1. People kiss in Greece like the world is ending
We sat down at a coffee shop and from over my shoulder I heard a tremendous slurping noise. I expected to look over and see a parched Saint Bernard drinking water from a big trough. Instead, I saw two young Greeks kissing with the unrestrained vigor usually reserved for conjugal visits at a maximum security prison.
We planned to be at the coffee shop for about 3-4 hours while we killed an afternoon waiting for our flight to Rome. Luckily for us, the couple spent the afternoon in the coffee shop also. They were watching short clips on YouTube, and after each video they would launch into a passionate embrace and start kissing and sucking noisily.
Once, I looked over and the guy was laying on top of the girl in the missionary position. He reached up, squeezed her boob and jiggled it for a second. Kristi, who was returning from the bathroom, saw it as well, but from a different angle. Her face mirrored mine: mouth agape, eyes wide open, pure astonishment.
I almost asked them if they were practicing safe sex, and if so, what brand of condoms they were using; I want to buy stock.
2. Mr. Portokalos is a stereotype for a reason
In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the dad in the movie talks about how all words trace back to Greek. (If you need a Mr. Portokalos refresher, here is a clip of him explaining to his daughter’s friends how all words come from Greek, even the Japanese word “kimono.”)
Although a funny aspect of the movie, we didn’t realize it was based in truth until we had a taxi driver in Athens who gave us a lesson on the Greek language.
“In Greece, we invent democracy over 2500 years ago. If you don’t vote, you are idiotes. This is where idiot comes from. It is a Greek word,” said the affable driver.
Another time a friendly Greek man at a coffee shop in Thessaloniki struck up a conversation with us. Here is a transcript:
GEORGIO: What are your names?
GEORGIO: Ah, Kristi. Like Christ. Christ is Greek name. My name is Georgio. Also Greek name. Do you know what it means? You know the word Geography? Georgio comes from that. Means from the earth.
He went on to tell us about how Alexander the Great named the city of Thessaloniki and that he had a brother named Phillip.
GEORGIO: Do you know Phillip is Greek name? Do you know what Philadelphia means?
JEFF: City of brotherly love.
GEORGIO: Yes! Very good. Phila means friend, and –ip means horse. Phillip is friend of horse.
I could have listened to Georgio talk all day, learning about history and Greek language, but unfortunately, we had a plane to catch. We extricated ourselves from the conversation and went to the airport leaving Greece just a little bit smarter.
3. Turks and Greeks are crazy about cats
There are cats everywhere. Some have homes, some don’t. Someone really needs to start a spay and neuter campaign (cue Bob Barker). Despite all the street cats, locals feed them and many are quite friendly. It is nice to stop and pet a cat or creepily talk to a shy kitten and not be looked at strangely by locals like we often are in other parts of the world.
That being said…
4. If you take a photo of dumpster cats, you will be eyed with suspicion by said dumpster cats
5. Turks like beer
Unlike other parts of the Middle East, alcohol is readily available in Turkey. Bars outnumber mosques in Istanbul. Almost every corner store sells beer and wine. This was a surprise, since even some popular tourist destinations in other countries like Jordan and Egypt are dry. For obvious reasons, we really liked Turkey.
6. Greeks know how to barbecue
I am from Oklahoma. I know what good meat tastes like and how it ought to be grilled. (I also know how to overreact when the Sooners lose a football game, how to sense a distant thunderstorm and to avoid entering any bar where the truck to car ratio is greater than 3:1).
Therefore, I can attest that Greeks know how to grill. We ate succulent pork and chicken all over Greece that rivaled any backyard American barbecue.
7. Greeks have been making wine for 6500 years yet they still suck at it
Instead of water-boarding suspected terrorists, we should force them to drink red Greek wine or Retsina (a white wine that tastes like tree sap with just a little hint of varnish). They will be spilling secrets in no time.
8. I want to see more of Turkey
We hit the well-trodden parts of the west – Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus. We missed out: I think the eastern half of this Texas-sized country is where it is at. The east attracts few tourists but has a number of attractions that deserve our attention.
Look up Lake Van, Ani, Diyarbikar and Mt. Ararat. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
9. Crete is one badass island
Western crete has some of the best beaches in the world, from the tropical paradise of Elafonisi to the geographically interesting like Previli. Behind these beaches, rise up dramatic mountain peaks to heights over 8000 feet. You can be lazing on the beach one day, and the next be hiking along a knife edge trail in high winds above stunningly scenic Samaria Gorge wishing you were back on the beach (as we did one time).
In addition, the small towns and villages are exceedingly friendly and picturesque. The waterfront of Hania is a great place to catch a sunset and later drink wine and eat a great meal. Charm vomited all over the mountain villages. It is a perfect island.
I. LOVE. CRETE. There, I said it.
10. Greek yogurt and honey is delicious
Greek yogurt is better for you than regular yogurt, but a little tangy and weird on its own. Enter honey. Mix in honey to taste and suddenly you have a creamy bowl of awesomeness.
11. How to pronounce Gyro
It is pronounced Year-O. And it is the best damn sandwich in the world.
What are some things you have learned while traveling?
Are you a Greek man? If so, what other important words come from the Greek language?