1. Wedding Wreaths
There are some local wedding customs and traditions in many countries that go back centuries. Greece is no different. In the Orthodox church ceremony, two white circlets called stephani (meaning ‘wreath’) which are joined together by a ribbon, symbolising the unity of the couple. They are placed on the bride and groom’s heads by the priest during what is known as the ‘crowning ceremony’. There is much other symbolism contained in the stephana (pl), such as the crowning of the couple by Christ via the priest. The exchanging of the stephana from bride to groom three times by the best man (or woman), the koumbaro(a) seals the union. During our wedding, even though we married in England, we had stephana at our ceremony, swapped on our head by our koumbara
2. Throwing Rice
When leaving the church guests throw a handful of rice on the couple’s heads which is symbolic for the good roots of the marriage.
3. Parading the Dowry
For many decades now, most weddings in Greece are no different from anywhere else. For most, the traditional “Greek wedding” seems more and more like a distant memory. But there are some regions in Greece where old customs and more picturesque weddings still happen. In order to still see that kind of old fashioned wedding, one has to go to the small towns on Mount Olympus (like Livadi or Agios Demetrios), or the rural regions around Ioannina, and of course the islands. Even then, it is getting rarer and rarer. Old tradition dictates that the procession to the church is escorted by a horse carrying the bride’s most valuable belongings and embroidery, which are proudly displayed. Accordion and clarinet always prevail in the traditional wedding parties in Greece, as these customs derive from medieval Greece and Byzantium.
4. Wedding Favours
At the wedding reception it is traditional to give wedding favours known as bonboniera. These are usually bags or boxes filled with sugared almonds (koufeta). The white of the almond is for purity, the almond’s egg shape represents fertility, and the hardness of the nut personifies the endurance of marriage. The sweet sugar is symbolic of the sweetness of married life.The number of koufeta should be 5, symbolising health, joy, fertility, prosperity and longevity. Sometimes the number is more or less but always an odd number, which is not divisible by 2 and therefore representing the fact that the couple cannot be split up. Ideally the number should be a prime number - divisible by 1 and itself - symbolising that the couple can only be separated by death or themselves.
5. Traditional Treats
During the reception pasteli may be eaten. This delicious snack is made from honey and sesame seeds. We tried some at the Apolloniatisses bakery in Rhodes - and brought some home as it was so yummy.
In Crete another tradition is to decorate the wedding table with special decorative bread called Xóbliastres. At one time this would have been to feed the whole village but in modern times it is purely decorative rather than edible.
6. Pinning Money on the Bride & Groom
Of course most people have heard of the pinning of money onto the bride’s dress instead of giving wedding gifts at Greek weddings. It is still a common practice in Greek communities around the world, although probably not so much in Greece. Unfortunately nobody did this at our wedding!
7. Plate Smashing
Although a tradition which people associate with Greek celebrations, the “Breaking of the Plates”, which once implied abundance, to symbolize good luck and happiness, is now considered to be in very bad taste. It is also officially discouraged by the authorities as being dangerous in most regions of Greece.
Dreaming of a 'big fat' Greek wedding or a small, intimate event? We can help you incorporate some of these traditions and customs into your dream wedding in Greece if you wish. Contact Sarah today to arrange your free consultation. We'll create the perfect celebration in magical Greece.
The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits in the world, comes originally from the Americas. It’s a member of the rose family and is a unique fruit as it has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. The most common varieties are a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to the USA) and the Chilean variety (originally from South America).
Native Americans were eating strawberries when the European settlers arrived. Often the crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version of the recipe which became the famous strawberry shortcake.
In the 1500s, explorers brought the fruit back to France from Virginia. The Virginian and Chilean varieties were then brought together accidentally about 250 years ago in a botanical garden in France, where a new type of strawberry was born. This is the variety we eat with such gusto in Europe today.
The strawberry was also a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its red heart shape.
The English word "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie". The word was first spelt in the modern way around 1538.
