Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie, Screwed Markozy and Made Them Cry


Honestly speaking, I am pretty much content to now let this blog go to seed, but recent events have pulled me out of blogging retirement.

Anyone living in Greece will know what an awful time we’ve been having of it lately.
Riots, rising prices, new taxes all the time and constant anxiety about what is
around the corner.

While the troika spent the summer asking for increasingly severe measures to be placed on the Greek public, we sat tearing our hair out. We heard all the time about how Greece might not get the next tranche of bailout money and then what would
happen with pensions, salaries etc?

Finally after much negotiating and begging, Greece’s debt was shaved by 50%. Hooray!
This was progress. Maybe finally things would be very shitty for a long time
instead of very very shitty for a very very long time.

And then George Papandreou pulled the rug out from under everyone by calling a
referendum on whether Greece should accept the next tranche of bailout money
and the extra cuts that will go with it.

Really????

Seriously, what was he thinking? Why now? Why after nearly two years of misery does
he decide it’s time to ask the people? As lovely and democratic an idea as it
is, you are left to hope against hope that the vote will return a Yes. Because
come on, those sweet little old grannies in the Greek countryside don’t give
two hoots about Europe and are likely to vote in their droves to exit the Euro
and the Eurozone, both of which would be the instant kiss of death for Greece. A
return to the drachma would be a total disaster, and a default would leave the
country destitute and a pariah of the global bond market, if that’s not already
the case.

So why do it? It’s a move as unexplainable as Andie MacDowell’s entire career – it makes no sense at all.











I don't get it

There are a few theories:

* Georgie genuinely cares about
democracy and wants to give the final say to the people. If he pulls off a yes
vote, it will shut everyone up for a long time (but see above, a Yes vote is
not very likely at all when the Greek public are reaching the point where they
literally can’t afford to feed their families any more and are as pissed off as
a Tasmanian devil rolling down a hill in a barrel full of porcupines) Plus he’s
a politician, they don’t care about the people or democracy as a rule.

* Georgie has all his life savings riding on a short that the country will default so he’s pushing oh so hard in that direction.

* Georgie has gone mad.

* Georgie knows something we don’t know. As in, there actually is no money for the next bailout, or it won’t matter anyway because the Mayan calendar says the world ends in 2012. Might as well stir things up between now and then, since the referendum is set for January….Those Mayans may have been on to something now that I think of it.

* Georgie wants to punish the rest of Europe and their markets by tossing everything up in the air just when the deal was sealed. Revenge is a dish best served cold and all that, and let’s be honest, the conditions under which people now have to live are becoming unbearable. The troika imposed a bunch of very severe measures on the public, which Ok they caused the problem too by tax dodging, but in the end it’s the
government that was responsible for collecting those taxes. That’s why it’s
called a GOVERNment, not a SCRATCHYOURBALLSALLDAYment.

*Georgie is an attention whore. With the immediate issue solved for the time being, no one would be talking about him as much. This way, he got invited to Cannes! And be part of the G20! Take that, other nations!

* Georgie is an evil genius.

If he pulls off a yes vote, everyone will want to know how he got past the laser field.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Back Through The Haze

Before I had Mini Me, I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those people that just talks about their baby. That's why I've avoided writing on this blog. But frankly speaking, three months down the line with a baby that detests going anywhere by car or stroller, my life has pretty much become condensed into staying at home with the baby, wondering if I will ever see the inside of a gym again.


I couldn't understand parents who went into fine detail about their child's bowel movements, my first thought being "Seriously, no one cares about this information except you." but now my day quite literally revolves around whether the baby has taken a dump yet or not. This is usually followed by an excited phonecall to my husband or my mother if the dumping had recently fallen away from its usual pattern.
















This is a picture of me on the phone... in an alternate universe



Never again in my life will I be this pleased about someone shitting himself. Because of this, I really don't have much else to talk about unless I come across something amusing on the internet.














Heh!



And so apologies in advance for this baby related post.


So what's it like raising a baby in Greece? So far, pretty brilliant. Whenever I do go somewhere, we are showered with attention. On a recent trip to the UK, we were fast tracked through check in and onto the flight. This by the way did not happen on the return journey. When transitting through Munich I pointed out that families are usually offered priority boarding and was helpfully told I could board last. Great! Thanks a heap. Anyone who disagrees with this should really try travelling with a small child - you will totally come to appreciate even the smallest little bit of help you are offered.


Greece loves children but this also goes hand in hand with various worries and superstitions which are passed on to you without hesitation. A child in Greece belongs to society, and so people think nothing of telling you your baby isn't dressed warmly enough, or you shouldn't be taking him out this time of day, or you shouldn't be taking him out at all. In Greece, it's uncommon to see babies under 6 months out and about with their parents. There are several reasons for this. First off, people believe it's extremely unhealthy for mother and child to go out in the first 40 days after birth. Although I didn't stick to this strictly, I was restricted in my movement and found it hugely depressing. The majority of people seeing you out with a newborn under 40 days old will make you feel like the worst mother in the world, with a tiny minority praising you for it.


Another reason is the grandparent system of babysitting. Many new parents are understandably too freaked out by the thought of leaving the house with an infant thanks to horror stories and social pressure ("Kiki took her baby out and the mati made it grow another head! I saw it myself!") and so park their offspring at home with the grandparents. In fact in Greece daycare for infants is very rare. Most people rely on their parents and in laws to watch their children while they work, which I think is a wonderful system. I don't have this system available to me, so I had to take Mini Me out with me whether we liked it or not, no matter how much both of us cried in the car and just grit my teeth at the "Ma ti kaneis koritsi mou" ("What the hell are you doing!") comments.


But the two biggest reasons are these: the mati (evil eye) and the MICROBES! Perhaps the thing that scares Greek parents most are the microbes. Those evil microbes are everywhere, lying in wait to attack your innocent baby. To me it came across as incredibly silly and after a while irritating to be repeatedly reminded "What about the MICROBES!!!". After all, this is Greece and not sub-Saharan Africa. But then I realised it's only because the Greek love children that much. It's totally natural for them to extend that concern even to your child although you are a total stranger.


Microbes are the reason Greek mamas iron their children's underwear and socks. It's why new Greek parents, including Mr Zeus, will stand at the door as you arrive to see their new baby and pour antibacterial gel on your hands before they'll let you near their baby. When I myself was faced with the microbe quandry, I thought guiltily of the heart attacks I might have caused by joyfully pouncing on the new babies of friends with my filthy microbe covered hands. So there's a tip for you: no matter how clean your hands may be, when visiting friends with a new baby, it's considered good manners to wash your hands before you even think of touching it.


Do I come across as a crazy hippy who will spoon feed my baby dirt to boost his immune system? It's only because I was raised in a much more relaxed manner, seeing very young babies circulated into the world immediately in both the UK and the Homeland. The 40 days rule applies in the Homeland too, but my mother said "Bullshit" and took us off on holiday when my younger sister was 17 days old. She never ironed our underwear, and trust me the microbes are a lot more lethal in the Homeland.


Anyway, when in Rome and all that. Now on to the mati. This is also a belief that exists in the Homeland. In Greece I have found that half the people believe the mati will get your baby, the other half believe that babies are not affected by the mati. You can offer extra protection by taking your baby to the church for a blessing at 40 days old, in fact you are expected to do this and not to do so is considered careless and a danger to your baby's soul.


Baby boys will be taken around the altar, girls are not. Meanwhile you will be instructed to do something that I didn't catch at all, being so sleep deprived that functioning from day to day pushed out Greek from my brain. But since the priest was busy walking around the altar with the baby, I winged it by making a suitable show of crossing myself infront of the icons, Orthodox fashion, and hoped that would be enough. The priest said nothing so I guess I passed the test, unless one of his minions at the back of the church later told him "You know that girl you just told to go get you a Coke? Well, let me tell you..."


