by Alexia Amvrazi
The endless shades of blue of the sky and the sea, changing throughout the day. How the sky melts into the sea at sunset, infused with pink, blue, purple and gold, before turning neon orange and then deepening, darkening shades of blue, making everything around you glow. At this magical hour on an island the whitewashed buildings gleam, suntanned skin becomes seductively luminous and characteristic flowers like white gardenias, fuchsia bougainvilleas and lavender hortensias have a visible aura.
The famously expansive clarity and brightness of Greek light that has inspired so many artists and visionaries throughout time - Henry Miller wrote: "The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, expanded my whole being." How this light uniquely makes ancient marble gleam with shards of glitter, the sea twinkle like it is studded with priceless diamonds, the leaves of olive trees, standing like ancient elders with twisted trunks, pop with a silver sheen. That blazing, bright light makes everything evident, present and romantically dreamy at once.
The jewel-like pebbles sparkling between your toes on a beach, a mixture of sea-smoothed colored glass, stones with natural patterns reminiscent of mystical drawings from mythological times, hot powdery sand that shimmers, tiny fish shooting like mirrored arrows around you as you slowly submerge yourself in the water.
The tang of salt on your lips and skin after swimming in the sea, or when kissing your lover.
Being on a hot beach and biting into the cooling crunch of summer fruits and vegetables like watermelon, grapes, peaches, cucumber and tomatoes, so fresh and ripe that their juice pours down your chin as you eat.
The deepest, boldest flavor of the sea in the bright orange flesh of sea urchins, minuscule mollusks scraped straight from coastal rocks, and in milder forms in fresh, grilled fish or creamy kakavia seafood soup. Sushi-like, salt-baked sardines, wild greens like sea samphire drenched in lemon and smoked or marinated anchovies accompanied by iced aniseed-rich ouzo, or a chilled glass of tongue-tinglingly crisp white wine.
Cool creamy yogurt drizzled with honey and eaten with juicy fruits and crunchy nuts and seeds in the morning.
The come il faut ritual of dipping a hunk of bread into the perfectly fused remnants of a Greek salad - rich olive oil, salt, tomato ‘caviar’, onion, creamy crumbs of goat’s feta cheese, oregano and tart capers, savoring the indulgent sauce until it’s gone.
Whether you’re on a boat, an island or even the coastal mainland, the pleasure breathing in the ozonic sea breeze is deeply soothing, cleansing and invigorating at once.
Pungent bursts of fragrance rise from the scorched earth like mystical vapors from the underworld as you hike in open landscapes, crushing wild herbs underfoot. Throubi, a spicy thyme with tiny purple flowers, the velvety, circular leaves of peppery oregano, the white and yellow flowers of warm and sweet chamomile, the chest-opening coolness of mint or the skunky zest of sage. In most households, especially those with gardens, take in luscious wafts of basil, jasmine, gardenia, honeysuckle and night-flower (which as its name suggests releases its heady perfume after sunset).
And as you traipse in nature, breathe in the odours of its ceaseless regeneration - the mulchy leaves, dank grasses and cloying moss in shaded forests, soaked by crystalline mountain waterfalls and streams; the sun-rotted, sticky figs, prickly pears, berries, carob pods and olives that have fallen and burst open from overloaded trees along paths and stained the ground with their bold colours.
On the beach, the scent of coconut and Monoi sun oils that make chocolate skin glimmer with flashes of gold. The inviting whiff of grilled seafood or club sandwiches coming from a seaside cafe, the deep, bittersweet aroma of espresso from iced coffee, or candy-like sweetness with a dash of nostril-tickling fizzy freshness from a sunset-hour icy cocktail like a mojito, Aperol spritz or G&T.
The baking heat of the sand under your feet, that sends you running for the surf. The goose-bump-inducing cool of icy underwater sea-currents on a dizzyingly hot day.
The firm and delightfully tender hug of your child as you float together, splashing and laughing from your heart.
The deep heat of sunned skin even after a cool shower, like a fever that only starts to subside towards the end of the day, making you feel revived and ready to dance all night.
The sudden caress of an exhilarating breeze or a lover’s exploratory hand on your bare skin, as you lie half-sunken in a deep, restful slumber under the sun.
The sound of footsteps along a pebble beach, blended with children’s laughter, splashing and spraying along the surf, games of ping pong, seagulls, the distant beat of a beach bar and the hypnotic lull of lapping waves.
The wind rustling through the trees, howling through beach houses, whistling in your ears as you sail, raising the sea into hissing waves like a snake charmer on a tempestuous day.
The near-deafening, bewitching chorus of the cicadas as you relax away from the sun in the coolness of pine trees lining a beach, or while you sit out in a garden under the stars at night.
The faraway sound of goat bells as you trek through the hills.
The buzzy din of lively conversation at cafes, restaurants and bars at night or the serene quiet of seaside tavernas at lunch, where semi-hypnotized from the curative effects of the sun and sea, people contentedly eat without needing to say much.
The heartening tinkle of a bouzouki in a little taverna or the uproarious get-up-and-dance songs of a traditional band at a local festival.
The absolute silence as you sit watching the sun diving slowly into the horizon, meditating on the heart-opening breadth of the water, the magnitude of the mountains, the eternal height of the sky, the enchanting liberty and gratitude of being able to live through your senses.