Looking out.

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Built from stone.

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Donkey trains were common. And they weren’t for show, or for the tourists (though in season, I suppose they may also carry tourists). The trains I saw were for carrying heavy materials, like cement, over steps and uneven terrain.

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Cats for rent.

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A view of Oia, from within Oia.

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Naturally, this looks out at the sea.

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Water you can reach.

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Oia.

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At the extremity. Beyond this we could not go, because of the risk of landslides.

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Far below, where the boats tie up.

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Like most of Oia, a jumble of construction.

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One of the famed, blue-domed churches.

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I took a taxi back to Fira, and with the remaining daylight decided I’d walk down the 588 steps to the old port, within the caldera. As you can see from the remains, many donkeys had walked this route before me.

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A defense against gravity and erosion.

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An abandoned location on the way.

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More abandonment.

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The old port.

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I wanted to touch the water, so I edged down this embankment. And then slipped and slid into the water. Not entirely, but my pants and shoes were sodden.

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Some abandoned floss.

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It was a bit eerie to wander around without there really being anyone there.

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The fairytale doesn’t extend to the off-season.

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An island sunset.

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It’s not just a name. We were treated like family while we were there.

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On the last day I took a taxi to the other extent of the island, the lighthouse at Akrotiri. I wanted to walk back to Fira along the caldera, and see what that side of the island was like.

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But unlike the sunny weather for the walk to Oia, it was overcast and drizzly again. And the wind was fierce. As it must often be, if these weather-beaten plants are any indication.

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My best guess is that the winds were 40-45 miles per hour. Hard enough to push me off my feet on occasion; to lash raindrops against my face; to whistle over obstacles.

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The goats were used to it.

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The flag was already shredded along the edge. It snapped back and forth with the wind, always taut.

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An interesting architectural choice.

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Underground.

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Fowl.

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I took a detour to walk down to a black beach.

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As with so many things, it was largely abandoned for the off-season. There happened to be another fellow there, with his dog, shoveling grit out of one of the buildings while I was there.

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An example of fierce erosion.

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I wasn’t fond of the wind, but the walk itself was gorgeous.

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Marble stairs and a trellis.

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One of the other memorials.

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The sun broke through the clouds, at times, to shine like spotlights on the sea.

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A last look.

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Initial Vignettes

Stomping

Our stomping grounds.

I don’t think there’s any better way to get to know a place than to walk all through it. That’s what I tend to do when I travel, because while many tourist attractions interest me, I also like to explore the places where people actually live their lives.

So yes: central Athens has plenty of attractions. But it’s also the center of a city of ~660,000 people. And aside from the streets near the Acropolis, most of the streets – and the shops in them – are obviously for locals. Like this one, which had a concentration of hardware stores:

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…and pretty trees which I admired.

It also helped that we were there in the off-season. Yes, there were tourists, but their numbers were limited. Aside from the Acropolis, we didn’t see many. And I loved it. I didn’t travel to Athens to see tourists; I wanted to see the city itself, which is easier when it’s not being overrun. And I had less competition for the touristy things I did want to do.

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They’re ornamental!

Orange trees fill the city, by the way.

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And beautiful.

I kind of think it’s silly when people photograph the food they’re about to eat. And yet I do so myself, on occasion. The breakfast, looking out at the Acropolis, was delicious.

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That’s Monastiraki plaza in the foreground.

And there’s the view.

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Oh, is it the church that interests you? Read this.

This is such a pretty church in the middle of a pedestrian street. That’s another thing I loved about Athens, and Europe in general: the prevalence/existence of pedestrian-only streets like this one.

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On the wall outside.

This was a stop worth making. Katherine and I shared a tasting of red wines, one of several options we could have chosen from. And the wines – every one of them – were all good. This was a nearly universal characteristic of the wine we had in Greece. It was exceptional.

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Some of the colorful bottles to which the sign refers.

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Some of the wine to which I referred.

On my second evening there, I happened to run into a march of striking workers. They were striking over curbs on their right to strike, and the protest was simply too large to photograph. This is a portion, but there were thousands of people, and the streets were eerily silent, aside from the march and the sound of bullhorns.

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A protest.

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Czech Meal

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

When you’re in the Czech Republic, you obviously have to have a Czech Republican meal. So this was had in the backyard garden of a bar in the Jewish Quarter: pork, sauerkraut, and potato dumplings:

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A Czech Republican meal.

I wasn’t the only one in the garden enjoying myself:

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Somebody overate.

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Yum

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Kozel especially. Yum!

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Good beer is worth it.

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Berries

Friday, 26 August 2011

To buy, or not to buy: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous prices,

Or to look aghast at the sea of unfair charges,

And by avoiding resist them?

I couldn’t resist.

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Irresistible

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Dutch Countryside

Thursday, 25 August 2011

On my last day in Amsterdam, I rented a bicycle to explore the countryside outside of Amsterdam.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

As you can see, the bike paths ran along the top of the dykes – a ready-made network for an amazing series of bike paths.

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The Dutch countryside.

Rough-horsing:

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The Dutch countryside.

For about sixty seconds, as I cycled along this stretch, a swooping songbird flew alongside, diving for insects along the side of the dyke. It was an absolutely magical experience and made me marvel at what it must be like to fly with the birds. Probably an absolutely magical experience, I decided.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

Dykes on the left, water on the right:

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

I found a nook here, on top of the dyke, and sat and wrote postcards for a while:

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

How’s this for a backyard?

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A sweet backyard.

I turned around at the small town of Spaarndam, which dates back to the 13th century, but was made famous by the fictional story of the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dyke: Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, published in 1865.

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Spaarndam

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Spaarndam

Have you ever seen a memorial to a symbolic fictional character? I have!

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Spaarndam

I ate my dinner in Spaarndam, too. So this is what Spaarndamese food looks like:

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Spaarndamese food

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Spaarndam

Windmills!

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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The Dutch countryside.

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Ethnic Restaurants

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Here’s a Kurdish restaurant:

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Kurdish cuisine

And a Uruguayan steakhouse:

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Uruguayan cuisine

Argentinian steakhouses were everywhere in Amsterdam, and I mean everywhere. Feeling the call of Nature I went to use the loo of one Argentinian steakhouse and found another, housed in the loo. Maybe this one sought to distinguish itself by calling itself “Uruguayan.”

However I settled on a Surinamese restaurant for dinner. Surinam is located in South America and a former Dutch colony. This was my dinner:

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Surinamese cuisine

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Currywurst

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Pretty much says it all:

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Currywurst

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Sausage

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A sausage and beer, consumed while standing from a streetside kiosk:

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So German

Plenty of mustard!

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