Entry 20 Katakolon, Olympia, Greece 26 Sept 2012
Wow! Pronounced with the emphasis on the “tak”‘ this is another magical place. The people from Greece in ancient times must have thought so as well, home of the first Olympics on this island. I have read this and chatted with people who went to the site on excursion, and my day was filled with other sights.
Starting the day leisurely we had breakfast, omelet, and other treats, and dressed for the heat. Two other large cruise ships in port today, one had to use tenders. We could see the small beach to the left of the pier where we were docked, so we decided to do a walk around first, then head for the beach .. So we wore bathing suits. In the afternoon the plan is to be on excursion selected on the first day of the cruise.
The 300 population town was a bustle with vendors, small boutique stores and souvenirs as far as the eye could see. One long strip of the road, both sides was colorful and busy with pedestrian traffic. Clearly tourism is valued in this place. A few higher end ladies shops were busy and well presented with window dressings.
We walked and explored one end to the other. The heat and humidity was high. This port reminded us of home. Lush vegetation, greenery, trees everywhere. Probably we are lucky the sky is pure blue, no clouds or hint of precipitation. It is hot hot hot. Selecting a few silk scarves made in Greece for souvenirs and gifts, we also noted a few places we wanted to go back to…. We never made it.
We strolled over to the small crowded rocky area identified by the public beach signage. Hmmmmmmm, As crowded as Waikiki however much much smaller, a mixture of young local looking men bronzed and drinking local beer in clusters, and middle to late age out of shape round cruisers dotted the small beach area. This was not going to be a leisurely swim, but rather a quick dip alternating to stay close to our purses and iPhones. The water was clear and refreshing, only a tiny bit colder than the ship’s pool. Well worth the time and effort. When we came back to the ship obviously wet from swimming, another couple asked if we had seen jellyfish in the water, apparently they had.
A quick shower to shed the salt water remaining, changed and grabbed a small bite to eat at the buffet. We met our Mercedes coach out beside the gangway from our ship to take us to the Vintage Olives and Wine tour on this island. A 20 minute drive well narrated by a lovely woman, with a great command of English language, great sense of humor and a very strong Greek accent. She was delightful, informative and entertaining. What a treat!
St. Nicholas is the honored on all Greek islands and port cities, as the patron saint for sailers and those on the sea. At least one such shrine in every coastal town, she advises. She talked about some of the gods from ancient times and myths. Athena being the goddess of wisdom and intelligence. She gave details of the vineyard we are going to see and of the island vegetation on the way. Olives are harvested from mid november to mid February depending on many factors. Also grown on this island in the rich lushness, oranges, lemons, melons, all kinds of veggies and of course, grapes for the wine famous in Greece. Olive oil is processed from this island and sent to Italy where the make some refinement and sell it as “made in Italy”. We are determined to look for extra virgin olive oil from Greece when we get back home.
Red curved tile roofs over white or yellowish gold gold colored brick and whitewashed homes are along the road, much greenery between them. Large tall hairy barked and odd looking palm trees tower over the shorter fruit variety. This island is enchanting and I am so glad for this opportunity to see the real countryside.
We arrived at the home and working family farm and vineyard, winery. It was all that and more. Greeted with fresh juice, or bottled water, even Greek coffee was available as we arrived and mingled. A walking narrated tour by the owner operator of this fine estate. He talked of his family and how due to economic reasons, they had made the choice to produce only top quality wine, olive oil (in the past) and also the necessity to have other forms of income to afford for the cost of living expenses. This man’s grandfather had worked on contract with Cunard cruise line so many years ago by assisting people in the area to make their dreams come true of moving to the new lands and traveling via the great transatlantic crossings, which then took over a month each way. Pictures of families and men who had taken the journey and left their homeland in Greece dotted the walls, and also the very early original posters and advertisements for Cunard. Obviously this family still keeps contracts with Cunard, for the same purpose. The family home needed some work, he explained, but the money all goes into creating the very best quality wine for sale. We saw old equipment and he explained some day it would be good to have labels like in a museum of all the artifacts that lie herein. Maybe someday …. But for now the business is in the wine making.
We tour the rooms and rooms of barrels, thick in the scent of rich new red wine aging. Fragrant and ancient, how the wine takes on the qualities of this place and another time. Over an hour of listening and snapping pictures, rich imaginations and musings. What an enchanting afternoon. In this moment I think ….. This is my favorite place. But wait ….. We step out doors to the back yard, spacious and beautifully prepared in the shade of those lovely willow and other large leaf bearing trees. There in the center of a grove of trees, in a breeze is set several round tables, covered with matching Santorini blue and white plaid linen table cloths, wine goblets and crystal water glasses, two bottles of wine at each table and bread basket, and large tray of brightly colored and beautifully and generously presented cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, salami meats and more. A single bottle of local olive oil is also standing waiting to be enjoyed. Every small detail is taken care of and offered to us on this perfect of Greek days. This is indeed one of the finest gifts of generosity and local love I have ever witnessed. This is Greece’s finest hour. This moment is to be shared by everyone who has dreamed of this land and wondered what lays in store in the magic of time. Breathtaking. Speechless. Timeless and almost beyond description. Only the photos can come close to the picture. Words just seem inadequate.
We eat, we talk and most of all we enjoy the bottles of the very gentle yet tasty and potent wines offered to us. A bottle of red and a bottle of white for each table. We are only 5 at our table, enjoying the day with our dinner mates Mary and Peter. We are as old friends now, and we get to share this memory today as well. We buy a bottle of each wine on the way back to the bus and then back to the ship with the intoxicating glow from this enchanting afternoon.