Greece comes to Baltimore

Annual festival offers Greek culture, cuisine and crafts


Alice Davis loves to reminisce about her 1988 trip to Greece.

"There is something about the light there that's different," she said. "I love to be reminded of the trip."

She went looking for reminders of her trip at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, which is holding its 34th annual Greek Village Festival this weekend.

The event is part of a yearlong celebration of the Greek Orthodox congregation's 100th anniversary.

The cathedral itself, built in 1889 to house a Protestant congregation, was set to be demolished in 1937, with a gasoline station slated to take its place.

Baltimore's Greek community stepped in to save it, however, and it has been home to the Greek Orthodox congregation ever since. The congregation now includes 1,300 families, according to the Very Rev. Constantine Moralis, dean of the cathedral.

This year's festival is being held in the parish's education building adjoining the cathedral. Offering Greek food and culture, the event continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the cathedral on Maryland Avenue at Preston Street.

"It's a nice way to promote our heritage and bring the community together," said Moralis. "It's also a nice way for Baltimore to experience something wonderful."

The festival was a draw for Davis, who lives in Baltimore. "I am here because I fell in love with Greece," she said yesterday as she walked out of the festival's pastry shop.

Food is one of the main reasons she attended.

"I always buy pastries," she said. "Baklava is my favorite."

The festival's food hall seemed to be the most popular attraction, with festivalgoers lined up to sample gyros, cheese pies, stuffed grape leaves and a type of spinach pie known as spanakopita.

Lamb shank is usually the most popular dish, said Georgeann Morekas, president of the cathedral's parish council and one of the festival's organizers.

"It's a tough meat, but when you braise it and bake it, it falls right off the bone," she said.

Like many of the other Greek cooks at the festival, Morekas learned her culinary skills from her mother and grandmother. Morekas said she learned to cook by watching as a small girl. The recipes she learned were given in units of "a pinch of this" or "a handful of that."

Morekas said that Greek cuisine is different in the northern and southern parts of the country, but that the festival offers a mix of foods from both regions.

Other festival offerings include gold jewelry designed by Greek artisans, a market and bakery selling raw ingredients for Greek dishes, and a variety of local merchants selling crafts and artwork. Afternoons also feature demonstrations of traditional Greek dancing.

Mihali Mitiadlu, a disc jockey from Washington who specializes in contemporary Greek club music, was selling CDs at one of the festival's many kiosks. He said Greek music is growing in popularity on the dance club scene.

"In every club I go to, you hear at least one or two Greek songs a night," he said. "It's good music and people like to dance to it."

Mitiadlu said his mother even likes the modern music that he plays. He was quick to point out that his mother is a phenomenal cook, but he has no favorite dish.

"I love Greek food, period," he said.

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