Restaurant and tavern food tends
to be uncomplicated, rarely involving sauces but with full
use of local olive oil and charcoal grills. Dishes like dolmades
(stuffed vine leaves), kebabs and avgolemono
(chicken broth with rice, eggs, salt and lemon juice), moussaka
(aubergine casserole with minced lamb, cinnamon, red wine and olive
oil) can be found everywhere. Taramasalata (a dip
made from fish roe, bread, onion, olive oil and lemon juice) and
various seafood dishes, especially squid (kalamari) or octopus,
Greek menus typically include a selection of meze (appetisers),
such as keftedes (hot spicy meatballs) or tzatziki
(a dip made from yoghurt, garlic, olive oil, shredded cucumber and
dill). Salads are excellent and often made with the local feta cheese,
tomato, cucumber and fresh olive oil. Additional vegetarian
specialities include gigantes (large white
beans) and kolokithakia (small boiled courgette
with oil and lemon). Olives are inexpensive and plentiful. Deserts,
such as baklavas (filo pastry filled with almonds
and topped with honey, sugar and vanilla) or loukoumades
(honey-drenched pastry puffs) are sweet and filling.
All restaurants have a standard
menu which includes the availability and the
price of each dish. Many restaurants will serve international
dishes. Hours are normally 1200-1500 for lunch
and 2000-2400 for dinner. Waiter service is usual.
One of the best-known Greek drinks is retsina wine,
made with pine-needle resin. Local spirits include
ouzo, an aniseed-based clear spirit to which
water is added and which is very similar to the French pastis.
Local brandy is sharp and flaming. Greek coffee
is served thick and strong, and sugared according to taste. Greek
beer is a light Pilsner type.
Opening hours vary according to the region and
This is centred in main towns and resorts with discos
and concerts. Athens offers many local taverns, mostly
in the Plaka area, and ouzeris
(typical Greek bars). Regular concerts and evening shows
are held at the Odeion of Herodes in Attica.
Nightclubs featuring Greek bouzouki music are very popular.
There are some casinos in Greece, such
as the Corfu Casino in Corfu, the Mount
Parnes Casino in Athens and the Casino at the
Grand Hotel Astir in Rhodes.
Special purchases consist of garments and knitwear, lace, jewellery,
metalwork, pottery, furs, leather goods, rugs, local wines and
spirits. Athens is the centre for local handicrafts and
luxury goods. The flea markets in Plaka and Monastiraki,
below the Acropolis, are all jam-packed in high season.
Regional specialities include silver from Ioannina,
embroidery and lace from Crete, the Ionian Islands, Rhodes and
Skiros, ceramics from Sifnos and Skopelos, fur from Kastoria,
alabaster from Crete and flokati rugs from the Epirus region.
(a) Visitors should be know that many ‘antiques’
sold to tourists are fake; it is against the law to export any
item of real antiquity without a special permit from the Export
Department of the Ministry of Culture.
(b) Non-EU citizens can get a refund on Greek VAT (4 per cent
on books and 18 per cent on nearly everything else); the process
is somewhat complicated, but well worth it. Non-EU visitors may
buy goods from certain shops bearing the sign ‘Member of
the Tax-Free Club’ and have the VAT refunded, in cash, at
special refund points at the airport. Ask store owners and tourist
information offices for more details.
Shopping hours: These vary according to the season, location and
type of shop, but a rough guide follows: Monday, Wednesday, and
Saturday 0800-1430; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 0800-1400 and
1730-2030. Note: Most holiday resort shops stay open late in the
Visitors to Greece will find that the Greeks are well aware of strong
historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs vary throughout
Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek
Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek
way of life, particularly in more rural areas. The throwing back
of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is by and large casual.
Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.
12 to 15 per cent is usual.