"Yasass, efcharisto!" I blurted out two of my very few Greek words.
We stayed in Methoni which is on the mainland, a far cry from the resorts and island life. It was empty of people as I had predicted but full of glorious wild spring flowers, full of bright blue skies and a sea the most vivid turquoise, it had castles on every corner, crumbling and free to the visitor. The villages were sleepy, thinking about waking up for the tourist season, skinny cats crouched behind the bins hoping for some tit-bits, any food at all. They snoozed in the spring sunshine. Older women screamed in their language, all high pitched and shouty, like little boxes dressed all in black with a hair-do, fluffy and large. The men rested their stomachs between their legs on wicker based chairs, leaning into their walking sticks, smoking cigarettes and talking over coffee, after coffee. Their moustaches and flat caps gave their nationality away.
We wandered through the olive groves marvelling at the colours, wild orchids, bright pinks and delicate mauves, we picked up stray dogs along our way and passed fields of pastel beehives. We found churches so tiny and perfectly kept, with no more than six chairs for the congregation. And passed farms of sheep and goats, protected by fierce and hungry looking dogs on chains.
The beaches were deserted of people, the temperature too cold to swim but just perfect in a sheltered spot on the dunes. Bamboo had been washed up in piles along the shore line, a natural Lego, so that shelters and rafts could be made.
The food is the best in Europe. The pinkest and saltiest of tarama's to start, wiped clean with crusty, soft bread. Shiny olives hand picked from the groves, all purple and plump, the salad with its crumbly feta, against the green-yellow of the oil - drizzled liberally adding years to our life. Fresh fish simply grilled, sprinkled with oregano from the hills and garnished with tomatoes as big as your fist. It was difficult to find a restaurant open but when we did we felt we need not eat for a week.
Greece in spring is a delight, a well-kept secret before the searing heat and sun-worshippers. I will be back, to explore another corner of its land, perhaps just a week or two later in the year when the fireflies begin to dance and the tortoises wake up from their long winter sleep.