Friday, September 30, 2011

Friendship Bracelet Making Party

It has been awhile since I have posted. Sorry. I got sick, then I had to go to South Carolina. There were dead people to find. It is what I do.

Before I got sick and went to South Carolina, I had a friendship bracelet making party.

I invited my girls over and we watched an awesome movie. We drank delicious beverages. It is called a Moscow Mule (ginger beer, vodka, mint)

I made mustache straws. They made me laugh.
I look good with a mustache. Right? Mustache for the win.
After we all had beverages, we got to work.
Look at this focus.
Even Max got in on the action. He really likes friendship bracelets. It is a little bit of a hazard to have him around.
Bracelets may have been lost. Cat casualties are a problem.
To sustain us throughout this work, I made salted carmel popcorn. So easy and tasty.

It was really fun to kick back, chat, and make some pretty bracelets. The skills came right back.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fennel Pizza and My Favorite Pizza Dough

This is a great recipe. But it is not what most people think of as pizza. This pizza would probably disappoint your typical kid. This pizza has not met a tomato. There is a little bit of cheese, but no mozzarella.

It is delicious. When Derek was preparing to leave for Germany I asked him what he would like to have for his last American dinner. His instant response was, "fennel pizza." Now this is not an American recipe, I am not even sure it is an Italian recipe. But, I love the boy so I just smiled and we made pizza.

The dough is pretty delicious and we use it for everything. Sometimes we just have to many leftovers in the fridge and we make a pizza to put them on (this is not a joke). We are really good at pizza. Not to be too egotistical, but sometimes when we are eating pizza at a restaurant, I realize that our pizza is better.

My Pizza Guidelines:
1.)Hot oven. Pretty much as hot as your oven can go. Then let the oven preheat for about 10 minutes after it says it is ready.

2.)Think light. Our home ovens can not handle too thick of a pizza. If the crust or the toppings are too thick they will not cook all of the way and you will have soggy pizza.

3.)Pizza stone, optional. The pizza stone really helps you get that crusty crust and it helps the oven maintain that temperature. But you do not need it. This recipe requires no special kitchen gadgets.

These recipes were published by Jim Lahey in his book My Bread. We love this book, every recipe we have made from it is great, his basic bread is the best. I have written about it here. You would think that this book would just be about bread, but it has a whole chapter on pizza. None of his pizzas are traditionally what we think of as pizza, none have sauce, most don't have cheese, and they usually have only 3 or 4 ingredients.

Basic Pizza Dough
not modified at all from Jim Lahey's My Bread
makes two 9 x 13 pizzas or four personal pizzas

3 1/4 cups (500 grams) Bread Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) Active Dry Yeast
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) Table Salt
3/4 teaspoon (about 3 grams) plus pinch Sugar
1 1/3 cups (300 grams) Room Temperature (about 72 degrees F) Water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. In a a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon or your hand for at least 30 seconds or until blended. The dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until it has more than doubled in volume (about 2 hours).

2. Scrap the dough out of the bowl using a rubber spatula onto a well-floured work surface. Gently form into a rough ball (it will be sticky). Cut this ball into two (if you are making two large pizzas) or four (for four small pizzas). Space them 4 inches apart and cover with a moistened kitchen towel and allow to them to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Now you can form the balls into pizzas or freeze them. To freeze, coat the inside of a plastic bag with olive oil and put ball inside. They should keep about a month in the freezer. If you want to wait to use the dough, they will keep for about a day in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Before use, defrost frozen dough in the refrigerator and let it sit on counter for 30 minutes to warm to room temperature.

4. To form the pizzas, oil a 9 x 13 inch rimmed baking dish (no pizza stone, although I do use a baking stone for a lot of my other pizzas). Use a fair bit of oil on the pan and spread it out evenly. Invert the dough onto the pan (preferably with moist side of the dough down on the pan). Using your hands, gently pull, press, and stretch dough across the pan. It should take up all of the pan evenly. Sometimes I used my oiled rolling pin to spread it really evenly. Try not to let the dough rip, if you do, press the holes together.

5. Now top the pizza with fennel topping (or whatever you want).

Fennel Pizza (Pizza Finocchio)
from the same book as above
Makes enough topping for one 9x13 inch pizza

2 medium (650 grams) Trimmed Fennel Bulbs
1/2 cup loosely packed (40 grams) Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano Cheese (see note b)
3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) Table Salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) Freshly Ground Black Pepper
about 1/4 cup (about 60 grams) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The pizza dough from above

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (hot!), with the rack in the center.

