Friday, August 31: After enjoying my wine on the terrace of the Acropolis View Hotel, I wander a few blocks down the street to a place recommended by the hotel: The Acropolis Restaurant. I go inside on the first floor and find I am the only patron in the restaurant. I have heard the Greeks usually eat quite late, but as an American, I’m used to eating at an early hour. It’s about 8:00. For me that’s late, and I’m tired from my busy day of travel and my luggage debacle.
I have no idea what to sample, but I have two weeks ahead and should have ample time to try a wide variety of Greek foods. I order another glass of wine and then order something called mussels saganaki, which is listed under “starters.” I have no idea what I will get, as I’ve never heard of saganaki before, but I look forward to eating whatever it is.
I find later on Wikipedia that saganaki literally means “little frying pan,” and is named after the single-serving frying pan in which it is cooked. In Greek cuisine, the cheese used in saganaki is usually sheep’s milk feta. The cheese is melted in a small frying pan until it is bubbling and is generally served with lemon juice and pepper and eaten with bread.
Other dishes that are traditionally cooked in the pan include shrimp saganaki and mussels saganaki , which are typically feta-based and include a spicy tomato sauce. This particular version of mussels saganaki is steaming hot and delicious, and a much bigger portion than what I would normally call a starter!
Just after the dish is presented at my table, I see some people going up a steep staircase in a corner of the restaurant. Curious, I sneak away from my table and follow them upstairs to find a lovely terrace. I feel like I have gone through a secret passageway to a magical land. Immediately I run back downstairs, grab my plate and wine and ask one of the waiters to bring my bread and olives upstairs. Outdoors it is lovely, with a cool breeze and pinpoints of stars overhead. Sure, there is the sound of cars going past on the road below and the chatter of Greeks and tourists walking past, but it is much more atmospheric than inside.
As I savor my meal and drink my wine, two ladies sitting at a nearby table strike up a conversation. They are a mother and daughter from the USA. The daughter, Angela, is in Athens performing in a theater production called The Wanderings of Odysseus. Her mother, Shirley, has accompanied her after recently having lost her husband. Angela, 28, has been married for 5 years and is working on her Ph.D. in Performing Arts at Stanford University. We talk for quite some time across an empty table and they eventually ask me to join them. Shirley is surprised and impressed that I am traveling through Greece alone and says she admires my confidence. I tell her if she comes to Santorini, which she desperately wants to do but probably won’t because Angela is busy with her play every day, she should give me a call and we can explore the island together. I enjoy their companionship and our evening together as Americans in a foreign land.
Though there is no view of the Acropolis from this restaurant, the atmosphere is so chill that I want to linger here all night. I adore the cafe culture of Europe, the laid-back mindset, the importance that Europeans place on enjoying life to the fullest. I think I must have a European heart.
When I return to my room, I am again hit by the realization that I have no luggage. It seems I had temporarily forgotten my little misfortune. During the day, I had bought a toothbrush and toothpaste and a round hairbrush. I take off the only clothes I have, wash the only underwear I have, and try to sleep, tossing and turning with visions of Plaka, the Acropolis, colorful mussels saganaki, and my capricious vagabond bag.