The notion of the evil eye is used to explain every ill a baby suffers. An especially cranky baby that you have done everything else for is usually said to be under the mati (matiasmeno). It's a particularly seductive notion, and many times I have found myself on the phone to my mother in law asking her to remove the evil eye because the baby won't settle. You will likely receive several gifts of beautiful little blue eye pins on your baby's birth, and pinning on of these onto the baby's clothes is considered good protection.


Of course guilt-tripping a new mother is an international phenomenon, and one that would be banned if I could do anything about it. What no one told me about having a baby, despite months of preparing how to actually pop the baby out, is that no matter how experienced you think you are, when it comes to your own first child you will suddenly know jack shit and are mostly doing what you hope is right and won't break the baby. On top of this, the following comments are not helpful:


1. You haven't dressed him warmly enough (The old school notion prevails strongly in Greece that a baby must be warmly dressed, even in warm weather. Thankfully I have a great paediatrician who dismissed this instantly)


2. It's not good to take out such a young baby (Really? Can you come to my house and babysit him then while I run my errands?)


3. Don't bring him in here, the airconditioning is on
4. How old is your baby? Isn't it bad for his ears to be listening to this music (At a wedding from another mother when Mini Me was 2 months old)



This is just a sample. But like I said, it's best to let it slide or use the default answer of "The paediatrician said it's ok".
I think that's enough baby related stuff for now. By the way, who has been watching ANT1's Bollywood Saturday movies? I wonder who chose them, because frankly they're awful.


Oh, and one last thing. Perhaps the most hilariously innacurate image of early motherhood has to go to the Chicco catalogue. As if it's not bad enough that they have airbrushed babies in their catalogue, they really are taking the piss when this is what they portray as motherhood when you've been awake all night and your dress sense has boiled down to what's not covered in vomit, and your house looks like an all night baby rave has taken place there with empty bottles and nappies littering every surface:







Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glorious Pas, Shiteous Present, Future Unknown


Since we hadn't already had enough fun going round the economic hell-hole merry-go-round, all of Greece has been given a one-way seemingly never ending ticket to ride (except for the rich, who are, as they ever were, untouched by such crises). Things are just getting worse, and as the European Union stands shooting at Greece's feet and screaming "Dance, bitches!" suddenly everyone has an opinion about Greece.
I have to say, by the far the best analysis I have read to date was not in a newspaper or a magazine. It was this post on a blog, written by a Greek no longer living in Greece. The link was sent to me by a friend and I read it with fascination. It's the most concise summary of Greece's debt crisis to date, even if the checklist of how to rectify the situation is wishful thinking purely because as most Greeks will tell you, Greece's biggest problem is that it's filled with Greeks.
I'm not going to get all sentimental about the future of my child in a country like Greece. If push comes to shove, he can always live and work somewhere else, and that somewhere else will probably be South America or Asia, since Europe's glory days are now well and truly over. What I will say is that I pray he doesn't end up in a situation like Mr Zeus, on the verge of a nervous breakdown from busting his ass in the private sector. He pretty much missed out on the first two months of his child's life, and was called to come into a meeting ON THE DAY HIS SON WAS BORN while he was at the hospital with me. He said no.
Of the 25 days of holiday he is entitled to, he has only 9 left for the rest of the year. Why? Because his private sector company makes him take each strike day as a day off. Our son's passport reads Unbaptised Zeus because neither of us has the stamina at the moment to deal with the public sector to-ing and fro-ing that would be involved in declaring his name without him being baptised. We looked into the process and decided he'd just have to be known as little Mr Unbaptised until we get around to baptising him. Glorious, ain't it? Two of the biggest parasites of the Greek state, the Orthodox Church and the public sector, working in cahoots. It's kind of beautiful, really.
But these are small fry in the face of how bad things are going to get for Greece. Oh well. Excuse me while I go bury my head in a watermelon.


