I got to Athens early on a sunny day’s morning. (Is it ever not a sunny day in Greece, I wonder??) Because that evening I was attending a wedding reception in Kapandriti, way outside of Athens to the north (I think), I did not go to Athens proper but instead to the town/suburb of Kifissia, a very nice/upscale district to my eyes. It was a lot closer to Kapandriti (though not super close) so it made sense to spend the night there especially considering that the wedding party could go quite late so it would help shorten the ride back.
I checked in at my hotel a few blocks away from the main street at Kifissia, which is loaded with shops and restaurants, near a square whose name escapes me but that sounds Greek to me… The hotel I stayed at was the Theoxenia House, related to the Theoxenia Palace. I chose it based on Trip Advisor reviews which is quickly becoming a good way for me to determine things like this. (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1026500-d617814-Reviews-Theoxenia_House_Hotel-Kifissia_Attica.html) It was functional for the 24 hrs I was going to be there. I went off to explore and have lunch. It was a very windy day. As I sat in the cafe, they served me potato chips on a small plate when they brought me my glass of wine while I waited for my meal. The chips mostly flew away due to the wind! It was incredible. As was my food. A great way to start this leg of the trip and to set me up for a nap as I knew I was going to face a very long night of wedding partying.
I met up with a friend of the couple to taxi over to the wedding, a nice $42 cab ride to a winery in Kapandriti. As we waited for the groom and bride, besides mingling, we went on a tour of the new museum the winery was about to open. Though the tour was in Greek, a lot of the stuff they had was pretty neat (old grape presses, old machines used to make corks, old ways of bottling and corking the wine, etc.).
The wedding couple finally made their entrance (the actual wedding had taken place in Atlanta and there had been a very private blessing right before the reception with only the closest family) and the party began. A very nice meal with lamb, pork, and many of the things I associated with Greek food. Of course, there was wine galore and I had to work at managing my intake despite the pressure and the many toasts! The family had prepared a great slideshow of pix from the Atlanta wedding so the Greece family members could see what had taken place in Atlanta since most or all could not make the trip over. It was a great touch and for me great to see what has just transpired a week before though it felt like months before since I had in the meantime been exploring other parts of Greece.
Finally, there was the dancing. Everyone was in the mood for a good time and a good time was had. Especially neat for a foreigner like me was to see them do some of the typical Greek dances which I inevitably had to join and which I performed quite poorly. Nevertheless, the crowd was so much fun, it didn’t matter.
Around 230AM or so, we rolled away as someone from the family offered us a ride back which was greatly appreciated. I conked out as soon as my head hit the pillow. Gladly, I had behaved well enough so the next morning was not a pain. After getting ready, I decided not to hang around in Kifissia until the late afternoon family BBQ I was invited to go to, but instead to head into Athens proper and check in at the hotel where I would spend the next 2 nights. I figured I didn’t want to lug around my luggage, much as it is made to lug around I suppose, to the BBQ, etc. and check in late that night. I took a cab to make it easier and got to the Ledras Marriott where immediately, I felt like almost home with the standard Marriott approach, design and amenities (like the executive lounge). It was a smart move as I could then just relax until the BBQ. I had lunch and ended up at the rooftop pool, and later a nap.
Eventually I made contact with the group and started headed out of town again, first to Kifissia to meet up with someone else and then to catch a ride to Oropo, a town further away north than Kapandriti by the cost facing the island of Evia.
The BBQ was at an aunt’s house in an area that would not qualify as rural but was not too urban, making it a very nice place to spend a late Saturday afternoon. The groom and bride opened gifts as a sheep was rotisseried and the other food prepared. The meal was a feast for sure!
As we were eating, the family found out I was single and unattached at which point they all became very interested in my case. My friend told me: “you are in trouble now! they are making it their business to find you someone!” Even Yaya, the elderly grandmother told me I was handsome, a good catch, and that she wished me happiness – all in Greek but at some point I got a sense of what she was saying and asked someone half-jokingly “is she proposing to me?” and the answer was “pretty much”!
After this feast, a cousin of the bride who was our ride back, told us we were going to another cousin’s BBQ that night. My jaw dropped. I could not comprehend how I would stuff another morsel of anything in me. And here we were headed to another BBQ! We made it over to the house overlooking the town and sea from a distance. We had a few beers, hung out with the very friendly cousins, and eventually helped start the fire to roast the lamb. I was not understanding how after the long night the night before, I was going to make it this night when the fire was just getting started. Much to my relief, our ride announced we were heading out as he needed to go. Though I was definitely enjoying myself, I was a relieved, I must admit. And the trip back to my hotel began.
These experiences have given me a much greater appreciation of Greek culture and Greeks, beyond the Greek union protesters which seem to define what being Greek is these days to those of us too far and too unconnected with Greece or Greeks. Being of Latin background myself, I am quite familiar and comfortable with the friendliness and warmth that I received from my friend’s Greek relatives. I miss those things living in Atlanta/the U.S. My trip was well worth it even if I had not done anything else that be a part of the celebration of my friends’ marriage thanks to the experiences I had with this family. Efjaristo poli, Stelliani and Tom!