In 1625 the British Francis Bacon described how ‘strawberry-leaves dying, yield an excellent cordial smell’, suggesting that strawberries were admired as much for their scent as their taste. It is still true that the very smell of the fruiting strawberry plant gets your mouth watering. Indeed the strawberry features in many works of fiction throughout history, including these:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.
William Shakespeare, Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 1, line 60.
The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
Dr William Butler, 17th Century English Writer
In Britain many regions grow strawberries, including Kent, Devon, Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. But of course, the fruit grows equally well in warm and Mediterranean climates of the northern hemisphere. In Europe there are even annual strawberry festivals in the Greek towns of Paradisi and Nea Manolada, and in the French town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, as well as many in the US. There are also many strawberry fayres in the UK too, from community events to music festivals. In parts of Bavaria, the annual rite of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to elves is still practiced by country folk. Elves are believed to be passionate about strawberries and the offering will mean healthy calves and abundant milk.
It is impossible to mention strawberries without their mouth-wateringly perfect complement, cream. There is something quintessentially British about strawberries. An English summer wouldn’t be the same without a bowl of strawberries drizzled with cream. This delicious combination has been enjoyed for centuries, from kings to commoners. But nowhere is it more iconic than at Wimbledon, the international home of lawn tennis.
Celebrate this decadent fruit. Use our concierge service to add Wimbledon or festival tickets to your holiday itinerary or book a tour around the strawberry growing regions of the world.
There is nothing like travelling to a great destination, eating delicious food and having new experiences. But today travelling is not just about flying and flopping. It is exploring the place, getting to know the landscape, culture, tradition and cuisine.
Travelling gives us an understanding of people from other lands, and can be a journey of self-discovery. First-hand knowledge is so much better than reading about it or watching on TV. You can see awe-inspiring sites, have unique experiences, see works of art, have wildlife encounters, eat great food and try new drinks. All in all, travel makes memories that last a lifetime.
Stir your imagination quite with a new adventure. Knowing that you have a trip planned is a great motivator; something to look forward to. If you are hungry for food experiences, craving excitement and new cultural insights, then speak to Tasteful Travel about your dream bespoke holiday.
When planning a holiday, whether it’s a multi-stop adventure to far flung destinations or a week in the Isle of Wight, it’s vital that the trip is tailored to you. Designing the perfect holiday is not easy but with the help of a specialist travel consultant, the process can be stress free and simple.
We are happy to meet you in person to discuss your trip, either over a coffee or on a home visit. If more convenient we can discuss plans over the phone or via email.
All aspects of the trip from flights to transfers, accommodation to excursions, Tasteful Travel design the perfect journey for you. Destination, budget, likes and dislikes and holiday style are all taken into account so that you get the travel experience you love.
No matter whether you seek a relaxing getaway in luxury resorts with day trips included; an action-packed break exploring by camper van; or a foodie extravaganza; Tasteful Travel can help make the dream a reality.
Our in-depth knowledge of European, Middle Eastern and Antipodean destinations, coupled with our passion for helping clients plan amazing holidays, mean that you get the very best bespoke trip planned for you.
Visit stunning locations on open-jaw land itineraries with cruises, a unique way of travelling between incredible places. Fancy a Greek odyssey with some island hopping built in? Have a desire to journey from Singapore to Sydney? Prefer to travel across Australia on the Ghan train on an Aussie adventure? No problem. Having travelled extensively in Europe, made many trips to Australia and lived in Kenya, Singapore and Dubai, I have the experience and insider tips to make a great itinerary extra special.
The personal service that Tasteful Travel provides is not limited to just flights and accommodation. Our concierge service can add spa visits, restaurant reservations and excursions to your trip. We will also be with you every step of the way, from planning your holiday to providing on-tour assistance and checking in with you when you get home.
To get in touch and find out more, contact Sarah today or check out our website at www.tasteful-travel.co.uk.
Another bright day greeted us on the day of our departure from Thessaloniki. After a hasty breakfast we set off for the first visit of the day to nearby Kalamaria. This leafy suburb was quiet and pleasant and the route to it took us along the coast road past one of the old royal summer palaces, now used by state officials. Of course we had to swing by the symbol of the city, the White Tower before turning back to Kalamaria. Thessaloniki has invested in regenerating the seafront. There are now themed areas with fountains, trees and decked areas. A stroll along past the Tower is now essential on any visit to Thessaloniki.
