Last week, I participated in the first lesson of marble carving! I showed up at an underground studio filled with various sized blocks of marble, paintings, sculptures, and, of course REAL Greeks! At that point, I was the only student, but later in the session, four others joined me to listen to the six middle-aged Greeks performing a song to the rhythmic beat of their hammers and chisels. Our first mission was to find what we wanted to draw, draw it without much detail or shadow (which was my biggest problem), put it onto tracing paper, and then transfer the design to the marble using carbon paper. I decided on a figure similar to one of Athena, which I found in a book of ancient marble reliefs. Towards the end of the class, the owner of the studio came over the table where we were working, and invited us to clean up, and take part in eating various dishes prepared by the other Greeks, and homemade wine made by Dimitri (the studio owner) in celebration of the New Year. We were able to somewhat mingle with the adults, eat great food (smoked fish, grilled sausage, fresh tomato salad, and potato salad), and listen to fun music. At one point, one of the men recited a memorized poem to Apollo in Ancient Greek. Apparently, the group likes to celebrate as often as possible, and asked if we had any birthdays or special holidays coming up that we wanted to celebrate. Looks like we'll be celebrating Valentine's Day next week! And next time you're drinking wine, just do as Dimitri did, lean over to your neighbor, drop in a piece of apple and exclaim "Look! Now it's sangria!"
Continuing on the food note, I also signed up to take a cooking class last week. Or, at least, I thought it was going to be a cooking class. The thirty of us students expected to be split up into little groups and learn how to cook some traditional Greek food, exciting, right? However, when we got there, we were ushered into a room containing one big, professional kitchen and audience-style seats. It turns out, all we got to do was watch the chef prepare things, drink wine, and taste the pre-made versions of what he was making. Oh yes, and we were allowed to volunteer...to put garnishes on the plates. At least I left with a memory of good tastes, and the recipes to recreate these dishes (fava bean mashed up with lemon, fried vegetable balls, roasted grape leaf-wrapped lamb served with baby potatoes, and what they called "milk pie"-- a custard-like concoction with a phyllo dough crust).
Also, I went with a couple new friends to Kafissia, a suburb northeast of Athens, where there are cute shops, galleries, and other over-priced items. However, the next day, it was the extreme opposite: the Monastraki flea market, where you are surrounded by 'antiques', scarves and bags, and, of course, the typical fake name-brand items. A sight to see!