Tell it on a mountain: Gyros are Greek for delicious

By Rachel Slajda

This is the eighth in a biweekly series following the journey of a Northeastern student studying abroad in Perugia, Italy.

My biggest source of stress at the end of my semester in Italy wasn’t finals or packing. I was frazzled over the decision of which Greek island to visit during my two weeks in the country of feta cheese and mythology.

I have a ridiculous life.

Eventually, I chose Paros, a small island that is a five-hour ferry ride from Athens. I stayed there a week, after a few days in Athens and one in Meteora, a collection of monasteries set on cliffs that, by some geological whim, sprung straight up from flat ground.

Athens is an enormous city that spreads its white buildings from the coast to the mountains, sparing the hills, namely the Acropolis. The Parthenon sits up there, some of its majesty dimmed by scaffolding – one of those things you see on TV and finally see in person with some disappointment. I had no knowledge of the history behind the Parthenon and the other nearby marble buildings, and although there was no help in the museum, it was pretty amazing to see the still (partially) standing 2,500-year-old temples and look out and see all of modern Athens.

Meteora was even more visually spectacular, perhaps made less solemnly beautiful by the busloads of Italian senior citizens that unloaded at every monastery and outlook. Can’t escape those crazy Italians no matter where I go, apparently. But the Greeks gave their Mediterranean neighbors a run for their money in the insanity department. In both cases, it’s a harmless, friendly sort of insanity, but insanity nonetheless.

The Greek people – forgive me for generalizing – are an incredibly talkative, sociable, quick-tempered bunch. Anyone from a restaurant owner to a guy on the bus will be your best friend within ten minutes. Moreover, they may also start an argument and deafen you with a passionately screamed string of (presumably) vulgar insults.

They also offer gyros for one or two euros. If you’re unfamiliar, as I certainly was, gyros are made out of that spinning meat you see behind the counter at Cappy’s. The meat, beef, lamb, chicken or pork, is sliced off and wrapped in a pita with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, and usually a few French fries for good measure.

Gyros are delicious. I will no longer be afraid of the spinning meat.

On Paros, I ate one almost every day to save money (as if I wouldn’t eat one every day anyway). I feasted on Greek salad (standard salad plus feta) and fried calamari, or “baby squids,” according to one restaurant owner, Marcos.

Marcos became my friend when my travel buddy Courtney and I went to his restaurant, Mezzo Mezzo, for dinner one night and he treated us to corny jokes and free wine. I went back there the day after Courtney left for the States, thinking if I was going to eat out alone, I might as well have someone entertaining serving my food.

I ended up spending the rest of the evening with Marcos and his 67-year-old friend, whose name escapes me but who paid for my dinner

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