Regular Ginger and Nutmeg readers know by now that Nutmeg cannot resist creating an ABC list for a new destination. The exercise allows her to discover some unusual facts that may help her out some day when she is playing Trivial Pursuit.
Aegean Islands are part of Greece’s treasure chest. These islands located in the Aegean Sea (part of the Mediterranean) are bordered by Greece on one side, Turkey on the other and by the island of Crete in the south.
Boats – Greece has the biggest merchant fleet in the world 4,894 (as of April 2014) = many ships.
Donkeys – the sturdy mules remain a fixture on some of the islands. They help with the movement of tourists’ bags, lazy visitors and awkward “cargo” such as water bottles. There is a fair amount of negative media on the treatment of the donkeys, and a number of registered sanctuaries supporting their cause. You can read more here.
Eleftherios Venizelos was a lawyer who became the leader of the liberal party in Crete and then in 1910 the Prime Minister of Greece. The Athens airport is named after him.
Feta and other cheeses have been produced since the Homeric Age (1200-1600 BC) in Greece. Traditional Greek food relies heavily on cheese as a protein and it can be served at every meal.
Grape Vines in Santorini are coiled to create “baskets.” As beautiful as Santorini is the island’s climate is not consistently idyllic. The summer sun can be scorching, and off-season forceful winds and cool, damp fog can be relentless. The vines are twisted, at ground level, into a basket shape. This process is called the “koulara” method started hundreds of years ago to protect grapes from the elements.
Islands – The official count of Greek islands ranges from 1200 to 6000 although many are uninhabited. Crete is the largest island.
Java – Greeks drink more coffee per capita than the Italians and the French. Traditional Greek coffee is also called Turkish coffee. The roasted beans are finely ground and then brewed in a briki (μπρίκι) on the stovetop. Intense and hot, the coffee can be made unsweetened or with sugar. Also, popular in Greece is the coffee frappe – you can read more here.
Kleroterion was a machine from ancient Greece used to ensure that jury selection was 100% random. Each potential juror (always male) provided a pinakion that would be selected and entered into the slot at the top of the machine. You can read the full description here and you can see a Kleroterion in the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens.
Marathon is a town in Greece and also the name for fennel (marathos) in ancient Greek. However, the 26.2-mile race that is popular with runners around the globe comes from the legend of a runner who ran the full distance from Marathon to Athens to herald the news that the Persians were defeated. He finished the run but died after delivering the message…not enough training perhaps?
Nichteri is a white wine from Santorini produced from late-harvest Asyrtico grapes. Nichteri refers to night shift; the grapes are harvested in the dark (at night, or early morning) to avoid the heat of the day.
Ouzo the clear, aniseed and herb flavoured drink is considered the national drink of Greece. Here are four ouzo rules from the Plomari Company:
Place the bottle on the table
The right size glass
Enjoy with meze finger food
Enjoy the good company
Plaka is the ancient Athens neighbourhood that lies at the foot of the Acropolis hill. Although, Plaka is still a labyrinth of narrow lanes the old-age charm is lost in streets that are teeming with souvenirs and marginal meals.
Quarries – without marble quarries the classical sites of ancient Greece and lifelike statues would not exist. Parian marble from the island of Paros and its cousin from Mount Pentelicus are nearly flawless. Without the quarries structures like the Acropolis and Winged Victory of Samothrace (statue in the Paris Louvre) would not exist, as we know them.
Raki is a very strong anise flavoured alcohol made from the ‘must’ of grapes skins and seeds. There is also a variation with honey called Rakomena, which Nutmeg found to be only slightly more enjoyable.
Sponge diving in the Greek islands was a significant industry. The water temperature in this part of the Mediterranean is perfect for growth of natural sponge. You can read more about the industry in Hydra here and here.
“the Ancient Greeks built the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, the Parthenon in Athens, and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion as the tips of a perfect equidistant triangle.”
Utopia – no further explanation required…
Vinsanto – is a sweet dessert wine made in Santorini from sun-dried grapes. The wine must contain at least 50% Assyrtiko variety grapes.
Whitewashed buildings are relatively new in the continuum of Greek history. It was only in the late 1800s that homeowners on some of the Greek islands began using whitewash. Sometimes called lime paint it is an inexpensive coating that hardens when it dries. The stark white keeps the buildings cooler and the whitewash provides some disinfectant properties. Today, blinding white structures topped with cobalt-blue roofs are iconic images of Greece.
Yposkafo is a traditional “cave house” in Santorini used as homes and animal shelters.
Zeus was the ancient Greek god so powerful that he was believed to be the father of gods and men. A god so revered required a suitable temple. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is enormous and well worth seeing even with only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns remaining standing. The completed structure was larger than the Parthenon. Read more here.