Although supposedly just dropping by for a coffee, we were treated to home made ‘tiropita’ those delicious crispy cheese pies with filo pastry. A good cup of Greek coffee was offered too. What a treat. Refreshed after our short visit we set off to visit a relative in a care home on the outskirts of Thermi, a small town on the hills near Thessaloniki airport. After getting lost and the stupid GPS in my phone trying to direct us across a field and into a factory yard, we finally arrived at our destination. Although a little remote the home is set in lovely grounds and there are fabulous views of the city from the balconies. We were pressed to have some chocolates and remembered happier times before setting off for Halkidiki.
The main motorway passes the outskirts of Thessaloniki with its light industry and many furniture outlets before reaching Tsantali winery. After this I always feel that the scenery becomes more green and picturesque. Scattered vineyards are in evidence but much more so are the hundreds of olive groves producing the famous big fat Halkidiki olives. The soil here is red and the contrast between the red and the green and grey of the olive trees is really beautiful.
Arriving at our small hotel at the top of the first leg of Halkidiki (an area known for its 3 parallel peninsulas or ‘legs’), I felt at peace. It is such a lovely part of the world. The azure of the sea meeting the deep green of the pines and flowers everywhere.
After such a busy day we didn't want to venture too far for dinner so drove the short distance to Gerakini Beach and the excellent taverna Anemomilos (the windmill). Since we had been fed everywhere we went today we decided to share a mossaka and a ‘horiatiki’ known worldwide as Greek Salad with a carafe of the very passable house red wine. Artisan bread and oil were brought with the salad to start. The moussaka was one of the best I have ever eaten, and believe me, I’ve tried a few! It was home made and to the chef’s own recipe. The service was excellent and the whole experience extremely enjoyable. Anemomilos is right opposite the Ikos Olivia 5* hotel and the hotel gives the taverna their seal of approval as they issue their guests with discount vouchers. More about the hotel tomorrow.
Today is a day of visits to relatives and friends so we make sure we have some time to relax before the running around begins. Instead of heading to the centre, round Aristotelous Square (named after Aristotle who came from Halkidiki just down the road from here), we decide to go for coffee at the port. On the way we passed jewels of turn of the century architecture amongst the less delightful blocks of flats.
Once Thessaloniki was full of such beautiful buildings but a huge fire in 1917 destroyed about two thirds of the centre of the city.
Along the seafront there are a few 'Belle Epoque' buildings and deco masterpieces can also be found. Stroll around the centre of the city and you will stumble across wonderful old buildings wedged between the ubiquitous flats. What you will also find are remains of the Byzantine city walls as well as Roman ruins, such as the Arch of Galereus and the Emperor Galereus' Palace. It is an ever fascinating place to walk around for those interested in history but here there is something for everyone, great shopping, sightseeing, cultural events and much, much more.
The port has been redeveloped as a cultural hub with several museums near the wonderful Passenger Terminal building. Although still functioning as a commercial port, Thessaloniki no longer has the same amount of maritime traffic as it once did. There are still ferries operating but nothing like from Piraeus and mainly in the summer to the Sporades islands for example. Cruise ships put in at Thessaloniki but again, not in large numbers. So Thessaloniki made a smart move by regenerating the area and capitalising on the fabulous views you get of the city from the port area.
To the left of the magnificent Passenger Terminal building and facing the sea is the Kitchen Bar, our destination for coffee and later a spot of lunch. We sat outside watching the pleasure boats on their harbour tours and the huge container ships at anchor. The weather was sunny with a few clouds to make it interesting. To our left the whole of Thessaloniki and close by Aristotelous Square. My frappe (iced coffee) tasted delicious looking at that great view. Basking in the sun in great surroundings is what holidays are all about.
