The wife and I are going thru customs upon a return flight from Greece a few years ago when two officers are going thru our luggage as if we were smuggling ivory from Kenya. “Why were you out of the country for 6 weeks? “Vacation” I say. “6 weeks?” “Yes, 6 weeks, when we Greeks go on vacation we go on vacation, “My cousin Panos, he goes to Greece every year for 3 months and makes fun of me.

So they open the Greek Samsonite and find the stupid salt. 20 botlles of KALAS sea salt that the wife insisted on bringing back home. I see the salt and my blood pressure rises because I had to leave back 4 packages of homemade xylopites that my yiayia had made.

What’s a Greek Samsonite ? A piece of luggage that’s wrapped in heavy duty marine rope similar to the one used by tugboats to move stranded cruise ships and taped with commercial-grade maskin tape. The officer proceeds to tell me that they find fruits, vegetables and even whole lambs as one papou was trying to sneak in for Greek Easter.

How do you know a flight from Greece has arrived? Just look for the yiayia or papou lugging six extra large Greek Samsonites and 12 plastic bags and that’s just in the left hand. Warning: If you’re ever at an airport and a Yiayia or Papou approaches you with a cane and says “I have a couple of bags young man can you please help me?” look the other way because you will have to lug 400 pounds for several miles to get to your gate. Trust me, it’s not worth the blessings you will get at the end. What do they have in the Greek Samsonites?

  1. Two metal drums weighing 75 pounds each one with feta and the other one with olive oil
  2. Half dozen or so jars of “glyko” (orange, walnut, sour cherry etc.)
  3. Two big wheels of kefalotyri cheese

I wonder why airlines imposed weight restrictions hmmmm? I don’t know about you but I can’t believe no Greek plane ever went down from all the weight.

Then there’s the… TOURSI. One time the cap from a toursi jar opened on the overhead compartment and the whole plane reeked of garlic and cabbage, my longest flight ever. Another time my father was in line waiting to clear customs when an officer “attempted” to take away the two bags of oranges that his cousin from Nafplio had given him. My father refused and back-ups were called so pops gave everyone waiting in line an orange. On the car ride home he told me what happened and was in such disbelief that such a fuss would be made over oranges. When I told him that fruits and vegetables carry diseases and that they were gonna throw them out he gave me a “mountza” and said “NA! re vlaka, they wanted to eat them, the zontovola never had oranges like that, ever”.

Going to Greece? That’s a story in itself. I think Costco, BJ’s and Macy’s were all created just for that. Soaps, shampoos, clothes, shoes and my all time favorites “SENTONIA” and TOWELS, Greeks living in the US put PEIRAIKI-PATRAIKI out of business.

Why do we try to take America to Greece and bring Greece here I wonder? Why can’t we just enjoy what each country has to offer on it’s own turf? Have you noticed how when we have a hamburger in Greece we’re always disappointed and if we try to make Turkish (sorry Greek) coffee here it just doesn’t taste the same? Sorry but the best Greek restaurant here in America with the best Greek chef serving the freshest branzino and the most expensive white wine can’t compare to the grilled “sardela” and a cold beer served by a shack on the side of the road in Greece.

“Everything on it’s own turf” (κάθε πράγμα στον τόπο του)… with one exception: crab boil and tsipouro!