By Markus Stolz/ Eloinos.com
If you really want to explore a city beyond the offerings of the usual stereotype tourist tours, you need the help of a local. In Athens, you can do just that, thanks to the team of Alternative Athens. I went along for a three hour walk-around food tour, during which I learned more than in the ten years that I lived in this great city. There are plenty of stops included where one sits down, nibbles some delicious food and gets carried away by the storytelling of the guide, in our case the founder of this initiative, Tina.
After we sipped a traditional Greek coffee, Tina got us some koulouria, the round shaped sesame rings, at one of the oldest food corners in the Psiri area.
The next stop was at a classic Greek pie joint, famous for its ‘bougatsa’, a cream filled pie from northern Greece. The inside decoration lets you travel back in time.
Spices and herb stores appeal to the senses both by sight and smell. This one offers a wide range of tastes and flavors from Greece and all around the world.
Miran is one of the oldest gourmet meat stores in Athens. It was established in 1922 and has ever since been known for the superior quality of pastourma (cured meat from beef and camel) and soutzouki (dry, spicy sausage). Plus, look how they grow herbs vertically outside!
The central Athens fruit and vegetable market is exploding with colors and smells next to Varvakios Agora, the main fish and meat market of Athens, and also the oldest and largest one in Greece. Hectic, colorful and vibrant, this is a sensory and gastronomic delight.
Krinos is famous for its loukoumades (Greek donuts), and we were shown by Dimitris how to make them: Put the dough into hot vegetable oil with your hands (careful, he did it so fast that it looked like child’s play), stir, take them out.
After a stop at a traditional grocery store with a wide selection of Mediterranean products from the best local producers and cooperatives, we finished the tour by eating probably the best souvlaki I have ever had. Kosta, a tiny souvlaki place at Platia Agias Eirinis, opened doors in 1946. The meat is wrapped in a pita with onions, parsley, tomato, French fries and the venue’s famous peppery red sauce. The perfect wrap-up of an amazing morning!
Oh, and the Acropolis is never far away. While I certainly recommend visiting this monument and the top notch Acropolis Museum, taking this tour will let you discover Athens with the eyes of a local.