Home > History, Stories, Transport > Memories of Greece 1963, pt 2

Memories of Greece 1963, pt 2

The thing is, I was totally immersed in Ancient Greek language, literature and history at that time, having done my ‘public exam’ in Classics only a few months before. So to find myself setting foot in old Piræus was like coming home. It was a hot, bright, bustling harbour; vendors and hustlers meeting the ferry, children offering to dive for coins from the dock-side, delapidated vehicles of every kind, even some with engines. And livestock being herded all around, presumably to or from the markets. No exaggeration to say almost nothing had changed in 2,500 years.

The local youth hostel was by no means primitive though. In fact we made reservations for a month later, the night before the ferry left for Brindisi – but for accommodation on the roof this time; no sissy matresses for these lads! Because we already knew from the student grape-vine that spending good money on rooms was out of the question. It was going to be ships’ decks, roof-tops and beaches from now on, with our sleeping bags, no tents. Remember: it was July and August when the nights were warm and rarely wet. And nobody had even heard of a ban on sleeping rough in those days; it was just what less-affluent visitors did and we were made welcome wherever we laid our heads.

And we soon ‘did’ mainland Greece.

We took in the beauty of Athens’ golden age, the mysteries of ancient Mycenæ, the sunset at Cape Sounion – and a violent thunder storm at Epidavros (known for its amphitheatre) where we had chosen to sleep on the ‘quiet’ sandy beach and had to find shelter in short order. We decided that if we were going to be rained on we fancied taking to the sea – hence the ferry to Delos, where Apollo is in residence during the summer to inspire the local Oracle; the eponymous centre of the league of city-states under Athenian control, and close to Mykonos, the modern centre of sun-worshippers’ interest in the Aegean Sea. That ferry was our introduction to the ubiquitous trade in ‘loukoumia’ – or Turkish/Greek Delight – which tasty though it was, became a byword for nightmare as the vendors screamed their wares at us deck-dwellers throughout every voyage, day or night. Our student response soon became equally strident – that they should sling their hooks or words to that effect. Look out, here comes more louf**kingoumia!

Mykonos as every traveller knows is the island of canvas-sailed windmills and ……wind; which caused my two companions some embarrassing mal de mer as we took the next leg of our trip. They stayed uncomfortably on deck while I tucked into the ship’s meat (provenance indeterminate) and French-fries. [And while I’m on the topic, not to add to their nausea, I’ll mention that our daily diet had rapidly become bread, yoghurt and cheese, with the occasional mbirra (as beer was dubbed before the tourist trade took off) and snacks of every conceivable fresh fruit.] One poor fellow was also nursing some nasty sunburn which made lying down even less pleasant. But the wind dropped as we neared Rhodes, which promised a wealth of new sights and sounds. (Loukoumia! Bog off!)

….to be continued

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Categories: History, Stories, Transport
  1. christinaosborne
    November 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    No wonder this 36.00 quid is stretching so far! Great stuff.

    This turkish delight thing is interesting. Was it always smooth or sometimes granular when you tried it?
    Why I ask.
    A girlfriend in Bellingham has a quince tree that has just started to bear fruit, like the most enormous crop of golden globular fruit. She sicked a couple of sacks of them on me being a sucker for any form of fruit to preserve.
    Well I made three batches of jelly and then found an old 18th century recipe for quince cheese. Generally used to be served sliced with cheese. Absolutely brilliant with smoked cheese especially.
    The stuff set like a rock and can be chopped into squares. It tastes just like Turkish delight in that it is perfumed and gelatinous. The only difference is that it is slightly granular in texture.
    Considering that the quince is the original golden apple of the Eastern Med, not the ordinary apple as we know it. I wonder if originally the sweet was made with quince as it needs no additives to create it except sugar/honey. The modern equivalent needs corn starch to set it and far more bits and pieces to flavour it.
    Considering the paucity of quince trees nowadays it would now be excessively expensive to produce.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts or knowledge on the subject from your travels/education.

    Further on the jelly I made, evidently the early settlers here frequently planted quince trees on their farmsteads. All the rage as a fashionable fruit in the 1700’s. As usual they made preserves with whatever came to hand. Apples are indigenous here as are cranberries on acid soil as in New England

    Paradise jelly was made thus, 20 quinces, 10 apples and a couple of pounds of cranberries. I had the recipe from the internet. Evidently it had died out by the second world war as most of the old quince trees had been uprooted or died of old age. So now I’m busy reintroducing it round here. It also makes an excellent condiment for ham/pork What is truly amazing is its perfumed quality.

  2. November 8, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Christina, it was smooth. This website suggests the original ‘lokum'(!) was made with honey and grape molasses. But you may be right: quinces grow everywhere in the region.
    http://www.englishteastore.com/history-turkish-delight.html

  3. O Zangado
    November 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I too ended my school career in VI Classical. A fellow sufferer visited Greece in his final school year, turfed up in Piraeus looking for a ferry to some island or other and (in his best classical Greek) asked a bloke in a white shirt and stripey epaulettes when he could take the ferry to wherever. Once the guy had stopped laughing he explained, in perfect English, that what my friend had had actually said was, “Tell me, O galley master, at what hour does the slave-ship set sail for the island of…..?” . .

    OZ

  4. November 8, 2013 at 8:43 am

    G’dag, OZ! Yes, we soon discovered that the language had changed! I think your friend did very well indeed. It was accurate in several respects! 🙂

  5. christinaosborne
    November 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Interesting answer J.
    Just love no 3.

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