2. Use a knife or mandoline to cut the fennel into really thin slices (1/16 of an inch), don't cut your fingers. You want about 7 cups of sliced fennel.

3. Put all of the fennel in a bowl and toss them with cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

4. Spread the fennel mixture over the dough, going all of the way to the edges. No crust on this pizza. In fact, you want the topping to be slightly more thick at the edges, because the outside tends to brown more quickly.

5. Bake for 30 minutes, plus or minus 5 minutes. I find that mine is done at 25 minutes, but my oven is hot.

Note a: I have used this dough for lots of pizza types. When I am making sauce containing pizzas I tend to use the pizza peel and stone. I just like them that way.

Note b: I think this pizza might work without cheese, if you are avoiding it. If you are avoiding cow dairy, I think a hard goat or sheep cheese would work.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My List

Thank you friends for all of your great suggestions! I am very excited about my list (and my year).

1. Pancetta. That is right, I think this is the next step up from bacon. We shall call it advanced bacon. It hangs up to cure.

2. Backpacking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I want to go somewhere and sleep in the woods. There will probably be jelly beans, beef jerky, and canned beer. That is what you eat when backpacking.

3. Make a quilt. On my sewing machine. Probably a small one.

4. 3 new restaurants outside of Chapel Hill. Get out, experiment, try new things.

5. Cooking (or baking) class. There are things I can learn, for sure.

6. Concert in town. This could happen more than once, inspiration may strike.

7. Picnic. You know, I am sort of too lazy for picnics. You have to make food, then pack it, then go somewhere. Why not just eat then go to the place? But not this year. Bring. it. on.

8. Friendship bracelet. This could happen soon. Stay tuned.

9. Trail running. Sometimes I run on roads, I need to branch out.

10. Volunteer with REI. I will help build the trail I walk on.

11. Dance class. I am not even sure this is possible. I will look into it.

12. Kayak. I have never done this before. It seems like fun.

13. Go to Saxapahaw. This will include hiking and probably duck fat fries.

14. Climb to the highest point in Orange County. That is North Carolina (not California). It is not very high.

15. Plant a Tree.

16. Jam exchange with Rachel.

17. Play poker. This I used to do in middle school, I am grown up now. I still think I will not play for keeps. I am not that grown up.

18. Make a piece of art. Maybe painting, perhaps collage. We shall see how my muse moves me.

19. Happiness list. My mom suggested this one, make a list of things I am happy about. Can do.

20. Go to scrap exchange in Durham. I have never been there, but I like strange stuff.

21. Make pasta. All of the way from semolina flour to noodles.

22. Have a mustache party. With paper, not hair. Hair has been done. Plus, I can not grown a mustache.

23. Swimming. Lap swimming, not playing in the water.

24. Go to a festival. Probably a close one by one. I am pretty lazy.

25. Go to a museum. One with art or old stuff. I have not been to any of our local museums. For shame!

26. Salted chocolate covered caramels and Homemade Marshmallows. Enough said.

27. Forage persimmons. This is a long story. More later.

28. Visit corn maze. I have never done that. Sounds spiffy.

29. Make a paper crane. I could never do this as a child. I am now a mature adult, who can follow directions much better.

30. Go to or host a wine tasting. Then I can say more than, "I like it" or "Icky." Girl has got to have goals. If I host it, I might even have to do research. Right on.

Ok, time to get started. The list may be a little fall heavy, but I will make it work. This weekend might be a big one!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gute Reise Derek!

My love left today. He is off to Germany to make research happen for his dissertation. I love him very dearly and saying goodbye today was terribly hard.

It is never easy to say goodbye. It is definitely not easy to say goodbye until Christmas. I cannot even think about the rest of the year. Thank goodness for Skype.

We have been having/attending many celebrations and events over the past couple of weeks. We wanted to do one last pork shoulder, one last time at our favorite restaurant, one last trip to the taco trucks, you know how it goes.

One last trip to Fullsteam.

Speaking of this, I am going to do a post about Derek's last United States dinner soon. Fennel pizza deserves its own post.

It has been a busy couple of weeks. Then, I took Derek to the airport and when I got home it was so quiet. Too quiet.

One last smoked pork shoulder.

I am going to miss that boy.

I am not a wallower though and I intend to keep myself busy for the next three (really ten) months.

