Ekmek, Anyone?

Article excerpt

Byline: SATURNINO P. JAVIER, M.D.

That sounds Greek, as the clichA[c] goes. Of course, it sounds Greek a" specifically a Greek dessert. After a sumptuous dinner one night in Athens, Greece, the adventurous in me asked the waiter what Ekmek was, as shown on the dessert menu. Upon being cajoled by the waiter that I would surely like it, I encouraged the others in the group to order the same.

Well, it turned out ekmek was a rich sweet concoction of shredded coconut meat topped with chopped nuts and whipped cream. Think matamis na bao with some rich topping. Of course, I never heard the end of it in the next several days. Nevertheless, ekmek was a nice welcome treat (and eventually a good travel anecdote) in Athens.

Here for the 41st Annual Convention of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), our group of five consisting of three cardiologists namely, Dr. Ramon Abarquez, an eminent cardiologist from the University of the Philippines; Dr. Norbert Lingling Uy, the immediate past president of the Philippine Heart Association; Dr. Louie Tirador, an opinion leader from the South; and Ma. Cristina Zavalla, sales director of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, always had a good laugh whenever the ekmek anecdote surfaced.

Greece has always carried a certain allure a" a mythical and mystical one. My recollection of ancient Greek mythology from Literature classes in high school must have conjured this kind of impression. Aside from the Trojan and Odyssean links, Greece invariably brings to mind images of athletics and sportsmanship a" being the birth place of the Olympic Games many decades ago. I arrived in Athens with some sense of excitement over these preconceived notions. It was time to update on the latest concepts in diabetes in the land of Hippocrates, Socrates and Aristotle.

After checking in at the Stratos Vassilikos Hotel in Athens at mid-afternoon and a few hours to freshen up and rest, it was time to have an initial encounter with tzatziki (sour cream with cucumber) and souvlaka (grilled meat on barbecue sticks) at Miltonas Restaurant, a fine dining place at the Plaka, the so-called neighborhood of the Olympic gods and goddesses, the Montmarte of old Athens and the central town of Athens. A stroll along the narrow streets of this district, noted for its fine cafA[c]s, taverns, quaint art shops, curio stores, street musicians, local vendors offering tapestries and embroideries, etc. was a most fitting way to greet this Hellenic region "hello" on our first night in Athens.

The second day was the opportunity to relive and be part of ancient Greek civilization. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed off to a city tour of Athens. First stop was the Old Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in the entire ancient world which was dedicated to the father of the gods. Completed in 131 AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian, these ancient ruins still have 16 of the original 104 columns preserved. From here, we headed off to the Panathinaikon Stadium, a beautiful marble stadium built in the 4th century BC which can seat 70,000 spectators. In 1896, the first modern Olympic games were held here.

The culmination of the morning tour was the visit to the Acropolis, the sacred rock of Athens, the must-see-and-visit place for which Athens is known the world over. A sacred site throughout history, the Acropolis has been the pride and glory of Athens. This archaeological wonder houses magnificent prehistoric temples namely the Parthenon, Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Victory and the Propylaea. …