Greece gave so much to me: besides democracy, the country gave me 7Up, Sprite, a pen pal, handsome boys, squids and Ermoupolis.
What do you have in mind if I say “Greece“? Blue ocean, white houses, feta cheese? My mind connects Greece with “Western” rarities, like Sprite and 7Up, and of course boys looking like ancient Greek gods. (I have no idea how did the Greek gods look like, but when I saw these guys at the age of 12….) I was in Greece for the first time in 1987: two years before the Iron Curtain fell down. This aspect is quite important: we, teenagers in Hungary were extremly fond of “Western” foods and objects. That is why my main memory of that journey is that I drank 7Up and Sprite in the camp we stayed for all two weeks along. (Well, probably I spent all my money on these, haha.) You can guess one was my favourite!
I have another “first” experience from Greece: it was there, where I tasted a squid. We were on the beautiful island of Rhodes, motorbiking up and down, and we arrived to a tiny restaurant close to one end of the island: we had to stop there, because the wind was so strong there, that it practically blew away the motorbike. So there were we, at the end of Rhodes, and something was hanging down from a tree: it looked like drying clothes, but it wasn’t. I went closer and then I saw: they were those animals with many arms, that I always feared. OK, I thought I will eat a Greek salad, if they do not have anything else. Well, they didn’t have: not even Greek salad, it was a restaurant specialized to squids. This way we ordered a plain roasted squid – and it turned out to be delicious. Since then I am a fan of roasted squids.
Drying squid by Bram Meijer
The last time I have been to Greece, we were sailing on the Aegean Sea, visiting islands in the Cyclades. It was an amazing journey, just as you would imagine it in a film: white boat and shirts, delicious food, azure ocean – and yes, we saw dolphins as well. One of the islands we visited was Syros, that has three municipalities, which is a lot in case of these little islands. The biggest of them – with a population of 13,000 – is Ermoupolis, which happens to be the capital of the Cyclades.
Apart from being a lovely city with white houses, restaurants and many-many cats, it has one more thing that differentiates it from all other similarly lovely islands. Ermoupolis has an Opera house! It is amazing isn’t it? The citizens of Ermoupolis were not satisfied with a simple Opera house, they wanted to have something special. I can imagine them: thinking very hardly – almost like Winnie the Pooh – about how to make a special Opera house. And they got an idea: let’s make an Opera house just like the famous Opera in Milano, Italy, the Scala! So let it be: they built it, but of course Ermoupolis is much smaller than Milano, so they had to built the Opera house much smaller. And there we are: Ermoupolis has a mini-Scala. Unfortunately my photos are on film, and I could not find a photo on flickr, so you have to try to imagine it based on the real Scala!
Syros Cats by Patrick JCH