Image: http://images.contentreserve.com/ImageType-100/0128-1/%7B7338F609-126D-4A60-B935-FB93D2DC81BC%7DImg100.jpg

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giving Birth in Greece




It would be best to start the story of my mini Mr Zeus with the kind of birth that I wanted. I know there are people who laugh at the idea of birth as an experience - a lot of women face it as a grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it event in their lives. But I started out as a converted caesarean fan and having decided that natural was the way I wanted to go, the next step was to find a good doctor, one I could trust not to lie/trick me into unnecessary interventions.

This step began even before Bolly Baby was a twinkle in my eye. Various friends recommended me their doctors, but suspiciously they had all had caesareans, and not because they necessarily needed them. There is nothing wrong with having a caesrean if that's what you want or if that's what is necessary for yours and baby's safety - thank God it exists. What I object to very strongly is Greece's 65% plus caesarean rate for very stupid reasons, women who want to have a natural birth and are robbed of it because the doctor got bored of waiting.

Friends I know were told the baby's head was the wrong shape (lies), the baby had to be born RIGHT NOW because it was a boy, we could have left it a bit more if it was a girl (lies) and of course that old chesnut which seems to strike pretty much every expecting couple we know: the cord was around the neck. When I brought this up with my midwives, their response was: We've delivered tons of babies with the cord around their neck, and some that are practically kokoretsi when they come out.

I eventually contacted an organisation called Eutokia asking them to recommend me a doctor who wouldn't pack me off for a slice and dice as soon as he got bored. They responded, and this doctor is the one I began visiting before and during my pregnancy. Having now finished with the experience, I personally cannot recommend him highly enough. Unfortunately, he has a private practise so I had to shell out a small fortune over 9 months for my visits (EUR 80 each time and EUR 50 in the last month when you visit every 2 weeks). But if any ladies are interested in who this doctor is, please email me and I'll respond with the details. His caesarean rate is roughly 18% and he admits it's "that high" because he deals with infertility and so sees more multiple births.

Next came the preparation, which I did at the antenatal classes of the Eutokia centre near Mitera hospital, http://www.eutokia.gr/. These classes are run by the midwives my doctor works with and they are worth their weight in gold. They cost EUR 20 per class or EUR 15 if you purchase the full 13 sessions upfront. The class schedule is available online so you can check in advance if you just are intersted in specific classes rather than the full course. Each session lasts from 5.30 to 8.30 pm so that's EUR 5 an hour if you buy them upfront. I'd definitely call that value for money! The classes provided me with a warm and welcoming atmosphere to relax and ask any questions I had, no matter how stupid. I miss going to them. Note that you can also find out from your local IKA office about antenatal classes that would be covered by IKA insurance.

When it came to where to give birth, my first choice was at home but Mr Zeus wasn't having any of that, so the next option was the natural birth centre in Ilion. Sadly, the centre closed one month before I gave birth because the owner of the building it was located in sold the building. This centre was operated by the midwives at Eutokia and my doctor who was there on request or if an emergency situation arose. In the end, they struck a deal with Leto hospital (http://www.leto.gr/) and moved their services to Leto's homebirth room, and that's where my little pumpkin made his entrance into the world.

As for the experience of the homebirth room, the midwives and my doctor, I couldn't have asked for more. I got to hospital at nearly 5am and had delivered in just under 4 hours in the way I wanted, peacefully, naturally and drug-free. General practise in Greece is that when you go to hospital to give birth, you will be shaved, given an enema and have a butterfly needle put in in case you need drugs and discouraged from moving around too much. None of this is done if you opt for the homebirth room. I was meant to stay in hospital just 2 days but stayed for 3 because bubs got a mashed up head coming out, but he's fine now.

Here I'd just like to add that since I was after a certain type of birth, I had to pay for it. The birth alone cost around EUR 4000. This is no reflection on public hospitals in Greece which are very good - I met women at the birth classes who had given birth at public hospitals and had no complaints whatsoever. The general rule in Greece is you follow your doctor to wherever he works.

