Archive | February, 2018

Home again, Home again, Jiggety-jig

28 Feb

So, if you haven’t noticed already, I’m a huge travel nut. Surprise! (That’s sarcasm.  Look, I’m getting it!)  And if you’re a travel nut like me, you know the process of ending your final adventure and heading back home can be bittersweet. You know the feeling: heading to the airport, staring at all the other travelers as you feel the chapter close, smiling while you reflect on all the crazy moments, nostalgic for the people you met and the times you had with them, sad to leave it all behind, giddy to hear “welcome home” from the TSA agent, and relieved that you get to sleep in your own bed.  Of course, travel can be hard (really hard) at times, and the thought of home’s comforts are intertwined in the jumble of emotions that come along with leaving Greece, Cyprus, and the former Soviet Union, so, instead of making this a “goodbye” post, I’ll make this a “hello” post and acknowledge some of the things I got to experience almost as soon as I touched back down into the good ol’ US of A.



This never gets old.



Andrew showing me some love.


Perk # 1

One of the main things I was excited about was getting to see Rick Steves speak at the Pittsburgh Speaker Series. If I’m being completely honest, I came home way earlier than I usually do because I knew Rick Steves was going to be speaking in Pittsburgh this year. I couldn’t not see him; I admire him so much.  He’s been someone who has influenced many of my travels, and I value his knowledge and what I learn from him.

Long story short, the talk was everything I hoped it would be. I stood waiting outside before the show in order to get a good seat, and what do you know? I got a seat in the 2nd row, close enough for me to gaze upon Rick in awe. Early bird gets the worm, kids. He (obviously) talked a lot about travel, but I love that he also incorporated some of his personal ideologies into the talk. He discussed a lot of hard topics like racism, drugs, cultural diversity, and poverty. I think he really inspires people to travel because of the way he approaches people.  


Front and frickin’ center.



Rick Steves droppin’ some hot travel knowledge on all of us.


Anyways, at the end of the talk I actually got to meet Rick Steves. This is not a drill. I repeat: I actually got to meet Rick Steves. I shook his hand and everything! And even though I may or may not have practiced what I was going to say to him in the mirror before the event, I somehow still found myself choking up and stumbling over my words when he asked for my name. But of course, Rick Steves is the warm, strong, and inviting person I imagined him to be, and he was really kind despite my shortness of breath. He even asked for my name a third time when he couldn’t understand me the first two.  He lingered with me for a while and signed my book (and took a selfie!) before he left. As he said hello to a few other people, I saw (because of course I watched him like a hawk as he walked around the room) that some woman gave him a business card. Genius.

NOTE TO SELF: Make business cards in case of Rick Steves sighting.


SELFIE WITH RICK STEVES!!! I mean… selfie with Rick Steves. It’s cool…no big deal. Do I look like I’m crying in that picture?


Perk #2

When you have a travel blog/ have any form of social media, people are going to see you looking cute.  They see you looking cute in front of a cool landscape; they see you looking cute in front of a famous monument; they see you looking cute in general. I mean, hey, I get to select the photos after all.  But — I’ve said this before — what they can’t do is smell you. Now, I’m not saying that I smelled awful (shout out to coco butter), but I did only have one pair of pants with me for 75 days.   I was able to wash them twice during that time (a HUGE thanks to Iryna and Despina!!!), so I was incredibly ready to put on a new pair of pants and finally do some laundry with an actual dryer. It’s hard to do your laundry on the go, especially when you’re moving around a lot, have only one pair of pants, and don’t feel comfortable walking around pants-less at a Couchsurfers house.   So I was definitely grateful for the spin and dry cycle when I got back home.  


Perk #3

The food: Going to a new place and trying the local dishes, the famous cuisine, the interesting, new flavors is all part of the fun of traveling. Not only that, but also you can keep a list of your favorite dishes and try to make them when you get back home (anyone up for a Greek salad?). That being said, I still love the food at home.  And, I ate my absolute favorite meal that very first night.

Being adventurous with your food while traveling is, I would say, a must; however, eating your favorite comfort food when you finally return to your old stomping ground is almost just as thrilling.



My number one.


