Saturday, May 30, 2009

Athens Shopping - From "Gucci" Glasses to Lambs' Heads

(Click on the photos to make them larger.)

The best shopping in Athens is outdoors. We walked down Hermou, the pedestrian shopping street, past the chic dress shops and the gypsies begging and selling this year’s crazy gimmick—round rubbery liquid-filled tomatoes and piggies that smash into a completely flat puddle when you throw them on a smooth surface, then slowly reform themselves back into a round ball (with ears and legs, in the case of the pigs.) We couldn’t resist and I bought two at a euro each. (Sadly, a Euro now is $1.40) Sorry—no photos of the tomato and pig, but they’ve already provided hours of fun for the whole family. They’ll probably be confiscated at the airport because they’re filled with liquid.

Some of us bought “Gucci” and “Ray Ban” sunglasses from the African vendor near the MacDonald’s on Constitution Square before he gathered up his entire stock of glasses attached to a sheet, folded up the large cardboard box that was his table – all in one smooth movement -- and slipped away, Next we admired hand-painted flip-flops on display for a reasonable seven Euros a pair. Farther down, in the Monasteraki flea-market section, we bought necklaces and bracelets with the sparkling Evil Eye symbols that make such great gifts. (I got myself a new one that resembles a diamond-encrusted fish with a dark blue eye for its body.) These little symbols are meant to protect you from the Evil Eye, which can attack you and ruin your day even if someone innocently compliments or envies you.

We walked over to the central Meat and Fish markets near Omonia Square to do a little photo shoot. It’s a photographer’s heaven although the meat market, especially, doesn’t smell that good—sort of like the lion house at the zoo. You should really get there around 7 a.m. Unfortunately we got there close to noon so the displays were thinned out.

In the photos above you can see the entrance to the cavernous fish market, a seller of lambs and a pretzel seller. The collage of the wares from left to right are: shell fish including octopi, sardines, Fagria fish, crayfish and a grotesque display of lambs head. (In Greece the honored guest at a dinner party is given the lambs’ eyes to eat.)

Another photo collage shows a flower shop, a shop with bizarre dress dummies, Ellas—full of touristic knick-knacks, and a seller of patriotic stuff including the Greek flags.

We also stopped at Brettos—a photogenic store selling wine and liquors—to buy a Havana cigar for Nick for Father’s Day.

At the end of our shopping odyssey we waited for a subway at the Omonia metro stop and watched as, on the opposite side of the track, a young man snatched a shopping bag from a woman who began screaming for the police (who were in good supply on the floors above because of a bomb scare the previous day.) At first everyone watched him run across the platform, then as he ascended the stairs, two Greek men launched into action and ran after him. The train came so we never knew if they caught him

In Athens, shopping is always an adventure!

Next: Mykonos—Island of pelicans, vegetable sellers and weddings

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