Next stop of this amazing journey on the MS Noordam through the Mediterranean was the beautiful town of Nafplion, Greece. A hidden gem of a a place, this town in the Eastern Peloponnese is close enough to Athens for locals to take long weekend breaks by the seaside and a romantic getaway that is not yet overtaken by tourists.
We were met by Ivy Liacopoulo who would be my guide and assistant for the day. Ivy is actually a native of Cyprus who found her way to Greece after meeting her husband to be, Demetris, who is a Native Greek. She brought her Cypriot cooking ways with her to Greece and followed her passion of cooking and eventually writing cookbooks and writing her blog, “Kopiaste.. to Greek Hospitality” www.kopiaste.org She is now about to start her own cooking classes.
Ivy arranged to cook one of her favorite and somewhat simpler dishes with me called Kagianis -a dish of poached eggs, feta cheese tomatoes, onions and peppers. She and her husband had set up a cooking area outside one of the town’s lovely seaside restaurants, Kipos, and although she said she was a bit nervous about being on camera, within a few minutes, she seemed to take it all in stride and was a real pro.
While sitting down to eat, Ivy explained that this dish of Kagianis was created by the peasants who would go out in the fields early in the morning and return to their farms needing something substantial to replenish. They used products that were on hand like eggs from their chickens, and vegetables from their gardens. This dish has many variations and Ivy always adds her own little touch to make it her own.
On the way to the local market where Ivy picks up most of her ingredients, we strolled through the pretty village passing the Old Turkish Mosque that had become the 1st Parliament building of Greece. (Nafplion had once been the capital of Greece,) Syntagma Square and the lovely Bougainvillia Alley.
We came to Nectar & Ambrosia, a family owned honey shop in existence for over 100 years producing the best honeys, nectars and jellies, and then the best Greek grocery shop where all the cheeses are still made by the owner’s father. I was given a nice chunk of a local cheese that was like gruyere, filled with black and red peppercorns. It was delicious.
After the market where Ivy bought her tomatoes and eggs, Demetris drove us to the nearby Karonis Ouzo factory for a tasting of this famous Greek drink. The family owned business has been in operation for the past 140 years and they have received many medals for their products. I tasted both their Karonis Sertiko Ouzo at 40% alcohol and their Karonis Special at 44%. Both were rich and smooth with the Special having stronger flavors of anise. There is a method of adding water to the ouzo to lessen its intensity. When this is done, the ouzo gets a cloudy white due to the way the anise reacts with it. I preferred the Select straight up. Ivy and the crew, joined in with a toast (“yammas”) and then it was, once again, time to head back to our ship after an extraordinary day.
Now, I have some new fabulous friends in a most beautiful place on Earth where I know I will be back to visit.
Efharisto Ivy and Demetris.