I am a list maker and I am going to make a list of the exciting new things I want to try in the next year (307 days, but who is counting?) and get out of my comfort zone a little. Not that I need Derek away to step out of my box, but I need goals so I do not think too much about Derek being gone. I am thinking a I will make a list of 30 goals, get it 300 days?

In order to really get out of my comfort zone, I want help making this list. If I have any readers (Mom?), would you help me come up with suggestions for my year? If they are feasible, I promise to do it and document my efforts here.

Here is what I have so far:

1. Make pancetta.

2. Go backpacking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

3. Make a quilt.

4. Try a 4 new restaurants outside Chapel Hill (I have no idea where the number 4 came from).

5. Take a cooking class.

6. Go to a concert in town.

7. Go on a picnic.

8. Make a friendship bracelet.

9. Go trail running.

10. ?

Okay, I have nine so far. Help me out friends! I will think on this a bit and hopefully come up with 21 more... with your help? Please?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fullsteam Ahead for Great Beer!

Hello loyal reader (readers?) of Sarah’s blog. As you can undoubtedly tell from the third-person use of Sarah’s name, there has been a change from this blog’s regular programming. I, Derek, have taken over for one guest post. That means no archaeology, but the South and food – well, Bier als Nahrungsmittel, as the Germans would say – will remain. I should also warn you that this going to be a long post. Give me a soapbox and I will go on and on.

Today I want to share with you a mixture of my passions: German history, food in the “new South,” and, most importantly, beer. These themes all came together in a tour of an amazing brewery in Durham called Fullsteam. But before I can get to the tour and photos, we need to go back in time, as well as take a slight field trip to Germany and the development of my deep, respectful love of beer.

Known as the "Land of Breads" (eat your heart out, France!), Germany is also a land of beers.

I think that like most 18-year-olds, I arrived at college with a dysfunctional view of beer and alcohol in general. Basically, beer was the means to the end of getting drunk, which was itself a means of navigating the semi-adolescent, semi-adult social relations in college. What never really entered into the equation was that beer itself should be enjoyable. In fact, like most Americans I had the vague sense that I should like the taste of beer, but I actually did not care for it. I was willing to put up with the taste because beer offered something I did like: the connection between pleasant drunkenness and sociability.

As it turns out, part of the reason that I did not care for beer was that the beer I was drinking was not very good. Coors, Bud, Miller, and Pabst are all inexpensive staples at college parties, and I think that it is telling that the “light” versions of the major beers are most popular, with the exception of PBR. They have the least flavor, meaning that most people will drink them because they don’t really taste like beer. Think about it: college students (particularly men) are supposed to like beer, and they like the effects of alcohol, but flavorful beer can be off-putting to neophytes. There is a reason why you can hardly taste either hops or malt in lights beers, as well as why they are so carbonated and finish slightly sweet. They are adult sodas. Alco-pops like Smirnoff Ice or Mike’s Hard Lemonade just admit what everyone else keeps secret. (On this note, you should watch the eye-opening documentary Beer Wars – just don’t let the slightly annoying narrator put you off.)

The fundamental difference between this and Coors Light? Less than you might think...

What does all of this have to do with ze Germans, you ask. Well, like everyone else on the planet, I knew that German beers were supposed to be good. For the most part, they actually are pretty tasty. The reason why people like them is that the Germans are very good at producing lagers, which they first developed and popularized (based on the German verb "to store" which has to do with how they are brewed) and which all of the mass-market beers in the US cynically imitate. Lager beers tend to have crisp, clean flavors that are not overpowering. When made correctly and consumed in the right circumstances, they are sublime. They are also very welcoming beers for those who do not want an overpowering drink; for instance, when I was younger and first encountering German beers in Germany. When lagers are made cynically…well, you get Miller, Bud, PBR, Coors, Schlitz, Ice House, Natty Light, and so on. And do not for one second tell me that you could taste the difference between Coors and Natty Light in a blindfolded test, because there is no way you can once brand-loyalty has been eliminated. There is not enough flavor for either to be distinctive – that is the point of their beer and why they have such non-beer-related ad campaigns that support them.

See the hops, barley, and other ingredients on this table? You can hardly taste them in mass-market beers.