Perk #4

🎶Reunited and it feels so good🎶.
I was
extremely excited to reconnect with my city and the people in it, and of course, my wonderful friends and family.  I couldn’t wait to be near my best friend!  Bella probably could’ve worn me as a backpack because I just wanted to follow her around and soak up her presence as much as I could.  I was ecstatic that I could finally call my friends on the phone and not have to worry about a spotty connection with WhatsApp or calculate time to talk between time zones.  I got my hair done with Joyce! And, like always happens when I get back, I started talking to strangers in the grocery store because PITTSBURGH and ENGLISH and I MISSED IT ALL.


A picture from Mom and Dads birthday.  Also, please notice my mom’s amazing hair day.


Galavanting across the globe and coming straight back home,

All that Athen some

12 Feb

You can’t go to Greece without visiting its capital, Athens. Ok, I guess you could…if you were on a cruise or something and only visiting the islands.  But there’s a ton of stuff to see and do in Athens and so I spent a week there at the end of my time in Greece.


Great view of the Acropolis at night.


On our first full day, we started in Syntagma Square and went on a guided walking tour with Rick Steves (accompanied by Lisa). Maybe they weren’t physically right there in front of us, but listening to them via recording is pretty much the same thing, right?  



Syntagma square. Pictured here are our tour guides Rick and Lisa. Don’t see them? Yeah, neither did we.


On the walking tour, we learned and saw so much: churches, old department stores, secure banks (the banks here are so secure). We also saw two guards outside of the parliament building wearing skirts with 400 pleats. Each pleat represented a year in the 400-year Ottoman rule. That’s some serious dedication if you ask me.


When history meets fashion.

During the guided tour, our invisible guide, Rick, suggested that we check out a detour, and boy was I glad we did. Not only did we get to see some awesome relics of the past, but also once the regular walking tour resumed, Rick berated all of the “losers” (verbatim) who decided to miss out on such a cool detour. Rick can have a dark sense of humor sometimes.

I saw fresh squeezed orange juice from a vending machine and a cat who likes to sleep on top of cars not under them.  We ate snacks and food; oranges, olives, oil, honey, cheese
(was this a shopping list or just all of the things they do really well here?)  And more baked goods.  The incredible bakeries.  Plus baklava for dessert.



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Relics of the past made us use our imaginations to picture what it looked like back then.


We walked around the Ancient Agora with our invisible tour guide speaking sweet nothings (aka directions and information) into our ears. We were contented to know that we were walking the same path Socrates and other Greek philosophers had walked centuries before us. We also got a great sense of history while we were here like…

  • Greek’s Golden Age was about 1,500 years ago in 450 BC.
  • 1922 was the last Turkish/ Greek war. This marked the time when the Turks had to get out of Greece (Greece has since become a country that’s hard to gain citizenship in. For example, you must become Greek Orthodox to do so).



Nothing could RUIN these Athenian views… haha get it?

Being the savvy travelers that we are, Ben and I planned out a full day of exploring the Acropolis, Parthenon, and its accompanied museum on the “free day” that happens every month. So we got to check out these neat structures for, yes, that’s right– $Free.99.  



A 15-minute walk to get to the top of the Acropolis, but Ben and I were expert walkers at this point.






Still standing…but not without a back brace…


They are currently restoring the Acropolis, which is actually taking twice as long as it took to originally build. And that’s saying quite a lot considering the feat of architecture this took to build. The architects did this all out of stone and made it look flat like an illusion. It took a lot of time and money. We learned that it took probably around $1 billion (modern-day dollars) to build.

We went to the Acropolis museum and learned about this beautiful building that is waiting for England to return the Elgin marbles that once sat on top of the Acropolis. England took the marbles in the 1800s, and Greece wants them back (can’t blame them!). England probably won’t return the relic because then other countries would want their relics back (this sounds like a job for Indiana Jones). The museum showed a 20-minute movie about the whole ordeal and about how the marbles were taken in the first place and why they belong to Greece. Will the relics ever be restored, or has Greece lost its marbles for good?

After this wonderful movie (Oscar-worthy, truly), Ben and I realized that we had accidentally gone to the wrong museum. We went to the Acropolis museum instead of the National Museum, which meant that we, in fact, payed for something that was meant to be free. Whoopsies.



Another stadium, did we dare perform?




If this doesn’t make your mouth water, you don’t have one.


