30 September 2008

Ouzo is the source of many evils

There are a few unusual drinks that you come across in Greece. Ouzo is very popular. It is a spirit of 40% alcohol and is sugary and flavoured with aniseed, very similar to sambucca and pernod. It is common to drink a small 200ml bottle before a meal with ice and water, lunch or dinner, whatever floats your boat. It is very cheap and even the poorest of greece’s people could afford to get smashed on it most days.

Other drinks we found were Raki - made from fermented grape skins, clear 40% and flavoured like poison. It is very similar to grappa and is probably good for cleaning toilets and other things needing disinfecting. The funniest things is that you can only really buy it in old plastic water bottles from little shops, so it is not produced ina factory but in some little mans farm shed mmmm.

Mastic or mastika was one we found in santorini and is made form some funny tree. it is very sugary and only 25%. we bought a small bottle of this but could not finish it as it is too syrupy and the flavour gets to you after a few swigs.

Metaxa is another nasty drop and is a strong brandy. It is brown and about 38%. The national beer is Mythos and much to my suprise is quite undrinkable. I like most beers but found mythos to be quite incompatible with my delicate palate, gut and acid production. It is very bloating and so we had to settle for Amstel or Heineken - seems the dutch have somehow purchased the rights to the greek beer market.

In Naxos you can get a drink called Citron or kitron. It is made from the leaves of the Kitron tree which is a like a big deformed lemon. It is interesting but nothing special. Corfu does there own imitation by selling very fake brightly coloured orange liquor made from cum kwats, not that good at all.

There is a lot of red wine in greece but most of the bottled stuff is prohibitively expensive especially when you cannot be sure of the quality. The house wine form the barrel that most restaurant sell is quite cheap and not too bad mostly. It is usually 2.5€ - 6€ a litre. We had some in Naxos that was utterly disgusting and should have been condemned but otherwise mostly good. It is often served cold which is nice on a hot afternoon. You can take your old plastic water bottles to some supermarkets and fill your bottel from the barrel for 1.5€ a litre.

The main point of my story was ouzo. We drank quite a bit in the first three weeks then abruptly stopped as we had a bit of an accident. The night before we left crete we finally found a nice restaurant with delicious well priced food, good service music etc. We were so overjoyed we had a few beers, then a bottle of wine and then thought a quick 200ml bottle of ouzo at a pub. When we finished the first bottle corinne thought we should have another. I did think at the time that whilst it would be an interesting social experiment it may not be the best the next day. We ordered our 2nd bottle, much to the suprise of the old man who had only just brought the 1st to us. Then we wnet home and corinne vomited. The next morning we awoke to corinne’s alarm at 530am. We had to catch the bus at 530am for a 3hr bus to heraklio to catch a 2hr ferry to santorini. so we missed the first bus, argued a bit about a bad alarm setting, walked about 15 minutes with our 20kgs of packs, then got the next bus, then luckily our ferry. So many many hot sweaty hours later and after a 20 minute walk down a steep hill we were able to lie down in the bed of our place in santorini, after waiting 30 minutes for the room to be cleaned. ahhhhh. Ouzo caused us a few other headaches and one night in naxos too that i can’t remember much from either. We stopped drinking though and are better for it.

Oh and thats right there was another vomit on the ferry from crete to santorini, corinne says the seas were rough, but they weren’t.

The wild dogs of Greece

Greece is a haven for the unowned animal. All through Greece we came across a huge number of community owned animals. There are water bowls left out for them and bowls of food here and there. There also many metal and plastic structures known as bins where the animals congregate too. Athens particularly was full of car chasing dogs and it was surprising that the roads did not run red with blood from the games. We saw a stray dog in the kephalonia airport, there were dogs sleeping in the middle of the main rd in ithaca, dogs asleep on white washed walls of santorini overlooking the caldera and there were sleeping fat dogs lying in the doorways of expensive jewelry shops in Chania. There was also lots of dogs willing to finish off your meal at many tavernas.

There are a lot of stray cats too, probably more but the Greeks don’t like cats that much from what we saw and will feed dogs before cats.


Ancient ruin dogs.






This dog followed us for about a kilometer because i gave it a pat.

29 September 2008

Athens, Greece


The parthenon-a temple dedicated to the protector of the city Athene / Athena.

Yasus from Athens, the home of the acropolis built in the time of Pericles rule. Our arrival in Athens was great. We had left the cold of the Uk and Ireland and arrived in the hot Sweaty capital of the home of democracy and early thinking.

There are so many different parts that need to be described about Greece. There is the great warm weather with blue/smoggy skys, the crazy beautiful people who struggle to speak at anything below a scream, the history, the beaches, the goats, stray cats and dogs, donkeys etc.

My first memory of Athens was at the airport where we were looking for the underground to the City and i sore my first sunburnt voluptuous tourist that represents holiday makers in greece so well. She looked stunning in her skimpy blue bikini and i am sure she had a wonderful personality.

We made our way to Syntagma in Athens where were staying. The underground was great and got us within about 100m of our Hotel. We were stunned to emerge into a world of car chasing stray dogs who are all quite friendly and well fed.

