We live in Korinthia, a prefecture that includes half of the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth — about 40 miles of coastline. The strip along the shore is what most visitors see — Korinthos itself is a port city, and just to the east is the spa town of Loutraki. The highways to the west run right along the coast. The villages that string along the highway, including ours, are a procession of summer resorts. But south of this thin strip — the entire interior of the prefecture — is agricultural. Grapes are the primary product here. Not only the awesome red wine grapes (agiorgitiko) for which this region is (nationally, soon-to-be internationally) famous but also table grapes and, wonderfully, raisins. Driving the mountain villages in the fall, one sees raisins drying outside under sunscreens. Fresh raisins are sensational; the leathery version we get in the Dole boxes give just a hint. Citrus is also a major crop, oranges and lemons. Fresh squeezed OJ is simply expected here but, oddly, I’ve never seen a lime in this country, which puts a real crimp on my gin-and-tonics. Olives, of course, are ubiquitous. And there are vegetables. The area is mostly mountainous but the limited flatlands produce tomatoes, cukes, melons, zucchini, string beans, and all of the other stuff we grow in our home gardens in the mid-Atlantic. What seems strange to me, with my own definitions of agriculture, is that there are no field crops in Korinthia. No corn, no wheat, no soybeans, no hay. Seems strange that there is an entire agricultural region without any of that stuff. Those crops are grown in the flat heartlands to the north of us but here it’s mostly crops that can be grown on hillsides.
Susan shot this photo through the windshield as we were winding our way (very slowly) to the butcher shop in Melissi. It is a walk-behind tractor pulling a cart. Ma and Pa are sitting in the cart, steering and operating the hand controls to prevent mayhem. These rigs drive the Old National Road (Greece’s Route 1) past our apartment occasionally and I love seeing them. It’s a refreshing change from the Athenians crushing all in the the paths of their Mercedes’ on the way to their beach houses. We see more of the farm trucks, usually small Japanese pickups with “Agrotiko” painted on the sides — the equivalent of our “farm use only” — than these tractor-and-cart rigs. But they all have in common some of the sweetest, most modest, hardest working, unpretentious, most comfortable-in-their-own-skin folks you would ever want to meet. And they’re always ancient. I guess it takes the self-confidence that comes with age to pilot one of these along roads terrorized by Ducatis and wonder-wagons.