I think that's about it fact wise. I was lucky to have a wonderful pregnancy and an easy birth, and managed to stay very active and kept going to the gym and dance classes throughout. As for how I escaped stretchmarks despite my ass being covered with them from puberty, your guess is as good as mine. I bought a block of organic shea butter from ebay and rubbed this on my belly with almond oil religiously every night even though I was 100% sure it wouldn't work. I don't know if it made a difference or if I just got lucky since being well enough to stay active means I've been left with just 3kg to lose.

I hope this info was useful and if you have any questions, go ahead and email me and I'll be happy to help!


Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_GPX1JrgEfuU/S8ocTG6WQRI/AAAAAAAAAnM/44-WSN-NeWg/s1600/baby-feet.jpg

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby, I Love You!

If I'm a little lazy about posting in the next few days it's because I'm busy welcoming little Baby Bolly into my life. More of the gory details to follow. Okay, maybe not the gory details, but plenty of info and resources plus my personal take on what it was like to give birth in Greece. Wishing you all good health!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Talkin' To Me?


Ahhh, taxi drivers in Athens. I guess it's my own good luck that I have spent so many years in Greece without needing to blog about them.


But today, I've got to say... I seem to have a disturbingly high rate of getting interviewed in great detail about my sex life by taxi drivers. And I mean everything. Various acts, positions, frequency, with or without birth control. I mean, what gives? Seriously, as of last night that's the fourth time it's happened and last night's session was particularly detailed.


It always starts off the same. Where are you from? How did you end up in Athens? How did you meet your husband? What does he do? What do you both do behind closed doors? They start off so nicely and politely that before I never know what the hell is going on when the conversation diverts to kinkier topics. And they're NEVER even cute to compensate for my suffering.


Are they just genuinely curious or being perverted? After all, in Greece what's considered rude and what isn't are not the same as in the UK. Here, no one thinks twice about asking perfect strangers how much they earn or how much they weigh, or how old they are.


And I like a fool go on giving answers. Well actually no. I think that if they're trying to freak me out by asking horribly unsuitable questions, I'm just going to go right ahead and answer them. And also, last night I decided to embellish a little here and there because why not. So here is my quick guide for upping the stakes when caught out with an unnervingly inappropriate taxi driver. Useful sentences include:


"Oh yes. Ten times a night. Sometimes more sometimes less. Usually until he begs me to stop."


"What have we done together? Pretty much everything involving two people. Okay actually three. Alright then four if you count that time with a midget. I'm sorry I didn't realise midget was an offensive term. He was a really short hermaphrodite."


"That's nothing! Have you ever tried it with a can opener and a roll of camera film? Well I guess not everyone has a roll of film lying around these days what with everything going digital. Ah no file, if you don't know what I'm talking about I'm not describing it. I had to learn on my own and so will you."


"This big (move hands appropriately far apart) and that's without the times we both took Viagra and Ecstasy together".


"No it didn't hurt. It never does because I go to the laiki every Saturday and buy the biggest cucumber I can find. Then I just, you know, keep it in all day."


"Really? Have you ever tried it actually with the washing machine? It's a bit logistic but when you get it right it's magic. I tell you, you'll never look at the detergent drawer the same way again. And you wait and see how white your whites come out."


The goal is that instead of it being me who leaves the cab flustered and upset, it's the can driver who kicks me out saying "Jesus, woman. You are one sick freak."

Image: http://www.obsessedwithfilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TAXI-DRIVER7.jpg

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My! What a Sly Smile you Have


What do I have in common with George Clooney. Guess. Come on guess! Give up? Bell's Palsy, yaaaaaay!


Last week I began to notice the left side of my face was feeling a bit sore, but I put it down to grinding my teeth at night. When on Saturday I woke up and realised I couldn't close my left eye fully, I first thought my body had finally packed in and I'd had a stroke. "You must have sat in a draft" everyone assured me, "it'll get better. Put a hot compress on it."


