Pyrgaki is the name of my father’s village in Peloponesseus, Greece (the peninsula). A village, called a “horio“, is always the most magical of memories for any child visiting Greece….especially when it’s one’s ancestral homeland like it is for us. My earliest memory of the village was being lost with my brother on a donkey. That memory made such an impact on me and on my next trip, I looked for Dori, the donkey, hoping to recreate that ride through the village. After many trips to Pyrgaki as a child and a teen, the most meaningful trip was when I returned there decades later to take my three sons for their first time. The family olive grove is the centerpiece of this village experience. The hundreds of olive trees with their wavering silver tipped leaves are a source of great pride for me as they yield the extra-virgin olive oil our family gets shipped to us back home, in America.
When the olive oil arrives, it is so darkly hunter green before it is filtered into the olive colored oil. It’s not the pale yellow oil you get in the grocery stores–it is FIRST PRESS and peppery good! The grapes must be harvested, too, every August (I think.) I was there in August of 1985 participating in this grape harvest (which migrant farmers do now, I believe) and it was hard work! I was bitten by so many mosquitoes and suffering quite a bit! But I knew then what a valuable experience this was. In fact, as a young girl, my father and I made homemade wine by smashing grapes (with our feet) off of our own grapevine and fermenting it ! Birthday parties were held under the grapevine pergola and now I have my own homegrown grapevine pergola.
Our bee hives were another agricultural wonder in our backyard, growing up. When Daddy was the beekeeper in his official beekeeper outfit with snuffer and mask, etc….it was excitement all over the house. Sucking the honey straight out of the beeswax was the most intensely sweet (again, peppery!) taste, that I felt like I was in a sugar coma. Nothing will ever taste like homegrown honey from our backyard.
“The Two of Them” by Aliki (childrens book) but I doubt any adult can read this without weeping.
“North of Itaka” by Eleni Gage (adult). Eleni is the daughter of Nicholas Gage who wrote the novel ELENI which became a movie.
“ELENI” by Nicholas Gage (This book is so moving and powerful. You won’t be able to put it down.)
Follow this lesson plan to build trip itineraries with your family: