Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nafpaktos P2 - CnR Find a Home.

The second installment of our adventure in Nafpaktos brings us closer to anything we could ever consider a home away from home. Christina's family has been gracious to let us stay at their apartment in Nafpaktos while we bask under the mediterranean sun. It was 10 days of rest, relaxation, lots of frappes, amazing food, beautiful scenary, awesome fire spinning chill sessions, and endless memories for a lifetime. We put together a short photo montage to show you some of our experiences. ***It should be said, as beautiful as the images are, they don't do the real thing justice. It is highly recommended that you drop EVERYTHING you're doing in your life and visit this lucious land... Otherwise, just open up some vacation time during the summer.

For the full-screen version, just hit "youtube" to find the source.

Food Quest: Getting Greeky P2

Our quest to eat all the food in the world continues. This chapter of our saga takes us out of the major city of Athens, into the countryside of Greece. Our first stop is Nafpaktos, Greece; a beautiful beach village nestled in the Sterea Ellas region of Greece. During the summer, this small town turns into a hotbed of beach bums, party seekers, and food lovers. We happen to be all of those, so naturally this was an awesome place to stay. Sooooo, without further adue:
Horta w/olive oil & lemon
While this may look like baby poop to kseni (foreigners), this simple side dish is one healthy pick! Horta is delicately picked from dandelion plants. Once again, referring back to the idea of peasant food in this ancient land, it is an economical treat for green lovers. It has a slight bitter taste but the lemon compliments it by giving it a refreshing spritz to your palette. As a double reward, the excess oil and lemon juice makes for great dipping.

Melitzanosalata a.k.a. Eggplant Salad
Eggplant lovers rejoice. We’ve found your holy grail! Don’t underestimate this modest dish, it’ll fill your belly in no time. Grab some bread (preferably toasted) and dunk away. Traditional recipes include vinegar as well as trace amount of black pepper or paprika. The result is a sweet and spicy flavor coupled with chunks of eggplant (which carries an awesome flavor in itself). Topping off this creamy, yet savory dip are some tiny slices of red pepper and olive oil.
Patates tiganites w/oregano and salt
You can call these “just French fries,” but they are far from it. Sliced from fresh potatoes, these fritters are carved in the most effortless way and cooked in olive oil (which is second nature for Greek cuisine). Sprinkled with oregano and salt, these are a delicious side dish to snack on, while waiting for a main dish to come or side track your hunger while exploring the grounds of GrecaLand.
The cornerstone of Greek nutrition, bread is arguably just as important to Greeky society as water or air. It’s a munchable as is, it’s often used as a utensil, you can plunge it into the endless assortment of Greeky dips, etc. Other uses for bread may include: weight lifting, baseball bats, decoration, ritualistic sacrifice, fashion, and many, many more…. Might I add, it’s nice a fluffy inside.

Grilled Octopus
My mouth begins to salivate just thinking about this beautifully presented and scrumptious dish. Chewy, crunchy, sweet, and salty are just the beginnings of a typhoon of flavor surging across your palette. Local Greek islanders garnish their octopus with parsley and squeezed lemon (for that extra tang). The trick, according to the owner of a restaurant on Andros, is to string the octopus tentacles out for a day before cooking. This allows the meat to dry out, giving it the texture that makes it so rich. No need to worry, flies won’t be buzzing around your 8-tentacled meal… ever! This is because octopus doesn’t actually have blood.  
Octopus Salad w/ capers and olive oil
An off-shoot of its more basic presentation (grilling or frying), this homemade dish takes octopus to a whole new level of awesomeness. Our chef Michael Gdisis boiled the octopus and chopped it up to little bites. He then mixed it together with capers and olive oil. Simple, yet mind blowing. One bite is never enough. It’s chewy, it’s sweet , it’s great to eat at just about any time of day. Screw eating the same old pizza at 3:30 AM on a drunken Friday night. Make yourself some Octopus salad ah la Gdisis; you won’t regret it ;)

If you're just as much a foody as we are, you're probably hungry right about now... So with that in mind, it's time to chow down!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nafpaktos P1 - The Battle of Lepanto

All that remains from the battle =P

My family has been from this land of olives and feta as far back as we can trace it. They’re from a small village called Agia Triada (Agia Triada), which is maybe 30-45 minutes in distance from this town called Nafpaktos (Spelled Naupaktos in the Greek language). This is common for villagers to have ventured down and bought/rented property in this waterfront community due to its proximity, making it easy access for xoriani (villagers) to go back and forth to their hometowns in the mountains.
Of course there is no talking about places in Greek without speaking of its historical context. Nafpaktos is conveniently located in the middle of Greece, in a body of water that helps meet the Aegean to the Mediterranean Sea. It also is located a few miles away east of the Little Dardanelles, which are the narrows that close the Gulf of Corinth.
A quick timeline is in order:
1407 Venice bought the port of Lepanto
1499 Lepanto was conquered by the Turks
1571 Battle of Lepanto between a Christian fleet, gathered at the request of the Pope and led by Don John of Austria, and the Turkish fleet
1687 Lepanto was occupied by the Venetians but it was returned to the Turks by the peace of Karlowitz (1699)
On October 7th, 1571, a fleet of the Holy League (Catholic maritime states) engaged and defeated the main fleet of the Ottoman Empire. In total, around 500 ships participated in this bloody battle. The Christian fleet was outnumbered, yet held a key advantage in their use of "modern" cannonry. Historians say that the battle lasted over five hours in the tight corridor between the two large seas separating the opposing empires.

Christian guns unleashed their fury on Ottoman vessels as they collided headon. A storm of swords ensued as ships crashed into one another. Ultimately, the strength of Christendom's infantry and artillery overcame the Ottoman naval might, dissolving its main fleet and crushing an entire generation of skilled sailors. The victory was extremely crucial for the Christian armies, as the Mediterranean sea was a highly contentious highway between major trade routes. Consequentely, the Ottoman navy was rendered useless for an extended period of time.

Fortifications of Nafpaktos' Castle

The trek on the way up to the castle provides a nice view of the fort in the bay (limani). 
From a worm's eye view, a clear image of the castle above.

Located at the very top of the hill of Lepanto (Nafpaktos) is the castle itself, extending out with its walls of protections reaching out diagonally towards the water, to form a triangular shape. While it was the Turks that maintained the walls of the fort and the castle, it was the Venetians that created the structure.

The cobblestone road to the top!
Narrow crossroads up the hill. 


Pomegranites? Fresh fiber for your eatens.

Great panoramic look out for strategory and awesomeness. 

The gate into the pallisade of Castle Nafpaktos

Murder holes looking down on gate... Wouldn't want to be storming these doors, naked.
View toward the Mediterranean. Bridge to Patrai in the distance.

Main gate to the castle. It was closed =(

The wise guardian turtle, protecting the townsfolk of Nafpaktos.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

RoLo's Got a New Drummy!

The Greeky Instrument Store!
Ladies and Gents, fellow musicians and music lovers, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you the newest member of RoLo’s drummies. Unofficially nicknamed “Greeky,” this ceramic hand-drum was picked up in a tiny boutique tucked away in the heart of Athens. You guys probably know by now, I’m quite the enthusiast when it comes to drums, percussion and finely crafted instruments. So, one of the goals I set before heading on my Euro-trip was to add some unique sounds to my repertoire. It didn’t take very long to fulfill my desire. Within a few days of being in Greece, this drum caught my eye. … I had to have it =D
Hand-drum packaged with matching (soft) drum bag & sound adjusting, drum-tuning light bulb.

 Let’s start our showcase with the main attraction:
Rope tuned hand drum with Mocha/Espresso stained finish.
Forged by a Greek ceramicist, Savvas is widely known around the Mediterranean for his hand-spun masterpieces. Most of his drums are custom made on the same kind of rotating wheel that is used to make clay pottery. Savvas only produces a select amount of drums per year. So, each drum has its own tones, shape, and aesthetic designs; adding a unique personality to each work of art. This particular drum is a hybrid Djembe/Darbuka  (or what I like to call Djembuka).

Notice the incredible detail that went into spinning these intricate grooves.
Savvas Logo on center of authentic goat skin.

My drum (along with most of Savvas’ pieces) features an authentic goat skin head. I generally prefer goat skin over its synthetic counterpart. The surface is more sensitive, so your hand and fingers don’t need to strike the drum as hard to get loud tones. The resonation of a goat skin/ceramic drum is out of this world. The bass has a thunderous boom, while the rim shots have a sweet ring.

Checker patterned soft drum bag.
Every Savvas drum comes with a special fitted drum-bag. It’s provides some protection from the natural elements. However, it’s not invulnerable the way hard cases are. Maximum caution is recommended when traveling with a Savvas drum. The ceramic is more fragile than other materials. For example, my aluminum doumbek will dent if I drop it or knock into something. This ceramic drum could crack if it’s dropped.

On the bright side, if my hands are full, I can use the two long straps as a backpack.

This is a really interesting addition to Savvas drums. Because the drum head is tightened by ropes, it’s really difficult and tedious to tune if it gets loose. This can happen due to cold temperatures or just from inactivity. To counteract this, Savvas devised a mechanism to help keep the drum in tune. It’s really simple. Just put the contraption (bulb first) into the sound hole of the drum, like so:

The legs of the contraption bend to form to the sound hole. Once in place, the legs expand to grip within. It doesn’t fall in or out.
Use the remote to adjust the strength of the light. The higher the setting, the hotter the bulb, the tighter the head becomes. This is what it looks like on a medium setting in the dark:    

Final verdict… It’s awesome! I’ve been fussing around with the drum nonstop for the past few days. There’s a lot of potential for utilizing the looser, deeper tones along with the tightened higher tones. Not to mention that the remote can make for an interesting light show 8)
Check out future drum sessions featuring my Savvas hand drum. In the meantime, enjoy!
Loose tuning:

Tight tuning:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Food Quest! Getting Greeky Part 1

Adventuring around the world can leave one with one heck of an appetite. Lucky for us, we're in the land of amazing food =D Greece is home to a wide variety of mouth-foaming deliciousness. Tastes for every type: veggies lovers, meat munchers, and sweet-tooth seekers all find solace in the mainland (and island) cuisine. Each region prides itself on a variety of different, unique dishes. However, the larger more metropolitan areas have their fair share of similarities with other western cuisines.

