Good fish without the EU

Trikiri, The Pillion, Greece – June 15, 2008: Kiriaki is a small cove three hundred meters below the village of new Trikiri at the far tip of the Pillion.  It is a small fishing village with a working harbor and busy little shipyard. The village will be ruined soon by the new road just built to it with tourist bus parking at the edge of town and all thanks to EU money.  But for the moment only adventurous foreigners make it here.  The village is still fairly isolated.  I am told electricity arrived here in the 1970s and a small winding road from Trikiri opened the town up in the early 80s.


The bus ride from Volos was straight out of a tourist guide: sharp mountains with their feet in a turquoise sea and stone houses climbing straight up the flanks to challenge the setting sun. (It cost six euros for the 80 kilometer three-and-a-half hour voyage.  If you pay the driver without a ticket vendor present, be sure you get your change.)


Once in Kiriaki, we surreptitiously stumbled upon the one restaurant the guides recommend above the others; TO MOURAGIO.  Of course, as this was a three-day Greek national holiday week end, there were no rooms free when we arrived on Sunday.


It was after dark when Sonja led me up a steep hill to an abandoned house beyond the first ridge on the North side of the cove where she slept flat amid the ants and I decided to sleep on the hill sliding South all night in briars and other stickers but without the critters.  The view was splendid over the sea, to the islands and the straights and the mountains everywhere in between.  But that is not what this story is about.


Nor is the story about how, after being sick with Salmonella and still under medication, I climbed the hill carrying one small pack on the front and a large one on the back with a total of 34 kilos (Sonja needs to read a lot).


Available men and good food


One of the three men whom Sonja decided to marry here is the owner of To Mouragio.  He cleans his fish next to the dining tables on the water’s edge, watching the sunset, the guests and the quality of his son’s service and all while sucking the cigarette stuck to his lips, the ashes tumbling on the cleaned fish.   The movements of the knife are precise.  This is love.  So much so, he can no longer button his shirt and rather than buy bigger ones, he just lets his belly hang out.  But when the food is so good?


Everything comes from the sea and goes to the sea.  The waste from the fish is thrown in the water while the clean fish is cleaned with the water scooped up in a bucket from where the fish scrap is thrown.  Then a bucket of sea water is pulled up to pour over the cutting board so it is clean for the next fish. 


There is a short pier off of which some fishermen will literally catch the fish for you to order.  So, if you are waiting for your meal a bit longer than you would like to and ask “What did they do?  Go out and catch it?” the answer is “Yes”!  There is a cooler full of fresh catch packed in ice and from which you can choose your meal.


I don’t know what else is thrown into the litter cluttered water but nobody gets sick.  Sonja tells me the food is among the best she has ever eaten.  I am still on white rice and water because of the Salmonella.


But this is where the new road will kill the village.  People like the owner of To Mouragio think it will bring in lots of tourists and money.  The road will bring in the Tourist Police first and they will impose EU sanitation rules which means the restaurants will be shut down and the good food become a distant memory as wealthy tour operators move in, buy out and change Kiriaki into a Disney theme village.


Today 12 Octopi hang drying on the line above the banister at the edge of the porch.  I know what Sonja is eating tonight and there will be less of a wait.