We enjoyed a spot of lunch at Kitchen Bar, American style diner with a Greek twist. Food is plentiful and tasty. Knowing how large the portions are we only ordered one ma in course and a salad and were totally full. The pork souvlaki was succulent and the salad unusual, including baby figs, Cretan hard cheese and beetroot leaves, as well as spinach and cranberries. Bizarre combination I hear you cry, but it worked.
Tearing ourselves away from the view we whizzed back to the apartment for a quick change. Next stop Panorama, upmarket hilltop suburb of Thessaloniki. Here we visited relatives and were pressed to eat some 'spanakopita' and 'tiropita' (spinach and cheese pies respectively) made by the mother in law in Crete. Despite being pretty full from lunch the pies were so appetising that of course they had to be tried. To go with our coffee we also had to try some 'glyko', home made fruit in syrup, also known as 'spoon sweet'. In this case we were treated to strawberry glyko, a bit sweet for me but yummy nevertheless.
Last stop in our packed programme was with another friend who we had arranged to meet near Parorama in another picturesque village on the heights. Our destination was Zografou, a cute cafe bar which offers a great range of herbal tea, particularly Krocus Kozanis, made with saffron. Of course they also serve wines, beers and snacks. I stuck with a lager and this time chose an Alfa, which is not at all bitter and very easy drinking.
We had a pleasant time catching up with news of friends, work, etc, and said our goodbyes fairly early as our friend had to get up early next morning. Frankly we were pretty relieved as we were whacked! Mind you before we left, in true Greek tradition, our friend gave us a huge box of cakes as a gift. The patisserie box was full of the local speciality of 'Panorama trigono', filo pastry triangles with syrup and custard. My diet is suffering but it is all too good not to eat!
The way home was a bit exciting as we went the wrong way up the road and ended up winding down the big hill on some windy single track roads - terrifying in the dark. But the view of the city lights as we returned to civilisation was amazing. And so to bed...
Feeling a little more refreshed we got up and made breakfast. Barley rusks with olive oil and tomatoes called dakos (something we learned in Crete), olives, boiled egg, soft cheese and fresh bread. Did I mention the cucumber and lashings of olive oil? So delicious and certainly beats a bowl of cereal.
I was still so tired from the early morning and flight delay that I declined to accompany Peri into the city centre. He had business to take care of so the thought of sitting in government offices for the morning didn’t fill me with get up and go. On his return we set off for a late lunch along the seafront in Nea Krini (part of Kalamaria). We wanted something more traditional than yesterday so headed for an ‘estiatorio’, an eatery in between a taverna and a classy restaurant. After driving down the strip and then back up we decided on Okeanis. They have a menu which changes from day to day.
The food was certainly plentiful and it was excellent Greek staples such as ‘kokkinisto’ (beef stew with tomatoes - kokkino means red) and 'bakalaria me skordalia' (cod with garlic sauce). We were not hungry enough for starters as we know of old how huge the Greek portions are! Instead we settled for a main course each and a salad. This time we chose the ‘horta’ which is wild greens, a bit like spinach but with a more bitter flavour. We added plenty of lemon juice and olive oil and started on it whilst we waited for our main courses.
The kokkinisto came with oven baked courgettes - delicious - and so filling I only added the ubiquitous bread rather than ordering some kind of potatoes as well. The cod was battered and was really light and the cod succulent, with the accompanying skordalia piquant with raw garlic. Good job we both had some!! And what did we drink with this feast? Retsina from one of the oldest and best procurers in Greece, Malamatina. Crisp, cold and supremely refreshing on a hot day. It is the perfect choice for lunch. To finish the meal what better than fruit and ice cream as a gift from the restaurant?
Back to our apartment to get changed and then our with friends to a bar at the marina, Erotikos. No, it is not a girlie bar as the Greek word ‘erota’ is only concerned with romance. The bar is cool, music not too loud so you can chat, and there is a good selection of Greek and international beer. I chose the Fix, one of the oldest breweries in Greece. Brewed in Athens, this lager is light and yeasty with great flavour and no real bitterness. Refreshing and morish, I managed to drink all of a large bottle on my own - usually unheard of! It was great to catch up with old friends, especially in lovely surroundings.
