Sunday, July 22, 2007


So it's time to tell you a story from Greece.

When we left Turkey to return to Greece near the end of our trip, we took a ferry from Kusadasi (near Ephesus) to Samos.

I didn't know anything about Samos except that, like the town of Ayvalik in Turkey, it was a place we needed to go through on our way from Point A to Point B. If I had had enough faith in the ferry schedules, I probably would have arranged for us to just spend a few hours at the port, and get the ferry to Athens that same evening.

Boy, I'm glad I didn't trust the ferry schedules. Samos was fantastic.

Not having any major sights lined up to see, we were free to just hang around, and I figured that was all we would do. And, in a way, that's all we did do, but wow. We really did it well.

We arrived late morning one day and left late afternoon the next. The afternoon and evening of the first day were very nice, but the part I want to talk about right now was the morning of the second day. We had rented a car, and the owner of our hotel told us to drive 15 or 20 minutes up the coast to a place called the Valley of the Nightingales, then follow the winding road up the valley to the little village of Manolates, where we could get out and walk around.

The town was not only at the top of the valley, I felt like it was at the top of Greece. It was another one of those villages where you park your car at the edge of town and wander through the maze of roads and stairs, stopping at every turn to take in the quaint.

The town is known for its pottery, and one of the first things we came to was a little cabinet of pottery mounted on the outside wall of a house. The place was closed when we got there, but it was early so we hoped we would find a shop or two open later on. In the meantime, we continued uphill, admiring all the different varieties of quaint.

As we approached what we thought was the top of the village, we started seeing numerous signs for Loukas' Taverna. Admiring Loukas' persistence, we went ahead and followed his signs a little ways out of town, until we found ourselves at the very top of Greece.

The taverna was open and our companion for the morning - a fellow guest at the hotel - treated us to a mid-morning snack.

We did our usual thing of ordering an assortment of things and sharing them. I'm pretty sure the cake and baklava were good, but to be honest I can barely remember them. What I will never forget was the yogurt.

We had heard good things about Greek yogurt, but all we had had up to that point were little store-bought tubs of fruit-flavored yogurt that wasn't really all that different from what we get in Costa Rica or the States. Our friend ordered yogurt with honey and made sure we did too.

We were halfway through it before we remembered about photographing the food.

When Julia was a baby, I remember I bought special full-fat yogurt for her because children aren't supposed to be on a low-fat diet before a certain age. The first time I bought it, I didn't realize that the full-fat part tended to rise to the top and needed to be stirred back in. Boy, that was a good first bite.

But it tasted like skim next to the Yogurt at the Top of the World. Loukas' yogurt was so thick and creamy it was like...what was it like? I can't even tell you. It was like nothing I've ever tasted. And the big, big spoonful of honey on top. Well. All I can say is, if you go to Samos, rent a car, drive up through the Valley of the Nightingales, park at the edge of town and hike through Manolates and out the other side to reach Loukas' Taverna in order to try this yogurt, you will not be disappointed.

And that's without even considering the panoramic view of coastline, with the ferries coming and going. Remember the photo of the flower poking out between some whitewashed boards? That was at Loukas' too - on the way down some steps to the ladies' room in fact.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures of the actual view, but here's a little more Quaint to make up for it.

On the way back down, we did find several shops open, including the pottery place we saw first. Remember the big gray cat by the whitewashed stone wall? That was the potter's cat.

I picked just the right little pot (the one on the top left) and the artist graciously agreed to pose with it. I think he was amused, although I doubt we were the first tourists to ask him for that particular favor.

When he saw that we were going to buy something, he walked outside the little studio and picked four roses and a little sprig of mint. He wrapped the pot in bubble wrap and then in colored paper, and put it in a yellow gift bag. Then he took a little folded business card, tucked one rose and the mint into the fold, stapled it to the bag, and presented the other three roses to the three of us.

* * *

And that is the Manolates story.

I told that story today for Sandy, who wrote and asked if everything was okay since I haven't been posting. Everything is fine, just alternately bored and busy. Mostly busy. Thanks for asking!

I chose that particular story because the little pot from the town at the top of the world is for you, and I know you'll be seeing Mom tomorrow so she can give it to you. I just wish I could have brought back some of the yogurt too!


Anonymous July 23, 2007 8:06 AM  

Oh, Jennifer, I couldn't be more surprised. You made me cry. Thank you for making me feel so special. As I was reading the story I asked your mom if the pottery traveled well and she said "We don't know yet". Then I finished the story and realized it was for me! It traveled well and I love it. It will cherish it as long as I live. I feel like I have met the artist. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is soooo amazing!
Love you

deedee July 23, 2007 8:23 AM  

Nice potter! Ooops I mean pottery ;)

You made me drool all over my keyboard, my next snack is going to be yogurt and honey, although since the yogurt is Danone, it won't be as good as the yogurt from on top of Greece.

Jennifer July 23, 2007 10:03 AM  

You're welcome, Sandy. I'm so glad it worked out the way it did, being able to post the story right when I knew you would be getting the gift!

(Also, I should probably mention that I was sorely tempted to use the phrase "shirtless potter" in this post, just to see if it netted me any special-interest Harry Potter Googlers!)

Anonymous July 23, 2007 1:28 PM  

Or Hairy Potter, for those enthusiasts that can't spell.

Love Bears All Things July 23, 2007 4:43 PM  

Well, it looks just lovely. I see the Baklava. I love it. Also, I collect local pottery on trips, also. Another thing we have in common.
Mama Bear

Anonymous July 24, 2007 4:52 AM  

I've been enjoying your pictures of Greece!

I've tried the yogurt in Greece and it is truly fantastic. Ours was served with fresh fruit in it too. HEAVEN!!

juliloquy July 30, 2007 10:46 AM  

I love those days in travel when the stars seem to align to make for perfect conditions. The Greeks in that town are living large, and I think they know it.

Sheryl (papernapkin) July 31, 2007 4:28 AM  

Man those pots are breathtaking. And that yogurt looks amazing too.

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