[Cultivating Culture & Olive Oil]
Story by McKaila Ruud
Photography by M. Schleif Photography
This past October, I traveled to Greece as a part of a guided trip with Peter Schultz of Aegean Imports. Peter lives in Moorhead, Minn. and achieved his doctoral degree in Archaeology while studying in Greece. His expertise and local know-how are paramount to the experience of this trip. Aegean Imports is a small trading company based out of Fargo, N.D. They focus on cultivating relationships with sustainable, family-based, farm-to-table producers in southern Europe and Central America. The purpose of this trip to Greece was to connect with Olive Oil producers at Mystra Estates and partake in an environmental tour of the olive grove and the surrounding areas.
Read onward to learn about how a local group from the Fargo-Moorhead area got immersed into the Greek culinary scene, walked ancient ruins, and where you can get your hands on the olive oil mentioned in Stop #2.
Stop 1 | Athens, Greece
We spent our first full day in Greece taking in the main points of interest in Athens. Peter acted as our guide as we walked up to the Athenian Acropolis. At the base of the Acropolis site, our group of eight took a break to learn from Peter about the restoration process of each structure atop the Acropolis and the stories from Greek mythology that are connected with this place. It’s Peter’s expertise in the archaeological history and culture of this city that made it able for the rest of us on this trip to draw meaning, and therefore appreciation, for the things that make up the skyline in Athens.
Peter brought us to a small, family-owned restaurant a few blocks from our hotel for lunch and we ordered nearly everything off the menu and shared it all family-style, as is customary in Greek culture. A few free hours on our own after lunch had our bed calling us back.
We took a jet-lag induced nap before checking out a cafe across the street from our hotel that had been recommended to us by a handful of friends, called Little Tree Books & Coffee. The walls were filled to the ceiling with bookshelves and tucked in the corner was a small coffee counter. This was our first cafe stop, so I ordered the local favorite: one Greek coffee. While the technical side of this is a bit more relaxed, the result is the grittiest cup of coffee you’ll find. It wasn’t until I made it nearly all the way to the bottom of my cup that I learned the grit is present in the coffee because the grounds are not filtered out.
Our full group reconvened outside the entrance of the Acropolis Museum. The cold concrete and massive glass windows that construct the modern building stood in stark contrast to the rest of the city, yet paid beautiful homage to its subject, the Athenian Acropolis. With its walls running parallel with the city streets at its base and the top floor twisted on its axis to parallel the walls of the Parthenon, the architect Bernard Tschumi was able to make the museum into a modern reflection of its archeological counterpart. This theme is carried through to the interior exhibits. Metal columns provide the framework for the Parthenon Gallery by mimicking the original marble columns visible through the gallery’s glass walls and each of the antiquities housed in the exhibit are displayed in their correct original order.
The respect that this city has for it’s past is reflected around every corner and within the walls of each archaeological site, landmark, or historic structure. These structures and sites are not being preserved for the sake of preservation. In Athens, the community continues to use its historic spaces for their original intended purposes. The public forums constructed to house the Athenian government still serves the community as a place to gather and share ideas with fellow citizens. Amphitheaters that once gave a stage to the oldest form of acting our world knows are now venues for concerts and plays. The government, citizens, and culture of Athens shows respect for its history and the intention that was put forth by the city’s original architects.
Stop 2 | Mystras, Greece
Midwest Nest loves the culture from the upper midwest, and we are excited to share stories from around the area.