Last week, I transferred over to Athens for my Session 3 course – Tasting Culture: Nordic and Mediterranean Food, Tradition, and Nutrition. For my class, DIS partnered with College Year in Athens (CYA) so that my last two weeks of Session 3 would be spent in Greece comparing Greek and Danish culinary culture. I was upset about leaving Copenhagen, because it became my home away from home in the five weeks I’ve been there. I’ll miss riding my bike to class, deal-hunting at Netto and Fakta, and catching the sunset by the canals.
Athens is quite a switch from Copenhagen. The days are hotter and the sun is more intense – I definitely can’t skimp on the sunscreen like I did in Denmark. I also noticed how unfriendly the city is to biking, with the streets and roads being very narrow and unpaved. The biggest cultural difference I found between Greeks and Danes are their daily schedules. Most Danes are out and about during the day, when the sun is visible, but Greeks are usually away when the sun comes out, to avoid the scorching heat. In Denmark, there is the concept of “hygge” which emphasizes coziness whereas in Greece, there’s “αργά αργά” which translate literally to slowly slowly. Comparing the two cultures has been eye-opening, and helped me broaden my perspective. I’m thankful that DIS values expanding my experience beyond Scandinavia.
Because my course is focusing on tasting culture, I’ve gotten to try many classical Greek foods. On our first night, we ate at Mavro Provato (Black Cat Tavern) which is a tavern style restaurant. In Greece, tavern style refers to eating in a big group with large, communal dishes. Often, much of the food is to be eaten by hand, like the fried zucchini or bread slices, and the entire process is supposed to be messy, with food spilling onto the table as it commutes from the center plate to your own. The restaurant even put on a temporary tablecloth that they can quickly bundle and throw out to save time when cleaning tables. The foods we got to try were: Horiatiki Salad (classical Greek Salad with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, olive oil, olives, and feta cheese), Tzatziki (a creamy, yogurt based sauce to be eaten with other dishes), Fried Zucchini (deep-fried zucchini battered in bread), Eggplant Imam Baldi (fried eggplants stuffed with rice), Gemista (fried peppers stuffed with rice and cheese), Biftekia (a Greek mini-meat patty typically served with fries), and Paidakia (marinated lamb ribs). The dishes we tried were selected to best represent the Greek cuisine because the restaurant specializes in using local ingredients.
After our fantastic, two and half hour group dinner (the Greeks, by the way, love having long meals), we moved into our new homes in Athens. I’m staying in a shared apartment with the other guys in my course. We live in the Pangrati district, near the marble Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Olympics were held, and the National Gardens. Our place is centrally located, with many historical neighborhoods and monuments, like Plaka and the Acropolis, only a walking distance away. I can’t wait to explore Athens and compare my experience to Copenhagen.
In short, the transition to Greece and CYA has been amazing. I got to try some tremendous foods and I get to live in the heart of Athens. All I can say is that my next blog post will be pretty spectacular so stay tuned!