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Zappa and Zeus

Our guided tour of Athens continued through the Zappeion Gardens and then onto the Temple of Zeus.  The Zappeion, named for its benefactor Evangelos Zappas, a wealthy Greek patriot, was built as the headquarters for the revival of the modern Olympic Games in 1896.  Zappas also floated the bill for refurbishing the ancient Panathenian stadium down the road for track and field events, and even left a hansom endowment to keep the games going after he died- needless to say, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating them every two years without this guy.  Thanks Zappas!


If only he had shelled out a few bucks to fix up the nearby Temple of Zeus- it used to have 104 columns, but now only 15 stand sentinel over the ruins. Even so, I still think that is pretty impressive considering the temple was started in 520 BC.  I’m pretty sure that half of the crap we build here in America will be fallen down and decomposing within a hundred years, let alone two and a half thousand.  I guess they just made things better back then…

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It’s all Greek to me

When we started planning this little adventure, the original idea was to spend a week relaxing on some beautiful Greek island.  Then we thought a day or two in Athens to pack in some history and sightseeing might be a responsible thing to do.  And of course, we ended up adding a week in Italy, and in Turkey, to boot, but, really those were just ancillary destinations to defray the cost of flights from the US.


Greece though, was the real imputes for the whole trip, and we were all thrilled to finally be arriving there.  Besides looking forward to our time in the islands, and touring the Acropolis (something of a perennial dream for me), the best aspect of our arrival in Athens was that the remainder of our crew would finally be joining us- Kacey’s cousin’s Kate, John, and Hannah.  It’s hard to articulate exactly what they bring to the table, but let’s just say that going anywhere with these three is a guarantee for an entertaining experience.

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Wet Burgers

Contrary to my image as a picky selective eater here at home, I really try, and in fact enjoy, sampling the local fare wherever we find ourselves on our adventures.  I know there are a few people reading this calling out BS on me right now, but I maintain, unless it is just some local twist on an obvious American import, that I find repulsive to begin with, like eating mayonnaise on French fries as is the custom in Amsterdam, I am usually game.  But I digress.  In any case, on the southern corner of Taksim Square, there is a particular food stand that serves up a local favorite… the wet burger.  Or at least we were told it was a local favorite, but considering I didn’t see any locals eating them, and the attendant kind of chuckled under his breath when we ordered ours, I suspect it might be more of a local joke, that is played on gullible tourists, rather than legitimate Turkish cuisine.

It was kind of like a soggy sloppy joe

It was kind of like a soggy sloppy joe

It is something like a sloppy joe, served on a cheap white bread bun, but kept in a steamy hot box to the point of moistening the bun to an uncomfortable texture- an old ladies butt is the image that came to my mind.  I don’t know what the rest of the crew was thinking.  Not only were these things wrinkled and wet, but the guy kindly dug way down to the bottom of the pile to grab ours- who knows how long these burgers had been fermenting under there.  And then came the moment of truth- the first bite.  I almost opted out, my justification being that, like French fries drenched in mayo, I didn’t think that a soggy sloppy joe was really that much of a cultural experience.  But instead, I took a bite.  It was different, I’ll give it that- almost like it had been partially digested in someone else’s mouth before it got to yours, but on the other hand, the taste was actually pretty good, and once I got over that old lady butt thing, I ended up eating all of mine and finishing Kacey’s. I don’t know if I’d make a habit of eating them, but if you are there, I’d give it the ol’ college try.

Before the wet burgers, and before our long cruise down the Bosphorus actually, we stopped into the Misir Carsisi Spice market, located right by the ferry terminal, which was in reality a lot more like the “bazaar” I had been picturing Istanbul to have.  Who knows what half the spices were, but I am sure they were tasty.

The next morning was our last in Istanbul, and Turkey for that matter.  We got Turkish coffees at a café on Taksim square, and then took some kebabs to go, and made our way into the Taksim Gezi Park for a picnic.  Protecting the park from the developer’s bulldozers was the impetus for the riots, and sitting there on a broad bench, in the cool dappled shade of an old tree, eating or savory kebabs, and looking out on a placid lawn, in the middle of this chaotic city, I can see why everyone got so upset about the parks future.

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