Monday, 20 May 2013

Paniyiri - when Athens comes to Brisbane town

Well, its that time of the year again when all things Greek come together for the fantastic Paniyiri.  It's amazing how ingrained this wonderful Greek festival has become to Brisbanites.  Paniyiri has been going for as long as I can remember and SC and I have made it a tradition to head over to Musgrave Park each year to celebrate all things Greek, but mostly to enjoy the food!

The festival started in 1976 when a group of passionate Greek Australians decided to share their culture with Brisbane, a journey that the whole city of Brisbane has willingly taken.  Each year the Paniyiri festival has grown stronger and stronger and now you can expect to see over 50,000 willing participants queueing to partake in the rich heritage of this festival and wonderful Country!

Along the way, the Paniyiri festival has transformed into one of the must attend events on the Brisbane calendar and this year saw the biggest carnival atmosphere ever!  Each year there seems to be more and more amazing rides and show events that almost seems to rival the Ekka.  Along with the show-ground rides is the most important part of the festival for me, the more than 30 food stalls that showcase the wonderful Greek food from all over the country.

The festival also has many hours of traditional Greek entertainment on show through the main stage, which is centrally located at Musgrave Park, with the food stalls on one side and the Musgrave Park hill on the other.  There are plenty of spots for those attending the festival to revel and get involved in the festivities!

In previous years, SC and I have faced the huge crowds on the Sunday of the festival, but this year tried  something a little different.  Our plan was to get over to Musgrave Park on the Saturday of the festival at opening time and race through to have a lovely lunch of Greek fare.  Of course, this was the plan of thousands of other Brisbane residents, so we still had a bit of a queue before we were able to get into Paniyiri!

Once the queues were navigated, we charged over to the food stalls and started to eye off and list out the delectable Greek goodies we would sample on the day. We had to pace ourselves and select wisely, there are so many wonderful options available, we would never be able to sample each without serious over eating!

Once we had our bearings, we made a beeline for one of the stalls that sold the traditional lamb yiros and I ordered one each for SC and I.  We were there nice and early and the queues were not too long, so within a few seconds, we each had a delectable lamb yiros unwrapped and mostly eaten.  We did pause long enough to get a couple of photos. They are not much to look at but they were extremely yummy!

Our next step was to order some haloumi and there was not shortage of options available, pretty much everyone had the Greek favourite.  There were some deal where you only got two pieces for 5 bucks, but we found a place that offered three for $5, score.  If there is one place where you are going to get perfectly cooked haloumi, it's at Paniyiri.  With a squeeze of lemon added, it does not get much better than freshly cooked haloumi, still warm!

Next up was my favourite, the marinated octopus.  I look forward to Paniyiri every year just to get the marinated and grilled baby octopus.  Sure, I know I can get it around town at different places, but there is just something about the environment at Paniyiri that makes the little treats perfect.  Every year I try to get SC to have some of the octopus and every year she declines.  After a few minutes of badgering SC I gave up and just finished off the rest myself!

Look, I'll admit that they don't look that appealing (if you're not used to them), but they sure do taste great!

It doesn't take much to fill yourself up when charging from stall to stall at Paniyiri and we decided that it was time to get some honey puffs before we were too full to eat anything else.  The honey puffs are just like dense little donuts covered in honey.  A big bowl full and two forks made quick work of the honey puffs and as usual, they went down a treat!

Lastly for SC was the kourabiethes, which is simply Greek for short bread.  I've never been a big fan of biscuits and short bread, so I left this one for SC to devour, who absolutely loves short bread.  It was short and crumbly, with a dusting of icing sugar and was gone in two bites.  It was a great way for SC to finish of our meal portion of our visit.

 Lunch out of the way, it was time to enjoy the sights and sounds of Paniyiri.  We spent some time wandering around Musgrave Park, taking in the noise and festivity of one of the best Greek Festivals outside of Greece!

Walking around the site looking into the faces of the honorary Greeks on the day was superb.  It's a time where residents of Brisbane take the opportunity to step outside their normal routines and embrace another culture.  Looking at people dancing to Zorba the Greek with beer in one hand and yiros in the other makes me proud to live in Brisbane and get the opportunity every year to celebrate all things Greek.  On a day like this Brisbane is transformed, on a day like this it's great to be alive!


Row after row of Greek cuisine on offer
The Greek Club overlooks the festivities of Paniyiri
The centre of the action for the day ahead
The crowd starts to build with the CBD in the background
You will never see so many BBQ's with Greeks in control outside of Paniyiri
There seems to be more and more rides at Paniyiri each year
SC looked at this one for a while before saying 'not today'

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