Sunday, August 1, 2010
Scents of the Mediterranean
The tomatoes have just sprouted; the sun had bathed the nascent roots, the soil had fondled them, moist, warm and fertile. Uncle beckoning us children to the field: "come, eat, fresh from the vine!" Some water, cut in two, the mouth bursting with the flavours of sweet and slightly sour, full of aroma unreplicated in any bought variety. Cucumbers sliced, the fresh, sweet smell permeting the kitchen. The small leaves off the tomato vine are kept for marinades and sprinkling over feta cheese. Folavril. Basil pots on the window ledge. Olive trees all around, shadowing over the dining table, olives on the table in endless varieties: big and blue-black like a bruise, bitter-salty from the brine; small black and wrinkly and very sweet; almond-shaped Kalamata ones, with glistening skins and fatty-bitter taste; green ones looking almost raw, the pit substituted by a whole blanched almond. We accompany with an aromatic Robola wine. Santa Maira Novela Mavrorachi and Sienne l'Hiver transported to a tiny Greek island across the Holy Monastic Mountain of Athos.
Cicadas singing incessantly throughout noon and the heat is rising, vehicles coming closer with that "liquid" motion we see on the silver screen when they cross the endless American roads of the west. The turmac is almost melting, the big blue calling, only a fea minutes' drive away on the island. Solace inside a cool white church, fanning oneself with a Spanish fan, putting some ice-soaked hankerchief on the forehead and nape of the neck. Walls smelling of old fresco stucco, remnants of frankincense and melted wax from the beeswax candles put in bronze-bordered sand trays for the pious. Silence.... The old priest, tall and dressed in by now faded black takes off his kalimafhi from his head and sits down, wrought with the heat. He offers us almonds and sour cherries in suryp with a smile: the "spoon sweets" which greeted visitors at even the humblest house, chased by a glass of ice-cold water. Braced, we begin our journey to the edge of the island, all the way to Palaiochora searching for the small fragments of the fort that pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa destroyed in 1539. The countryside is chaotically scattered with wild herbs, thyme, oregano, bay, chamomile, sage, labdanum; we roll the car windows down and inhale deeply this humble marvel of nature. L'Eau Trois, Sables.
Nudists at the "baths" of the Neda river in the south Peloponnese. The foliage in the trees is rustling. The scent of moist soil, the fallen dead leaves mush on the ground. The wind is changing, autumn is coming quickly. Someone is playing melancholic greek songs on the baglama. Pin resin, Fille en Aiguilles.
The children are rolling on bicycles in Keffalonia central square, their silhouettes a dark contrast on the fuschia walls. Housewives are baking baklava, the spices of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg in the air. Some kids are dripping with mastic "submarine" (a dollop of mastic and glycose paste into a glass of cold water and licked off). 06310 Lentisque.
Dip in the Aegean sea, salt still remaining on the skin, I can almost lick it off, it's so dense! The laziness of the sun making our limps become putty. The barren rocky terrain scattered with immortelle flowers, dry and dusty. I take a fat piece of watermelon off my bag and a chunck of salty feta cheese kept on a block of ice to cut the sweetness; the sticky red juice is dribling down my chin and on the top of my bikini, mingling with my sweat and my Ambre Solaire, but I don't care. The seaside taverna has already put octopi on the rope, drying them out before they get marinated and smoked for dinner. The salty, inky aroma is wafting thanks to the breeze and the coals are set: the smoky, stinky trail whets my appetite; I'm longing for the anise flavour of ouzo to accompany my fried calamari. I'm longing to have my tanned back caressed by the one awaiting me.
A local is washing the white floor squeeky clean. My eyes dazzle from the reflected white. The sugarcube maze of the town is blindingly white! Greek coffee prepared on the hot sand stove, with lots of kaimak. The table setting simple and chic. The coffee powder remainings crunchy on the tongue before overturning the small demitasse so that the debris drips, its dried out patterns used to tell one's destiny. "You will be successful, you will find love..."
Branches of figs engulf everything with their thick shadow. Their milky sap is still bitter, an edge of coconut smell, the leaves are wide and dusty; they look dusty even if you have just washed them, they feel dusty. We pick the fruit to see whether it's edible, the small sacs haven't really become heavy with those scattered little seeds. Disappointment. The seeds which Minoan inhabitants of Akrotiri, Santorini, used to eat before the great volcano eruption in 1500BC. We contemplate eternity, weary after overlooking another excavation. Philosykos, Premier Figuier, and Un Jardin en Mediterranee. Tall cypresses flanking the cool catacombs in Tripiti on the Milos island, the mineral dryness of Eau de Gentiane Blanche.
The stars are shinning brightly on a pitch black sky, so clear and transparent, you think you can reach out your hand and seize them. The air around is full with the concentrated, heady scent of jasmine vines, A la Nuit. First kisses in the cobblestone alleys, under the rampant bougainvillas, the intoxication of budding love filling the mind. Lovers embracing fondly, tenderly, promising the stars under the bright moon, as deep yellow golden and shiny in August like a konstantinato. Sex on the beach late at night before the break of sun, like the first people on earth. Like the only people on earth...The eternal romance of the Mediterranean and of Greece.
Clip from the Greek film "Epiheirisis Apollon", 1968 or "Apollo Goes on Holiday" 1968 directed by George Skalenakis with Elena Nathanael, Thomas Fritsch, Athinodoros Prousalis etc.
Clip from the Greek film Gorgones kai Mages (Mermaids and Tough Guys) 1968, directed by Yiannis Dalianidis starring Mary Hronopoulou and Lakis Komnenos.
This co-blogging project was organised by Ines at All I am a Redhead. Please visit the other participants as well:
All I Am - A Redhead, A Rose Beyond the Thames, Bonkers About Perfume, Eiderdown Press, I Smell Therefore I Am,Illuminated Perfume,Katie Puckrik Smells, Notes From the Ledge, Olfactafama, Perfume in Progress, Scent Hive, Smellyblog, Hortus Conclusus, The Non Blonde, Under the Cupola, Waft by Carol
All photos used under Creative Commons via Flick by strudelmonkey, mnadi, la Part des anges, br0wser, artolog, elizabeth V