Ice cubes… once the privilege of the rich and wealthy have become an everyday staple. The US is probably the largest consumer of ice cubes in the world. McDonald’s, Burger King and all the other fast food chains figured out long ago that adding ice – a lot of ice – to their soft drinks drove the beverage cost down. When you go to a restaurant in the US, most of the time, you are offered a glass of water filled to the brim with ice. Our refrigerators come with ice machines. Ice and ice cubes have become as certain as turning on a light switch or a water faucet. Electricity and water is always there, ice is always there – provided you have paid your bills.
The rest of the world though, has yet to catch up to the idea.
Greece is no different. In fact an old Greek wives tale leaves most Greeks are afraid that drinking very cold water – or eating ice cream in the winter – will give you a sore throat! You get half if not less ice in your beverage at a McDonald’s in Greece than in the US. Ice makers in refrigerators are very rare. Only very expensive ones have them. Those are generally large and occupy valuable real estate in the small homes. They are also much more expensive to operate.
All that said, what does the North American traveler to do when in Greece?
First, there are the ubiquitous ice trays. You fill them up with tap water – it is perfectly safe to drink the water in Athens – or you can fill them from bottled water – the second choice is not my favorite since it produces a lot of non biodegradable garbage, and even though recycling is available, not everyone recycles. The problem there is that you have to remember to fill up the tray before you need the ice cubes, and can not use too many, or else the next person will not have ice.
Second, you can buy bags of ice cubes from most McDonald’s – I am starting to sound like a commercial for McDonald’s, but they do many things right – for no more than a couple of Euro. That is probably the most socially responsible thing to do.
Third, some supermarkets and liquor stores (kavas) carry bags of ice.
The problem with the second and third choices is that you have to lug the ice from the store to your place of residence, a challenging task when you are out and about touring, an even more challenging task in the heat of the summer, when you may end up with a bag of water by the time you get home.
There is a fourth option: ΠΑΓΟΚΥΨΕΛΕΣ, otherwise known in English as ice cube bags. I don’t know why we’ve never seen them on late night television, but they are a brilliant invention – plastic bags that are formed with pockets in the form of ice cubes. There are several brands to choose from, two examples are Sanitas, Frotto. You’ll find them in all the supermarkets. They are very handy. They have an opening on one side from where you fill them up with water, tap or bottled; in fact, you could even fill them up with your favorite non-carbonated beverage. Kids love frozen Popsicles, think about lemonade flavored ice cubes! (Hmmm, I’m think they might be a cool addition to a gin or vodka, too). They seal on the top and can be placed in the freezer. They stay freezer burn free and do not pick up the odor from other foods. When you need them, just pop as many of the ice cube “pillows” as you want and the rest stay frozen. You can even recycle the plastic bags.
Anyway, in Athens, Greece, a city where even in the winter time the temperature rarely gets colder than 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) and most of the time is above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), having ice available for a North Americans is a good thing.
Happy travels. My husband is fond of saying that “knowledge is power”, so therefore you now have more power – I’m not sure what this bit of profound insight has to do with this post, but you will definitely have more ice.