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C - 23 : A Fabulous Greek Legacy

Sailing from Montenegro to Croatia will get us close to a Greek legacy which is most enjoyable - Wine - provided you do not consume too much!

When Greek settlers started colonising the Mediterranean in the 7th and 6th century BC, they also sailed into the Adriatic. However, the rocky limestone of the Dalmatian coast does not support much growth. The soil can not retain water which makes the hills arid and of low value. There are only crippled bushes for miles and miles. The coasts of Puglia, Calabria and Sicily were so much more fertile and so much more attractive. The Greek thus set up only a few colonies here and when they did they picked spots with small alluvial plains.

Greek settlements in the Adriatic

When looking at the limestone hills of Dalmatia, you actually look at the sea floor of the old Tethys Sea which existed for almost 100 million years between the European and African plate. When Africa started moving north and collided with Europe 20 million years ago, it lifted the Tethys Sea floor and folded it into the Dalmatian mountain chains and plateaus (it is a bit more complicated but not important for this story).

The once mighty Tethys Sea about 50 million years ago - the contours of the Mediterranean start to take shape but the Middle East is still below water

There are two plants however who love limestone soils - and the Greek brought them along: Olives and Grapes! The colonists from Knidos - the important trading hub near Rhodes we visited in 2017 (A + 15) recognised the potential when they discovered the island of Korcula and called it Black Kerkyra. Their expertise in growing wine on the limestone hills of Knidos would immediately the transferred to this newly discovered island.

The old town of Korcula - also allegedly Marco Polo's birth place

Large numbers of tourists now flock to Korcula every day walking through the narrow alleys of the old town in search of Marco Polo's house. The real jewels of the island however are the vineyards which start just outside town.

On these vineyards, the same grapes cultivated 2'500 years ago in Knidos are still cultivated. Fascinating. This indigenous grape variety can not be found anywhere else anymore. Not surprisingly the locals wine makers are very proud of being the keepers of a thousand year old tradition. A little bit of luck helped. Korcula never fell into the hands of the Ottomans who - for religious reasons - often uprooted vineyards and eradicated all wine making - as they did in Albania. The good grace of being Venetian!

There is one wine which we definitely will have to try when passing through Korcula: Grk! It is a rich, well-rounded dry white with a slightly tarnish finish. It is the perfect compliment to a sea food platter. Am sure we will find to try the combination.

Thinking back to our visit in Knidos in 2017, I find it amazing in what mysterious ways history plays out. The once powerful sea port of Knidos is now a dusty hill full of ruins whilst it far away colony produces the wine the Greeks once enjoyed so much.

Knidos in 2017 with the commercial harbour to the left and the war harbour to the right

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