Greece is Full of Fun Things to Find
Ouzo and Olive Oil in Greece
In the south Aegean Sea lies a delightful, somewhat circular set of islands, the Cyclades, containing the most popular of the Greek islands. A warm climate consisting of hot summers and cool winters make it available any time of year. Cruise ships continue to deliver visitors by the millions. Over 30 million are expected to visit Greece in 2019, five times the amount from just a decade ago. The island has set a cap on the volume of visitors at any given time. Too many cruise ships at one time impact the narrow walking lanes and stores to the point of a pedestrian traffic jam. Off the beaten path you’ll find more peaceful strolling exists. Regulations require the building facades to be white, but the doors and windows are brightly colored contrasts.
If your schedule allows, being able to travel in the off season becomes a luxury, when not locked in with summer school vacations. The reward will most certainly be justified if the adventure can be timed with spring or fall breaks if children are involved. If not, the Greek climate is amenable to March thru May, or September to October before the minimal rains begin.
Santorini is arguably the most scenic of the islands, along with the captivating village of Oia, both tourist meccas. Chapels with blue domes and stark white structures pop out against a deep blue sea, which are alluring and camera-ready. (photo of blue domes) Artists have claimed Oia as a favorite haunt justifying the many art galleries. Tourist shops, cafés, taverns, and inviting paths beckon travelers to explore and browse. Oia, also known as Ia, sits atop an imposing cliff, ideally positioned to view a sunset over an aperitif of the national beverage, Ouzo, which is also a popular souvenir of the area in various amounts for travelers. Greek olive oil also is available in any shop or stand, but tours of other Greek islands take you directly past the olive groves and it is timely and memorable to purchase the oils at the sites they are grown.
Cruise Ships in the Greek Islands
Cruise ships will tender passengers to the coastline 1000 feet below Fira. The circular cliffs are actually the outer rim of a past, but still active volcano. The ships enter into the flooded caldera to dock. To get to the town you can choose to ride the funicular or the donkeys. Both are for the same price of 6 Euros (as of August 2018 rates). One option is to venture the path with the donkeys but be prepared to do manure maneuvering to avoid slipping. Also, those who delight in the adventure of riding the donkeys may need to be prepared to smell like their ride when dismounting for the day.
Note that the shopping hours are usually Monday through Saturday of 9 pm until noon or 1 pm, closing midday, and reopening at 4 pm or 5 pm until 9 pm. Sundays they open at 9 am and close at 6 pm.
Exploring the Wines of Greece
Greece is home to several native varietals and regions which produce wine that is worthy of a glass. The top 3 favorites that we keep going back for another sip include Xinomavro, Assytriko, and Vinsanto.
Xinomavro from Naoussa, pronounced “Zee-No-Mav-row” is known as the “The Barolo of Greece” because it is very similar to Nebbiolo with dark red fruit, licorice, and spices with high-tannin and nice acidity. The vineyards are located on limestone-rich clay soils so the wines have bold fruit characteristics and high tannins which give it structure and long cellaring ability.
Assyrtiko “Ah-Sir-Tee-Ko” is one of the top wines in Greece, produced all over the country. Assyrtiko’s most impressive region lies on the island of Santorini, its place of origin. On Santorini, the strong winds dictate that the vines are pruned in a unique cylindrical form where the grapes are able to mature in the center. The grapes yield a beautiful wine with flavors of green apple, pineapple, passion fruit, and citrus accompanied by ﬂoral aromas and refreshing acidity and minerality or saltiness on the finish. Assyrtiko labeled as Nykteri (“Nikth-Terry”) means they are always produced on oak. The flavors change to resemble more flavors of baked pie crust, pineapple, and dessert brûlée made with fruit. Assyrtiko is the oldest recorded white varietal!
One special Greek treat you’ll find on Santorini is Vinsanto. It is a cherished sun-dried sweet wine that smells more like red wine but is made with Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri white grapes. These wines have aromas of raisin, dried apricots, raspberry, and sweet cherries. The flavors of bitter, yet sweet fruit, intrigue the palate as you notice the tannin’s imparted by the white wines.
To learn more about the delicious and unique wines of Greece, visit Wines of Greece.
Olive Oil Origins in Greece
One of the many tourist stops you’ll find on Corfu is a shop that sells thyme honey and Greek olive oil, of course. Did you know that Greece is the third largest olive oil producer in the world? This tiny country exports the highest amount of extra virgin olive oil in the world also. Exportation includes countries such as Italy and Spain. Olive oil reduces blood pressure due to the high levels of oleic acid found in this country’s lucrative export.
Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. No c
hemicals used to extract the oil, make for a clean and fresh taste. The fresher the oil, the better the taste typically. Most of the Greek dishes made call for olive oil. It is no surprise here, that Greek people eat an average of 26 liters of olive oil every year.
Ouzo, Of Course!
Ouzo is a popular liquor consumed in Greece. It is one of the most enjoyable drinks you will find during your travels here. A dry style aperitif flavored with anise and a type of brandy that imparts a wonderful, strong taste and a very nice flavor. It is made from aniseed, and it is the pride of Greece. Serve this liquor with appetizers comprising of olives, feta cheese, and other Greek treasures. Opa!