Warning! The following foods were ordered, devoured, and processed by Christina and Roland. For example:

We got this scrumptious dish at a local restaurant for lunch. Pasta dish are originally from Italian cuisine, but they found their way across the narrow sea to our plates. It's not unusual for Greekies to dine on pasta. However, more traditional Greek cooking isn't heavy on this stringy delight.
Chicken salad w/ tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, peppers, and light ceasar dressing

This delicious chicken salad is just another great example of Greek-Western fusion. You’re probably not moved at the sight or thought of it…. After all, it’s just a salad. Interestingly enough, Greekies don’t normally eat their greens in this manner. Most traditional Greek cuisine comes from the simple peasant foods that farmers eat on the daily.  A traditional Greek salad (called Xoriatikisalata [pronounced Hori-ah-t-key-sa-lata]) consists of a basic group of core home-grown vegies grown in the Greek countryside: tomatoes, onions, green peppers and cucumbers. Sometimes you’ll even find a handful of olives. It’s garnished with oregano, salt, and pepper; then topped off with chunks of feta cheese and a little bit of olive oil.  Soooo simple, yet soooo good =D

Tzatziki yogurt dip w/ garlic and olive oil.
If you haven’t heard of this delectable, yogurty dip, you’re definitely living under a rock. Tzatziki is as identifiable with Greek culture as philosophy, democracy, and the acropolis. Designed in the same light as most simplistic Greeky dishes, tzatziki is made with a combination of conventional Greek yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers mixed with olive oil. The final product is a creamy, yet sweet blend of flavors which set of explosions of delight on your taste buds.

Gyro – Souvlaki (lamb meat) w/ tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and French fries on a pita.
Hungry and in a rush? There’s no better way to fill up your belly without hurting your wallet than a Greeky gyro. Athens is littered with these gyro stands the same way New York City has Hot-Dog carts. On average, it takes less than 2 minutes for you to walk up, select a meat (lamb, beef, pork, or chicken), and stroll away with a handful of awesomeness. Now that’s what I call “fast food.” For the budget sensitive consumer, this is definitely the food of choice. A typical gyro will only cost you anywhere between 2 and 4 Euros (depending where you go). That’s less than $5 American for a hearty meal; making the Greeky gyro the king of cheap eats.   

Baklava – Crunchy dough, nuts, and honey baked into luscious pastry.
The street name for it varies from a bak, lava, bakjob or b-job (for short)… This Greeky classic stands atop the list of most popular desserts. The combination of sweet honey with salty walnuts blend to make a heavenly delight that will likely thrust you into a sugar induced coma. No worries, you’ll snap out of it as soon as you realize that there’s still more on your plate. Addiction is a tough to fight, with baklava, you’ll give in to temptation with relative ease every time.

Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed eating it!
Stay tuned for more eats ;)     

Friday, September 9, 2011

How WONDERful!

Heyyyyyyyyyyoooooooooooooooo! Checking in with our faithful pretties back in the States. So, here's a quick update on CnR. The featherbed wings we attached to Roland's back were strong enough to carry us (and our luggage) all the way to Greece. It was a rough landing, but it was definitely worth the trek. Fyi, there ain't no virgins on Virgin Atlantic.... Christinaki has been a fantastic guide thus far. Drawing upon her past experiences in Athens, she's been an invaluable source of help in navigating our way through tight streets and snappy Greeks. We eventually wandered off trail and discovered a relic from the ancient world. Check it out: 

Not impressed yet? What about this work of pure, certfied perfection:

Temple of Athena atop the Acropolis

Even Drummy is getting in on the action:

Thanks to modern technologies, the Greeks are working night and day (pfffft) to rebuild their sanctuary. Filling in every missing nook and cranny, it's really shaping up to look like the original structure.... Slowly. Their estimated time of completion is .... Wait for it....

Thanks to Zeus, who has transformed into this pup, the Parthenon is now under intense supervision and protection.

While you're treking up to see this beautiful view and wonder, don't forget to catch Yanni live, in concert, at the Ancient Amphitheater.
Yanni sold out more nights than Plato and Socrates combined.

Till next time; Peace, love, and feta cheese.


The view from atop the Acropolis.