I've had a relationship with the country of Greece since I first went out with the girl that eventually became my wife. Anyone who's read my lighthearted "Ramblings From Rhodes" series of books will know a little about how I first met my wife and discovered that her mother was Greek, resulting in my first ever visit in the summer of 1977. In "Feta Compli!" I mentioned how I first fell in love with Greece when the airplane doors opened on the tarmac at Athens Glyfada airport back then, and this visit that we're currently enjoying with close friends in the south of the island of Crete is kind of taking me back to the excitement that I very first felt back in those very early days.
For a very young not-very-well-travelled English lad to suddenly experience the joys of eating out with one's feet just inches from the crystal waters of a sea that never goes away and comes back again, as it does in the British Isles, owing to our tides there, chucking pieces of bread to the fishes and almost going into a rapture over the aroma of charcoal sizzling fresh fish just a few feet away, while also tasting for the very first time such delights as Tzatziki, Skordalia, Revithokeftedes, Retsina, Metaxa, Ouzo, Feta, kalamari and bougatsa (not all at the same time, granted!), it was almost a given that I'd very soon fall in love with the country that was my wife's heritage.
This visit to Ierapetra has rekindled my excitement, making me fall in love with Greece all over again. Two nights ago, as we strolled the delightful 'promenade' that graces the seafront at Ierapetra, before sitting in a waterside bar full of Greeks and very few tourists and enjoying 'parea' with truly close friends over a couple of beers, accompanied by some savoury nibbles, I again experienced the goose bumps that my very first visit had given me. As we all talked (and you know when you're with really good friends when the conversation simply never lapses and you all laugh a lot) and dipped savoury crackers into a delicious guacamole (OK, not very Greek, but nowhere's completely perfect - and anyway, I love guacamole!) before crunching them enthusiastically between our teeth, I found myself gazing around and thinking, "You just can't do this in the UK. For starters it's maybe once in a whole summer when the temperature will be 28ºC at 11.00pm, and for another thing, the sea doesn't stay where it is for long enough. Plus, the simple joie de vie that the local Greeks display isn't to be found among the sulky, moody Brits."
OK, so I'll probably have upset some UK readers with that last remark but, be honest, national characteristics do exist and when you're out and about in Britain, maybe it's the climate, I don't know, but people just aren't as relaxed, as civil, as content with the simple pleasures, as they seem to be in the south of Europe. They're just not as happy. Everywhere here friends and neighbours 'volta' during the late evening, stopping frequently to bear-hug a neighbour, back-slap and double cheek-kiss a relative or work colleague, all the while talking excitedly and enthusiastically with no hint of aggression or swagger. The other night was made particularly special by the still almost full moon creeping above the far headland in a blaze of crimson, throwing shimmering red fluid flashes all across the surface of a flat sea while we all turned to gaze in humble appreciation for the show that Creation puts on.
Yup, got to admit it, I'm smitten. Here are a few more shots from the past few days. See whether you don't get infected by what I'm 'suffering' from...
|Sorry Frappé, but I've deserted you in favour of the much more healthy, not to say tasty, Freddo espresso these days.|
Next post will be about a visit to the tiny village of Oreino, way, way up in the mountains above Makry Gialos, where we spent an Elysian evening with some friends of our friends the other day.