my adventures in greece.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia,

Greece had been on my bucket list since the tenth grade. But let’s be honest here – there aren’t many places that I wouldn’t go. When I was planning last summer’s trip to Europe with my students, I dreamed big. Our 21 days ended with a little less than a week of eating a year’s worth of feta, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes {I ate it for all but one lunch and dinner, no joke} all over Greece, even in the middle of the Aegean on a cruise ship.

We traveled on a night ferry from Italy across the Adriatic, waking up in the middle-of-nowhere. It looked like a drier version of Lost. We rambled on switchback roads where there wasn’t another car in sight for sometimes hours, heading for Meteora, a town that was all but deserted until the tour buses arrived. Unless we’re talking about the line at the ATM, because I think that’s where every Greek citizen could be found wherever we stopped last summer.

This was Greece in the week following their ungraceful exit from the EU last summer…

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Delphi Fresh Scratch, Greece, Delphi

After spending an afternoon on the cliffs of Meteora and an evening in a charming, family-run hotel with probably the most squeaky bed I’ve ever slept on in my life, we spent the next day exploring Delphi.

I first fell beneath the enchantment of Delphi as a high school sophomore. My little private school in rural South Carolina somehow scored a teacher fresh out of Stanford who had majored in The Classics. Ms. Deal lit up my brain in the most delightful ways. That year, my social studies involved a solid year of Greek Mythology, and my world language was Latin. She talked about Ajax and Achilles like they were her brothers. I’ve been hooked on them ever since. She took us on a four-day trip to DC to see the traveling exhibit from Greece. She loved Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Police. She impacted my life big time. She is a huge reason why I became a teacher. When I’m teaching world mythologies, I feel like I am channeling her, animatedly gushing about gods and goddesses and ancient Greek customs with no notes necessary, as if they were my neighbors. She was the first teacher I ever had who held a real passion for a subject, and I loved her for it.

I couldn’t help but think of her on this lonely hillside where ancient Greeks would travel to consult the priestess of Apollo. There was nothing for miles around but the little town and these ruins and the hot wind. It was a day where I felt the ancientness of the human experience. Deep, yes, I know – I felt so small in the timeline of humanity. It was humbling in the same way visiting the ancient pueblos of the American Southwest is for me. Our struggles are much the same as theirs were. We haven’t changed all that much. I get at least one of these big moments every time I travel, and I was pleased it happened here. Sometimes the world stops long enough for me to feel my foothold in it, and I am always grateful for those moments.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Road Trip Food

This is a preview of coming attractions, of sorts. On this summer’s trip to Europe, I am going to take lots of pictures of all the funky road food we end up trying. It’s endlessly fascinating and sometimes gross – I mean, ketchup Pringles? It’s usually the students and Steve that buy all the packaged stuff – my road food is more the pastries. In Greece, it was “spinach pie,” which is spanikopita…which is very unlike the stuff my husband makes.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens

As soon as I could read, my dad started me on the kids’ version of National Geographic. But still, after years of studying Athens’ Acropolis, nothing could prepare me for the real thing. The very hill it stands upon wasn’t what I’d expected – its more like a mesa, just quite steep sides and a flat top in the middle of a city. And for as much as I’d read about its decay and decline, it was the best-preserved ruin I’d seen in Europe. As you can see in the pictures above, there are still elements of the artwork on the pediment – that triangular part at the top. You can still see pieces of statue. That’s so rare.

The city had had riots over the EU departure during the days we were in the countryside. Glad we missed them! It felt like all the tourists of Athens had flocked to the Parthenon. It was nearly impossible to get a photo without a tourist in it. And there was really no good organization for getting on or off the Acropolis – just a crazy mob instead of lines. That’s kind of how Greece was, in general.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens

Athens had all kinds of pockets of quiet like this. The city was truly unique in my travels. Lots of buildings that were only a few stories tall, many of which seemed built in the 60’s.

We stayed in a family-run hotel in a beach resort town about an hour outside of the city. They made the best stuffed peppers I’ve ever eaten, along with amazing stuffed tomatoes and a date cake that still haunts me. True story: when I have delicious food at small hotels, I always ask for the recipes. They always tell me no. This was no exception. Travel is just fleeting moments {so is life} – even the meals! – so I’ve got to enjoy each one. But I think every little hotel could make a ton of money on a cookbook. Just saying.

Our last night on the mainland, we went night swimming in the Aegean under a bowl of glowing stars that looked like they’d been punched out of black construction paper. The water slipped like velvet beneath my hands…

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

In Athens, we boarded an ancient cruise ship that was bound for one of her last journeys through the Greek Isles. I’d never been on a cruise before. I thought having no window in my cabin would make me sick, but the one night it got to rocking and rolling, I slapped my Scopolamine patch behind my ear and was good to go within thirty minutes. Mostly, I slept like the dead between stops. Weeks of travel had wiped me out in every way. I was so tired, I even slept through our stop in Crete, waking up and running out onto the deck just as we were pulling away! Sadness!