German beers are good because in typical German fashion, they decided to subject it to some rules. In 1516 the Bavarians introduced the Reinheitsgebot (say it with me, “Rine” like shine, “heights,” as in tall places, “ge” like get without the t, and “boat,” but with the vowel slightly clipped). The Reinheitsgebot was a “purity law” for beer that decreed that beers had to be brewed with only barley, hops, and water. So, the delicious German Hefeweizen-style does not actually conform to the law because it is a wheat beer, but apparently it was tasty enough to eventually warrant an exception. By outlawing adulterants, the Germans kept nasty preservatives and other additives out of their beers, which meant good, “clean,” tasty beer that also needed to be consumed while relatively fresh because only hops acted as a preservative.

Delicious, German, and wheat-y, but not actually allowed by the Reinheitsgebot.

The Reinheitsgebot is no longer in effect because European courts deemed it as anti-competitive and a barrier to freed trade within the EU, but many breweries still work within its constraints as a point of pride (and, to be honest, probably as marketing). As a result, mass-market German lagers are better than their American counterparts because they do not use adulterants such as rice and weird preservatives, and also because they still seem to take some sort of pride in what they do. There are exceptions – I am looking at you, Becks – but that is the general idea.

This stuff, on the other hand, is great!

Sadly, just as the constraints on German beers had the benefit of producing a nice base-level quality, they have also harmfully narrowed the horizon of German beers. The fun thing about the explosion of American craft beers is that people who started as homebrewers are a little more willing to experiment. Sometimes that turns out poorly, but it also leads to really neat beers. Dogfish Head in Delaware is a classic example: they have fun beers ranging from their India Pale Ales, to nearly Paleolithic and other historic styles, to a pumpkin beer that manages to not be cloying and disgusting. Here it is again worth noting that problems really arise when brewers are cynical and go for the lowest common denominator of fizzy, alcoholic pumpkin pie rather than pumpkin beer. This sort of cynicism is also manifest in certain super hoppy craft beers that are more a product of a hops arms race than the effort to create good or interesting beer (Dogfish Head also gets points here because they manage to balance their IPAs even as they get really hoppy). In any case, an IPA is already pretty out there for most German drinkers and brewers, so imagine the horror they would have when confronted with a brewery like Dogfish Head that brews with pumpkins and even the sap of a Central-American hardwood tree.

What's this? We are getting to the point of this long-winded post?

As part of a series of “goodbyes for now” to the South while I get ready for 10 months of research in Germany, a group of us went on a tour of the Fullsteam brewery in Durham. We got hear all about the history and production processes of this young brewery from their very charismatic founder Sean Wilson. They have actually been using a second-hand German-made system, and I like to think that is very appropriate. It nicely encapsulates the combination of the care and dedication to standards from the German tradition with the American craft beer tendency to try new things. It does not hurt that they also have a fun beer garden for enjoying their product, local food trucks to keep away the hungers beer can’t satisfy, and that they are taking part in the revitalization of a part of Durham and maybe also foodways in the South.

See, I told you they use German equipment.

Sean Wilson (in black) talking to us amidst brewing tanks

Sean spreading the good word in the outdoor portion of the beer garden.

We really hope that Fullsteam is successful because they are doing the very things that make Dogfish Head wonderful, but they are also brewing with a great “new Southern cuisine” approach to local traditions and ingredients. But they don’t use tradition as a crutch. Take their Carver Sweet Potato Lager for example. They brew it in lager style, but they also use local sweet potatoes in the mash, which produces a subtle, interesting variation on that sort of beer. It would also be unthinkable under the Reinheitsgebot, which is why the Fullsteam people talk about having a Neinheitsgebot (it rhymes but is sadly gibberish in German). They also brew a “cream ale” that is an old southern style containing grits. So, what might seem like an additive to cheapen the beer when used cynically actually helps to produce another subtle, pleasant shift in what beer can be. For the most part I oppose using rice in beer, but when someone loves beer enough to try a New Orleans red beans and rice homage, I say go for it. It may not taste very good, but at least you gave it a shot. The other great thing about their style and dedication to exploring ingredients is that, as they like to point out, it connects beer back to its agricultural origins. Beer is made from food, and is actually food itself. Just like we are now supposed to think about where our meat and tomatoes come from, maybe we should think a little harder about our beer.

This modified keg was the humble origin of their brewmaster's first Fullsteam lager.

Awesome taste and awesome backwards "F".

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Which Sarah and Derek Got Lost on Mount Olympus (A True Story of Recklessness with a Happy Ending)

It is story time.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (a galaxy some people might call Greece), little (read: naive and silly) Sarah and Derek were studying abroad in Athens. We were having a great time and developing our consciousness' about good ingredients and tasty food. We were also learning stuff. This story is about neither of these things.

