Edward Lear… Why Greece?… Cooking with Alison… The Island Bus… Visit Ikaria for a longer life…

Greek mezedes, as most of you will know, are the small shared taster dishes – often dips – which come at the start of a meal or with your ouzo. Greece differs from Cyprus in this resepct – in  Cyprus a ‘meze’ is more like a feast – a seemingly unending number of small dishes, hot and cold (it is no shame to admit defeat before the end!).

Anyway, we have called this blog ‘Mezedes’ as a handy way in which to round up a number of Greek-related small stories which have caught our eye recently.

The Owl, the Pussycat and the Ionian islands

Corfu Town

What links the famous nonsense poems by Edward Lear with the Ionian islands? Well, 2012 sees the bicentenary of Lear’s birth. Although today he is most famous for his limericks and poems, Lear’s chief vocation was that of a landscape painter. Lear travelled extensively throughout southern Europe and the Middle East, and a collection of his paintings from his journeys are going to be on public display at the Palace of St Michael and St George in Corfu Town from 25th May to 31st August in an exhibition entitled Edward Lear and the Ionian Islands.

Corfu held a special place in Lear’s heart and in the 1850s and 60s he returned to it again and again. To him it was “paradise”: “no other spot on earth can be fuller of beauty and of variety of beauty”, he wrote.  It is therefore entirely fitting that his bicentenary should be celebrated on the island that he loved so much. Admission is free of charge.

Why you should visit Greece this year

Stoupa, South Peloponnese

For those of us who love Greece and have made so many good friends there over the years, it has been heartbreaking to see and read of the current turmoil. But the demonstrations and street battles we have watched on our screens are taking place in only two small areas of Athens and Thessaloniki. The rest of the country is getting on with life as normal and visitors this summer will find village life little changed. In fact, if anything the warm Greek welcome and ‘filoxenia’ (traditional hospitality towards guests) will be more evident than ever because the locals are determined to show their appreciation to their visitors this year. Everybody knows that tourism is the best way for Greece to climb out of the economic hole she is in. Do not let the tide of ceaseless and often misrepresentative negative publicity put you off visiting Greece this summer.

Greece delivers an excellent and unique tourist experience. Despite the country’s economic woes some things remain constant. Greece boasts:
• Some of the cleanest seas and beaches in the Med (379 Blue Flag beaches last year, second only to Spain)
• A welcome as warm as their sun – Greek hospitality is legendary
• Short flights, direct to many of the islands – 3 to 3 ½ hours
• An unmatched history, mythology and archaeological sites
• Extremely family friendly – children welcome everywhere
• A simple stress busting ‘back to basics’ lifestyle
• A delicious cuisine – recognized as one of the world’s healthiest, especially in Crete
• Much improved standards of accommodation in recent years
• Still reasonable costs for eating out in local tavernas (c 12 euros / £10 per head average)
• Cheaper by up to 7% this year due to Sterling strengthening against the Euro
• Huge variety – each island and area is different in terms of scenery, culture and mood
• Wonderful scenery and nature. Greece has far more to offer than sea, beach, history and culture – it is also one of the most mountainous countries in Europe with an extensive, and sometimes unique, flora and fauna. From the wild flowers in spring to the bird migrations of spring and autumn, nature lovers, walkers and painters will find plenty to enjoy.

Greek Cooking Step by Step with Alison

Cretan diet

Alison of Porto Loutro Hotel fame (car-free Loutro is in remote south western Crete) has started a Facebook page which offers a refreshingly visual take on some classic Greek recipes (plus hamburgers!). A timely link to what we were saying above about the Cretan Diet, especially as Loutro has some of the best cuisine we have found on Crete.

See our Sunvil holidays idea for cookery courses in Crete.

The Island Bus

A fascinating project by German film-maker Sybille Meder who lives on the small Dodecanese island of Tilos. The documentary is based around the island bus and how it links the community. See a preview of the film here and her main blog here.

Visit Ikaria for a longer life

Ikaria, North East Aegean Island

Did you know that Ikaria has the highest percentage of nonagenarians on the planet? Almost one in three people on this island reach the age of ninety. The island has been identified as one of only five ‘Blue Zones’ on earth – an area where people live significantly longer lives – as researched and described by Dan Buettner in his book of that title. He also discovered that Ikarians average around 20% lower rates of cancer, 50% for heart disease and almost no dementia. The reasons are partly genetic but more down to exercise, diet and overall lifestyle. So who knows? A 2 week holiday here could add precious hours to your lifespan!


Dudley der Parthog
Director of Sunvil Holidays