Oia town on Santorini island, Greece. Traditional and famous white houses and churches with blue domes over the Caldera, Aegean sea
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Oia town on Santorini island, Greece. Traditional and famous white houses and churches with blue domes over the Caldera, Aegean sea

Turqoise – blue waters, white little dome villas, a myriad of churches, exotic plants, tiny tavernas, mouthwatering food, the Zorba song in the background – it’s Greece! Since ancient times, this astounding country remains one of those places on Earth, that no matter what, it will attract the crowds from all over the world.

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Luckily one doesn’t have to go to Greece in order to feel its spell. It can be experienced right here, on the American soil. Each year there are organized plenty of Greek Festivals across the country that bring a little bit of Greece along with its ageless charm. Greek festivals share two basic elements: great food and happy crowds. One of these festivals are held in Myrtle Beach, SC, at the end of September.

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If you are around this area, than you definitely cannot miss it. It’s a great experience and after one day or half a day spent at the event, you will go home with the impression that just came back from a trip in the heart of Greece. The Greek Feast in Myrtle Beach is not just an event to have fun, it’s very informative as well and if you like history, if you are fascinated by diverse cultures and foreign languages, then you will find the Greek Festival as the most intensive course in the Greek culture, without having to pay the heavy bucks. The festival in Myrtle Beach usually starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday about 7pm. I really wish it was longer because there is so much good energy in there. But great things and precious time go by fast. I guess that’s why they are so special.

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Once you arrive at the Greek Festival at St. John The Baptist Church (a beautiful and imposing Greek church situated on the US17) you will be welcomed by some cheerful people and you will be offered a little sticker with the Greek flag that you should make visible for your entire stay at the festival. It’s a symbol and a sign of Greek’s hospitality, as any visitor may feel like home. The first thing you will see and be very attracted by, will be the pastries on your right side, but no worries, they will still be there when you decide to go back home. Just take a stroll around the wonderful white tents and get familiar with some of the Greek goodies, many of them imported directly from Dyonisos’ country.

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I know, I know, how can one wonder around when the souvlaki flavour just plays with your mind and excites your palate?! Meat lovers – you are at the right place! Just approach the white tent with the Souvlaki sign. A very smiley face will welcome you and offer you the best souvlaki you have ever had.

A delicious grilled pork souvlaki served with greek salad, pita, lemon, and wine.

A delicious grilled pork souvlaki served with greek salad, pita, lemon, and wine.

You may want to spend the whole day by this tent, but, no. Please continue to explore as they are so many things to see and to taste! You can also enjoy your souvlaki and a glass of beer, Greek wine, or..ouzo at a table while listening to those heart touching Greek songs. Somehow they touch my soul in a very peculiar way. Nikos Nikolaou, Dimitris Mitropanos, Nana Mouskouri, Notis Sfakianakis, Vasilis Papakonstantinou, Antonis Remos, are just a few to name singers, that will appeal to all your senses and make you dream about Santorini, Mykonos, and Zakyntos.

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After yo wake up from the reverie, you might want to head towards the beautiful church and go inside. Also, consult the schedule as they are daily tours of the church provided by the priest and which are extremely informative. You might learn totally new things that never thought about and especially about the Orthodoxy and it’s amazing history. If you never been into a Greek Orthodox Church, just prepare to be astonished by the incomparable wall paintings that depicts different Bible passages as well as Christ’s life and teachings. Orthodoxy defines the Greek culture and you cannot understand Greek, if you don’t know anything about their religion.

After the church tour, I guess, it’s time for another tour into the Greek cuisine a la carte. This time I would suggest you to go inside the hall that is in front of the church. Lamb or chicken gyros, mousaka, pastichio, Greek salad, spanokopita, tiropita, dolmathes, Greek style lamb, calamari, and much more you can order and enjoy.

Spanakopita Greek spinach pie with feta cheese and filo party on on plate with Greek white wine olives and walnuts

Spanakopita Greek spinach pie with feta cheese and filo party on on plate with Greek white wine olives and walnuts.

Tiropita - Greek pie made of Filo dough with cheese

Tiropita – Greek pie made of Filo dough with cheese

Moussaka - a traditional Greek dish on plate

Moussaka – a traditional Greek dish on plate

Authentic Greek food along with some authentic Greek wine, Greek Beer, Greek Ouzo, the whole Greece in front of you, ready to please you and conquer forever.

Misc seafood and greek alcohol drink ouzo

Greek alcohol drink – ouzo

Now, it’s time for some desserts. Oh, the Greek desserts! I love sweets, and I do judge a country by the art of the desserts. Even in this domain, my fellow Greeks are not to be left behind.

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As soon as you exit the hall, on your right side you will find the Kafenion, which means “Coffee Shop” and where you can drink a real Greek coffee made with a genuine “briki”, the long-handled cylindrical coffee pot. In Europe, people drink coffee as a digestive drink, at the end of their meal. The Greek Coffee making is a a very special process and I bet it would be an interesting thing to see. You can see that at the Kafenion. In order to make a real Greek coffee you need some roasted beans pulverized into a fine powder, much finer than the regular American coffee.

Turkish greek coffee is a method of preparing coffee. Roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve)

Greek coffee

The Greek coffee is unique because it is served with a foam on top called “kaimaki”. Without it, the coffee is not the same and a lot of its flavour is considered lost. Greek coffee is usually served plain, moderately sweet, or very sweet. It is also served in small cups and is supposed to be savoured for about 1 hour.

At the Kafenion, you can also enjoy a decadent ice cream and baklava sundae. Mmmm, it’s heaven on Earth! While you are on the “dessert mode”, next to the Kaffenion, you will find the “Loukoumades” tent where you can savour some Greek donut holes topped with spicy honey syrup and cinnamon. They are made on the spot, so you can enjoy watching the whole process.

Loukoumades are the Greek version of doughnut balls. They are served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top followed by a pour of sweet syrup.

Loukoumades are the Greek version of doughnut balls. They are served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top followed by a pour of sweet syrup.

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Greeks are world-known for their dances and their passion for dancing and freeing their inner energies. If you never watched the movie “Zorba the Greek”, you should do so. It’s an older movie, but it illustrates the Greek spirit and the life of “the dance”. At the Greek Festival you can watch Greek dances performed by very talented young people dressed in their national costumes. It’s a true immersion in the Greek culture and as I said before, you will forget that you are in US.

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When you are ready to go home, do not forget (actually, it’s pretty impossible to forget) to stop by the Pastry Shop and get a dozen or two, or three of Greek cookies: ergolavas, tsoureki, koulourakia, ravani, kataifi, kourambiethes, melomakorona, galaktoboureko, baklava etc.

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This is my favorite place to stop and get as many sweets as possible. They are just perfect for the coffee or a hot tea in the morning and besides, you will have the Greek flavour  lingering around your home for a day or two.

This was the 24th Annual Greek Festival in Myrtle Beach. If you missed it, just mark your calendar for the next year! I promise you won’t regret it!

While enjoying my kourambiethes, I wish you well!

Always,

Sabina

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