One weekend the entire study abroad program was shuttled to Thessaloníki in Northern Greece. There we were forced to endure hours of tours of historic sites in one large group. It was excruciating. After one day of this, Derek, a dear friend whom I shall call Tom (not his real name), and I decided to leave town and go hiking on Mount Olympus. You see, we had a guide book (the name of which will be omitted), this book implied we could do a short hike up to the trailhead from the village, eat lunch, and come back.

So, bright and early we eagerly jumped on a bus to Litóhoro. Did we pack a lunch? No. Did we bring tons of water? No. It was described as a short hike. We were going to have a nice walk through the woods, see some pretty views, end up at the trailhead for those who want to climb the mountain, have lunch, and turn around. I swear the guide book said the hike was about 2 kilometers. It also said there was a restaurant at this trailhead. We knew we did not have the time or equipment to climb the actual mountain. We were just happy to be on the mountain.

Here is little Derek holding a frog.

In the village of Litóhoro, on impulse, we stopped to buy some bread and cookies (Greek cookies remind me more of animal crackers, not necessarily a sweet dessert...). Then the three of us found the trail head and embarked. It was an awesome hike. The trees were beginning to change and the trail had gorgeous vistas from which to appreciate the fall colors. It was a sunny and brisk day, not hot or cold really. For much of the hike we were walking along a beautiful stream, with frogs and idyllic bridges. It was also a really hard hike, we were going UP, for serious. I mean we were on a mountain. We passed an abandoned monastery and beautiful little shrines.


Derek and another shrine.

At some point we realized we had clearly hiked longer than 2 kilometers, we were still in the middle of the woods, we were running out of water, and we were hungry. It was lunch time. We were nowhere near the restaurant. Also, we did not have a map, GPS, or cell reception. Basically, any of those newfangled hiking toys. At some point Tom pointed out he brought his sleeping bag and we could all huddle under it for warmth if we needed to spend the night on the trail. Needless, to say we were headed to a bad place mentally. The guide book was NOT helpful... according to it, we should have arrived already, have had lunch, and be preparing for our downhill hike.

Abandoned Monastery, something to do with Hitler, we were never sure.

At about 3:00 pm, after about 6 hours of hiking, we emerged at the parking lot for the actual Mount Olympus climb. We had not seen a single person all day and all of a sudden we were in a parking lot full of climbers and tour busses. Immediately, we filled our water bottles at the fountain and noticed the restaurant was closed for the season. Perfect. Really hungry, remember. At around noon we had started rationing the bread and cookies. We realized that if we turned around to hike back down we were going to have a situation on our hands. No food and it would be dark before we got back to the village and the bus stop back to Thessaloníki. This was particularly true because the trail was in a little valley, which would lose sunlight even earlier. We had cell phones, but no reception and really no one to call. We started asking the tourists and tour busses if we could have a ride back to the village. No dice. No room at this bus or any bus. Really? No room... it is a bus for goodness sakes. But, we were in no position to argue. There were no taxis to call, no rescue in sight...

Closed restaurant...

At least there was water. Did not know or care if it was potable.

I like to think we did what anyone would have done at this point. We figured we were less likely to die by the side of the road than in the woods. Okay, die is an exaggeration, but I was not interested in turning this into an overnight trip. We decided to hike back along the road. I should point out that we had no idea if this walk would be shorter or longer than the trail, we just decided it would be better. After about an hour of walking along the road we realized that it might be longer than the trail and we were still hungry (I know a day with only bread and cookies is not starvation and that many people in dire situations have endure far worse, but we were hungry...).

The brilliant plan to solve this problem was to hitchhike. Because we were all good middle class American kids raised in the late 1980's and 1990's we were trained that hitchhiking would result in immediate death and dismemberment. Therefore, we were wary of taking the next step, but it seemed like the only logical solution. In order to prevent our inevitable murder we tried to check out the vehicles driving by before we would stick up our thumbs. If you have ever hitchhiked before you know this does not work, by the time you have ensured that the driver is not wearing a hockey mask their car is long gone and has not bothered to check out their rearview mirror to see your thumb. After failing a number times, we decided to throw caution to the wind and put our thumbs up without looking. In fact, we forbid ourselves from any even turning around.

