Today, my story is not so much a tourist story, as it is a story of the wonderful, kind, generous people in the world. I decided to take a cab down to the famous Varvakios Agora, the central market here in Athens for fish, meat, and produce. It is a market where locals and restaurateurs buy their food. Few tourists find their way here. But of course, I love the fresh markets ar ound the world, whether Bangkok, Tokyo, Mexico City, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Laos, Tangiers, Vancouver, or other places.,So, after strolling through the colorful, and flavorful fish and produce market, I ambled through the meat section. About halfway through, I spotted a young man, Elvis, selling lamb, one of my favorite foods. I told him that I love lamb but wanted to have the BEST fish dinner in Athens. The story goes from incredible, to out of this world.
So, before we do anything else, I offered to buy him, and his partner a cup of coffee. We walked a half block down to “The Coffee Spirit” for a couple frappe’ expressos, which makes American expresso look like weak iced tea.
He asked if I was serious about a fish dinner, so I offered to let him show me where the best could be found. So, we walked over to the fish area next door, and bought two of the largest fish from a vendor friend of his. He said he would cook it for me, along with any side dishes. We decided that 1pm might be a good time for a late lunch.
He grabs his partner and tells him to take me on a walking tour of Athens. We eventually climbed our way up to the Acropolis, after checking out several sections of the city. I posted some of the Acropolis photos on my FB page. His name is Elvis, and he promised my fish dinner would be ready after my informal walking tour.
Hungry and tired, I met up with Elvis, and another friend, Jessie, who I met on the plane to Athens yesterday. He said our fish would be delayed, but his sister was going to cook it and bring it to the market. We decided to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with our fish. When we came back, he said we needed to take a cab to his apartment. I was not worried, but Jessie seemed a bit skeptical.
After a long cab ride, his partner led Jessie and I to their apartment. His sister was in the process of cooking our fish dinner, while we sat on the veranda with the wine. And the fragrances from the kitchen were amazing!
First, she brings out the most beautiful green salad I have ever seen. It is followed by a big platter of fries. Then come the two large fish, grilled whole with some type of brown sauce, and onions. This may have been one of the best fish dinners I have ever had. And prepared and arranged by total strangers, in their home!!!
We dined, joined by our guide, and two other family and friends. Who would believe this story? I cannot fathom this happening EVER back in the States. Who would invite two total strangers to their home for a fabulous fish dinner??
Jessie and I kept thinking about the unlikely nature of this entire episode. Was it just dumb luck, or our willingness to meet people, and embrace the culture?
What I did not tell you is that my new found friends are immigrants from Cameroon and Togo. Apparently Greece is a country that allows immigration from Cameroon. During our conversations, they explicitly said they felt racial discrimination, and would prefer to live in Paris, or elsewhere in Europe.
When it came time to hail a cab back to the hotels, they could not successfully hail a cab for us. I had to stand in front, with Jessie (Caucasian) for a cab to stop, after about a dozen passed us!!!
So, this is a story not about the kindness of strangers, but the of the color of our skin. It was a truly glorious day, but an equally sad day.