Greece

Fix - Back from the brink!

38 Gold Medals and Prizes' I read to myself, tilting the can to see the rim. Fix - the premium lager of Greece, back from the brink of obscurity just in time for the current beer revolution. Being familiar with Greece, my dad used to tell me of a time when Mythos, Heineken and Amstel were not the only beers to be found in certain Greek Islands. There was a time when there was a beer named Fix that disappeared some time during the eighties. Never having been old enough to drink at the time, Fix was just a story to me: a beer with a long history and a sad ending. So in 2016, on returning after multiple years away it is a highlight to see Fix available alongside the other major brands in Greece.

Fix returned back on the scene sometime during 2009 with the help of three Greek businessmen who could be described as jumping on an opportunity when they saw one. Previous attempts in the nineties to resurrect the historic beer proved fruitless but that was in the age of primitive Internet when it was much more difficult to get word around. Therefore, an investment into an already cherished and well-known beverage was always going to be a winner under the right leadership.

Windsurf for €50? Nah, grab a Fix for €1

Windsurf for €50? Nah, grab a Fix for €1

To give a brief history of Fix, it is named after Ioannis Fix who is said to have moved to Greece for personal reasons from Germany. Depending on the sources you read he either decided to start making beer to please the German influence in Greece at the time or he simply found himself working in a brewery by chance, only to have the foresight to think 'with a plan and some intelligence, I can compete here.' Whatever the correct story is, one thing is for sure - Ioannis Fix was a man ahead of his time. After a modest start he took off in the 1850's beer scene (whatever that looked like!) By the 1860's, he had moved to new premises to deal with the demand. By the 1890's he had moved again. The beverage named after the man who started it continued to win awards and be a celebrated lager across Greece until well into the 1970's. Unfortunately, a mixture of poor management and the introduction of new beers on the market ended the production of a Greek classic during the 1980's. Just when the lager looked destined for the great beer cemetery in the sky, along came three men with a plan.

Since the Fix revival in 2009, this malty beverage, under the guidance of Olympic Brewery has been exported nationally on a huge scale and in some cases internationally as it had before it's sudden demise. On the islands, away from the craft brewers of the mainland, at least there is an option available to rival Mythos and Alfa (made by Heineken!). At least now it is possible to get a lager that doesn't totally fizz your face off at the first sip. Specifications say that it should taste of apples and bananas, I definitely get fruitiness from the bevvy although there is a definite taste of cloves in there. Whatever, I hope Fix continues to be productive, long live Fix, Yamas!

Kefalonia, Kefallonia, Cephalonia, Kefallinia

Kefalonia is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea which is part of the Mediterranean. There are about a gazillion ways to spell Kefalonia (Kefallonia, Cephalonia, Cephallonia, Kefallinia just to mention a few) and depending on the sources you read, all of them are right/wrong. With that in mind, Kefalonia is a wonderfully aesthetic island that towers from the water with a certain dominance that immediately commands your attention. Approaching from the east it's huge, wild, undeveloped cliffs plunge into the sea like a scene from Jurassic Park. From the air the vast, vibrant greenery hardly seems to reflect the island's intense dry season due to a dense canopy of trees layering the ground as far as the eye can see. To say that it is pretty would be a huge understatement. Being the largest island in the vicinity, Kefalonia holds prime position in an Ionian chain straddled by Lefkas to the north, Zakynthos to the south and tiny Ithaka alongside it, which from above looks like a baby whale swimming alongside it's mother.

  • On approaching
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Landing at any airport is always a bit scary. Even with clear skies and no turbulence I'm always left wagering with the forces that be and saying to them 'if you get this plane down safely I'll be a good boy forever and ever' whilst gripping onto the arm rest so tightly that I'm in danger of cutting off my circulation. Suffice to say, I'm not keen on flying. However, this flight was different. Not only was the weather perfect for flying but the view of Kefalonia appearing out of the haze surrounded by the reflective, bright blue color of the Mediterranean Sea was enough to distract even the most nervous of flyers from hoping the pilot knows where the runway is.

  • On airports

Despite the size and ever increasing popularity of the island, Kefalonia's airport is the size of a small box with 'airport' written on it. If you have ever seen the Guinness world record of 'most people in a Mini Cooper' attempt then you can easily conjure up an image of the baggage return room at Kefalonia airport. Being English in a room full of English people only makes matters worse. Normal, well rounded people turn into luggage monsters desperately close to seeking the sun yet held at the final hurdle by a hot, crowded room whose staff work on Greek time (which is approximately 15 times slower than British time). If nothing else, it's entertaining to watch.

  • On driving

Hiring a car is easy on Kefalonia and you can expect to pay around €50 a day for a car that is just about big enough to swing around a cat. Deals are offered if you require one for multiple days. As opposed to England but much in line with the rest of the world, Greeks drive on the right, although based on experience you could say they drive in the middle. Taxis overtake on blind corners and scooters carrying anywhere between 1-4 people pretty much just have their own set of rules! Hairpin bends (usually on the side of mountain cliffs with sheer drops) are commonplace and you can guarantee you'll meet a large bus in the most awkward of spots whose driver doesn't slow down but simply speeds up, forcing you to squeeze as close as you can to the edge in the hope of staying alive. As with most of the islands, don't expect clear signage and be prepared to get lost in the backstreets of small towns. With all that in mind it's well worth hiring a car! The views are incredible.

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  • On food and drink

Authentic cuisine, home cooking and family run restaurants are standard in lots of Mediterranean countries and it's no different on Kefalonia. You'll find no McDonald's here. No Burger King, no Subway, no KFC, no other huge chain that has managed to take over most of the world. Here you can sit at a modest restaurant by the water, order a full meal and still pay less than the average visit to a greasy counter. As a rule of thumb, main courses cost around €8, starters around €4, beer around €3 and a glass of wine for €1! All in all, you can get a comfortably fat belly for no more than €25. Should you go to the supermarket to buy food, it's even cheaper.

  • On history

Kefalonia has a rich and tumultuous history of being invaded and ruled by different countries over the last 2000 years and it only became part of Greece in 1864. Locals argue that the island was the home of Odysseus which makes it famous for anyone who is a fan of Homer (although not Homer Simpson) and it was the setting for the book/film named Captain Corelli's Mandolin which is based on the Italian/German rule during the Second World War.

  • On everything else

Whether you want to lie on the beach all day, visit a coastal fishing village or take a hike to an ancient Acropolis, Kefalonia has a lot to offer. The island has an array of beaches with Myrtos beach being one of the most stunning. Aqua blue water that rushes waves onto bright, white pebbles backed by huge cliffs is the stuff of film sets. Lots of the island's building were destroyed in a severe 1953 earthquake with only the most northern town of Fiskado surviving. Today it is one of the most traditional, natural harbors on Kefalonia and a great place to visit for a bit of food next to the sea. Unlike so many of the other larger Greek islands, Kefalonia caters for tourists and yet doesn't lose it's character which is one reason why people keep going back again and again.

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