The phrase “Greek Isles” summons up visions of an idyllic Neverland ofÂ etherealÂ sunsets, white-washed buildings, olive groves, turquoise water, and all the romance that comes from being shipwrecked on a remote island. Â 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 ofÂ Aegina – without a map or an agenda and knowing little more than that it happens to be famous for its pistachios.
For a civilization so closely aligned with the Mediterranean, it is remarkable there are no temples in Athens dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea. However, on the rocky peninsula of Cape Sounion, which juts into the sea at the southeast tip of Attica, the Athenians built him a sanctuary – as well as two to the goddess Athena, patron ofÂ their city – that todayÂ stands as one of the most remarkably situated of all classical ruins. Built on the summit of the rock, which rises 200 feet out of the water, and surrounded by stout walls, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion keeps watch over the great expanse of the Aegean. As you’d expect, it’s also a magical place to watch the sun set. Click the panoramic image, then click again for greater detail.
For Cretans the secret of their storied longevity is simple.Â TheyÂ 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, olivesÂ and rusk. It could be considered a close cousin of panzanella – if only theÂ ItaliansÂ 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 aÂ 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.
Back in NYC, I’ve hit the ground running. Before we return to the Mediterranean pleasures of “Iberian Month,” I’ve got a quick-hit weekend in the Dominican Republic coming up. (Technically, the island’s name is Hispaniola, so, natch, it still fits quite nicely into this month’s theme.) But more importantly, the Spring theater season is about to go into April overdrive. I’ve got a laundry list of new shows I’ve been itching to see on my agenda, so stay tuned.