To our surprise, the next vehicle to drive by pulled over immediately. Even better, it was a small van and probably had seats for the three of us. With extreme nervousness, we ran to the van's open door and discovered.... about 3 nuns and one monk. Okay, chances of murder have diminished.

A word on Greek Orthodox nuns and monks. Part of their practice of faith requires them to be extremely charitable and hospitable. It would have literally been against their religion to not stop for us when they had room.

We were feeling pretty good at this point. Safe ride! We were not going to be some news story about murdered American students! No cannibalism in the woods! What an awesome hitchhiking story! Weren't all of the lame people still touring Thessaloniki en mass going to be jealous of our adventure!

Real Mount Olympus trailhead (I think)

Well, at this point the adventure had only started. The nuns and monk spoke little English and, while were were learning modern Greek, we were not that great. We communicated we would love to dropped of in Litóhoro so we could catch the bus. They told us they needed to stop somewhere and return a key. Okay, fine.

Look at all of these cars at the Mount Olympus trailhead parking lot, no ride for us though.

After returning the key, there was some discussion amongst the nuns of how to get to the village (which they had not driven through on their way to Mount Olympus) and the three of us Americans watched them make a wrong turn. We were too polite to point it out or maybe we thought they knew a shortcut. Soon it became apparent that they were tourists too, visiting from another part of Greece and they had no idea where they were going.

They communicated to us that they had made a wrong turn and would take us back, but it would make them late to another appointment and would we mind just tagging along? Then they could take us to a bus stop. At this point they fed what suspiciously looked like their lunch (that hospitality thing again) and we shared our rationed cookies, which they seemed to like.

They asked us, hopefully, if we were Catholic. They could could from our pale faces and light brown hair that we were not Greek and, therefore, not Greek Orthodox. I am assuming they thought Catholic was next best thing. When we told them we were not Catholic, they, hopefully again, asked if we were Protestant. At this point, Tom tried to explain he was spiritual, but not religious. While he was frantically trying to find the word for spiritual in his language dictionary, I interrupted and told them we were Protestant. Remember, language was a challenge. I am not sure agnostic or indifferent was in their world view.

Pretty soon, the nuns and the monk started arguing and it was clear they were lost trying to find the place of their next appointment. I promise, the monk stopped the van and said, "if you women don't stop arguing I am going to turn this van around!"

Actually, I do not know if he said that, but he might have, he stopped the van. The monk has not said a word to us at all. He was not much of a talker. We later learned he was from Mount Athos, a famously strict order of monks, not much interested in the outside world.

The nunnery.

After consultation with our American (English!) guide book, the nuns agreed on a course of direction. Eventually, we ended up at a nunnery in the middle of an agricultural field (middle of nowhere). They made me wear a skirt over my pants (girls in pants = bad for God). We were told to hang in the courtyard of this nunnery while they went on a tour. It turns out that nuns on vacation visit other nuns to see their digs. I am not sure why the monk was there because he did not seem to be having any fun, maybe the nuns needed a chaperone? We hung in the courtyard, someone fed us some cake. Best tasting cake ever, remember we have not eaten anything substantial all day. They had some sort of mini-zoo, which we admired. There was a pretty garden and a small gift shop. No other tourists though. Some Jesus stuff, but nothing major. We did not even see that many nuns, maybe they were all visiting with the people we had come to think of as our nuns.

Nunnery courtyard.

Pretty garden.

Lots of space, very few nuns. But who knows?

Place where we ate our cake. Great view.

It took them a long while to do whatever they were doing, but they came back and the monk said (in Greek), "come on children." These were his only words to us in the entire five or so hours we spent together. We had many awkward conversations with the nuns, but the monk was not a talker. We jumped in the van and we all drove off into the setting sun. They must of gotten directions from the local nuns, because they took of to a bus station in a neighboring town so we could get a bus back to Thessaloníki.

Van looking off into the setting sun.

When we tried to offer them some cash, as a donation to the monastery they refused with conviction and they left us.

We were able to catch a bus almost immediately.

I think this story has some morals:

1.) Buy a map. Ask the locals about their trails. Do not use the Rough Guide to Greece as your sole source of information (oh damn, I said I was not going to reveal the name...).

2.) Always bring a sandwich. Do not assume the cafe will be open in the off season.

3.) Don't bring one sleeping bag for three people. Even if you need it, you do not want to use it.

4.) If you hitchhike, make sure nuns pick you up.

5.) It is embarrassing to take pictures of nuns. Even if you want to.

And they lived happily ever after.

The end.