Greece: Take A Risk With Olives

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On my Write, Travel, Transform trips, I always begin by talking about some core attitudes that make traveling (and traveling in a group) more successful. One of these attitudes is flexibility and letting go of irritations and a second is respect for peoples’ differences.

I also ask people to take a risk every day. It can be a small risk, one that would be invisible or insignificant to others–like attempting a greeting in Greek, striking up a conversation with a local person, or trying an unfamiliar food. Or it can be be something bigger–sharing something intimate in writing class or going on a solo adventure.

When I was explaining this concept to the group in our first orientation session, I gave the example of eating olives. All my life, I’ve hated olives. Don’t ask me why. I pick them out of my salads and off my pizza. But since the Greeks serve the world’s best olives at every meal, I decided to eat olives on this trip. And for me that is a risk. I’m not normally an adventurous eater and I have strong food dislikes and preferences.

Every day since I’ve arrived, I’ve nibbled on at least one olive and sometimes multiple olives. Greek olives are incredibly diverse. Some are mild (I like these best); others make my mouth pucker. Some I enjoy, others I tolerate, and last night I bit in to one that was so bitter, I winced and couldn’t take more than a nibble.

They say if you give a toddler an unfamiliar food on ten different occasions that they will eventually acquire a taste for it. I wonder if I will for olives.

This morning we are leaving Athens and taking a short flight to Crete where we will be staying at the Millia Eco Resort for four days of yoga and writing. We had a jam-packed walking tour of the city yesterday and viewed some antiquities. We were led by a passionate local guide who spoke fervently about everything from Agamemnon and the proportions in male statues to the generosity of the Greek people in helping the Syrian refugees. A full rich day.

As I sit here at 5:20 AM, my belly full of rich Greek yogurt with fresh peach and banana, drizzled with Greek honey, I can hear the early morning sounds of the first vendors from the fruit market, directly outside the doors of our hotel, setting up their wares.

In an hour, the narrow street will be full of huge heaping displays of eggplant, beans, bananas, peaches, cashews, cherries, cucumbers, tomatoes and dozens of other fruits and vegetables, known and unknown. The male vendors sing our their wares in a continuous ocean of song. It sounds like the call to prayer and reminds me, a dozen years ago, of the sound of my son chanting his haftorah in the early mornings before school. It is a sacred yet raucous shout out to life and commerce and I loved walking out our hotel door right into the midst of it.

I love cities and I’ve loved Athens. And this morning at dawn I just had to step outside for one more peek at the market–and who did I find? The olive man–who let me take his picture.

Here are two more pictures of the luscious olives….and the fake olive tree in the lobby of our Athens hotel. Only in Greece!

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