After snagging a top bunk (living out a childhood dream) in our clean, trendy hostel and listening to a short introduction about the Mediterranean Lifestyle, I followed the class through the hipster streets of Psyri that are lined with artisan shops, hookah lounges, and taverns with live music. Every wall was covered in vibrant strokes of modern graffiti, more artwork than delinquency. Gazing upward, lampshades and chandeliers were strung haphazardly above the narrow, winding cobblestone streets.
As we emerged from Psyri, the bustling Monastiraki square appeared, home to ancient ruins integrated into modern shops and restaurants. Above it all loomed the awe-inspiring Acropolis, almost as if it was protecting all that lay beneath it. Professor Sidossis explained that when you stand in the center of Monastiraki square, you can see historic structures from 447 B.C., 132 A.D., 10th-century, and 1759 A.D. all at once, integrated among modern stores and restaurants. This is absolutely insane to me, since even the youngest of these structures is older than the United States!
After walking around the streets of Monastiraki surrounded by the mandolin twangs of folk music and the alluring scents of greek cuisine, we made our way up the lengthy, winding staircase of our restaurant Maiandros to our tables on the rooftop overlooking the Acropolis. At dinner we tried many of the dishes that I had previously tasted as American-ized greek food- gyros, souvlakis, tzatziki sauce, lamb kebabs, greek salad, olive tapenade- and they were infinitely fresher and more delicious! At the conclusion of our dinner, we toasted ouzo, saying “Γειά μας” (ya-mas) for good health and good luck! However, somebody must have taken a sip before the toast because, unfortunately, it began to rain a little and we headed back to our warm hostel for a challenging night’s sleep adjusting to the time difference.
#FoodSciOrDie Fun Fact: Ouzo is an anise-flavoring aperitif liquor popular in Greece, Cyprus, and Lebanon. When the clear liquid is poured over ice, it turns a milky-white color, like a magic trick! Why does this happen? Anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol, but not in water. When the solution is mixed with water when poured over the melting ice, the soluble anethole separates out and the mixture becomes an emulsion. The fine droplets in the emulsion scatter light, resulting in the milky-white coloring. This process is called louching and also occurs with absinthe.