We spent the next 4 days sweating like trojans waiting for Achilles to finish off Hector. There were sweat patches on me where i didn’t think i was even able to sweat. thus we found out something greece does very well that the rest of europe struggles with. Cold cold drinks are easily available and generally cheap. There are even little men of a dark colouring that sell you bottle of water from there bags of ice that they carry around and for a good price too. We visited the acropolis and the temples and the ancient agora etc, lots of broken columns and stones that are all quite impressive. The number of tourists was not too bad as it was late in season so we were not trampled too badly.

We spent lots of time walking in the plaka area looking at the identical wares of all the little store sellers. there are actually a lot of nice things to buy especially pottery and jewelry, but hard to carry around on a 6 week holiday.

The Athenians have closed the main rd that surrounds half the acropolis hill and have created a fantastic promenade that loops up around the hill past ancient grottoes, olive groves and pines. The promenade is the place to be at night where all the locals walk and smoke and smoke a bit more then rest at the cafes and tavernas and have another smoke before their lungs clear too much. We sat on the walls with the 2500 year old ruins behind us, the air scented with pine and watched all the little slapper local girls walk by, their hair teased and fluffed into amazing 80’s bon jovi rock hair styles that are apparently all the fashion. If you have straight short hair in Athens - you suck. The girls are followed by the childish boy groups who laugh and punch eachother desperately dreaming of rubbing their fingers through that fluffed up crazy hair.

We indulged in dolmades and tzatziki and pita and wine, beer, gyros (kebabs) and many other greek favourites. We did discover though that the mass tourism of greece/athens has turned the athenians into dirty stinking rotten dishonest conniving pricks. We found that if you were not careful they brought you bread that you didn’t want and could be quite expensive, dips, water all of which you would have to pay. The best place for being conned was a little taverna in the plaka that was run by a annoying, fidgety man that tried to push tourists into his establishment. He was really pissed when they didn’t respond to his pushiness. He also announced often that ’Inside - Paradise’. Unfortunately inside and out were not paradise - shitville. From then on we tried very hard to spot the rip off but we still got done a few times, just too nice and trusting from our wonderful home where people just couldn’t comprehend being so dishonest to their main source of income.

We really enjoyed Athens, the ruins, the hot chicks wearing only a bit, the food, the wine, the ouzo, the promenade and weather - 38 degrees the first day we were there.

I would highly recommend it, but beware any establishment that goes out of their way to secure your custom - they are almost certainly gonna get ya.


Part of what is left of Hadrians library, a roman building by the same guy that commissioned the big wall in the north of England. Said to be one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world


Some other old broken thing


The Odeon of Herodes Atticus - a large amphitheater on the side of the hill that has performances still. we wanted to go to one but there were no seats while we were there.


The parthenon again


A view of the temple of Hephaestus from the acropolis. It is the best surviving example of greek architecture in the agora.


The Erechthium - well preserved lady statues that are actually fake. The real ones are in the museum and look the same - not bad for 2000 years.


The rock at night from the promenade.

Dublin WSAVA conference

Fiddle dee dee Potatoes. In late August we made our way to the Emerald Isle for the 2008 World Small Animal Veterinary Association or WSAVA in Dublin. We are required to go to conferences and education each year so it gives you a good chance to learn more (if that were even possible) and travel to exotic far away places or Ireland.

We were meeting up with Liv and Downy too for the conference and planned to have a few beverages and maybe a guiness too. We stayed at Avalon House hotel/Hostel. It was quite expensive about 80€ a night and boy was it crap. We discovered very soon afterwards that Dublin is an expensive place to stay but this place was shite even by Paris standards. With flooding showers, and itchy uncomfortable beds, bunks etc it really was a bit dumpy. We caught a bus each day to our conference and learned more than we could imagine. A conference full of specialists and nerds really can make you feel inadequate so off course we were all looking forward to the brilliant food you get at a conference! But, and but i say it was not that good. We got lunch bags which had some alright sangers a bit of fruit (poison) and a chocolate and a drink, sometimes water (possibly posionous.) It wasn’t really the buffet Prawn pasta and roast meat that we were looking forward too. Even worse was the fact that the unorganisers of the conference couldn’t even count how many people had paid there 600€ and forgot to order enough lunches. so there were a lot of hungry people on the first day and a lot of stressed unorganisers running around.

Many of the talks were good though and we did really learn. We had our nights out on the town and even met a nice young lass from Perth who we hung out with. We drank far too much Guiness and had a few Irish stews too. We visited the Guiness store house which unfortunately again we found to be crap. I hate to be negative but it really was. I know how to make beer gold or brown and i dont need to pay 16€ to be told whilst slowly climbing up 7 levels of a big building.

The conference finished Sunday and corinne and i flew to Athens monday. Liv and Downy spent another week in Ireland and then flew off to Europe.

Overall i feel we enjoyed the nightlife of Dublin but found the place expensive in every way, more so than the UK and many parts of Europe.


Me and Downy discussing the advantages of phaeco-emulsification over older techniques of cataract removal.


The Shite that 80€ gets you in Dublin


A hot pair of men walking down the main shopping bit of Dublin, note our cool conference bags.


A cool yellow pub


Laughing at how bad the Guiness tastes after drinking too many Guinesses on previous nights.


The woman of questionable intelligence who failed to see me taking a photo from about 20cm away.


Studying hard