The scents of Greece

Olfactory journeys – The scents of Greece

In these mid-winter days, I always feel nostalgic for the Greek Sea. And then, waiting to land on the next island, I retrace the routes already followed with memories, aided by the photographs, yes, but above all by the smells.

In fact, nothing else has the same evocative power: even a subtle odorous trace can instantly project us into the moment and place to which it is linked.

And here it becomes possible to do it real virtual journeysfollowing the olfactory imprint that a place has left in our memory.

Cyclades Islands – Aromatic plants, sea salt and helichrysum

So, I just close my eyes while I sprinkle a pinch of Origan on the salad, to suddenly find myself ad Amorgoson the arduous staircase that leads to the monastery of Panagia Chozoviotizzaperched in its eagle’s nest, overlooking the great blue.

An impervious island, located as a rocky watershed between the Cyclades archipelago and the Dodecanese, it is loved by diving enthusiasts, but also by seekers of the silence found on its paths, lined with a thousand aromatic plants, including oregano wild, famous throughout Greece.

The whole sea salt, on the other hand, with its hint of rocks dried up by the sun, brings me back to the minuscule Irakliain Small Cyclades, in front of Naxos. In fact, for many weeks, upon my return to Italy, I flavored the dishes with the salt collected in the sea pools that had evaporated on the rocks. In this way I also remembered the secluded and deserted beaches, the serene marina and the small Chora, which remained frozen in time.

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Further north, isolated in a stretch of sea almost forgotten by ferries, the shy Donoussa reappears in the memory of the fresh aroma ofHelichrysum wild, which perfumes the beaches with carpets of flowers the color of the sun. The same spicy scent rises to pervade the journey on the dirt roads that enter the wild hinterland.

Definitely off the beaten track, the fragrance of the purple bushes of Wild Thyme, returns to Sikinos her natural grace, somewhat obscured by the often surly behavior of the islanders.

The visit to the archaeological site of Bishop where an ancient Christian church built on a pre-existing temple of Apollo dominates a landscape with a Celtic flavour, it alone is worth the trip.

As well as its amazing sea, even if difficult to reach, and the magnificent walks in a still intact environment.

The scents of Greece
The scents of Greece

Sporades Islands – The islands kissed by the pine forest wind

A balsamic wind of resin, caress instead Alonissos and its satellite islands, which are part of the enormous Marine Park., where I experienced the thrill of sailing escorted by a pod of dolphins at play.

On this island of Northern Sporades, the green of pine forests which cover it until it touches the waves, mixes its reflections with the turquoise of the sea, in a thousand inlets and coves.

Inside, wooded corners suspended in bucolic quiet, as in an Arcadia that has not noticed the passing of the centuries.

I think back to the sunrises and sunsets enjoyed from the patio of my room, simply immersed in the wonder of contemplation.

North Aegean – The fig tree of Dionysus and the Mysteries of the Moon Goddess

The scent of the trees fico and its fruits buzzing with bees, remains linked to the mountain woods Ikaria and the mystery of its pagan dances. Land for curious travellers, who are not satisfied with the postcard stereotype. Land inhabited by proud and eccentric islanders who, in some remote villages, live in their own way, replacing night with day and not caring about the central government’s calls for “normality”. Could this be why here there is a ten times greater percentage of the population aged over 90 compared to the rest of Europe?

Other ancient mysteries come to life in the sulphurous smell of the thermal springs, immersed in the age-old and disturbing woods that cloak Samothrace. More than an island, a frowning mountain emerging from the sea, the highest peak in the Aegean, which in winter turns white with snow and bears the name of the Moon Goddess, the undisputed lady of the place. Among the ruins of Sanctuary of the Great Gods, we still seem to hear the votes of the candidates for initiation into his Mysteries. Alexander the Great and his royal parents, Herodotus, King Lysander of Sparta and others, were among the initiates of this still enigmatic cult.

Dodecanese – the scents of the Sacred and the Profane

The scents of Greece
The scents of Greece

The sweetness and warm smell of fico, they also remind me of the simple but precious gift from a peasant woman, met on the stony path to the mysterious bay of Vroukounta, in Karpathos, in the southern Dodecanese. I was walking with a Greek friend, towards the big one panigiri at the end of August, where I would sleep for a few hours under the stars, lulled by music and songs until the morning.

Here too, as happens elsewhere in Greece, the Christian celebration is often just a mask behind which pagan traditions still live, whose origins are lost in myth.

Transported by a mystical spiral of Byzantine incense, I arrive at the end of this ideal olfactory journey, landing on the sacred Patmosalso called the “Jerusalem of the Aegean”.

It’s difficult to say what makes this island so perfect: perhaps it’s the quality of the light, which is transcendent. Or the aura of consecrated places, like the Cave of the Apocalypse where the Evangelist John wrote the book of the same name, or the Monastery dedicated to him, where rites that last a whole night are still celebrated.

Landing here you understand why Forbes Magazine proclaimed it “The most idyllic place to live in Europe.”

I have been coming back every year for a long time, even out of season. In 2014 I also experienced his solemn celebration Orthodox Easteradding to my archive of fragrant memories the sweetly camphorated aroma of wild lavender branches, scattered along the procession route and in front of the churches.

The alleys of his Chora, UNESCO World Heritage Sitethey were pervaded by it, together with the fragrance that rose from the incense burners present on every windowsill.

On the night of the Resurrection, these were mixed with the sweet scent of beeswax and honey candles, lit by faithful to symbolize the return of the Divine Light.

I also brought a candle with me, and I light it every time I feel the need to brighten my days, inebriating myself with its scent.

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