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Friday, November 16, 2018

A tale of three Greek isles

Aaaaaah Greece!

I couldn’t help but pinch myself, reality sinking in, “I’m going to Greece!”

Before leaving for Europe, I watched the movie Mama Mia to inspire myself more.

First stop, Katakolon. A sleepy seaside village overlooking the Ionian Sea, Katakolon is just 30 minutes from Olympia. Ancient Olympia is where the first Olympic game was recorded in 776 B.C., consisting of only one event, a 650-foot long footrace. Over time, the games developed to include wrestling, javelin, chariot racing and boxing, to name a few. The Olympic tradition lasted a thousand years. In the 4th century, the games were banned by the Christian Emperor Theodosius who ordered the temples to be demolished. Earthquakes and floods further destroyed the area, but the exact site of Olympia was rediscovered in 1766. Recognized as a Unesco- designated area, the Olympia Archaeological Site stands as a testament to a time when civilization flourished, and is also known as one of the great museums of Greece.

Set within the lapis blue Agean Sea is the Greek Island of Mykonos. Also known as the “Ibiza” of Greece, it is the quintessential image of a Greek Island. The beaches of Mykonos are known for their crystalline waters and long stretches of golden sand. Mykonos maintains its old-world charm, welcoming visitors with blue-domed churches, whitewashed houses and a whimsical feel. From as early as the 16th century, the beautiful windmills of Mykonos have been one of the island’s most recognize landmarks. The year- round winds make Mykonos a perfect location for these structures, once used to refine grain. Built precariously along the sea’s edge, “little venice” is famous for its sand-washed enclave where the azure sea laps againts the quaint houses dotting the shoreline. This romantic place is a haven for artists and photgraphers. Mykonos is also known for its shopping. Plenty of small shops are to be found along the side streets boasting of jewelry from the Byzantine era, Greek handicrafts especially pottery and hand-painted reproductions of Byzantine originals. Legend says it was love at first sight when Jackie Kennedy visited Mykonos in 1961. She then bought some local trinkets. In no time at all, every house turned into a boutique and you know the rest.

A volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C created a huge water-filled crater called the “caldera”, where the fabled lost city of Atlantis is said to reside, leagues under the sea. Santorini captivating, romantic, dramatic and its legendary beauty was borne of a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Oia pronounced, as “Eee-ah” is a charming Greek village known for its picturesque architecture, cobblestone lanes, pristine whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches. Fira, perched on the edge of a dramatic cliff over 721 feet high, the island’s capital, boasts a stunning combination of Cycladic and Venetian architecture, outstanding views of the submerged volcano and an aerial cable car transportation system. Santorini is also known for its world-class wines and unique vinification methods. The ash and lava that once covered the island produced the perfect soil conditions for growing the prominent grape, Assyrtiko. It is famous for its dry whites and sweet dessert wines. Vinsanto is a famous dessert wine produced in Santorini since the Venetian times. The grapes are dried in the sun to increase their sugar content, and the wine is matured in oak barrels giving it a distinctive, velvety palate. The white wines are extremely dry with a light citrus scent combined with hints of smoke from the volcanic soil.

The best way to enjoy Santorini is to spend the day like a local. Wander through its whitewashed streets, comb the tiny boutiques and linger over a sumptuous meal sipping the local wine and embracing the unique Greek culture.

I must say, having been to these three beautiful islands has truly been an enchanting experience for me. The beauty, charm and smiles of the Greek people are so captivating that you want to keep coming back.

Hope to see you for my next adventure!


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