Tag Archives: Greek Mythology

Poseidon Blesses the Oceans Around Sounio

It’s hard to determine what is more useful to Athenians – olive trees or the sea. Both are everywhere in Greece. However, thousands of years ago, Athenians made their choice clear. In a battle over who would become patron of Athens, Athena offered the people an olive tree and Poseidon offered them ocean water. Athenians valued the olive tree’s wood, oil and food, but didn’t see much use for salt water. They chose Athena as their patron.

Although Poseidon was second to Athena, his importance as Greek god of the sea cannot be underestimated. He was credited for creating new islands and determining the temper of the ocean. The whims of his trident could either bring a ship back to harbor safely or cause fatality. To this day, the Greeks revere their oceans, as a source of food, a means of transport and their solution for leisure.

Today we decided to pay homage to Poseidon by visiting his temple at Sounio, on the tip of the Attica peninsula. We rented a car and made a day of enjoying the sea. Our first stop was an isolated strip of beach around the small coastal town of Saronida. The western Attica coast is full of sandy beaches and little coves and it only takes a bit of exploring to find a spot that is free of other beach bums.

A small marina was around the cove and the kids enjoyed playing the role of captain, as if guiding their little row-boat home.

The coast is dotted with little chapels. This particular one was locked, but the owner-less scooter outside provided plenty of fun for the kids as Sandeep and I sat back and watched the waters.

The Temple of Poseidon at Sounio juts out into the ocean, as if about to collapse into the very domain that Poseidon ruled. Its marble columns dates back to about 400 B.C. What’s left today is the platform and a line of massive white columns on two sides. I suspect that an olive tree in front of the temple. If so, I’d be highly annoyed if I were Poseidon. He had to play second fiddle to Athena due to the olive tree incident and today an olive tree stands at the foot of his shrine.

Our day ended watching sunset over Sounio, perhaps just as Poseidon did after ensuring the seas were just as he wished them to be. This evening the waters were clear and calm, but the skies were murky. Poseidon really should have been in better coordination with Zeus, god of the skies, to provide us the setting for a better picture.

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Good Meat and Cheap Wine in a Vari Grill House

We finally trekked out of Vouliagmeni (or what we now refer to as Poshland, Greece) to neighboring Vari. Pictures of Vari’s psistarias, or grill houses, so tempted carnivorous Sandeep that we made it a priority to head there early into our stay. Before our journey, I was vegetarian and I avoided wine unless I knew it was good. Our evening in Vari shows how much things have changed since we hit the road.

Vari is affectionately referred to as “cholesterol valley” due to its devotion to meat. The main road is lined with psistarias each spinning whole lambs in the windows. The smell of meat permeates the air in a way that has you wondering whether the smell will wash off. We settled on a casual looking spot that had a few TVs blaring the Euroleague Final Four. At the sight of the empty dining hall, I lamented about the state of the debt crisis. Sandeep reminded me that it was only 7 P.M.  and the Greeks dine late. I took the quiet as an opportunity to befriend the chef and take pictures of the kitchen. The kids took it as a signal to run around an pull the salt shakers off all the tables.

The wine list was longer than the food menu which was all about salad, tzaziki and lamb. At 3 euros for a half liter of house wine, we didn’t debate the wine menu. Crises or not, Greece is expensive and we are taking bargains wherever we find them.

Our waiter gave us a hearty welcome with a complimentary sampler of organ meat wrapped in intestines. “This is what all the Greeks come here for. You must try it!”

Sandeep balked. I picked. Ava chose to demurely ignore the dish. Kayan wholeheartedly ate the entire plate – kidneys, liver and intestinal packaging. It just goes to show that parents should encourage kids to try everything. You never know what will be a hit.

Our main dishes were lamb chops and roast lamb. What arrived at our table as piles of meat left as a cleanly picked graveyard. Certain lamb in Greece graze on thyme fields, thereby marinating as they grow. Morbid in some ways, but delicious in others. Perhaps that is why our lamb tasted so good, even though the waiter assured us that it was cooked in nothing but salt and pepper. In any event, I am blaming the thyme on by all out binging.

There are only a handful of traditional psistarias left in Athens. The grills need space and smoke outlets, so they are not common in populated areas. Athenians therefore head to Vari on weekends for their cholesterol fix. It was 9 P.M. by the time we left, and I was happy to see that, while our heads were in our lamb, the restaurant picked up steam. The tables were full and the wine flowing.

