A land train trip into the mountains on the Greek island of Zakynthos, tasting wine, eating meze and discovering local history.
It was a warm Greek evening on the island of Zakynthos. In the small town of Alykes the pools and beaches were emptying as holidaymakers showered and changed.
I was getting ready for the wine tour that I’d booked with some friends, some old and some new, we had decided to spend an evening together and the winery is where we decided to go.
We were to be taken by land train, having previously lived in a tourist resort with land trains that were frequently referred to as wally wagons, I wasn’t sure how I felt about riding in one myself. However, the previous wine tourers had assured us we would not regret it.
We had been down to book our places earlier in the day, now it was time to go and try some local ‘krasi’, wine to you and me.
As we boarded the small train everyone remained politely quiet, whispering in their couples or small groups. Taking in the green, lush island views and a few historical settings the sun was yet to set, only a small breeze from the sea was to keep us cool.
Winding round and up the small island roads we left our resort far behind, the train was easier for travelling on these roads than the local buses, on which a sense of nausea can often set in and on more than one occasion I have witnessed travellers jumping off the bus and making a head lunge into the bushes.
The driver spoke, of our destination. A small wine museum, offering their own wine and local speciality tasting delights, my mouth was watering.
As we saw the building from the outside it looked old and rundown in a traditional way. Was this really a tourist attraction or someone’s garden shed? Stepping inside it was difficult to believe it was the same building. Laid out were the wine making and agricultural tools, the barrels and cooper’s instruments, at the back, a section of homely displays with Greek cloths and curtains hanging on the wall, traditional rugs on the floor.
Everything was very old, as one may expect in a museum, they had made no attempt to preserve these items in a visually pleasing state of repair and it only added to the charm.
In the grounds sat the old olive press, out buildings homing carriages and other equipment, a barbecue area and their dog. Was this really, only a museum or did they still actually live here? Each evening welcoming the island’s tourists to have a nosey around their home and offer them wine on their terrace.
We settled at a large table on the said terrace. Laid with warm traditional pies, fresh salad, soft bread, juicy raisins and homemade wine it was a tantalising treat for the taste buds.
Since tasting Greek wine for the very first time, I’ve often said it tastes more as though it is made with the leaves and the vine than the actual grape, but given time, may it be a glass, a bottle or a full holiday it becomes a taste to appreciate. I am yet to taste any other wine that has the same character as that of Greece.
This white wine was chilled, sharp, leafy, grassy and olive like. It hit the spot straight away.
The red was full bodied yet light, an earthy taste mixed with mellow fruits and a hint of liquorice.
The air was still warm as the sun set, the early evening became night. The sound of Greek guitar music and laughter filled the air. The table was replenished with food and the carafes with wine. The Greek hospitality did not end there, as we rose to leave at the end of the night and return to the land train which was to be our carriage home we were each given a small plastic bottle of wine to take with us.
The journey back to Alykes was not so quiet, chatter and laughter could be heard from each carriage as bottles of wine were passed around until we alighted at our destination.
Now, every time I see a wally wagon, it makes me smile at the memories.