Although my time in Greece is quite short, I’m fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience so much of the culture through my course. A core concept to the class is “phenomenology,” which is the idea of using your body as a vessel to learn new knowledge. That to truly understand a culture, you have to do more than study it in an academic setting, you have to interact with it. Every class so far involved a field study in Athens or a day trip to a neighboring area. Each time, I’ve gotten to try the traditional food, as well as interact with the locals and explore their space. In this way, I’m engaging all of my senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch – to explore Greek culture and cuisine. In this blog post, I’ll highlight three of my favorite experiences so far.
GOSSIPING OVER GREEK COFFEE. In Greece, there’s a special type of coffee called Greek Coffee. It’s made with very finely ground coffee beans, utilizing a briki to pour into the cup. The coffee leaves lots of residues, which in Greek culture, can be used for fortune telling. After you finish your coffee, you flip the cup over for five minutes to let the residue travel through the sides of the cup to the opening. Then, you swap cups with someone else and look for shapes and patterns in the coffee grounds. It’s important that you have someone else “read” your coffee cups. Based on what you see (shapes, letters, etc.) in the coffee ground, you ask questions to find out more about their personal life. Before the internet age, Greeks would do this to find the hot gossip of the town – it’s a way to ask privy questions with justification. It was fun gossiping with my classmate and finding out their secrets.
BREAD, WINE, AND CHEESE. We had a day trip to the Bread Museum and Oinotria Gaia Winery. We got to engage with the bread making process, learn the religious and historical significance of bread, and eat a meal made with the local produce. In Greek Orthodox, bread was often used to tell stories and celebrate big life moments (like weddings, births, deaths, and holidays). We even got to make our own bread decorations! At the winery, we learned about the wine making process, from how the grapes were grown to the various methods of distillation. At the end of the tour, we got to try their special aged balsamic vinegar and three of their wines. The guide walks us through how to properly taste the wines and tell us about which cheeses/dishes pair well.
SEAFOOD AT THE BEACH. My favorite experience so far was a beach day at Marathon. One of the main objectives of the course is to provide cultural immersion into Greek culture, and what better way than having traditional seafood by the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea. We ate at Faros Taverna and had Horiatiki Salad (Greek salad with tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, onion, feta cheese, and olives), Taramasalata (Greek meze made from tarama, the salted and cured fish roe, mixed with olive oil), Marathopita (a spinach pie), Gavros (lightly fried and battered sardines), Grilled Octopus, and Calamari. Of course, we also took advantage of the beach adjacent to the restaurant. The water was simply beautiful and it was so relaxing lounging by the sun!
Of course, this is only a snapshot of what my course featured! There is so much more – I’m most excited for the course’s second study tour to the island Naxøs. It shocking that in about one weeks time, Session 3 will be over! Until then, I’ll make sure to make the most of my time here.