Over a wonderful dessert + sightseeing + dinner (in that order) Monday night in Athens, my colleague Pantelis asked about my favorite places in the world.  Having just added countries 52 and 53 the visited list -- of which, amazingly, 33 are represented in my current six-year-old passport -- it was a good question to reflect on.  But this is a very hard question to answer, because there are so many wonderful places in the world

Eventually, we talked about places as varied as Paris, Phuket, and Prague, Sydney and Santa Fe, Toronto and Tokyo.  The bottom line, though, is there are still many, many more places to explore -- which is why I turned the question around and asked Pantelis about the Greek islands.  We talked about Santorini, Crete, and a few others, but he then also pointed out that there are many wonderful places on the Greek mainland.

One of the more fun parts of our conversation was talking about how the food from different countries is interpreted differently around the world.  Pantelis has never been to the US, so when I told him that a Greek restaurant in the US serves things like gyros, moussaka, and spanakopita, he said, "those are simple foods, the things we eat at home."  He had never heard of "saganaki" (the Greek word simply represents any kind of fried cheese), and was puzzled by this concept.  So, we proceeded to eat a typical Greek restaurant dinner...one which included nothing I've ever eaten before.  It was a great evening, just as much for the conversation as for the food.  At one point, Pantelis said to me, "you are not a typical American"....maybe I should have started talking louder.  :-)

I really enjoyed my 36 hours in Athens.  Many of my preconceived notions were blown away (including the relentless description in the guidebooks of Athens as being smoggy -- I never felt this, and it was a beautiful sunny 18-23 degrees Celsius most of the time), and visiting the Acropolis early this morning before my flights was a fantastic experience.  Even the airport ground staff were unusually friendly.  It has taken me a long time to get to Greece, but I will be back.

How would you answer Pantelis's question?

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