Saturday, May 9, 2015

Speak Greek

The Bear
“It’s all Greek to me,” I joked, looking at the funny letters that look like ours but don’t sound like them. We were in japan a year, and any attempts to learn the language were met with giggles and embarrassment, so why bother in Greece? It’s not like I’ll be able to get any sort of handle on the language in two weeks, and what will learning a few phrases really do?

Turns out that a few words in Greek have earned Raquel and I all sorts of goodies.

First, a disclaimer. I can’t read Greek, neither can you probably, so my translations are all just the sounds of Spanish. So think adios amigos not goodbye my friends.

We were given our first lesson in Greek from the first restaurant we went to. I asked the waiter how to say thank you, and he told us, efharisto, then spent the rest of the evening teaching us greek spelling on our table cloth. He was great. He’d write down a phrase, then vanish and let us absorb it, then as soon as we’d glance his way he’d be back at the table, checking our pronunciation. After the meal and the lesson I told him efharisto for everything. So impressed he was he brought us mastiha a sweet herb flavored digestif. It was perfect after a meal of spiced meatballs and mousaka. Raquel spent her entire time on the subway telling me how good it made her tummy feel.

The next phrase we learned was yasas, which means cheers and is good for hello or goodbye. We tried out this handy phrase in a little bakery. It earned us free sesame seed crusted pretzels and a big smile from the shopkeeper.

Of course, when learning all of this greek, you may get in over your head. This happened to us in the town of Finikas, when at a Taverna (spelled Tabepna in Greek). We ordered in greek, feta parakolo, or feta please, and the waiter proceeded to interrogate us in his mother tongue. I understood not a word, but the waiter figured this out soon enough and switched to English. Half a bottle of wine later and I was drinking tsipouro with the Frenchmen at the table next to us. Siporo is distilled white wine and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would take something as good as greek white wine and turn it into something as repulsive as tsipouro. Fortunately the waiter noticed my distressed and brought Raquel and I rakomelo, which is the same vile liquor that’s been boiled with cinnamon and honey, and is marvelous.
After that drunken debacle I learned the next phrase. Milate Anglica? Or, you-speaka-da-english? This one earned us chocolate at a coffee shop one day and cheaper cups of coffee the next. Seriously I think they just like spoiling young Americans.
But perhaps the most powerful phrase in my limited vocabulary is roharismo parakalo. Which means simply, “check please.” If you learn anything besides yasas, I’d focus on this one. I always say it at the end of the meal and the waiters seem unable to help but bring us desert. I’ve earned us yogurt with figs and honey this way, a coconut custard that was quite tasty and two pieces of something like flan, one of which was coated in lavender syrup and the other in a pomegranate reduction. Ambrosia, and all thanks to asking for the check in Greek. I think the waiters appreciate an attempt at the language, and can’t help but feed us a little bit more.
The Babe and the Beard

But then again, I could be full of crap. The locals have told us they haven’t seen Americans here in years, and everyone might be being nice just so we’ll spread the good word. Either that or they’re trying to get at my wife. Aw well, at least they know enough to try to get me drunk while they’re doing it.
If you enjoyed this post, there's more! Use that Greek at a great restaurant or perhaps while you explore the island of Syros!

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