Athens, Greece: Day Eleven

December 28, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

We took a food tour through Context Tours called “Beyond Feta.” Our guide was Nikitas, a Greek who is an architect by profession, but does these tours because he loves the city, food and history. Normally, the tours are done for up to 6 people, but we had Nik all to ourselves and it was a splendid day.

bakery selling sweets and breads

We followed him through several bakeries, getting sesame seed covered pretzels and dense brown breads. We stopped in at a shop that carries a variety of local wares – marmelades, wines, soaps, liquors, cheese, etc. We tasted a liquor made from Mastik, which is the sap from a bush that grows only on one Greek island. No one has succeeded in growing it anywhere else. It tasted like you would imagine alcohol from bush sap would taste, a little “pine-like.”

spice and herbs shop, large bags of wares on the floor

We also went to this spice and herbs shop. We learned that brewed oregano is good for digestive tract trouble (but tastes very nasty). Genuine tea is not very popular in Greece, but there are many herbal teas that are used and enjoyed.

a cheese shop with glass display case full of cheeses

On to the cheese shop where we got some smoked cheese and yogurt. We also walked through the meat market (again). The stalls are prized and passed down in families for generations.

display case full of pastrima

Sausage and preserved meats are a relatively new addition to Greek cuisine. Many other things are “relatively” new also – tomatoes & potatoes (as New World discoveries), citrus fruits (new with the Crusades), preserved meats (new with the Turkish occupation). With an ancient civilization comes a long view definition of the word “new.”

our guide and myself

My camera’s battery was out of action, so DaddyBird was in charge of taking pictures. We stopped at a basement “wine and food” restaurant which is owned and run by a lovely old man who inherited it from his father and grandfather. He makes his own wine. It is retsina wine which means that it has resin added solely because of the taste it provides.

four bowls of food, salad, chickpeas, large bean soup, fava bean paste

This was supposed to be a “tasting” not a lunch, but we ate our fill. Greek salad, chickpea soup, bean soup, and fava bean paste. Very delicious. DaddyBird liked the fava beans so well, I suspect he will research how to make it in future.

man making donuts

We ended our tour with sweets. These aren’t called donuts, but they are the best I have ever had. They are not as sweet as American donuts even though they are served drizzled with honey. They are best eaten immediately and are crunchy on the outside. Very good. The other pastry is filo pastry with a creamy filling. Very good.

six donuts on a plate, one rectangular pastry on a plate

Our tour may have been over, but our day was not. We decided to walk down to the Temple of Zeus.

ancient church nestled among newer buildings

This church was built by the “smoke tax collector.” There was a period when if you had a cooking fire in your home, you were taxed for it. (One way to determine “wealth.”) The tax collector may have had something weighing on his conscience, so he funded this church. Later, it was slated to be destroyed, but those who wanted to protect it got the attention of the king and it was saved.

ruins of the temple

We did finally arrive at the Temple of Zeus, but like all tourist sites, it closed at 3 pm. So, we had to be content with looking in through the fence.

ruins of the temple

Nearby is Hadrian’s Arch.

large stone arch with a Roman colonnade on top

It was a very busy, educational, and enjoyable day.

Hadrian's arch

Tomorrow, we are on the road to Delphi!



  1. How incredible! The food looks divine, and you look to be enjoying yourselves. ;- ) I must certainly follow you through your travels now.

  2. A super round-up of a busy day!

  3. A smoke tax on your house fires. Shaking head and smiling! love the fun day you had today–and WOW, getting a tour all to your lonesomes! Yup, you guys are amazing!

    • Hey, property tax used to be based on how many things you owned – animals, furniture, clothing, pots & pans… not just land or buildings.

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