Jet Lag Cures, Made in Greece

Mary Shiraef
7 min readMay 21, 2023

One way to cure jet lag is to go straight to a standing room-only, semi-final football match in a village in Greece. This year was the professional football club Asteras Tripolis’ first year to add a women’s team, in more than 100 years, but no one can say the fans weren’t ready.

They proceeded to sing the team’s chants and songs in perfect unison, along with the beating of a large bass drum, throughout the entire game. There is nothing quite like the camaraderie and emotion built around a sports team, especially one which is 101 years old.

© Mary Shiraef

The Asteras gals played a tough game, holding a tight defense seemingly without fatigue and despite a couple injuries. They nearly advanced to the final with a tie, but they lost in the very last minute with a goal scored by the home team, Ermis Kiveri. It was devastating, but they got right back up to face the fans. They and the owner thanked us in a heartfelt moment for our compilation of fight songs, blue and yellow fog machines, flame throwers, fence clamors, and stacks of paper — which sounds unassuming but were the fan’s real juice. These pre-cut stacks were thrown into the wind especially at referees’ bad calls but also at my face depending on the size of the stack wind direction.

Asteras Tripolis team and its co-owner, Dimitrios Bakos, thank the fans for our support after a last-minute, unexpected loss. © Mary Shiraef

I usually cure jet lag in Greece by heading to a cafe in Athens and jolting myself with freddo capuccinos until dinner time (9pm), but this time I went straight to Tripoli, which is the central town of the Peloponnese and near to the village where my great grandmother (my yiayia) was born. My cousins sat me down in the haze of the morning nap I took on the curvy way there and presented me with the plan. We would go to a semi-final, historic football game in the village of Kiveri, before which we would stop in another village’s cemetery to light a candle for a recently departed relative, and after which we would have dinner and other snacks in Nafplion, my all-time favorite town in Greece. I had difficulty processing the invitation. I went to my room to make the decision, but really to lie down.

Thirty minutes (?) later, my cousin knocked on my door. I went with my asleep instinct, which was to jolt out of bed as if I hadn’t been sleeping at all and state more truthfully, “I need to put my pants on.” And so we went.

In the car, we got to discussing the upcoming national vote in Greece quickly. So quickly that we passed the cemetery we were meant to stop at. No worries.. we’d just drive back, by which I mean we backed up all the way until we hit the road again.

After paying respects, we drove through Argos, which is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. I had been before as part of a Classics tour I took through Greece during my college years. I couldn’t tell you anything I learned on that trip, but being there again brought back that sensual feeling of familiarity, which always brings me peace after a long flight.

When we arrived at the village field, peace was no longer a theme. We found a giant set of bleachers with individuals seats for the home team. The enemies that we were, however, had a few blocks of cement and a mostly secure wooden viewing stand above that. This was no issue, however, because the fans were already standing anyways.

My cousin Nagia and I tried to sit but we were LITERALLY SMOKE-BOMBED TO OUR FEET. Also, aren’t we like a before and after jet lag photo? © Mary Shiraef

Standing was also helpful for staying awake. Meanwhile, I noticed that the field was surrounded by the Sea on one side, the mountains on the other, and a vineyard, a cemetery and an olive grove. It could not have been more representative of the Greek landscape if it tried.

The ball escaped into the vineyard only one time. © Mary Shiraef

After the loss, I took a quick tour of the local cemetery (as I do), and then we pretended to chat a bit but actually we just watched the team owner and his family depart in their caravan.

© Mary Shiraef

We drove to Nafplion, which must be the most beautiful seaside town in mainland Greece. The streets are windy and stony in Venetian style, full of shops, restaurants, bars, and ice cream spots. At dinner, we discussed the political parties in Greece. There is a wide variety of parties — from New Democracy, which is the right-center party currently in power led by a former prime minister’s son, to several fringe parties, such as the Party of Greek Hunters, which is exactly what it sounds like.

We had salad, pasta, and pizza. The salad was the highlight. Greece is probably the only place I would describe on the regular as serving up mouth-watering salads. But it’s true.

Mouth-watering salad with fig, tomatoes, and some salty Greek cheese tossed in a vinegary dressing of perfection © Mary Shiraef

Every time we go to Nafplion, I end up getting loukoumades, which is basically warm balls of dough, sprinkled with cinnamon (kanela) and walnuts (karidi), and dumped with strong, delicious honey. The warm with a side of cool ice cream hits a bit like apple pie. Maybe loukoumades is Greece’s apple pie. In any case, Pergamónto is where we go, and it is basically a local landmark in Nafplion with a small square of its own. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know about it.

Loukoumades aka dough balls © Mary Shiraef

We also walked lazily between our dinner, drinks, and snack spots — another key for beating jet lag. It’s hard to force yourself to walk around on your own, but if you meet up with locals who are already adjusted to the time zone, you won’t have much of a choice. (Napping on a public bench is an activity one can only do alone, socially speaking but also logistics-wise.)

Views to the castle (left) and to the island fortress Bouritzi (middle and right) © Kostas Skorpidas

Plus the walk along the harbor at night in Nafplion is breathtaking. There will undoubtedly be a variety of live music, old and new, and you very well may run into people from just about every town in the Peloponnese.

Inside the town, you’ll know when you pass the town’s club because your ear drums will slowly burst as you walk past. This is also good for jet lag.

Another jet lag trick I have tried for adjusting others who visit me in a foreign country is taking them to a live jazz band after dinner and choosing uncomfortable seating. But even on a rickety hobby horse in Chiang Mai, situated at near eye-level with the jazz band, Syed managed to fall asleep. (Who has that photo by the way?) The next test for Syed will be a historic football game in Greece with noise machines, smoke bombs, Porsches, and ice cream.

Finally, for one more jet lag tip, on the first night I land, I have started taking a melatonin supplement no matter how tired I feel. I have found this doesn’t keep me from waking up in the middle of the night — but the feeling is less of a panicky, I-might-NEVER-fall-back-asleep and more of a normal waking up and then falling right back to sleep. Sometimes I take a bit the second night too, and with this top-secret combo, I don’t get jet lag anymore. Time will tell about the Asteras Tripolis-infused, blue and yellow football and fog inhalation treatment.

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Mary Shiraef

Everyday Researcher, Occasional Teacher. I write here about the people, experiences, and businesses that bring me joy and occasionally, the politics that don't.