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Journey to Sparta..

                                                                           Vol.2    October  2014
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 Dear Friends,

  This is the second in a series of newsletters where we would like introduce ourselves to you and give you an intimate look at Sparta, our homeland. Through stories of our ancestors, and descriptions of our landscape we wish to share with you our culture, food and daily life in Lakonia. Our  hope is that from this you will understand our passion for the products we sell and for the natural wonders that bring them forth to us.

Special Thanks to our Dear Friend Emily who's providing us precious help with the texts..
Vasili's store at Likourgou street, somewhere in 1930's
   
   The Early Years..

   As you can imagine, Vasilis was as restless in spirit as he was clever. Before he was even able to purchase the land that he hoped would fuel his future ambitions, his mind was set on building his dreams. Settling down for Vasili’s involved getting married, purchasing a small ruin of a house in a suburb of Sparta called Magoula and starting a business. His first business was selling notebooks and pencils. He didn’t make a lot of money but he waited. When an opportunity came around to purchase a small plot of land, he didn’t let anything get in his way. He used his ingenuity and with the help of a good friend bought the land of his dreams.
   But the land was just a start. He and his family had to make many sacrifices along the way before his dreams would start to come true. He managed to build his own store. But this was no ordinary store. Vasilis build one of the first grocery store/delicatessens in the region. Vasilis gathered a variety of foods and products, the likes of which Spartans and even some Athenians had never seen before. Cheeses, canned goods with exotic products, fruits, beverages, just about anything you could imagine could be purchased from Vasilis.
   Despite the stores plentiful goods, Vasilis and his family had to struggle to make ends meet. They lived in a loft directly above the store and my father used to tell me stories, describing how the entire family had to share a single fish for a meal. Although they were poor (and often hungry) Vasilis and his family watched as his store began to grow and thrive.
   Meanwhile Vasilis’ family began to grow and thrive too. His young son George was born in 1912 and when he was old enough assisted his father in the daily activities of the store. In 1926 the family finally had enough money to leave the loft and in 1926, Vasilis built his first real house, located just three blocks from the city center. Fortune smiled again and in 1930 he was able to build a second house located beside the first. In 1936 a grandson was born, one who would carry his name…things couldn’t get any better….

 
 
      King Leonidas statue at the end of K. Palaiologou street.
     This is also the finishing point of "Spartathlon" Ultra Marathon race

 
   We 'll fight in the shadow...
 
