As I discovered the following morning, the buffet breakfast at the hotel was substantial and varied, including all the usual items one would expect to find on the breakfast table of a five star hotel belonging to an international chain, as well as local specialities, such as bougatsa (akin to a popular Israeli dish known as bourekas) and tzatziki (also available in Israel, but the Greek version, made from the thicker Greek yoghurt, is richer). The only trouble was, the “hot” dishes, such as the bougatsa, and the scrambled eggs, never seemed to be more than lukewarm. And the coffee was dreadful! As bad as Starbucks coffee!
After breakfast, we set out for Mt. Olympus, famed in mythology as the home of the gods. It was easy to see why the ancient Greeks believed heavenly beings walked these mountains:
As the indomitable Spartacus manoeuvred our bus up the winding mountain road, we encountered a goat-herd with his charges:
There is a point beyond which buses cannot proceed, but where there is a cafe selling the most divinely flavoured smoothies. I am not sure these could actually compete with the nectar and ambrosia on which the Olympian gods were said to dine, but they were ice cold and deliciously refreshing in the mid-30s temperatures we were experiencing. (Yes, I know in Israel, we are used to that – but at home in Israel, we tend to stay indoors, near to the air-conditioning, and not go rushing around in extreme weather conditions. Which reminds me – the air-conditioning system in the bus was faulty and while I, sitting in the front, just about found it bearable, people sitting further back did not cease to complain.)
At any rate, after pausing to take pictures in the vicinity of the cafe (which enjoyed spectacular views), we proceeded on foot to “the Pillar of Zeus” where romantically-minded tourists leave offerings for the Father of the Gods:
Some more views of Mount Olympus and the surrounding mountains:
Whilst posing for my photo above this dizzying drop, I was forcibly reminded of the romantic thriller I had just finished reading, M.M. Kaye’s “Death in Cyprus”, where the villain (whose identity I shall not, of course, disclose, in case some of you decide to read the book) attempts to throw the heroine to her death in just such a location!
Today, too, we had a late lunch, this time in Litochoro, a picturesque little town which serves as the base for serious trekkers and for mountaineers who are planning the ascent of Mt. Olympus’s 2,918 metre (9,573 ft) peak.
As we were planning to go out to a taverna that evening, I thought it would be wise to stick to a light lunch in a small restaurant right on the village square, which offered, among other things, vegetarian fare. I chose stuffed peppers and tzatziki – enough to keep me going until suppertime, but not so much as to leave me too bloated to enjoy a delicious meal at the Ladadika Taverna in the evening, where a full Greek meze, as well as a main course, wine and a soft drink cost a very reasonable 30 euros. There was also a floor show – a Greek band and a singer, who entertained us with Greek and Hebrew songs, in which we enthusiastically joined. I must just mention, at this point, that many Greek songs have been translated into Hebrew and popularised – especially by the Israeli singer Yehuda Poliker, himself the son of Greek-Jewish Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki.
There was another large group in the taverna that evening, from Turkey, and both our group and theirs happily joined in the dancing together, as did the Greek diners. It appears music, good food and ouzo overcome politics, every time!
My videos from the taverna didn’t turn out too well, alas, and the only stills picture I took was of the lovely coloured chandelier:
Since we went to a taverna again, on our last night, where my videos turned out rather more successfully and where, in my opinion, the music was even better, I will leave you this time with a videoclip of Yehuda Poliker performing together with the well-known Greek singer, Giorgos Dalaras.
Before I go, since Sunday evening will mark the start of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and the High Holy Days, I want to wish you all a Good Year – Shana Tova – שנה טובה.