let’s go to that beautiful sea

aegina

The phrase “Greek Isles” summons up visions of an idyllic Neverland of ethereal sunsets, white-washed buildings, olive groves, turquoise water, and all the romance that comes from being shipwrecked on a remote island.  There are an astounding 3,000 such little Edens scattered across Greece’s corner of the Mediterranean, which means to each his own: everyone has their particular, or peculiar, favorite. The most famous are far afield – Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Lesbos, Corfu – but for the daytripper there are a few easy options close to Athens, too. The most popular excursion is one of those three-in-one boats, which stops off for about half an hour at each of three nearby islands. I wanted something a little more adventurous – and immersive. So, instead of going the package experience route, we decided to head off on our own via the fast ferry to the island of Aegina – without a map or an agenda and knowing little more than that it happens to be famous for its pistachios.

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live blog: leaping lepers

Sailing east of Crete we dropped anchor near the island of Spinalonga for an afternoon swim stop in water so intensely blue that you’d be forgiven for thinking the photo above had been digitally manipulated. (It hasn’t.) Harking back to the Venetian occupation the name is Italian, meaning “long thorn,” which perfectly describes the island’s prickly shape. For most of the 20th century the land was used as a colony for the lepers of Crete before being later abandoned. Today, it remains unoccupied, save the random swimmers who chance upon its silent shore.

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live blog: fro-yo realness

I’m not one of those devoted fans of frozen yogurt. And ice cream – except for those summer days when the pavement is practically melting – leaves me cold. (Ba dum dum) I am, however, addicted to the goaty goodness of strained Greek yogurt. Given the fact that Greece has been about as temperate as a wok this summer and almost every person I’ve passed in the street these weeks has been unabashedly lapping at giant cups and cones of soft serve, it is a wonder I’ve not put the two together. Soaked in sweat I at last made that correction today in Crete with a simple dish of frozen Greek yogurt topped with sour cherries. Delirium ensued with the first spoonful – along with a palm smack to the forehead. Cool, creamy, thick and spunky, this fro-yo can be summed up in one word: fierce.

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live blog: dakos

For Cretans the secret of their storied longevity is simple. They eat anything and everything the island’s mineral-rich soil produces, consuming loads of fruit, vegetables, greens, legumes, herbs, cheese, bread, and washing their Mediterranean meals down with an excellent, earthy local wine. Today in Aghios Nikolaos I discovered dakos, a deceptively simple Cretan salad of tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, olives and rusk. It could be considered a close cousin of panzanella – if only the Italians twice-baked their bread to the texture of biscotti. Drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar, it’s a surprisingly substantial light meal with a satisfying crunch and a clean, fresh taste. The challenge in recreating dakos when I get back home is going to be figuring out how to get my hungry little hands on those rusks.

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live blog: when banksy came to crete

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live blog: morning dilemma

Built on the west recesses of Mirabello Bay, Aghios Nikolaos is one of the most picturesque harbors in Crete. The circular shaped Lake Voulismeni is its most prominent – and charming – feature. (Legend suggests the goddesses Athena and Artemis bathed in its waters.) Connected to the sea by a straight channel, it’s surrounded by a horseshoe of red rocks, feathery pine trees, and rumor has it really good shopping. All of which leaves me with a pressing dilemma: to eat or to shop?

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live blog: midnight at the oasis

The sun sets over the old town of Rhodes and the city lights up like an oasis in The Levant: palm trees, minarets, and medieval ruins all crowned by a crescent moon. There’s something mystical here. The island, though clearly Greek today, has been a crossroads for travelers and divergent civilizations over centuries. It’s made for a perfect launch point: tomorrow I’ll be sailing the Dodecanese for just over a week, zigzagging my way from the coast of Turkey to Santorini, Crete and a handful of lesser islands on a small sailing ship with Variety Cruises. Yet again, I’ve no idea what the internet situation will be, so postings may be sporadic.  Fear not, however; Odysseus will be making a full report as time – and technology – allows.

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