Greece is a very unique, Mediterranean country located in the Aegean Sea between Italy and Turkey. Probably one of the most unique aspects of Greece is that it consists of not only a mainland but also 6,000 islands and islets, about 227 of which are inhabited and offer something different from each place. Greece might possibly be best known for its ancient history and influence on today’s society. You see, ancient Greeks brought us democracy, western philosophy and literature, the olympic games, theatrical comedy and tragedy, and major principles of science and mathematics. These are things learned now only from history books, but to really experience Greece and its culture, one must visit Greece.
Greece is covered with a majority of mountains and hills, and most of this land is exceptionally dry, making it perfect for its thousands of olive fields. In the north, pine forests give way to coastal plains with many orchards and cattle pastures. Whether traveling on the mainland or island hopping, the translucent sea is surely what catches and keeps your eye. That is what Greece is to me, sun – sea – and of course a rich array of cuisine. Its culinary history can be dated back to one of the earliest, but throughout time Greece has been majorly influenced by Italy and Turkey; its neighbors who at one time or another occupied this beautiful land and leaving behind some things to remember them by.
A Mediterranean diet is typically rich in fruit and vegetables, with a little meat and fish, olives and olive oil, and locally made breads and cheeses, Greece is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. The olive is truly one of the backbones of this healthy diet, adding richness to otherwise very simple dishes. Lemons might be the second most often used ingredient at a Greek’s table, with the acidity adding pure freshness to each and every bite.
A popular superstition in Greece is that a guest could be a god in disguise. This is lived out by a very generous hospitality each and every visit. Entertaining at home is more than just enjoyed, it is celebrated with a lavish spread of homemade spoon sweets, liqueurs, coffees, cakes, and pies just for starters. At a Greek table, you will find a variety of mezes (appetizers), sides of vegetables and salads, homemade phyllo pies, and a divinely barbecued meat or fish variety. All of this will be washed down with ouzo, wine, or beer, and followed by some homemade syrup sweets or fresh fruits if available. It is impossible to leave the table hungry when visiting someone, rather you feel full enough to fast for the next week!
Tradition is not only in recipes handed down from mother to daughter, but can be found almost everywhere you look in Greece. The country is officially Greek Orthodox in religion and the church holds the same liturgies as from when the apostles began teaching. In many ways Greece is very behind the western world in my opinion, outside of major cities it is rare to see someone with a credit card or even places where it is accepted. Everyone carries cash and most places expect you to pay cash, excluding Athens and maybe Santorini – the number two tourist spots. Other common practices here different from the west include air drying clothes, hand washing dishes, buying local eggs and cheese, walking or riding your bike to work, women dressing in black if their widowed, and not following any of the rules of the road!
I live in Lesvos, an island in the north-east Aegean. We are actually closer to Turkey than we are to Greece. Lesvos is the 3rd largest of Greece’s islands and is well known for the best ouzo and sardines maybe in all the world some could say. The main city is called Mytilene and is located on the eastern leg of the island, although it is not the most convenient location it holds the airport and all business headquarters. The roads are winding and the landscape is dramatically different in the east from the west. West Lesvos is much more rural and covered with a petrified forest. We live smack in the center of the island, a village called Kalloni. It isn’t anything to write home about but you really can’t beat the location, especially if you want to take a trip to the north village and most popular tourist destination of Molyvos. Life in Lesvos is quite and still very traditional, most tourist are British or Dutch and come for bird watching or a family holiday.
For more specific information on traveling within Greece, especially Lesvos, please visit Matt Barrett’s site: Lesovs or Greece He has made a very detailed and helpful site dedicated to traveling within Greece and Lesvos. My personal favorite place so far (if I had to pick just one) would be Crete. It might be because this is where I met my husband, but it is also a very unique and beautiful island. I hope to add more to this page as time goes by, but until then, I hope you get to visit Greece yourself. Until you get to take that trip yourself, I hope you will continue to read along and discover some new and traditional recipes and tidbits of culture along the way!
Thanks for reading,
Come back soon!