…Or so it seemed as I anticipated our arrival at Santorini, Greece. When a place is so iconic, it’s hard to have a fresh viewpoint. I imagined donkeys and white-washed trails, a sparkling see-through blue ocean, white-washed stucco houses. Townspeople might wear red kerchief scarves standing next to clean white walls. I had my sunglasses ready, because, with all the blinding white-wash, I would need them.
As our smallish ship made its way into the crater-formed harbour, we passed a tiny hillside village. From the distance, it looked like a snow storm had landed atop a parched cliff above a warm sea. On this mini island, residents can walk from one village to another. That simple fact, that you did not need a car, a bus, nor even a donkey, to visit a neighboring town made me respect the differences between where I live, and where I was visiting. An island of walkers. Maybe movies have to focus on fictional romance or adventure to keep the viewing public interested. For me, though, in real life, walking, simple walking, is all Santorini needed to offer.
And so, once we got onshore, we took a stroll: up the cliff side with the donkeys, down the narrow tourist streets, around the nearly discarded post office. A few simple blocks toward the center of the island, we found a view to the opposite shore. Small streets (because, even though there were cars, who really needed them?) and bright houses, brilliant flowers against white walls, stonework, stucco and pathways. We got away from the crowds and walked more.
Then we went shopping for ouzo. Back home, I have a Greek friend who once, for ten minutes, tried to teach me to drink alcohol. Atop her dining room cabinet, she had an array of bottles that told me how little I knew about the variety in drink choices. I begged her not to pour me ouzo. I swore to her that it would never get past my nose. She chose porto for me, so I could sip and be as responsible as she is while drinking. But I was in Greece now, not just with a Greek friend. It seemed a ritual that I should do – buy ouzo, perhaps even drink some.
Stanley was surprisingly motivated. It’s funny how vacations change you. We bellied-up to a fancy Spirits store like it wasn’t the first time in our lives we had done such a thing. The store clerk offered us tastes of several Santorini wines. How gracious she was, and what delicious wines she selected. Then she brought out the ouzo. It was what I had come for, so it shouldn’t have terrified me. But there is something about ouzo that makes me call for retreat. Its smell: that oily, too-sweet, will-clean-and-polish-your-oak-furniture aroma brings about an instinct for survival. Run away, and run fast, my instincts told me. But did I mention the clerk was also compassionate? Immediately, she switched the bottle with a coffee-and-ouzo mixture. Made only on Santorini, she said, pouring us samples. Best thing I’ve ever sipped in my life. Better even than porto. She assured us that we could order online from home, and we made plans for becoming habitual sippers. Happy with future fun, and tired from walking, we went back to the ship.
But since then, we have never been able to find to the store’s website, and never seen this elixir advertised anywhere else. I had to wonder if this coffee-ouzo was fictional like all the movies had been. We should have bought some there, and tried to smuggle it onboard our ship, hoping that it would surivive outside the island of its birth. I am very surprisingly good at smuggling things onboard, and I will prove it in Velos, Greece.
Next up: Velos, Marsha’s smuggling capital of the world