Classic Athens Marathon 2010

It's not very often that you come across a 2500-year anniversary. The Athens Classic Marathon taking place this Sunday (October 31) may be just marking the 28th occasion of this sporting event, but the historical event it is commemorating (the run of Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens after the victory of ancient Athenians against the invading Persian army) took place 2500 years ago, in 490BC.
Twenty thousand runners have joined to run the Athens Marathon and the associated 5k, 10k and Power Walking races. Most races will end at the Panathinaikon Stadium, in the center of Athens, on Sunday morning / noon. I plan on being there and taking some hopefully interesting pictures, so I may post some here.
Some related books that may be of interest are:
26.2: Marathon Stories, by Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson (26.2 is the distance of the Marathon race in miles. In kilometers it is 42.195).

Here is the race's official site.

P.S. 2010-10-31 I didn't have the courage to get up this morning so I just watched the finish of the race online. There was a good number of people (but not too many) in the Panathinaikon Stadium, where the finish of the race(s) takes place, and it was a sunny day, but not hot, good for running (I guess :) ). To make it up to you I am posting a couple of photos from an earlier celebration that took place in the Panathinaikon Stadium, in 1996.
Olympic Games Winners Reception, 1996-08-06

Olympic Games Winners Reception, 1996-08-06 - Kind of a similar situation today (2010), only with fewer people in the stands.

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O Tzitzikas ki o Mermigkas (restaurant review)

I've been keeping notes / reviews from restaurant visits for the past few years and I've decided it's finally time to start doing something with them. I don't have a bias for or against any particular type of restaurant. I understand that high-end restaurants will be judged differently from lower-end or mid-range establishments (fast-food, taverns, grill-houses, neighborhood restaurants, etc...) but each one has to be honest to itself and try to provide the best that it's supposed to. I have been exposed to many different cuisines and types of restaurants from my business and personal trips, in Greece and abroad, so this experience gives me the ability to at least have an informed opinion on what someone might expect. If I'm inexperienced or even clueless about a particular type of cuisine I am always ready to acknowledge it. As far as restaurants are concerned, I can't stand dishonesty and sloppiness. I hate it when clients are treated like just one more order to rush through. I abhor pretense and bootlicking. I believe that local cuisines are better off sticking to their local ingredients or traditional recipes, unless they have really mastered the ways of incorporating foreign influences. If I had to sum up my motto concerning restaurants it'd be: "If you can't do it, then don't. The world will still manage to get by... Just focus on what you can cook / offer, and do it in an honest, simple way".
So, leaving theory aside, here is my first restaurant review:

O Tzitzikas ki o Mermigas

Address – Area: Ag. Georgiou & Aischylou 26, Halandri, Athens, 210-68.10.529 (see page bottom for other locations).
Latest visits: 2009-06-06
Cuisine: Mezedopolio (appetizers / tidbits)
Overall Opinion: Very positive
Methods of payment: cash
Working hours: Evenings. Also open for lunch on Saturdays / Sundays but make sure you call ahead. Certainly book a table, esp. for Saturday night.

Our order (4-5 persons):
1 Tzitzikas salad (green vegetables with anthotyro cheese, mastelo cheese and vinaigrette / mustard sauce)
1 pitakia mix (assortment of various small pies)
1 kolokythoanthoi (zucchini flowers stuffed with rice and herbs)
1 vegetable mille-feuille (grilled vegetables w/ mastelo cheese & pesto sauce)
1 saganaki (4 cheeses fried in olive oil and boukovo spice)
2 roumeliotiko (very tasty meat dish – don’t remember details)
1 kebapakia (small kebabs)
1 white Moschofilero house wine
1 500ml bottle of Kaiser beer
5 Bread
Price: 76,40 €

Presentation / Ambience: A mezedopolio /taverna with a modern twist and very good food, which has expanded into a small, family-owned, chain (currently has 4 locations). Its name derives from Aesop’s fable “the grasshopper and the ant” (actually in Greek it's "the cicada and the ant"). A large open yard with about 20 tables. During the winter you’d probably prefer to sit indoors. The walls are decorated with glass pots full of spices and bottles of vinegar, wine and liquor barrels like an old-time, Greek liquor store. The tables are also old-style, wooden kitchen tables and you’ll find your napkins and silverware inside the table’s drawers.

Food / Drinks: A Mezedopoleio is a type of restaurant that doesn't focus on main courses but offers small plates of various appetizer-like creations (mezedes, sing. mezes). Somewhat similar to the Spanish tapas bar. The food here was excellent except for one dish (read service, below). Greek cooking / ingredients with some measured and highly successful modern twists. Even the house wine was good and that is quite rare.

Service: Courteous and quite fast for a Saturday evening. We did not like one of the dishes (the meat was just too hard to chew on) and the waiter inquired since we had almost not touched it. We told him the reason and when we got the bill we saw that we had not been charged for that dish! That is something you rarely ever find in Greece and tells a lot about the quality of this restaurant.
On a different occasion (late 2010) we had dinner at their restaurant in Ano Patissia neighborhood (Plateia Papadiamanti) and our non-Greek guest was presented with an English language menu before we had even asked for it! Impressed!

Location / Getting there: At the northern Athens suburb of Halandri.
Option 1) Get a taxi
Option 2) Get bus E6 (express-last route at 19:50) or trolleys No.18 or 19 from the National Archaeological Museum which take you to Halandri. Get off at the Halandri Square bus stop and from there you can walk 5-10 minutes along Agias Paraskevis St. and turn left at Aischyllou St.
A number of other buses and trolleys also go to Halandri.

There are three other locations which should be much closer to most visitors' accommodations:
-The first one is at Plateia Papadiamanti in Athens (Ano Patissia neighborhood) at the terminal stop of trolley-bus no. 14 which runs on Alexandras Ave. and Patission St. Trolley-buses 5 and 13 (running on Eleftheriou Venizelou and Patission St.) also make a stop one block away (Papadiamanti bus stop). I have also dined three times at this location and was equally satisfied, except for the rather confined space. Outdoor tables, on the square, also have to put up with the passing traffic. Open in the evening. [Last dinner here on 2010-10-26 and still excellent. In 2014 this particular location has made a slight turn towards grilled food / meat without abandoning its roots]
-The second one is at 12-14 Mitropoleos St., in the center of Athens, 2 blocks from Syntagma Square, at the ground floor of an old apartment / office building. Also open for lunch.
-The last and newest one is located at the northern suburb of Kifissia at 12-14 Drossini St. Also open for lunch.
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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