Greece: Land of Moussaka and Typos

I visited Greece in summer 2011, and to this day it’s one of my favorite trips.

I spent one month there studying (no, really!) Greek history and culture. Admittedly, I was extremely homesick – it was my first trip abroad completely alone without knowing anyone before – and spent a lot of my time reading in the biggest and most beautiful Starbucks I’ve ever seen in Athens. (That’s American consumer brainwashing for you.) Still, that didn’t keep me from traveling more within the country, immersing myself in the culture around me and trying to soak up as much as I could. This was especially true since I was there during a peak time of the economic crisis and the protests were constant and intense from the tent town in Syntagma, Athens’ main square. More on that later.

I attempted, often and badly, to read Greek. But what was even more fun was trying to read Greeklish. The Greeks may be known for their moussaka, excellent wine, attractive men and awesome accents, but they are not known for their flawless English.

I do plan to back this up with proof.

Exhibit A

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It took me all of a few hours to find this gem, on our first day tour of Athens. It’s a sign in the window of a travel agency, but I don’t know about you, I’d rather be helped to travel than having them travel me (grammar jokes)… it sounds painful… sorta like poofing via floo powder.

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And it reminds me of when Czechs tell you they will “learn you something” instead of “teach you something.” Like they will violently implant it in your brain 🙂

Exhibit B

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A typical example of navigating a Greeklish menu. What do you prefer, honey, the eggplant shoe or the gabbage leaves?

I will forever kick myself for not photographing my favorite restaurant typo, which offered “baked, tender lamp.”

Exhibit C

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This was found in the gorgeous mountainside town Arachova, one of my favorite places of my trip. While the owners are making a brave and commendable attempt to reach out to English-language customers, I probably wouldn’t visit this restaurant if I were you. They’ll put a mouse (but they’ll keep the ‘e’) in your saka. They’ll grill your desserts. And I don’t even want to picture the delicacy of cock with lazania. To be fair, it looks like someone did this on purpose… but if they only changed one letter, I still can’t imagine what it was supposed to say in the first place. Or maybe even better, they originally wrote something, doubted it, and changed it to cock.

If you decide to go despite my warnings, I’d stick with the beer. Speaking of which…

Exhibit D

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Snapped at Murphy’s Pub, Santorini. As a teacher, I have to give these bartenders points for their complicated sentence structure and attempt at humor. But we must always remember that spelling is important. Tips and sexual advances are good, not well, after all………………………..

***

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This was a hard-earned photo taken in an Athens museum, after being repeatedly yelled at by a security guard not to take “funny pictures” with the statues.

I have a good idea this guy tried to inform his waiter about the typos on his menu and was made to suffer the consequences.

So what was Greece like, other than its humorous fodder for English teachers? I’ll talk about four places in this post: Athens, Arachova, and the Greek islands of Hydra and Santorini.

Athens

It must be said that in 2011, I could feel the financial anxiety in the atmosphere, something that has probably been worsened by the refugee crisis. It was a crazy experience for me to come to a country under such stress when I had learned in school about its glory days as the birthplace of democracy and Socrates’ stress-test brand of philosophical questioning. But it was clear to me that Greeks are not the type to take things lying down, and it was exciting, though slightly frightening for a first-time traveler, to be in such a clearly tense atmosphere (a fellow student got pepper-sprayed at a night protest).

Top Left: People camping out to protest in Syntagma Square, in front of the Parliament building. Bottom Left: One sign of many posted around the metro station in Syntagma. Right: An interesting piece of “graffiti” I found around the city. Athens has a lot of beautiful art on its buildings.

To speak of the city itself, Athens is a nicely laid out city with some pretty walkways, interesting shops, and good restaurants. It’s not exactly pretty, and you shouldn’t spend the majority of your time there, but if you like bustling metropolises, it’s worth a stop (if only to drink Greek wine while gazing towards the lit Acropolis in the evening – quite a historically displacing experience).

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White wine in Bretto’s bar – a colorful and intimate find.

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If you know anything about Greece, you know ouzo is their national liquor, so I bet that barrel doesn’t last long. It’s anise-flavored. I hate licorice, so I wasn’t a fan 😦 I have to try again on my next visit.

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While out to dinner with friends one night, I tried oenomel. It tasted like honey, warm and sweet. I loved it. It wasn’t til my move to Czech Republic that I discovered it was called honey mead in English, something that’s not at all common in the States but is ubiquitous here. That explains why I took instantly to medovina at the hody.

Arachova

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We visited this town on our way to the Peloponnese. It was absolutely breathtaking to see the steaming mountains through the window of the bus, while I had been listening over and over to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dosed” feeling like a lonely and angsty teen XD That shocked me out of my sadness and I could do nothing but stare. I think this was the moment that cemented mountains as my favorite geographical landform (yeah, you can have one of those :P) and made it my dream to live among this kind of jagged greenery.

It may also be responsible for my obsession with orange-roofed houses. (Cough cough Czech Republic.)

Hydra

One of the highlights of my study abroad was a one-day boat ride to visit three islands. My favorite was Hydra, where we only spent an hour and a half. I have dreamed since of its clear-watered harbor full of boats, rolling hills, and Greek flags fluttering in the wind.

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Not this kind of Hydra. Via Pinterest.

I was struck by the beauty of the island and wanted a unique souvenir. I went into a clothes shop and found a lightweight red shirt with colorful sewn designs like a mandala. It was expensive, but the sly shopkeepers convinced me to buy it: “It’s genuine Greek-made! Think of how you’ll show it off back home!” So, I bit the bullet and bought it. I was full of joy for a short time and didn’t think much of it, but once I got back to my dorm in Athens, I checked the tag on the inside.

It said, “Made in India.”

Tell me gullible is written on the ceiling, and I’ll look up.

The shirt is too small for me now, but I still keep it for that embarrassing memory. 🙂

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Santorini

It’s true – the houses are as dreamlike as you’ve seen in the photos!

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Santorini was my attraction to Greece in the first place – if I was going to study abroad, I wanted to do it in the most beautiful place I could think of. I grew up imagining myself lying on a white house ledge in the sun like a cat. I did get to spend a weekend there drooling over the landscape, after an 8-hour ferry ride from Greece (btw: hold your wallets on the metro ride to the harbor or they’ll get stolen). I didn’t manage to turn into a cat, but I did sunbathe on a white, a black, and a red beach, and I watched the sunset (along with many other tourists) in Oia.

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I also hiked an inactive volcano. This hurt my confidence rather than boosting it, as a couple in their 70s easily outpaced me. Though I choose retroactively to blame that on the Fira nightlife and 2 hours of sleep.

In the headline picture of Chlohemian, I’m trying to snatch a cloud from the skyline over Haifa, Israel. That picture was taken one year before my Greece trip and was very successful, so I thought it would make another awesome photo to look like I was eating the ocean.

1000% fail – which I realized in picture 2. (RIP fake 10 euro Raybans.)

I don’t know what’s most embarrassing: the typos, the shirt, or this.

Have you visited Greece? What was your favorite part?

Which typo is your favorite?

Categories Faux pas, summer goings-on, TravelTags , , , , , , , ,

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