Review of Athens, Greece and Crete Bars

[Greek flag]

Recent scientific advances in the field of artificial intelligence have allowed Delta Airlines' computerized fare system to get a traveler from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Athens, Greece and back for less than the cost of a round-trip ticket to Disney World. Opportunity knocked, I answered. A ninety minute stop-over in Frankfurt, Germany provided just enough time to go through the Frankfurt Flughafen Bar beer list. The Dortmunder Union Siegel Pils was hoppy and light-bodied. The Binding Römer Pils was straw-colored, with medium carbonation and a light hop aroma, flavor and aftertaste. The Henniger Export was a light gold color with a hoppy palate, smooth mouth feel and 5.5% v/v. The König Pils appeared light gold with excellent head and a sharp hop flavor. The Schöfferhofer Weizen Kristal was golden, well carbonated and possessed an intense wheat aroma and flavor, it finished with a clean aftertaste. With an exchange rate of 1.62 DM to the U.S. Dollar this beer topped the price list at $8.00. The Hefeweizen from the same brewery was a hazy gold with good carbonation, smooth body and a slightly tart aftertaste. In observing the surroundings, two cultural differences were immediately apparent. Every bottle of beer is freshness dated on its label. Unlike its American counterparts which keep passengers wondering about their flights' status, the lounge contains a wall-mounted information display to provide up-to-the-minute flight information. Overall, not a bad place to enjoy a stop-over.

Within the shadow of the towering Athens Hilton lies the Red Lion pub. On draught is AMSTEL Lager, with numerous brands of British and German bottled beer. A .5 liter glass will cost 500 Drachmae, about $2.50. The bar offers dart playing, music, and palm reading but little oxygen. The disc-spinning bartender was often not visible behind the lingering clouds of gray smoke. One point the travel guides all fail to mention is that in Greece, chain-smoking is mandatory for everyone over the age of 15. Rumor has it that the Europeans have bought out all the domestic brewing facilities here and I could not find any sign of the Aegean, Spartan, or Fix labels.

Half way between Athens and Cairo lies the island of Crete whose plentiful outdoor cafés provide the opportunity to taste more of the beer and less of the air than those of Athens. Beers from northern Germany, Berlin, and Bavaria abound as well as those from the Netherlands and Great Britain but draught is not available during the "off season". A popular haven for darters and English-speaking ex-patriots is Tassos Place at 28 XAN(AKO((Handakos) in the capitol of Iraklion. I found the Krombacker Pils, 1047 OG, 4.6% v/v, to be light in color and body with a pleasant hoppy flavor. Also available were four ciders; Strongbow, Woodpecker, Merrydown Vintage Dry (8.2% v/v), and Merrydown Traditional English (5%). The service was relaxed-paced and the crowd mostly male but the games, music, international soccer on TV, and the interesting clientele made it worthy of repeat visits. Be forewarned that it is significant that you will find no Greek translation for the phrase "non-smoking section". One archeological find of interest; above a small Italian restaurant, through the narrow, spiral metal staircase, past the second story restrooms, behind some abandoned furniture, on a dusty shelf, I discovered a visibly weathered, partial six-pack of Coors standing amid a collection of local antiques. I wonder if the date code was in Roman numerals. A return visit in the summer is now in order to confirm my suspicion that the numerous beachside cafés and restaurants offer the perfect spots to sip some cool, quality beers while deciding whether adequate sunscreen is on hand to forgo the swimsuit at the local "suits optional" beaches.

Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - March, 1992

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