On another interesting day of adventure, Ben and I watched as protestors in town were marching against Macedonia (the country) because of its name. Ben and I simply observed the demonstration as we drank some delicious coffee and watched democracy (which originated in Greece) hard at work.



But alas! Just like all the desserts we ate on our trip, all good things must come to an end, and Ben had to leave me one sad Monday. I joined a gym (29 Euros a month) because all of those baked goods weren’t doing me any favors (they needed my dad’s first name to put it on the gym membership, which was strange). Once that was all set up, I got an Airbnb at the last minute (12 euros a night) outside of the main part of town.

My host’s name was Ugur (pronounced Ooor); he’s a wonderful Turkish guy with an adorable, friendly cat named Minosh.



Jam sesh!!!


Minosh rockin’ out to Ugur’s music.

We became fast friends (Minosh, too) and spent that first night reading through my past blog posts–dozens of them– from the Mystery Trip and even farther back to my very first post.

I really enjoyed getting to know him, too. Ugur works at a call center (for Apple but doesn’t have any Apple products), and hearing his stories will most certainly make me remember to be really nice to people working in call centers. He just knows that people call to yell at him all day, but he is such a sweet guy. So the next time I’m on hold for 45 minutes and the person on the other end isn’t helping me, I’ll think of sweet Ugur to keep my anger at bay.

We had a nice week sharing his space together and watching snooker ball (his favorite sport on TV…I might’ve gotten really into it as well) and, of course, the Olympics. We also started getting into a Netflix show called Dark; it’s like Stranger Things except it’s in German, which definitely adds to the cool factor.



Some gorgeous views that don’t involve ruins.


During my last days in Athens, I went for several long walks and saw different parts of the city like the port area and parks. The streets were lined with oranges and olives, and it was really something special– so special I even texted Katie Diamond to tell her about it (shout out!)! I also went to the gym every day to burn off the delicious treats I was still eating…because really, I wasn’t about to stop frequenting those delicious bakeries. Plus, I really got the most out of my 29 euros. The yoga classes I took at the gym were in Greek, and the only words in common with English were ‘flex’ and ‘cobra,’ so I spent a lot of time peeking over at my neighbors to copy their form.

As it did get a bit lonely once Ben left, I was reenergized after I chatted with the beautiful and pregnant Melina in the land down under! It was so nice to catch up and see her face (shout out #2!)!

On one of my last days there, I ended up visiting the National Museum on my own. I can’t say that I remember anything I learned there, BUT I can tell you that I had a very pleasant time looking around.


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They were clearly all about the detail in 500 BC.



Getting ready for some delicious food.




So, to end my trip the right way, I decided to go out for dinner and get one more Greek salad. I wanted that to be my final meal before I boarded the plane and departed from this beautiful, delicious country.  And of course a baked good.  I know, even if I get all the ingredients to make a Greek salad at home it won’t be the same.  The feta is incredible.   And I’ll be missing those Grecian sunsets that come on the side.

Efharisto (thank you),




Santorini…When you Think of Greece.

7 Feb

When I say Greece what do you think of?   Is it the musical??  Olivia Newton-John in a poodle skirt??  Or is Greece something that front line cooks have smeered on their smocks??  Or, when you think of Greece, do you think of a seaside escape with blue dome rooftops and white buildings … something like this:



From the sky, these blue dome rooftops look like the “you are here” dot on a GPS…the birds are probably always lost.


It turns out that these beautiful white washed buildings are mostly concentrated on one island in Greece: Santorini. So, to add variety to our trip, Ben and I decided to go island hopping.  We headed out from the Mani peninsula (goodbye!  We’ll miss you!) and made our way to Athens and onto a plane to this picture-perfect Greek island. We had to take a bus on the tarmac from the terminal to the airplane. The bus driver, who had clearly made this trip countless times, was confident enough in his driving that he was whipping all of us passengers around the tarmac. I, being the thrillseeker that I am, decided not to grab hold of any of the handholds and just use Ben as a barrier to keep me from falling. Ben struggled to keep us standing upright while we were both being thrown around. I was laughing so hard that I started crying. You know those people who are having way too much fun? Yeah, that was us. But I have no shame when I’m laughing until I cry!

