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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 35.2711, 25.1231
Something terrible happened today as we took an evening stroll through Herkalion, the capital of Greece's largest island, Crete. It's not known as being the best that Crete has to offer tourists as it's considered by many to simply be a dirty, overcrowded transport hub, but after arriving by ferry from Santorini in the early evening, there was a familiar feeling in the air as we strolled along the waterfront, past some beautiful old Venetian buildings.
It wasn't until we found a place for dinner and sat down to our appetizers that we realized why this place felt familiar - it's the Greek Sicily! So why would this be something terrible, when we had such an amazing time last year in Sicily? Because it appears that Crete offers the best cuisine and the biggest portions in Greece, and since we've already been stuffing ourselves like pigs before arriving here, we've started to feel the bloated effects of this country's fine cuisine. What will happen now that we've found the Greek Sicily - if it's truly the Greek equivalent, will we gain a pound for every two days we spend here, like we did in Sicily? Terrible!
If our first meal
Sigalas Winery ...
... a little wine tasting before leaving Santorini - an improvement over the Greek wines we've had so far, with some drinkable reds, made with grape varieties such as agiorgitiko, mandilaria, and mavrotragano. The experience at Greek wineries is definitely different than what you'd find in North America - it's not about getting you in and getting you out as quickly as possible; they are quite generous with their pours and are happy to have you sit and enjoy your wine for as long as you wish.
in Crete is any indication of what is to come, we are in a lot of trouble, as for the most part, dinner was fabulous and on par with any excellent meal we had in Sicily. Surprisingly, the pasta dish tonight was as good as anything we've had anywhere in Italy, even though pasta isn't known as being a Greek specialty. An American couple dining close to us was also impressed with the food, and also aghast at the portion sizes - as an appetizer, they had ordered an Arabic bread stuffed with chicken and vegetables, and were shocked to find that they were nearly full after splitting the dish.
When a delicious-looking platter of swordfish next arrived at their table (a Cretan specialty, as well as a Sicilian one), they half-jokingly asked if we wanted some, since they were ready to pack it up and head back to their hotel. The Italian couple sitting next to us didn't fare any better, completely confused when they had told the waiter they did not have any room to order dessert, yet the waiter showed up with a complimentary dessert, as is customary in Greece.
However, on the mainland, the complimentary dessert is
typically something small, not much bigger than a bite-sized sweet or shot of liqueur. Not here in Crete! They were given a slab of cake to share, which they somehow polished off, though they couldn't finish off their main courses or appetizers. These folks were obviously from Northern Italy, because if they hailed from Southern Italy or Sicily, they would have an anaconda-like ability to contort their bodies and stretch their stomachs enough to swallow an adult goat whole, an X-Men like ability developed over centuries of overeating in the Sicilian way.
After our meal we were completely stuffed to the point of our pants bursting, yet the taste for masochism we had developed last summer in Sicily returned, with us craving a piece of that scrumptious looking cake the Italian couple had devoured. However, our waiter had overheard us state how full we were, and instead of bringing us cake, he told us he would bring something lighter - a champagne flute each full of limoncello, probably four ounces worth. Ugh .., this is supposed to be a light finish to the meal?
Limoncello is strong stuff and those four shots hit us hard, so we cut short our plans for
the evening, skipping a stroll through Heraklion's pedestrian zone, instead heading straight back to the hotel. We had only been here a few hours, but Crete had already thoroughly kicked our asses - torture by overfeeding! Even worse, Crete rubbed it in our faces just steps away from our hotel, as people dined on massive portions of pasta - served in bowls the size of which Vietnamese restaurants use for pho, and they were completely full of pasta! Terrible!
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