updated: Apr. 10, 2003
Athens and Delphi
Yasu from Santonrini!
Although we changed our itinerary and came directly to Athens and Greece (instead of Tel Aviv as originally scheduled) we landed quite smoothly (metaphorically speaking). We were walking in the touristy Plaka our first night, and after looking at Taverna after Taverna Baruch said, "What I'm really in the mood for, is a good vegetarian restaurant" and as he said that, we literally stumbled [honestly!] upon the Eden vegetarian restaurant in Athens! We were all flabbergasted! and then enjoyed the only vegetarian moussaka we encountered. We stayed in Athens over Shabbat and walked to the shul for Fri. night and Saturday. It was absolutely Greek to us! The tunes, the accents, the order of the prayers; everything seemed foreign and we were easily lost and flustered. And for people like us who pride ourselves on being comfortable in almost any Jewish service, it was quite a shock to our systems! The other unusual thing was that Sat. morning, they have the population of Jewish children who attend the service- so there are 50 kids (boys AND girls under the age of 13 of course) sitting in the men's section of the sanctuary until the end of the Torah reading when they leave for the rest of the morning for studies. But, the people were lovely, Kiddush was fantastic (ouzo, spanakopita and halvah!) so it was a great experience.
Crete and Santorini Elyse and Baruch had both been to Greece before, but we had forgotten just how beautiful and easy (we've had no trouble finding food to eat) (and not too expensive) this place is. We've enjoyed doing different things that we both never did the first time: We took a day trip to Delphi and learned about the Oracle there; we went to Crete and again - stumbled upon the reconstructed 'Etz Hayyim' synagogue in Hania. Very special 16th century little synagogue in the Romaniot style (uniquely Greek-Jewish) that was originally a 14th Century church which the Venetians gave to the Jews. What is now the touristy shopping area was the Jewish quarter, but except for this synagogue/mikvah, and the graves of rabbis, there is no remnant of a Jewish community that had been there since the time of Alexander the Great. The last (200) Jews were shipped out by the Nazis and their boat was sunk where they perished. We did however meet two of the 7 Jews (expats and mainland Greeks) who now live in Crete.
We then continued to Heraklion to see the 'Labyrinth' of Knossos. Our last stop has been a few days in Santorini. It is still a little early in the season, so it seems a little sleepier than it will be in a month- and we haven't been able to take advantage of the beaches for swimming but we did visit the ancient city of Akrotiri (buried by the volcano of Thira in 17th Century BCE and destroying the marine bronze age settlement). Greek is very easy to learn; we've all learned how to phonetically read signs. And since many words come from Greek (see My Big Fat Greek Wedding), we've all enjoyed greeting people in Greek. We have encountered lots of 'characters' who seem to come straight from the movie: ie. a table of ladies who break out into Greek folk songs in the middle of dinner in a restaurant, or the proprietor of 'Mama's Restaurant' who shouts to each passerby, hugs them, and cooks all simultaneously. We've had a great time, and arrive in Israel erev Shabbat and will join Elyse's old college friend who graciously invited us; we of course will be in Jerusalem for Pesach!