Prepare yourself for a great foodie adventure.
As a tourist, you probably won’t be able to purchase many things at Athens’ Central Market, but you’ll go home with stories galore. The market is very large, with one section dedicated to meats and another to fish and seafood.
On the outskirts of the market, you’ll find olive bars, and stores of nuts and dried fruits, and produce that will make you very hungry indeed. I bought salted pistachios, feta and olives to snack on in the hotel room, and a fruit vendor gave me two ripe pears to balance the flavors.
When you enter the meat market, the first thing you’ll notice are the animals – yes, animals – hanging from their toes perfectly skinned. I had to ask – was it a goat or a lamb? Turns out, the neat little row of heads straight out of a scene from Jurassic Park were lamb’s heads (eyeballs included). A few stalls down and I spotted whole piglet and more furred and feathered carcasses than I could identify. I definitely spotted chickens, rabbits and goose. It’s eye-opening (no pun intended) to see what goes into the the favored dishes of different cultures. Sometimes you might not want to know! And yes, they still had their teeth.
A note about the vendors themselves. They are almost all men, notoriously charming and overtly flirtatious. They love American women, even though their English may not be so strong. Expect to be called upon, and know how to react. My advice? Smile, nod and move on!
Adjacent to the meat market is the fish market, where the vendors try to out-yell each other. Since I couldn’t tell what they were saying, I could only guess they were advertising their best prices and trying to snag some of the thousands of shoppers for their stalls. Fresh this week? Octopus, eel and pretty little blue fish. And of course, plenty of gorgeous-looking prawn. Floors are wet and slippery. Wear shoes and be prepared with cash if you buy.
Next to the Central Market are plenty of independent stalls that sell olives, fresh produce and nuts. Take the time to notice what’s in season, and you’ll know what to order in the restaurants at night. These artichokes look particularly nice, as did the shop dedicated to feta cheese and other Greek dairy delicacies.Perhaps we ‘ll order both at dinner!