Our excursion to Vari came to 58 euros ($75), including our round trip cab ride. The quality of the meat was on par with some of the best steak houses in New York and the house wine was a perfect complement to the earthy lamb. Personal growth comes in various ways. Tonight, I celebrated making a great meal of meat and cheap wine. We also celebrated Kayan’s new found love for organ meat. Hermes, the Greek god of many trades, including an odd combination of animal husbandry and feasting, would have been proud.

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Relaxing on Greek Beaches

Sometimes we just relax.

As you can see, Taniya and my sunglasses did make their way to Greece.

On our day of relaxation we thanked Pasithea, the Greek goddess of rest. Pasithea was very aptly married to Hypnos, the god of sleep. I wonder how they got anything done. Pasithea must have a spell over us today, as our inclination to relax on the turquoise waters outside our door was so strong we didn’t manage to do anything else.


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What Greek Debt Crisis?

The Greek god of wealth is Plutus. Zeus blinded Plutus so that he would disperse wealth without prejudice or favoritism. Despite these extreme measures, wealth distribution in Greece, accentuated by the economic crisis, is an issue that is shaking the country and reverberating around the world. We have seen one stark side of it in our new home of Vouliagmeni.

Vouliagmeni is a suburb of Athens and is the southernmost point of what is known as the Athenian Riviera. The small seaside town has one of the highest real estate prices in Greece and is where affluent Athenians have their second homes. What we didn’t realize is how affluent Athenians are and how a town that caters to the uppermost crust of society can be so isolated from a crisis that is impacting the rest of the nation.

The restaurants in Vouliagmeni were buzzing on the weekend, with groups of polo-shirt clad men and designer sunglass-clad women sipping drinks on white cushions overlooking the Mediterranean. The shabbiest car we have seen here is an Audi. It’s hard to take a picture of a luxury can without it being eclipsed by another one. Here is a red Ferrari turning a corner where a white Lamborghini was parked. I tried to get a clear shot but a group of policemen started yelling something about pictures not being allowed. It was all Greek to me, but I didn’t want to argue.

In the beach parking lot, it’s all Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes.

The only grocery store in town has prices that put Whole Foods to shame. The cheapest sit down meal is the souvlaki corner where lunch for the family came to 30 euros ($40).

The streets are lined with orange, olive and fig trees. All of them are ripe with fruit that we haven’t seen anyone daring to pick. Every time we leave the house, Ava and Kayan beg us to pick fruit. We keep telling them that it’s just for decoration. I suppose when one has so much money, why bother plucking fruit when you can buy it instead?

Vouliagmeni is an the ideal location for us. It has great beaches and a quiet vibe, but is easy access to Athens and a few other beach towns. However, we feel isolated from (what we had imagined to be) Greek culture and what is happening in the rest of the country. Then again, the town of Vouliagmeni has been very welcoming to us and giving us the opportunity to experience their side of the crisis.


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Supermoon Over Vouliagmeni Greece

Our arrival in Greece coincided with the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. I envisioned getting shot of a fat moon resting on the ocean, perhaps even with a sailboat’s silhouette piercing the white globe. Unfortunately, by the time we noticed the moon it was well into the night sky. It had also cheated us by making its appearance above the mountains, not the ocean where we were expectantly waiting. Here is our shot of the ‘supermoon’ over Vouliagmeni, Greece. It wasn’t the size that struck us as much as the brightness, even before the sun had finally set.

One of my goals in Greece is to learn enough about Greek mythology to tell the kids bedtime stories. Today seemed like an apt occasion to study Selene, the Greek moon goddess.

I’m till in the early learning process, but here are two things I learned quickly. The first is that Greek mythology reads like a soap opera. The only thing more complicated may be Hindu mythology, where the gods make the most of reincarnation and appear in many forms and lives. My second learning is that the Greek gods were a highly incestuous bunch. I’ll be leaving this part out of the bedtime stories.

Selene was the Titan goddess of the moon. The Titans, considered the elder gods, ruled the earth before being overthrown by the Olympians. Selene came from quite a bloodline. Her father, Hyperion, was god of light and her mother, Gaea, was goddess of sight. Selene was well coordinated with her siblings – Helios, the the god of the sun, and Eos, the goddess of dawn.

This video was taken this evening from our terrace as we enjoy Helios bringing down the sun to make way for his sister. It comes with running commentary from Ava and Kayan.


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