...It was a morning not unlike the one you are experiencing on your trip when heralds from Athens crossed the Eurotas seeking council and help from the Spartans. King Xerxes was planning an invasion of Greece, bent on taking away Greek freedom forever. Despite his long journey you imagine that the herald was filled with hope, hope that the best warriors in Greece would come to aid Athens and all the other Greek city states in fighting the Persians. Although the old bridge of Eurotas is still under maintenance you can’t help but smile as you wonder what that day would have been like, what the herald said to King Leonidas, and what Leonidas felt when he heard the bad news.
   Of course the road you are traveling on is not as old as the legend of the 300 and their famous battle at Thermopylae. It was constructed by Bavarian Otto in 1834 when he relocated Sparta south of King Leonidas’ capital giving Sparta a more central location and more urban design. As you encounter the central road which bears the name of the last emperor of the Byzantine emperor you are compelled to turn right and there you see him, the statue of King Leonidas, who has been on your mind so much this morning. Standing with sword drawn and shield at the ready this statue boldly seems to declare that this is still his kingdom and you, like that ancient herald are a guest on a fateful journey.
   As you step out of your car a chill runs through you as you recall all of the magnificent stories about the great deeds of the Spartans. Their prowess in battle and bravery was legendary, even in their own time and stories have come down to us that to this day are simply amazing. King Leonidas was not only known for his courage but also for his love of freedom. King Xerxes, after seeing how great he was as a warrior, sent heralds to Leonidas, offering him the opportunity to rule over all the Greeks if only he would submit to him and serve him. Leonidas refused this offer, stating that he would rather die a free man then be a wealthy and powerful slave.
    Who knows where mankind would be today if Leonidas had not obeyed the voice of his heart.
How different our lives would have to be lived if the 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians had not faithfully kept their oath for protect their homeland their ideals and future generations, keeping the fire of Freedom and Democracy alive. Leonidas and his fellow Spartans knew it that day at Thermopylae they were the “last men standing”… Their fight and sacrifice kept the flame alive. The King’s spirit, his bravery and his sacrifice will never leave this homeland, our city. His statue stands forever as a reminder of the principles and ideals he stood for and nurtured in his city and throughout Greece.
   Now you might think that a great town full of millions of people would mark the spot of this most famous of hero’s but in truth, you don’t even need a car to enter our town.  Today, Sparta is a small town. The sidewalks are wide enough for many people to walk down the streets together and as you turn from the statue of King Leonidas and head into the center of town the orange trees that line the sidewalks scent the air with citrus. You breathe in deeply as you admire the beauty of the city with its mix of old and new buildings stretching for many blocks. The people you see on the street are friendly and smile as you make your way to the city center. Unlike modern Athens, there’s no hurry in Sparta. You don’t see people running to meetings or too busy to say hello to friends or strangers, time seems to slow down and this makes you feel warm and relaxed. With only about 20,000 people calling Sparta home, it’s hard to believe that this was once one of five great metropolitan areas in the Greek world. In Leonidas’s time some 250,000 people once lived and worked in this very spot.  But now as you look around you, you smile as the smaller size had taken nothing away from its charm.
   It’s still early and the traditional coffee shops have their daily customers while the younger people gather at the new more trendy places to eat and drink. Delicious smells from bakeries along the way beckon you into small shops where small crowds of people are starting to gather. As you come to the central square you look for a comfortable place to sit, which would be easy if you didn’t have so many wonderful choices! The cafes and tavernas all seem to welcome you.    
   Could you ask for anything more? It seems like this small town has it all. But there is one missing piece that you as a visitor may not notice at first. Although this town is one of the most famous in the entire Greek world, you won’t find a single museum that holds treasures from its bright past. This fact may escape a first time visitor but it has not escaped the notice of Sparta’s residents who see it as an almost embarrassing omission. As you sip your coffee you reflect on the fact that this town whose past fuels the imaginations of visitors from all over the world has few ancient places to see. Now you think to yourself “It can’t be only this, there must be so much more, right?”  And you are right…..

 
     View of K. Palaiologou street from the statue of King Leonidas
Please take Your seat on our table..
Welcome to our family….
 
As descendants of Vasilis, we are native Spartans who have lived on this land our entire lives. Sparta is small in size but its legacy is known throughout the world. Our dream is to show our friends this remarkable land we call home and share all she has to offer with them.  Sparta is freedom, dignity, courage and hospitality and in that sense we are all Spartans, regardless of where we come from or the place we call home.  
Recipe of the Month
 
Meatballs (“Keftedes”  in Greek) by  “The Spartan Table”
 
Ingredients

800g . or ground beef mixed with pork , once passed by the machine minced
3 slices stale bread , soaked and wrung
2 large onions , grated
1 ripe tomato ( tight ) , grated
1 tbsp of wine vinegar
1 egg
1 teaspoon wild Oregano
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (you can add dry too)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh peppermint (or  you can add –our-  dried  peppermint)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
Sea salt from Mani
freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil for frying (what else?!!)


Execution

1. In a bowl , spread the meat and drizzle with vinegar . We make a small hole in the middle and add all the ingredients : bread, onions ( with their liquid ) , egg , herbs and spice .
2. Knead the mixture to come together well . Cover and leave in the fridge for 30' . So the flavored minced meatballs will become perfect . Shape large meatballs and widens with your palms .
3.Meanwhile warm olive oil (both cover half meatball when fried ) in wide pan and fry for 3' from each side . Allow meatballs to paper towels to drain .
(Tip: If you keep fried meatballs for the next day, then make a simple tomato sauce and bring to a boil for few minutes with these).



Additional Info:
For 5 people... (Except for  George, who  can eat all in once!)
Preparation time : 5 minutes
Cooking time : 6 minutes
 
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Arhidamou 6 str.
Sparta 23100
Hellas


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