Sunday, April 20, 2008

Musings

I am convinced that the Greeks are going to die of lung cancer which will eradicate their civilization. Men, young and old smoke like chimneys. Young women and kids as young as 15-16 gather in groups and smoke. I noticed that young woman are quite beautiful, but they age quickly and that middle aged women look quite old and wrinkly. There does not appear to be any government movement to educate the populace about the dangers of smoking, rather you see posters of glamorous women in cigarette ads lining the bus stops. Tobacco is a major product in Greece and the income it produces most likely outweighs the motivation for them to regulate smoking. Smoking is permitted in any public building, restaurants etc. There is no escaping the smoke. In coffee stands, men and women have their cigarette and their cup of coffee. In the outdoor restaurant at dinnertime, every girl at a table for 8 ended the meal with a cigarette.

We also noticed that very few young people have earbuds on while riding the metro, or walking on the street. It is still rather difficult to find wireless connections in the cities, and technology certainly does not dominate life as it does in Silicon Valley.

We have found the Greeks to be extremely friendly people. Outside of Athens and Santorini, it is common to find people that do not speak any English. Yet they are helpful and eager to provide information as best they can.

Athens is a very polluted city but has its own type of charm. I can imagine how unpleasant it must be in the heat of the summer when tourists flock to the city in droves and the air is brown muck. Spring is definitely a more preferable season to visit and the weather is similar to that of the Bay Area.

We have tried all the main Greek specialties-stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, greek salad, souvlaki, grilled meats, meatballs, gyros, lamb etc. Greek food has left us with mixed feelings. We had a great dinner at a Crete restaurant but disappointing lunch at two homestyle Greek restaurants. I think we need to pay more to get a decent meal and that homestyle food is not necessarily the tastiest, but finding a reasonably priced good Greek restaurant seems to be a challenge. We followed Fodor’s recommendations as we usually do and have struck out twice. Baklava is very, very sweet , though they have many varieties here. Souvlaki is ok, though can be somewhat dry. Perhaps the seafood on the island and coastal regions will be good. It seems that the Greeks eat salads but not very many vegetables. Dinners are usually served with potato, often French fries, but not fresh vegetables. We question the so called healthy Mediterranean diet. Is it just the olive oil that makes their diet healthy? There is no shortage of fast food and the under 40 crowd appears to be somewhat heavy. Perhaps their diet too has changed, and that coupled with the lack of exercise and smoking seems to be a recipe for disaster.

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