Mykonos was our first stop. It’s famous for its windmills. I think I shot the majority of my photos from the entire trip that evening, walking through its maze-like streets. There was color around every corner.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

Fresh Scratch, Greece, MykonosFresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

I waited about twelve minutes to get this little church without a person in the frame. It was a serious exercise in patience!

And the cats?! They are all over Greece, just chillin.’ I’m pretty sure that guy with the attitude near the blue stools is named Zorba.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

How gorgeous are these fishing boats? Finding them was like discovering treasure.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

We sat on the harbor wall eating – of all the un-Greek things – crepes {!} and watching what was one of the best sunsets of my life.

Fresh Scratch, Turkey, Kusadasi Fresh Scratch, Turkey, Kusadasi

The morning I awoke in Turkey I leaped out of bed like one of my daughters on Christmas morning! If I’d had my way, we’d have spent a huge amount of our trip last summer in Turkey, but Steve reminded me that now is probably not the best time in the world for parents to feel comfortable sending their kids so close to Syria. So the fact that Kusadasi {pronounced “Koosh-a-dah-sea”} was on our list of ports at all was thrilling for me.

Kusadasi was colorful and had an impressive sea wall that lead out to a fortress. The real fun, though, was the bazaar. Nicely dressed gentlemen stood in front of the stalls, politely beckoning, “Hello, lady!” Or, to Steve in his floppy hat because the sun was so dang omnipresent, “Indiana Jones!”

There was color in every direction, especially that gorgeous blue. The evil eye was very present here, embedded into the sidewalk and just everywhere I looked, even more so than in the Greek isles.

Someday, when the world is a little different, I hope to visit Turkey and spend a good, long time there. For now, this one port city will have to do.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia,

The last stop in Greece was the picturesque island of Santorini. It was every bit as enchanting and striking as you’d expect. But getting there? That was a caper.

The crummy thing about being on any tour – and especially a cruise – is that you have limited time at each port of call, and they will leave you if you aren’t back on time. You’ve really got to have a plan before setting off on your own. On this particular evening, the water was very, very rough as we made the crossing from the ship to the shore. We got separated from the kids in a different boat, and then things just kind of went wonky. To get to the top of the island where everything is, you have to either walk up a huge amount of switchbacks, take a donkey up, or pay to ride the steep cable car. Steve and I chose the fastest option, and then the clock started ticking.

We quickly realized that the city in which we wanted to spend our time – Oia {pronounced Eh-uh} – was all the way on the other end of the island. Transportation was really not readily available or obvious at all, and that’s how we found ourselves buckled into motorcycle helmets and hopping on a four-wheeler. That’s how I saw the island of Santorini – cruising across a winding mountain road on a quad. It was unexpected and delightfully hilarious to pull up to this famous city on such a contraption.

By the time we arrived, we had about a half an hour to trek around the labyrinth of paths and get some good images on the camera. It was a hot, giddy, stunningly beautiful, end to an epic three weeks of exploration.

When I awoke the next morning, we disembarked in the wee hours and headed to the airport in Athens.

Next month I head out again, this time taking my other niece. We’ve got London, Paris, Lucerne, Munich, Berlin, and – a new city for me! – Prague on the docket. And so the countdown begins…

Europe, I’m coming for you.

my grammy’s no-bake cookies.

Fresh Scratch, No-Bake Cookies

Fresh Scratch, Grammy

Today would’ve been my Grammy’s 92nd birthday. Since her passing a little over a year ago, I have found myself flipping open the lid to her little tin recipe box whenever I miss her, inhaling the smell of her house and then closing it really fast so the magic doesn’t run out.

Her greatest hits were the baked goods, not the dinners. Spaghetti with huge pieces of leftover KFC tucked into the sauce comes to mind…

Nope, it was the berry pies, the banana bread, the cobblers, the cookies. For my grandpa’s birthday {he’s the Dewey mentioned in the card above} this month, all he wants is her apple pie, and so I will do my best. It won’t be the same, but he’ll pretend that it is.

Fresh Scratch, No-Bake Cookies

My favorite little gem in that recipe box is for these no-bake cookies, which I honestly do not recall her making. This is something the girls and I can whip up a batch of in no time, something that can happen after our days at school and before my energy level slides to less than zero.

Grammy's No-Bake Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. peanut butter
  • 3 c. quick cooking oats
  • 1 T vanilla

Instructions

  1. Melt butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and milk together. Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
  2. Remove pan from heat and add peanut butter, oats, and vanilla.
  3. Stir.
  4. Let thicken and cool a few minutes.
  5. Drop by the teaspoon full onto wax paper.
  6. Eat when cool.

Notes

Grammy originally used margarine - I don't. She also called for less oatmeal than is listed here - I found them to be a bit runny. I line cookie sheets with was paper and then chill them after dropping the cookies on them, just to hurry up the process. These keep just fine covered at room temperature for a few days. If they last...

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