The flight to Santornini took about 30 minutes, which wasn’t even long enough for an episode of Black Mirror #BitterSweet  but was long enough to consume all of the baked goods we had stopped and bought on the way to the airport #JustSweet




The island welcoming us to Santorini!



See, now… is that one of the blue rooftops or the “you are here” dot? Told you it was hard to tell.


We decided to stay in an Airbnb that was outside of the city, so on our first night we walked the 30 minutes uphill into town. We checked out some evening views and fraternized with some friendly, adorable stray dogs who needed some pettin’. Ürün from Turkey taught me that you can always tell what kind of people live in a place based on how their stray animals behave. I believe this is true, and based on the strays here, the people in Santorini are very kind (that’s also an observation based on the interactions we had with the locals here).


White buildings; blue sea…just like the Greek flag!



Clouds gathering to watch the sunset…but they’re blocking our view.


It is cloudier in the winter than it is in the summer, but just like everywhere else in this country, we were pretty much the only tourists around so the perfect sunsets were definitely something I was willing to trade in order to have the island literally to ourselves.

Because this was not peak tourist season–or tourist season at all–everything was pretty much closed. It almost felt like we had stumbled into a post-apocalyptic film where there are only like 10 people left in the world, but hey, there weren’t any zombies, so I’d say we were doing just fine. There were enough stores/ restaurants open that we were able to eat and find the things we needed, but there weren’t any people around. I half expected to see tumbleweeds rolling down the road.  

There was also a lot of construction going on during our time here. They were definitely spending this downtime on maintenance and growth. Ben and I spent lots of time imagining about what this place must look like when the cruise ships come to town.


Want some local wine? TOO BAD. Want some pumice accessories? TOO BAD. Want to stay at Hotel Mylos? TOO BAD.


That night, we happened upon our new favorite restaurant (one of the only restaurants, but it still would’ve been a favorite even if there were more) on the walk back to our apartment. It was a taverna where they had food in a display case, and when it’s gone, they’re closed. Hopefully the food wasn’t left over from last tourist season since this place was a ghost town and they probably didn’t really need to make a lot of food. BUT even if it was, it was darn good. We ordered some incredible bean soup, dolmas, and of course a Greek salad. We also stopped at a bakery because when you’re in Greece that’s what you do. You eat. I happily gained weight in this country; their food is incredible.

The next day, we spent waaay too much time debating whether we should rent a scooter or walk the coastal route from the town of Fira to Oia. We decided to walk. If you thought the 30-minute walk from our Airbnb into town was a bit far, get a load of this: Our walk to Oia took 6 hours. We did stop along the way to take in the views and congratulate ourselves on making the best decision ever. It was beautiful, and we started early enough so that we could see everything without getting stuck in the dark. We also didn’t run into any people on the hike, which made this popualr island feel new and relativly undiscovered.



So long! Firawell!



My question is…how do they keep these buildings so white?



Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.



Extraordinary views just for us!



Beautiful seaside views…still no sign of people.



A body of water overlooking another body of water…



There’s a church on the other side of that cliff! They built their place of worship on a SOLID foundation…get it?



What you expect to see when you visit Oia.


Oia also had lots of construction going on; we heard the sound of saws everywhere, and we stepped over countless piles of donkey poop because they use the donkeys to move construction materials. But even still, we didn’t see many actual donkey’s.  Oia was a mix of lively and left behind. There were some stunning places, but then right next to a gorgeous building would be a shell of a building that had been trashed. I appreciated the juxtaposition. And again, the lack of people.


TWO PEOPLE: SPOTTED!!! Can you find them?? I could and I couldn’t stop starring.  If you know me, you know what a creep I was being.


Rick Steves was right yet again #swoon because this island made us the Sunset Chasers pt. 2. We planned our days around the sunset. We made it to Oia in time to have a snack (souvlaki and ice cream) and take the bus back to Fira where we drank hot drinks and slowly watched the sun dip below the horizon.  When it was officially dark, we headed to our favorite (and only) restaurant. Of course, after a 6-hour hike, we were starving, so for dinner we had moussaka — traditional pasta with meatballs — and another Greek salad.


The face you make when you’re about to save money on a taxi!


The next day, we had to wake up crazy early. We were walking experts by the end of this excursion, so we decided to save 15 euros on a taxi and walk to the airport instead. We left while it was still dark and walked for about 45 minutes through back roads and with no view, but we were proud of ourselves for saving money AND for getting in so many good workouts.  We made those baked goods count.

Unfortunatly, early wake up times come with their own set of problems.  And I must’ve been more exhausted than I felt because, silly me, I left my laptop at airport security. Just like the other strays on the island, the security guard at the airport treated my stray laptop with care and actually came to find me to let me know I had left it (SUCH a relief!!!).

After the short flight back to Athens, we got the chance to ride the bus on the tarmac again… I don’t know if it was the same driver or if this is just the way they all make their jobs exciting, but the driver was whipping us around again. And just like the first time, it was a fun ride! What better way to end an excursion with hysterical laughter?


Saying goodbye to Santorini!

In love with Greece,




4 Feb

In honor of the Olympics, here are some fun facts I learned while in Olympia:

  • The first ever Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC; they took place every four years and lasted until 939 AD (1,169 years)
  • They started in order to honor Zeus, the king of the gods!
  • The Olympic Games reached heightened popularity during Greece’s golden age (400-450 BC).
  • Like any trendy event, the Olympics made a comeback in 1896 in Athens.  And, as now know, it’s comeback was successful!

My first time ever in Olympia, Greece, coincided with opening week of the 2018 winter olympics!   It was hyper cool since to be where it all began!  Back in Athens, I got to watch several of the events with my Turkish host. I always think it’s neat to see all of the countries coming together in support of the Olympics and sports and this year was extra cool to be with a Turk, in Greece (because, of their rocky history), watching the 2018 winter games.

In the past, a “sacred truce” was declared several months before the Olympics so that athletes and fans could travel safely to Olympia without fear of being attacked on their way there…and this would be a perfect place to insert a comment about our relations with North Korea and its proximity to Pyeongchang, but I think you can see the connection.


Ruins from the Altar of Hera…it’s time to use your imaginations, readers!

And Olympia, the place, is still linked to the modern day Olympics even though the games are no longer performed here as the Olympic torch is literally lit in Olympia and passed in a long relay to the next city that will host the games.  So, this years journey was 9,000 miles overland, in the snow, from Olympia to Pyeongchang, South Korea!  Really freaking cool.


After our first night in the region, Ben and I woke up early to eat a breakfast of champions, since you know, we were in Olympian territory after all.  What choice did we have, really?  As we finished up our cheese, bread, and fruit, sitting on a side walk, we headed to the Museum of Ancient Games!  Awesome!!  We saw tons of relics and used our own imaginations (plus helpful interpretive signs) to figure out what kinds of games they played in Olympia 1,500 years ago.

And then, we headed to see the ruins themselves. We walked around, read plaques, and gained lots of information from our guidebook (thank you Rick!).  The grande finale was checking out the old sprinting course, still used today.



Sprinting down the course and letting ghosts of past Olympians carry me to the finish line!


As we stretched and prepared for our own personal race down this old course (again, what choice did we have but to stage a race because #Olympia), we recalled that elderly Italian family at the stage of Epidavros who had decided to put on a show with songs and dance and had whistles blown at them. Thus, I was half-expecting the same thing to happen to us here, but luckily in running, whistles mean “GO!” And GO we did!!  Luckily, the fun police were not in Olympia that day, so we didn’t use the whistles as our starting pistol, instead we hit the track hard on our own count down.

Ben and I ran the sprints twice, and he won both times. I was forced to concede and announce his name in the winner’s circle (kick a girl while she’s down, why don’t you) and place an olive branch on his head.




Look at this Geeky winner.  Er, I mean, Greek-y winner!


After I graciously accepted defeat, we headed to the main museum.  Hours had already been spent learning about Olympia but there was way, way more information to take in! I told my brain to hurry up and digest.

Things we learned in this museum:

  • If you weren’t in first place, you lost. Those who came in second or third place got nothing except the honor of competing…and maybe a t-shirt that said “I went to the Olympics, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”
  • Extra incentives for winning were that you didn’t have to pay taxes (um, where do I sign up?), you got free food (no, seriously, how do I get in on this?), and you received the honor of your village (bow down to Ben, Pittsburgh).
  • Women were not allowed in the games. Only men could compete, and they had to compete in the nude (sounds like a reality show on NBC hosted by Bear Grylls).
  • The statues and the relics we see today were once very colorful and not the white and grey that we see we today.  Again, imagination.



Maybe one of the games 1,500 years ago was moving these massive blocks…?  We just don’t know.



At the temple of Zeus with one reconstructed pillar showing me how massive the temple was.  I think reconstructing the pillar was probably its own Olympic sport.  Also, I see Olympic sports everywhere now-a-days. 


Here’s to the 2018 winter games!



Peloponnese, Please

3 Feb

Things I’d learned to ask when we saw ancient ruins was:

Who built it?
And why?

Some people might be able to relate to this but for a little while there, my answer to all of those questions…was coffee.  Greece has great coffee!! And, traveling with a coffee drinker, I started drinking one cup every couple of days and it felt incredible!  COFFEE IS SO GOOD!



The region of Southern Greece known as the Peloponnese peninsula, where we spent most of our time, has incredibly impressive roads.  And having recently come from Ukraine, this was something that I continually commented on and appreciated.


Smooth sailing all the way down these pristine roads.

As we were driving, the car started beeping, which, as you probably know, is never the best sign. Were we about to run out of gas or spontaneously combust due to some engine problem?? Nope! The car started beeping to warn us that the temperature had dropped low enough for snow. Snow? In Greece?!


Not enough to make this a ski vacation, but still. There is snow in Greece!

We had been seeing the snow capped mountains in the distance, from almost every stunning angle, but it was still a very strange feeling to be driving down the highway and to see actual snow on the side of the road, directly right outside. Definitely not something I had been expecting to see in Greece.  Surprise!


Speaking of surprise… This looks like a welcome party complete with colorful decorations!  The guests didn’t get the memo, though.


As we were driving around, curious about places we passed, we realized our guidebook lacked lots of information. It never talked about Northern Greece or about islands like Crete, and now that we were in central Peloponnese, we noticed that it didn’t have much info about our current location either, like that really cool monastery built into the hillside.  For such a popular tourist destination, you would think there’d be a better guidebook somewhere. So we started to wonder…hmm…could we make a better guidebook? It seems like a lot of work (especially because I can get overly thorough) but there is so much to see and experience!  Adventure Sam’s World Guidebook coming at you in 2019!! Just kidding…or am I? Yes, I am.

…or am I?



Sunsets in #Greece



Beautiful views abound!



Feelin’ blue?  So is this church.



A souvlaki stand with pork and chicken! Similar to something I’d see in Azerbaijan except for the meat; Greece isn’t Muslim.

We discovered mountainous villages and incredible hiking. I could have spent weeks exploring the area around Olympia! Again, I was stunned that this perfect part of the country wasn’t even mentioned in the guidebook.  (Will I have one coming out in 2020…maybe….) *wink*.


Gorgeous mountain town undiscovered by Rick Steves.



And they say cities have bad traffic.



Lots of hikes in the region start at this point. Are people supposed to pray before they hike? …should we be scared…?



Middle Earth?  Nah.  Greece!


All in all, the countryside was a great place to explore. We had a fun and happened upon some incredible views — which is literally par for the course in Peloponnese.

Adventure and coffee around every curve in the road,

Olive Oil: Answering Olive Your Pressing Questions

1 Feb

So as everyone knows, Greece is a prime spot for olive-related matters: Olive trees, olive oils, heck there’s even a town named after the Kalamata olive (kidding, the olive was named after the town). Olives are everywhere in this country and this post is dedicated to them.

To learn more about olives, Ben and I decided to tour an olive grove and factory near Kalmata (the town, not the olive) to learn everything we could about this little fruit/vegetable (let’s not get into the whole seed debate). Not everyone likes olives *cough Bel*, but everyone loves a story.  So my friends, in order to depict how olive oil is made, I present to you:


The Life of an Olive
A biography of Oliver Oil.

Before Oliver the olive was born, a lonely tree stood out in the sunshine waiting for the rain. It had been a year since its olives were harvested, as the olive pickers only came around once every two years. The tree wanted to grow some companions in the form of fruit, so it decided to send out its shallow roots at least 4 meters away from itself so that it could collect what little rain there was. It rained one single night that summer, but the tree was happy because that was all it needs to thrive and grow its olives.

And thrive it did!  The tree felt little olives speckle its branches, and the tree itself was growing too tall and felt so heavy. It couldn’t wait for the owners to come and give it its annual “haircut”– shaving off some of its overgrown limbs so that the humans could use the wood for spoons, plates, and other objects like cutting boards.

As the season went on, the tree enjoyed the company of Olive and his friends but the trees limbs were growing heavier and the tree knew that it was almost time for all of his fruits to be harvested.

And then it happened. The humans came to the olive grove with their baskets. Oliver and his friends were excited to see the world, but the tree was sad to say goodbye. There were some lazy workers in the field, but one of the good workers, who typically harvests five trees a day, had picked four trees already and was moving towards this particular tree with his basket in hand. And so, the harvester plucked the olives from our tree and put them in his basket. Oliver was the last olive plucked, and he was filled with excitement as he joined his friends in the basket. When the harvester was done, the tree felt at least 50 kilos lighter! Sometimes harvesters would take off 100 kilos of olives (20 kilos of olive oil), but either way, the tree enjoyed feeling light again. It said goodbye to its friends as the harvester carried them away. “Goodbye, friends! Olive you!” said the tree. Oliver would have waved goodbye if he had arms.

That same day, Oliver and his friends were taken to the factory. He had heard that Olives came from all over the country; sometimes when humans had their own trees but not their own factory, they could bring their olives in to any factory where they’d be pressed into olive oil for a percentage of the human’s yield. Regardless, Oliver was excited to mingle and be processed and transformed.

He soon found himself going through a shower machine with the other olives; they were washed off and separated from their leaves. They were then blown with air to get off all of the leftover dirt. Olive and his friends felt weightless! They were then weighed without their accessories so the pickers would get paid fairly, and only for the amount of olives that they had acquired and not for twigs and leaves in their bags.

The next step was a little scary for Oliver and his friends…they knew that beauty was pain, but they weren’t too sure about this grinder. But they braved themselves and faced their fears as they were transported by conveyer belt into the grinder along with their pits (they were glad not to part with these, because they knew that this was where their nutrients and strength came from).

Olive and his friends were then turned in to a (not edible) paste and were excited to get the massage that came next, which would help them settle down from the stress they they had faced going into the grinder. They went into the massaging machine for about 15-20 minutes, and then were squeezed into a centrifuge. Now that they were good and relaxed, it was time for Oliver and his friends to have some fun! So, like a ride at a carnival, they were spun quickly around in the centrifuge, and as they emerged, all of their gritty solid bits were sent downwards; they floated up to the top as oil, weightless and beautiful! Their transformation was complete, and they were put into canisters, which would be sold to the humans who would love and cherish them forever (or at least until they finished their dinner).





Now that you know how olive oil is made (thanks, Oliver), here are some extra fun facts:

  • Kalamata olives don’t make oil. 
  • Annually, an average person in Greece consumes 69 kilos (20 liters) of olive oil. Yes, that’s right…  PER PERSON!  (By comparison,  France consumes less than two liters per person annually.  The US about 1.1 liter per person annually;  Holland about 200 ml per year, and China is super low at .01 ml per person per year.) 
  • Spain produces the most, about a million tons of olive oil per year; then Italy, with  .5 mil tons, and Greece at 300,000 tons (but it’s 1st in the production of extra virgin olive oil).
    • Different types of oil:
      • Extra virgin olive oil ✟✟ (SO PURE; has a low acidity: less than 1%.  It doesn’t use any chemicals, and it doesn’t have a smell)
      • Virgin olive oil ✟ (PURE; acidity less than 25%)
      • Olive oil  (This oil gets around; it’s a blend of olives and possibly of other oils)
      • Any other kinds of oil (not the kind of oil you take home to mother) 
  • If you want to add more extra virgin olive oil into your diet, you could just substitute olive oil instead of butter for cake or brownies 200g = 200g; same ratio.



Literally a shot of olive oil.


On our private tour we did some olive oil tasting, and if there was ever any olive oil that was better than extra virgin olive oil, you could find it at this factory.  We learned to smell it first. Some people smell bananas (…okay, weirdos) or freshly cut grass (I smelled this). What you smell may vary by country, but since we were the only ones on the tour (I’m telling you, go in January), I wasn’t able to pinpoint which countries smell which scent.

After you smell it, you put the shot in your mouth and swish it around….Gotta be honest, this wasn’t the most pleasant shot I’ve ever taken, and I wouldn’t suggest it to be included on the drink menu at your next party.

While it’s in your mouth, you’re supposed to suck through your mouth (kind of like gurgling) to get the most out of the olive oil flavor. This is the most crucial part in tasting, apparently. My first swallow of olive oil was so spicy!! I started coughing– was this chili oil or olive oil?  I took a minute to recover but eventually I was ready to try another variety.  The experts cleanse their pallets between samples with an apple.  

And yes, there are olive oil experts who come and rate the olive oil and determine whether it’s spicy, bitter, fruity, ect.  Much like sommeliers, there are olive experts who rate the oil on a scale of 1-10 (10 being spicy).

In China, they like the olive oil to be a 1 on the spicy scale, whereas Italians, Californians, Greeks like it hot! The one we tasted (that I coughed on because of the spice factor) was rated a 7. 

Previously, I had thought you would be able to tell the quality of an olive oil just by looking at it, but WRONG! You can only tell by smell and taste, so at international tasting competitions (yes, those exist), they give contestants a blue colored glass so they can’t try and judge an olive oil by its color.

Another tip I gleaned is to store your olive oil in stainless steel containers, or glass containers so long as they are dark and light can’t get through them (light kills the healthy value of olive oil).

Now, I promise I’m not getting paid to promote this factory’s olive oil, but in case you wanted to buy some, 50 kilos of olive oil cost 250 eros (plus transport) in these huge bottles (reusable from one year to the next). That’s half the price in the states.



3 massive barrels would only last a year in a Greek family of 4.


Everybody hates waste, especially when Oliver and his friends have given up so much to become your dinner condiment. The remnants of the process can be used for other things, which I thought was really resourceful! The gritty parts of the olive can be made into pomade oils and lubricants. It is then gifted BACK to this factory and used for heat! People can buy these pellets (if their home systems allow) and use them to heat their houses! Is Greece living in the future? Yes.

Another great way to avoid waste is by taking that old olive oil that has been sitting in the back of your pantry since 2002 (are you a hoarder?) and making soap and cosmetics with it! Oliver will thank you!


As we all know, olive oil is commonly used as salad dressing, so now, I would like to interrupt this blog post to play

Who Wore It Best: Greek Salad Edition



Beautiful mix of salad ingredients dressed in extravagant olive oil.

So of course, in the land of Greek salads (aka Greece), how could I rank a salads when I eat so many of them? After eating my first couple of Greek salads and noticing the difference, I decided to construct a checklist that defined what makes the best Greek salad. The qualifications include:

𝥷- Tastiness of feta
– Quality and amount of olive oil
-𝥷 Freshness of tomatoes (this wasn’t summer sI took into account that it was a bad season for tomatoes)
-𝥷 Number of olives (4 was most often the number)
-𝥷 Saltiness of the olives (can’t be too salty)
-𝥷 General appearance
– 𝥷Quality of the piece of bread inside of the salad
– 𝥷 Any additions (such as capers)
– Did they skin the cucumbers?



This was the winner! It had all of the requirements PLUS the green peppers as an added bonus. And look at that piece of yummy rustic bread! Definitely red carpet worthy. And by “red carpet” I mean my tongue.



Top contender because it came with a fun plate and a beautiful sunset in Kardamyli; unfortunately, the cucumbers were showing a little too much skin



Look at those cucumbers rockin’ the salad without their birthday suits! Skinless cucumbers are my fav.



Talk about ‘I knew you were trouble when you walked in!’ This twist on the classic dish sported some fried feta as a bold accessory.



This salad’s entourage — the capers and pepperoncinis– are just as well dressed as the lettuce itself!



Totally avant garde, darling, with this fried cheese shell; definitely one of the best-dressed.



This bowl serving us the “salad next door” look. Classic.


I wrote this blog post to refer to it next time I buy olive oil, to remember how special the taste, flavor, and process is, and to pay tribute to the incredible salads I’ve eaten along the way.

Once and for oil,