A trip to Varvakios is not for the faint of heart!
I'm a somewhat failed vegetarian, a girl who went without eating meat all throughout my teenage and college years, and even today I rarely venture beyond a solidly cooked chicken breast when it comes to animal protein. Varvakios may be a well lit, well ventilated market but when the smell of blood and flesh hit me at the same time as I saw a bag of skinned, decapitated sheep heads, I very nearly went from spectator to main attraction!
Fortunately, our amazing guide Despina recognized that my gag reflex was going in over drive. She deftly guided me over to our next stop, a tiny hole-in-the-wall meze stand adjacent to the fish market. I like to blend in like a local as much as possible when I travel but suddenly I couldn't be more conspicuous!
I took a few calming breaths and the salty, slimy stench of fish wafted by. For once I was grateful for the heavy cigarette smoke around me which filtered the air. I wrote diligently in my notebook and nibbled on my strength-inducing meze, doing my best to blend into a scene where I clearly stood out like a sore thumb.
Everyone else on my tour loved their time in the meat market and I absolutely loved the tour as a whole. I would heartily encourage anyone visiting Athens to give it a try. While I failed at meat marketing, I did succeed in getting a great story and having a few minutes of feeling like an intrepid explorer and that's worth all the indignity in the world!
Think you're tougher than me and want to check out Varvakios for yourself? Or are you on a quest to visit my meze stand rescuers? This isn't the kind of place you stumble upon accidentally, so I'm including a map to help you on your own adventures!