A rare solo night out

The embassy hosted a beer-tasting event Friday night at a beer cellar in the city center called Barley Cargo. James was just getting back from Rome the day before and leaving for Nairobi on Sunday morning, so it was a hard pass for him. But he graciously offered to watch the kids while I went. (By “graciously offered” I really mean “graciously accepted” after I whined that I never get to go anywhere fun anymore.) For 22 Euros we got a pretty generous pour of six beers, plus two bonus beers, and several courses of hors d’oeurves.

After each sample went by, the bar owner would give a short presentation about the beer we were tasting, sometimes inviting the actual beer-makers on stage to talk. At one point, while tasting a lager, he said, “We know how fond you Americans are of lagers,” which elicited a hearty boo from my table. You know how I feel about light lagers. (I should have been born in Germany.)

I was fashionably late — having been here almost two years, I’m on Greek time — so I missed the first couple of food courses. But I managed to snag some delicious mushrooms that appeared to be cut, squashed flat with a hammer, seasoned and grilled to perfection. As for beers, they were all tasty — predictably, the last better than the first — but my favorites were the Xarma Dunkel Lager (from Chania-Crete Island) and Septem 8th Day IPA (from Evia Island). I recently discovered the Septem Sunday’s Honey Golden Ale, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite.

Summer is a time of upheaval for the US Embassy — some families take their home leave, some families leave for good, and some families are just arriving — so this event was a great opportunity to connect with friends I hadn’t seen all summer, and to make some new ones, as well.

I’m not a fan of parking in the city center, so I took the bus and train there and back. I rarely have the opportunity to stay out late on my own in Athens, so this was quite a treat. At Syntagma Square, I noticed some guys throwing floating glow sticks up in the air, just as they did at San Marcos in Venice. I guess those guys are everywhere!

While waiting (and waiting!) for the 421 bus, I saw a car just brimming with passengers pull up on the other side of the street. The driver hopped out, walked around to the back, opened the hatchback, and a lanky young man crawled right on out of the trunk! No one at the bus stop flinched as I practically guffawed. Business as usual here in Athens!

My house is about a 25-minute walk from the Metro, and after waiting for the bus for half an hour, I decided to hoof it back. Maybe I could stop by this wine bar by my house that I’ve been meaning to try. Of course, about 15 minutes into my journey, the 421 blew right past me. Oh well. It was a nice night for a stroll. Outdoor restaurant seats were still packed at 11. Shops were closed, but the pedestrian mall was still heavily criss-crossed with foot traffic. On a quiet little side street I passed by Wine Not?, but it appeared to be closed. I couldn’t tell if it was closed for good, or just closed for August…hard to suss out sometimes. There wasn’t a sign, which you’ll usually find on businesses closed for August. Looking online, there’s no mention of them closing for good or for August. I didn’t actually try the door, so perhaps they were open after all! Curses! I guess I’ll have to appeal to some girl friends to come try this place with me. Winos unite!