Tag Archives: Greece

Baklava – A Little Piece Of Happiness In Every Layer

By Lakshmi:

Baklava – The very word conjures up beautiful images in my mind.

– Delicate layers of flaky phyllo dough encasing a filling of sweetened nuts drizzled with a sugar/honey syrup flavored with cardamom or orange blossom

– The joy on people’s faces as they savor their first bite followed by the myriad of expressions that follow on discovering the filling and the melding of flavors.

– The little crumbs sticking over your lips and potentially clothing, making you a bit angry that you could not eat more neatly and yet you have no regrets over devouring something so sinful.

– The excuse to have yet another cup of your favorite beverage (coffee) to balance your palate

Ok…how’s that for waxing eloquence on one of my favorite desserts?

Since its debut in the 8th century BC in ancient Assyrian civilization, more people have fought over rights to creating Baklava than patent contests in the modern world.  Regardless of  its origin, we know that it is a dessert enjoyed with a cup of coffee in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Armenia, Egypt and more.

Since my very first bite at Lebanese Taverna in the Washington DC area, discovering the varieties of Baklava around the world has been joyful.  The phyllo has been a staple, while the fillings have varied from walnut and pistachios to caramelized milk and more modern versions with chocolate.  I have had cab drivers from the Middle East argue the merits of their native Baklava, discrediting others as imitations and proving that the dish is worthy of national debate!

Favorite memories include savoring the dessert at Bacchus and Lebanese Taverna in the DC area, at Karakoy Gulluoglu in Istanbul, at a small unknown stall near Plaka in Athens, at a roadside eatery in Egypt….and the list goes on and on!

I am proud to claim that not only have I eaten my weight in Baklava during our global travels, but I have also experimented making it with success in my own kitchen.  And to many a naysayer who calls making Baklava a laborious process that’s not worth the calories, I retort and say, it’s pretty simple and totally worth it.

If you’d like to ever overcome your fears to try making Baklava, the simple illustration beautifully created by the website www.theydrawandcook.com should be all you need to get started.  Happy foraging for Baklava!


How to do a day trip to Delphi from Athens

Temple of Apollo

By Lakshmi:

Who?  If you are visiting Athens, you will love a day trip that takes you back in time when Oracles were revered and consulted before any important decisions were made.

What? The archaeological site of Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which can be easily accessed on a day trip from Athens.

How? You could rent a car, take a guided tour or take public buses.  Guided tours frequently combine Delphi with other destinations, but give you time to take in this beautiful spot.

Why? Picture yourself away from the pollution of Athens.  You are ascending mountainous terrain and your bus chugs along with some difficulty.  As you reach the top, you are greeted with some majestic views and given the right season, lots of flowers in bloom.  Then you spot it….it being the temple of Apollo in Delphi.  You see the impressive columns, you see the tiered landscape and then you see the area that has made kings and commoners climb these steep hills to make it up here.  It is the seat of the Oracle, the soothsayer who sat on a tripod over a fissure in the earth, went into a trance and provided incoherent responses to questions with grave implications.  Kings did not go to war and major decisions were not taken until the questions had been answered by the Oracle and translated by the priests.  Am I in India or Greece?  For centuries now, no major decisions were made in India till the priests and the stars had been consulted and we were seeing links among brethren separated by thousands of miles.

Delphi’s well-preserved ruins along with the archaeological museum are totally worth the visit.  We have been multiple times and each time chose a tour.  Our tour guides created such a sense of history for us, that we would not trade the experience for a solo jaunt up there.  The museum has some unbelievable pieces including the absolutely spectacular bronze charioteer erected in 474 BC.  Please do not skip the museum and take your time to walk through some amazing annals in history.

You can learn more about Delphi at:


Mycenae – Does Homer’s Ballad Come To Life?

By Lakshmi: (Updated Sept 24, 2014)

Who?  If you are visiting Athens, Greece, are a fan of Homer’s ballads or simply love archeology, you will love a day trip that takes you back in time.

What? The ruins of the ancient citadel of Mycenae which are located about two hours from Athens (give or take some time, depending on the infamous traffic).

How? You could rent a car, take a guided tour or take public buses.  We took a guided tour on two separate trips and were blessed with the most amazing guides who built our anticipation, transported us back in time and helped us soak in the place better.

Why? It was Homer’s ballads brought home on CD’s that served as my voice of reason and sanity as I survived some long commutes between Princeton and Washington DC.  Like the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata that I had devoured at a young age, the Odyssey and Iliad were Greek versions of good and bad, war and peace and so much more.  Like many a reader, I had quilted a rich patchwork of images of Agamemnon,  Helen, Menelaus, Paris, Cylopes and more and these were brought to life by the stories that our tour guide narrated en route to Mycenae.  Our arrival at Mycenae was heralded with the guide announcing the discovery of the ruins in the tone of Schlieman, “I have gazed upon the face of Agamemnon.”

To be very honest, I felt a bit let down when I first lay sight on the ruins.  You will need every part of your imagination and a good guide to envision the citadel that existed here in prehistoric times….the many tales of treachery that were cooked here, the bloodshed that happened, the richness of the history, the bloody way in which Agamemnon met his end at the hands of his wife and her lover, and the many graves that once housed the remains of a civilization from a world gone by.  Our guide did a fantastic job showing us the layout of the palace complex, the graves and the few well-preserved landmarks including Atreus tomb, the Cyclopean Walls and the Gate of Lionesses.

Unlike other ruins that we have seen elsewhere in Greece, Italy, Egypt and other locales, Mycenae is a worthwhile visit if only to use your imagination to bring one of our most beloved stories to life.

To learn more about Mycenae and its ruins that have now been classified it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, click here: