Gosh, Greece is vast! We’ve been sailing now for six weeks around Greek waters and have still only touched a minute fraction of its coasts which apparently stretch to some 14000km.
How pleasant an experience it has been, too. Not just because we are more familiar with the boat and parking techniques but because the harbours, bays and town quays are set up for visiting yachties. There is usually some welcoming person to help take your lines, to organise refilling water tanks, to arrange for a mini tanker to deliver diesel and camping gas and yer man, in his laden pickup, will generally call by in the morning, baskets overflowing with delicious produce; announcing loudly over the microphone mounted on the cab, ‘Pataatas!’ (I say, ‘Potatoes!’)
Which leads me to contemplate the food available here in Greece. In tavernas we have eaten well. Chicken and tarragon, pork with plums, lamb with wine and vegetables, beef with baked whole onions, Greek salad, olives and olive oil, grilled squid and octopus, marinated sardines, fava bean dip, (‘Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh, Fuh!’ as Hannibal Lector would say!!) cod’s roe and tomato dip, grilled courgettes and aubergines and all manner of fresh fish and seafood.
All washed down with reasonably priced wine which now comes in far more sophisticated vintages and blends than the rather ghastly retsina of old. (We bought a bottle by accident and used it, rather effectively, I might add, to de-scale the kettle!!!)
The wealth of edible vegetation in the Northern Sporades is amazing. Plums are a speciality around Skopelos but there is such a wide variety of vegetation. From the conifer crowded alpine slopes of the high ground to the lush vegetation lower down. We have seen walnut, hazelnut, chestnut, pistachio, vine, cherry, fig, plum, lemon and apricot trees. Nearly every home has some kind of kitchen garden. Recently, we have eaten a kind of samphire seaweed which looks a bit like lavender but is much more succulent. It grows on the sea-waters’ edge and is vaguely salty in a perfumed kind of way. An intriguing seaweed full of minerals and phosphorus, apparently.
Bakeries are another joy, with cheese pies, spinach pies, honey soaked sponges, mille feuilles filled with nuts and coiled rings of stuffed filo pastry that you just know are not going to change shape much when they land on your waistline! As well as that, there is a fantastic variety of healthy brown, rye, spelt, oat and wholewheat breads.
But, Godliest of Greek goodies, Olympus of oral gratification, the Oracle of the olfactory, the pinnacle of provender, has got to be the humble gyros. Simple, compact, substantial, tasty, balanced and healthy.
A comforting spongy pitta, (don’t think of those dry oval slippers from home) cozily encasing grilled slices of chicken or pork, garlicky tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber dip, lettuce, succulent tomato and crunchy onions. Hmmmm hmmmmm! (Most places now seem to add chips as an added extra but they are completely superfluous to requirement!)
At between €2.40 and €2.80 they are a meal in themselves and extremely good value.
Together with an Alpha, Fix or Mythos beer (€3.40/4) it is Mary Poppins! – Practically Perfect in Every Way!