By Monday my speech was starting to be effected so then began my epic adventure of three hospitals in two days, various tests and horrified looking doctors screaming "This is very serious! The effects may be permanent!" and other doctors saying "No big deal, it'll pass on its own in a couple of months."


A couple of months? Great! Perhaps the worst part was yesterday when I had to get an MRI scan. While we were waiting, I asked Mr Zeus if you can hear anything while you're in the machine since he's had one before. No, he declared. Nothing. He thought I meant if you hear a buzzing in your head. In grim reality, that machine makes a crap load of noise and I nearly wet myself each time it did.


"How long will this take?" I asked the doctor before he popped me in like a cheese pie in an oven. "Twenty minutes" he lied. More like 45 minutes and very unentertaining beeps, bangs and vibrations. I thought it felt like it was taking so long because I was having a bad time.


At one point they stopped to ask me how I was doing and I made the mistake of opening my eyes and seeing just how close to my face the machine was. I've never been claustrophobic, but being imobile like that under strict orders not to move a muscle and struggling to keep my left eye closed and thinking if it accidentally pops open the magnets will blind me or something... not the most fun to be having when I had taken the day off weeks ago planning a chillaxing session of shopping for myself.


Anyway it's over now, and my face is still lopsided. All I can do is wait it out. "Just tell people you botoxed one side of your face because you couldn't afford the whole face." a friend suggested helpfully. "If it doesn't go away, maybe when you're old you'll have a stroke on the other side and it'll even out" said Mr Zeus.


Hmmm. I'll keep those in mind.


Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_34PE0ZEgM80/TRQVP20RDnI/AAAAAAAAa2Y/r8ANaJbbVT8/s1600/george-clooney-20060805-150209.jpg

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A quick hello

I've kind of not been feeling like blogging much lately. It's just that time of year I guess, waiting for winter to turn into spring and finally into summer. There's not been much going on in general, and today it's snowing in Athens. Yes. Believe!

But I'll be back soon, just as soon as I have something interesting to blog about. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Next Top Model. Where's the Sparkle?


Is it just me or is this season's Next Top Model pretty tame? Where are the fights between the girls? Where is the super bitchy judging? Even Chris Kontentos seems to have lost his ability to verbally rip a girl to shreds since cutting his hair off. It just ain't the same. He should grow it back.
And, did you know they let those girls out of the model house? Yeah! I know! I thought they weren't allowed to go anywhere for their entire incarceration.

This week the girls competed for an AIDS awareness shoot in which they'd have to pose naked with one of the male judges. Evangelia and Sindorela won. Dirty Harry was naturally right in there with Evangelia, because he's a judge you see and maybe he could help Evangelia earn some brownie points off camera. After all, she has become a bit of a fatso lately so we are repeatedly told. And if that's overweight, then there really is no hope for the rest of us. Put that celery stick right down, wannabe fashionistas. From now it's warm water and half a pumpkin seed for lunch.

Sindorela being underage posed more of a problem, so she got Christ Kontentas who's tastes we all know are otherwise inclined, and ended up looking like fashion roadkill.

Next, since we have to keep the sponsors happy, the girls were invited to a Lipton tea party. Hey, did you know that all over Athens there's this new concept and people are throwing themed tea parties where you pick a concept and everyone gets together to drink tea and you... oh? You've never heard of them? Or been to one? Well they're all the rage according to Tasos. Oh well. What do we know.
More sponsor bum kissing followed in the form of Georgia's Vodafone sponsored birthday. What the hell? Is this show now just a carriage for the sponsors?

As the show progressed it became obvious the judges are getting bored too, and with nothing better to do they asked the girls to do something totally ridiculous. They made the girls catwalk at judging panel blindfolded. Now, tell me seriously, except for cheap laughs what did anyone learn from that exercise?

Eliminations time rolled round and much to my disappointment, no one got eliminated. Although I can't really complain since Nancy got kicked off last week. I waited a really long time for that. I even wish I had baked a cake to celebrate.

