My second trip to Greece in less than six months may not seem very adventurous to you. But I plan to make up for what little I saw last May, when the weather was too hot to do anything. So, I am hoping for weather in the 70s, cooler evenings, and more outdoor activities. We had several downpours as well, mostly in the evening.
But I plan on visiting the friends I made on my last visit, Stavros, George, and Vasili. And I also plan on getting more adventurous with my Greek meals, wine, and neighborhoods. I know how to use the Metro and can get most anywhere on the mainland. But as you know, walking the big city is one of my big thrills when I travel. I also met a young Belarus girl, who also works there. Karina is studying to join the travel industry, and loves to speak English, along with her Greek and Russian.
Interesting things happen here. Just as I am paying for my dinner, after FIVE complimentary glasses of house white wine, the staff asked me to stay a few more minutes. The couple next to me, from Connecticut, were about to have a marriage proposal. She was totally surprised, and he even got on his knee to propose. The place went bonkers!!!
Another morning hangout, since I try to stay away from the big chains, is a local crepe shop. The owner’s father owned the space as a tailoring business. I found out that 800 Euros a month is the average salary in Athens and rent runs about 750 Euros for a 2-bedroom apartment. He was shocked when I told him that 800 Euros a DAY was a common wage in California, he was in total shock.
In the true tradition of my regular travel buddy, Mr. Mike, I have vowed to maintain walking the neighborhoods in Athens. I have found the cutest little cafes, tavernas, and shops. He would be proud of me!!! Until I got lost! So, I just jumped on the Metro, and whisked back to the Acropolis stop where I stay.
So a few nights ago, I am walking back to my hotel after a long 4-hour dinner with my friends. About a block away from my hotel, I can “feel” a guy following me. I keep turning around, he keeps gaining on me. I speed up, he speeds up. All of a sudden, he crosses the street in front of me as I approach the front door to my hotel.
I allow him to pass by first, but he stops and asks if I am Chinese. I said no, Japanese. He said your English is quite good. Of course, I am from California!!! He is a Singaporean, and just needed to speak to an Asian face. He is a rep for Issey Miyake!!! In general, there are more Singaporeans here than people from Japan or China.
I met an interesting character last night from Kansas. It was Wilfred Brimley, Jr.!!!!
I also met some other interesting people. A newlywed couple on my bike ride from Toronto have an interesting several years ahead of themselves. While she has a new career as a personal trainer (formerly a CPA), he is an engineer headed to Khabarovsk, Russia to build a gold mine. They were quite curious when I told them about my journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia. They are expecting good food, and the joke is on them!!
I met another couple at dinner, both from Panama, but also holding American passports. Most interestingly, Eric imports used clothing and sells them through several of his thrift stores. They could not get married in Panama due to the pandemic, so instead, held a small wedding and reception in Miami earlier this year.
We toasted my last evening in Athens with a bottle of champagne (last time was a cheap Prosecco). The gang, namely spearheaded by Chef Stavros, made a big speech in front of everyone. He told them I was his brother from another mother, and another father!!! They can’t wait to see me again next May! They even offered me a job.
Oh, and I just had to buy another bottle of mastika to take home! It made it home safely, not to worry.
Back in Frankfurt, the weather is decidedly colder, and somewhat wetter. Despite two huge downpours in Athens last night, it stays relatively comfortable both day and night, rarely requiring a jacket.
Taking Ryan Air to and from Athens, I realize most of the passengers are young. I was definitely the oldest person on the flight. Why? Perhaps it is the ultimate backpacker’s airline? Or the limited schedule, and lack of amenities on board? Believe me, I have been on many airlines that are not nearly as good. It reminds me of Air Asia in SE Asia, efficient, simple, and easy.
The Haupt Bahnhof here has several decent places to eat. Among them, seafood, a ton of bakeries, curry shops, pubs, fast food, slow food, even a crepe place, that does a very brisk business. But since all of the bakeries seem to make lots of bread, and croissants, along with the usual assortment of sweet and savory pastries, it was time to dive in.
My favorite bakery has a manager who is just outstanding. He greets everyone with a bright and cheery “Morgen”, then proceeds to fill their order, while starting another order. He is the ultimate in German efficiency, and a pleasure to watch. Speaking of pastries, theirs are outstanding and so reasonable priced. As good or better than Paris, but so much cheaper!
I could not find a place for ham and eggs, so I bought the ultimate oxymoron of food. It was a croissant stuffed with a wiener!! It might have been the worst food combination I have tried in TEN years!!! I was gagging, even as I think about it.
So, to settle my nerves and my stomach, I decided it was time for a hot bowl of pho. Yes, the now universal pho, prevalent in countries around the world, now that Vietnamese cuisine has gone mainstream. And it was really, really good.
Tons of beggars, beer drinkers, and homeless around the Frankfurt Haupt Bahnhof, even though I was told the area has been cleaned up. It prefers to be called “edgy” now. On the edge of what? But I gave away most of my leftovers, and even donated a gym bag that I purchased for the short trip to Mallorca.
Speaking of good food, I dined at the best restaurant in Mallorca, El Txoko de Martin, or as I refer to it, “Martin’s.” The facility is great, and the service is decent. But it has a snobby vibe, and the most I could give the food is a 7 out of 10. It also happened to be across the street from my hotel.
I enjoyed the Mallorca Mercado much more, along with some of the local joints on the sidewalks. I was able to sneak some Iberico ham home for me and Mr. Mike.
Sadly, the good people in Mallorca still hold Father Junipero Serra in high regard. In fact, the Catholic Church is thriving here. So different than here at home. But then, why do they charge admission?
Back in Frankfurt, and dreary weather, I decided to forego more wine tasting. Instead, I head to Frankfurt’s old town, Romer. I found stunning Germany architecture, a lively crowd, cute stores, tons of tourists, and even an outdoor wedding reception outside the main church. But I was so disappointed with the sauerbraten. The one from Chef Burger in Pleasant Hill is far superior.
I met an interesting honeymoon couple from India, while on my wine tasting tour. They were carrying a Nespresso machine!
They said it is half the price in Germany as in India. They were using it every day during their stay. Both are physicians and had to forego the traditional big Indian wedding due to the pandemic. They ended up with 30 to 40 people, perhaps a record for India!
I saw far more Asians in both Germany and Mallorca (Spain), than on previous trips. Also, more Middle Easterns, with huge areas of kebab shops, and hammams. But the overriding issue in Europe are the smokers, and now the kids vaping. Thankfully, a covid mask helps immensely. My guess is that 80 or 90% are smokers! Men, women, teens.
Home is the best place. I missed my two girls, my morning Peet’s coffee, my Eddie’s Bakery toast, the local news, my desktop computer, my bed, and mostly my Peloton. I am headed back to Europe in May for my long-awaited cycling trip in Croatia. I think it will be time to head east on my next big trip, Japan, Australia, or ??