I’ve been in Europe for years and years now, but it can still be difficult to remember that London isn’t that far away from so many interesting places. Not to mention that it can be easy to be stuck in the now, rather than planning all the places we’d like to go.
Athens has been on my to-do list for ages. It’s a place rich with history and beautiful classical architecture, but it’s also a place which is figuring out its present identity – I was really interested in that contradiction and so wanted to make sure I went to Athens this year. (Unfortunately, as some people have speculated, it is not unbelievably cheap – it’s certainly cheaper than Dublin, the eurozone country I visit the most often, but it wasn’t shockingly inexpensive.) I wasn’t historically familiar with Greek food, so it was really interesting to get some expertise from a local – Andreas from Alternative Athens was our tour guide on a lovely food tour.
As you can see from previous posts, I love food tours – not just to get local recommendations, but because food tours provide opportunities to learn about cultures through their foods: with the Alternative Athens tours, we were able to learn about the history of Greek food (and how occupation and migration have contributed to the diversity of Athens food), as well as how globalisation and austerity have affected the Greek food scene. But Andreas was incredibly enthusiastic about Greek cooking and Greek products – and I have to admit, the food he presented below was addictively delicious.
Greek feta cheese, Greek olive oil, and oregano, with a side of Greek wine. We got to try some of the great products coming out of Greece at the moment, and even bought some olive oil to bring home with us. He also recommended a great local restaurant, Melilotos, which we went to for dinner that night. It was actually a good introduction for two people unfamiliar with Greek food: a very modern European menu, but made with traditional Greek ingredients and with references to classic Greek dishes – I loved the unusual look and taste of traditional Cretan pasta.
Athens is a city full of contradictions – beautiful buildings ringed by graffiti, delicious food which is unaffordable for a growing number of the population. But we absolutely loved the personalised experience of the tour and hearing Andreas’ thoughtful experiences as a young European returning home after university and attempting to build his life in Greece. I would absolutely recommend Alternative Athens to anyone planning a visit to the city.