In 1988, Ammoudia, in Epirus Greece, had only a few riverside cafes along the mouth of the Acheron River. The surrounding delta where fresh water meets the salty sea was mostly marshland. There were no hotels, houses or cafes along the fanned-out sand.
To the older generation, most of them gone now, Ammoudia is known as Splanza, named after an Italian general who inhabited the area during one of the wars. So, until the area was opened up by the 1990's infrastructure improvements and the influx of tourists, I only knew the place as Splanza.
At that time, the tables were arranged beside the river and we could sit with our feet in its soft sandy dirt. The branches of the river trees sheltered us from the sun as we enjoyed the quiet splash of the water that drifted by. After we had eaten, we would wade into the river and wash our hands.
That was the year my parents came to Greece to see who it was that I had married and to meet his extended family. My father always had an appreciation for good food and the fresh fish of Ammoudia helped to soften the blow of my elopement to the young Greek immigrant I'd met back in New York.
Fish in Greece is usually served whole, bones and all, but that is not something that we non-Greeks had been accustomed to, especially back then. So, at first it took some adjustment in attitude, but eventually we figured it out. We were always sure of its freshness when we saw it pulled from the river and brought to the frying pan. I haven’t yet found fish quite as tasty. And to that list of tasty food, you can add the fresh fruit and vegetables that reached our plates hours (sometimes minutes) after they’d been picked.
Nowadays in that same space, you will find rows of cafes with cement walkways that go right up to the water's edge and drop off into the river, creating docks for the small boats that will take you for a tour of the river or of the surrounding coastline. Or if you prefer, a day trip to one of the nearby islands. There is also the opportunity to walk to the end of the man-made jetty to fish or pick fresh capers. Or stand atop the boulders and experience the incredible view of the mountains, the Ionian Sea and the Acheron River, all in one glance.