But none of that is really important, because Greece's Next Top Model pulled out a trump card so fabulous on Monday night that it left all model wannabes screaming with all the delight that their skinny lungs could muster. Ever watched America's Next Top Model where Tyra builds the girls up talking about a fashion designer or photographer they're going to meet, who usually just turns out to be a friend of Tyra's (eg. Nigel Barker. Not so much noted fashion photographer as Noted Pal of Tyra) and in the end the vast majority of us are like "Who?"

Well next week the Next Top Model girls are off to Paris. Where they get to meet Jean Paul Gaultier. Awesome. We can ignore for a fact that my brother in law took some of the shine off this moment by reminding me that JPG used to regularly appear on a tacky British TV show called Eurotrash, and therefore was a pretty easy to get hold of fame whore.

Who cares! It's Jean Paul frickin' Gaultier! Beat that, Tyra. Let's celebrate with a tea party at my house!


Image: http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/cm/harpersbazaaruk/images/b6/or_6bf9b70811964433382920.jpg

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Restaurant Review - Barba George's Indian

Whenever someone in Athens asks me if I know where they can get good Indian food, my answer is usually "Yes. My house." But why would I want to find an Indian restaurant when I can cook the food myself? Well, sometimes you just want a curry but are too lazy to make it yourself.

My quest to find a spice fix has so far either ended up being totally bland, way too expensive or just mediocre. That is until I was watching TV on Monday night and the presenter of a cooking show showcased a tiny little restaurant in Exarcheia. My eyes popped. Tandoori chicken and tandoori naan! In a genuine tandoori oven! It seemed way too good to be true.

I had to investigate. So last night Mr Zeus and me took two friends and headed downtown to a teeny little restaurant tucked away in a side street, Baraba George. I was anxious, having eaten a fair share of pretty shitty Indian food in Athens. I wouldn't care if I was doing it on my time, but here I was with two friends I'd dragged away from a couch potato evening.

"Guys, if the food is yia ta baza, I'll cook for you as compensation"

The shop had four tables outside and three inside. It was nothing special to look at, but personally I don't care about aesthetics if the food is good.

We were handed laminated A4 menus, which listed a bunch of your usual Indian restaurant items. I went over and had a talk with the chef, who is from the Home Country, and he recommended what to order if I wanted something close to "How we eat it" as he put it.

Satisfied, we ordered the following:
1 order of samosas (I originally went for onion bhaji, or pakora as it's also known, but the chef recommended samosas instead)
1 chicken tikka
1 seekh kebab
1 chicken madras
1 chicken rogan josh
4 tandoori naans
1 raita
2 beers
1 coke

First to come were the samosas, which disappeared pretty much as soon as they arrived and got an all round thumbs up from the parea. Next came the chicken tikka and seekh kebab. The chef brought me over some extra spicy sauce to give the tikka and the kebab some kick, since they were pretty mild, but perfectly cooked. Tender and juicy, just what you'd expect from a tandoori oven.

Next came what I had been dying to try, the tandoori naan. I love naan but I'm far to lazy to make it myself. I have to admit, these naans were pretty much perfect. Gently puffed, chewy and with that particular flavour you can only get from a tandoori oven. I've certainly not had better in Athens. I'd happily have ordered 10 to takeaway and eat the next morning smothered in jam.

The two curries came served with basmati rice. The madras was firey hot, leaving us all sweating and puffing over it. If the madras was that hot, I think the vindaloo is probably on the menu as a party trick. I have doubts as to how edible a curry can be beyond a certain level of spiciness.

The rogan josh also had a pretty decent kick to it. At least as far as these two dishes are concerned, the restaurant made no exceptions for wimpy diners. The place was packed and the first question everyone was asking the waiter when they were seated was "Just how spicy is it?"

The menu has a selection to cover all levels of spiciness, and I would recommend an order of raita to take the edge off the heat. I did note though that fresh coriander was not used. This is most likely because not everyone likes fresh coriander. Some people say they find the taste soapy. Personally, I love it, but I have had Greek friends scrape it off curries I've made because they can't get used to the taste.

