Last week in Greece was incredible. It was a long over-due trip to visit the home of Dimitris, a good friend of mine. While flying back home I thought I’d write a few words, rather than staring in the airplane window.
This voyage got organized out of the blue. As usually, I was smoking hookah in the back yard and once again, Dimitris messaged he was going to Greece for a month and invited me to join. In the past, there was always something that made me say “no” or I was coming up with lame excuses. This time it was like “ah fuck it, why not” kind of decision. It turned out extremely well, I must say. Love doing these kinds of things.
What a trip, oh my.
In 1 week, after 1 car trip and 2 flights, I arrived at Alexandroupolis — a small town right near the sea, on the north-east of Greece. First thing I immediately noticed was the “comfortable” weather, perfectly calibrated to wear shorts, without sweating like you’re running on a treadmill.
The doors of the only gate at their tiny airport opened and there I saw a 80-level bearded hipster with his cousin, waving and smiling. I was really hoping he wouldn’t forget to set an alarm and pick me up, like that last time in Prague (another good story).
They decided we should start exploring the city right away, so we went to their favorite bakery to get a traditional breakfast. It usually consists of 1, 2 or, in my case, 3 Koulouri (basically bagels). While it looks like a regular bread outside, they put a variety of different fillings inside. From cheese and ham to honey and mustard. One of those things is enough to not feel hungry until noon. Compared to regular eating habits at home, it was weirdly pleasant to eat so much less and still even feel better.
The rest of the day we were exploring the town and riding through its city center on a shiny red Vespa. Beautiful and “compact” place with many many trees and flowers all over its streets. Quite different from my home city, I must say. Alexandroupolis isn’t in “Biggest cities of Greece” list, but it’s on a whole other level anyway.
Work & coffee
On work days, after grabbing a so called morning bagel, we were going to work at the coffee place. There was another surprise waiting. Apparently, nobody drinks hot coffee here! Well, at least my friend doesn’t for sure. Cold coffee is the way to go. The culture around coffee is really strong here — the Greeks drink it whenever possible. And oh, Dimitris told me, I was supposed to drink one cup for almost an hour. This just didn’t sound practical to me, at least initially. One thing let to another and by the end of the week, I had nothing but the cold coffee (freddo cappuccino) too.
Treats for your hungry self
Now, if you love great, delicious food, look no further, Greece is the place to go. In Alexandroupolis, lots of restaurants offer the most diverse selection of food I’ve seen. You can find everything — from street food to “native” Greek dishes. We were constantly visiting new places after noon and it felt like it’s a never ending stream. It was funny to hear things like “oh no, this is actually the best place” almost every day.
If I were to describe each place we’ve been too, that’d take a lot of time, so I’m just going to pick the one I remembered the most. You’re going to be surprised, but I was explicitly asked not to tell its name or location! Copy-pasting:
You should not reveal this place you fucker
A promise is a promise so let’s just call it “The Shrimp Place”. “The shrimp place” is a cafe near the beach outside of the city, run by two sisters. While the food there is obviously amazing, what impressed me the most is the history behind their business. I’m not even sure I can call it “business”, since the hosts try to establish a personal connection with each visitor, which is quite unusual. It feels like you’re truly a guest at someone’s home. Oh and they’re the only ones who work there! They cook and serve the food all by themselves. Remarkable.
“The Shrimp Place” serves only 5 dishes:
- Fried potatoes
- Greek salad
- Eggplant salad
- Orange pie
We took all of them and oh, we didn’t regret it.
All ingredients are always fresh and they get them all from local farmers and fishermen. If some ingredients become unavailable due to the season of the year (or for any other reason), they replace the menu item to match what’s available at that moment. How awesome is that?
So, because of the secrecy behind it, I can’t recommend “The Shrimp Place”. Stay away.
Now, back to the city.
The restaurant etiquette also deserves a word. First of all, whether you ask for it or not, you’re immediately provided with glasses and huge bottles of water. Not plastic ones, obviously! If you order a coffee, beer or cocktail, the waiter brings some little bonus as well. It could be a plate of cookies/nuts/sweets, depending on what you ordered. Normally, they also get you a dessert automatically, no questions asked. And they’re actually quite good!
Oh, and if you are anything like me and 2–3 cocktails is not enough, they’ll bring you a free round on the house!
I’ve not been to many places in Europe, aside from Amsterdam and cities in Poland, but this was a little unexpected to me.
I must also note the dinners at Dimitris’ house. Almost every day the whole family gathers in a back yard to eat together. They also try to cook meals from products they grow themselves. If I had three words to describe this experience, I’d go for “simple”, “delicious” and “light”. Even though the table was full every time, I didn’t feel like a crap bag afterwards.
Ok, so that’s quite a lot of text about the food. It’s probably not that hard to see what impressed me the most! Now, onto the next one.
Of all the three most popular alcohol products in Greece, I really enjoyed retsina. It’s basically a bit “modified” wine, which Greeks normally drink with Sprite. Yes, you read that right, wine + sprite = awesomeness. My life will never be the same again. When I asked if they were mixing whiskey/rum with cola, they looked at me like I was insane. Their argument is that there’s way better stuff to drink than… this. They’re not wrong. The wines and cocktails we destroyed were top-notch.
While my Greek friend was trying to convince me that people here aren’t that kind and cheerful, I just couldn’t agree with that.
There’s no rush, there’s no negativity without a reason. The emotions aren’t fake, you can always detect when they are. People are genuinely kind, welcoming and positive. Pretty much everyone is smiling, which was making me smile as well. Well, why wouldn’t I be smiling at that place anyway?
Aside from Greece being super nice, this would be #1 reason why I’d stay here more.
I could easily go on and on about Greece and Alexandroupolis specifically. There are probably many things that I’ve missed to mention. Not because they were “less great”, but because there are just too many great things to talk about.
I have to say “thank you” to the people that welcomed me there and were enormously nice and kind the whole time: Dimitris, his parents and grandparents, Zoe, Stavros and Dora. It was a tremendous pleasure to stay, meet and spend time with you and I hope to see all of you soon!
Dimitris, if you’re reading this (and damn I hope you’ve read to this part), special thanks to you man, for this incredible journey and experience!