As usual Thessaloniki provides great cafe and restaurant culture and I’m loving it. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings in this exciting city.
After not one but 3 different delays which kept us on the tarmac at London Gatwick for over an hour longer than expected, we finally took off for Thessaloniki. Don’t you love computer systems?! At least we were on the very early flight so still arrived in Greece for lunchtime.
Having hired a car we stepped out of the air conditioned airport into the wonderful hot sun. This is the perfect time to visit as the blazing heat of the summer has mellowed but you are still guaranteed uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures of approx 24oC.
We’re staying in the leafy suburb of Kalamaria within walking distance of the sea. To blow away the cobwebs we went for a walk around the area. Of course we headed for the beach! My husband remembers swimming there as a boy but tells me that nobody does so now. But we can see some of the huge Bay of Thermaikos which Thessaloniki stands on and we found a picturesque spot. It just so happens that, past the quaint little fisherman’s church, is one of the city’s best clubs, Remvi, which is also a trendy bar and restaurant.
Of course we were starving by this point so took a table in the restaurant which boasts a fabulous view.
The food at Remvi is modern but uses some unusual local produce. There is nothing of the traditional taverna about the menu but instead some Greek mainstays like meatballs, have been reinvented as chicken meatballs with the taste of wonderful fresh herbs and served with game chips. I had the grilled octopus which was soft and delicious. The salad we chose to go with our meal was ‘herbs from Ammouliani’. Ammouliani is a small island off the coast of Halkidiki, about a 2 hour drive from Thessaloniki. Neither of us knew what would turn up but the huge salad was of a cooked vegetable which we had never eaten before. It was a little like samphire but tasted quite different. It was almost bitter but not unpleasantly so and I could not compare the flavour to anything else. Dressing the greens were crushed tomatoes, a soft cheese which resembled cottage cheese but tasted a whole lot better, and a vinaigrette. Interesting and tasty. It was too hot for wine so we shared a large bottle of Fix beer. Deliciously refreshing.
We declined the dessert as we were full but we stopped at a local patisserie for cakes for later. Thessaloniki is the city of patisseries. Almost every corner has one. They generally serve homemade ice cream as well as cakes (works of art!) and the fabulous chocolates. We swung by the supermarket and stocked up as we decided to go self-catering this time.
And so to bed! Exhausted after the long day of travel, the hot sun and the walking. I wonder what delights tomorrow will bring…
A fantastic way to understand history is to see it recreated. We were lucky enough to be able to see the Medieval Jousting at Dover Castle arranged by English Heritage (EH). Before witnessing the exciting horsemanship and death defying combat, we explored the Castle's central tower. Built by Henry II, it has been lovingly reconstructed by EH with displays of furniture, food preparation and clothing to bring the Medieval period to life. No expense was spared to recreate Henry II's bed with real silk, fur and gold leaf.
Due to the event being on, English Heritage had arranged various re-enactments and displays in the King's Tower. To see just how fit you had to be to be a knight, a chainmail suit and headdress had been made out of iron, just as it would have been in the Middle Ages. I struggled to lift even the headdress it was so heavy! Having the construction method explained and displayed was fascinating and gives one a real respect for those craftsmen who toiled so long to make this chainmail. No wonder it was only the very rich who could afford it - it must have taken weeks to make just one - and iron was hugely expensive. There were displays of fire breathing and a group of 'wandering minstrels' played medieval music. Children ran around dressed as knights whilst grown ups watched EH volunteers/actors dressed as serfs and gentlefolk from the 1200s. We listened to a debate on the Magna Carta in the King's Hall including public participation. Fun for all the family.
After exploring the basement to the roof terrace of the King's Tower it was time for the Joust to being. Who would think that so much excitement could be generated by such a short gallop. The crack of the lances hitting the shield or body of the opponent could be heard well away from the Tilt Yard. The four 'knights' in full armour with horses decked out as in medieval times was a spectacular sight. The judges and other helpers looked fantastic in their costumes. They must have been boiling in their velvet on such a hot day!
All in all, a wonderful day out. If you love living history, why not request that an event like this is built into your tour or travel itinerary in the UK.