Overall, Barba George surprised me with how good it was. I have paid an arm and a leg for food that was not even close to what I ate last night. I admit that it was so far the best Indian food I have had in Athens. For someone as picky as me when it comes to Indian food, I was really impressed. I'd even go as far as saying it's on par with some of the places I've eaten in the UK.

The restaurant is very small and no frills. We're talking budget deco and plastic plates. But the food is great, and the price very attractive in the current climate. Our entire bill came to EUR 40.50, including drinks. For four people that's EUR 10 a head and we ate well. I'd call that a good deal if I ever saw one.

Another plus point that the food was quite light on the stomach. One thing that irritates the hell out of me with restaurant Indian food (in the UK too) is that sometimes the spices are not cooked properly, leaving you with terrible indigestion and a feeling of heaviness. Not so with Barba George. Apart from the fact that I made such a pig of myself that I lay in bed moaning about my over-stuffed belly, the food itself went down easily.

Don't be put off by the location in Exarcheia. Pak-Indian, the much touted and supposedly most authentic Indian food in Athens is on much skankier Menandrou Street, and serves food that is much more expensive and not nearly as tasty.

Barba George also does takeaways and souvlakis Indian style. I would definitely go back there.

Barba George
Mesologio 4, Exarcheia
210 3826505

Το Ινδικο του Μπαρμπα-Τζωρτζ
Μεσολογγιου 4, Εξάρχεια
210 3826505

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bollywood Tuesday

Greece has always been a lover of protests, clocking up around 400 per year in average conditions. Yes, that's more than one protest per day across the year. With the economic crisis growing deeper by the day, the current climate is no exception.

Just in case you thought life in the capital was getting sort of boring, this week we are being treated to two transport strikes and now, in protest to government proposals to open up previously closed professions, pharmacies in the capital will be shut from this Wednesday to Friday. And next Wednesday to Friday. Because why the hell not! It's not like the pharmacy is the only place you can buy a packet of paracetamol if you need it!

Oh, whoops. Actually it is. Thanks to the pharmacy system in Greece being a 'closed' profession, they have a total monopoly on selling all types of medication. This makes perfect sense for prescriptions etc where you need expert advice, but is a pain the butt for other types of over the counter medication. Also, there is no such thing as own brand medication in Greece, meaning prices can be pretty high.

Anyway, with all this doom and gloom about, it's time we had a Bollywood song, don't you think?




And easy on the jokes about the title. Munni in Hindi is an affectionate term meaning 'little girl'. So you could easily go to my village and call a girl Munni, whereas if you tried that in Greece you'd end up with a black eye.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Sorry I've been out of action for so long. 2010 ended up not being the year I was hoping for at all. I lost several people I loved dearly, including the apparent suicide of a childhood friend in the home country in the dying days of the year. I'm not someone who deals at all well with losing people I love (who does, right?) and maybe the lesson from last year was that you have to just roll with the punches when a battery of unexpected departures happens. I keep dreaming about my friend. I just hope she has found the peace that elluded her during this life.

The result was me staring down the seconds on the clock until 2011, desperate for nothing else to go wrong within the leftover moments of the old year. I've been depressed, but I'm starting to feel better.

Finally the year did turn over, and nothing more terrible happened. I have been home for just three days in the last month or so thanks to work related trips and a holiday, and now that I have my feet firmly planted on Greek soil, I can say I have never been more grateful to be back in Athens. It's funny how you never realize how much you miss your home until you've been forcefully separated from it for several weeks. I spent most nights of the London trip crying because I missed Mr Zeus and our cosy little flat, and it was so cold, and I was scared my flight would get cancelled because of the snow, and I got flu.

But here I am, back again amongst an ever-deepening economic crisis, brows that are even more furrowed over money worries, but still, this is home, warts and all.

But there is plenty to look forward to. Winter dinners with friends, spring walks on mountains and my favourite season, the summer, which needs no further explanation. I have a feeling in my belly that 2011 won't be such a bad year.