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EXPERIENCE CULTURE, GASTRONOMY & MORE

P H I LOX E N I A

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ISSN: 2529-041X

ISSUE #42 | 2019-2020

10 - 32

WE L C O ME

Greek hospitality, as integral to Greece’s appeal to visitors as its reputation for sun and sea, stems from the open-heartedness of its people and their gusto for life.

34 - 76

80 - 109

Explore the mythical and historical roots of hospitality and the charm of Greece as experienced by early travelers overwhelmed by local generosity.

Three very different destinations – cosmopolitan Mykonos, traditional Crete and spiritual Mt Athos – and the unique welcoming experiences they offer.

D ISC OVE R

FOCUS

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EX PERIENCE

Meet the people offering nature activities, visit family-run guesthouses, learn the role of food in the Greek experience and explore the world of Greek luxury.


© PERIKLES MERAKOS

WELCOME

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

For Greeks, philoxenia means so much more than hospitality B Y G I O R G O S T S I R O S / E D I T O R - I N - C H I E F, G R E E C E I S

The main idea behind this issue, is that the Greek word philoxenia has additional layers of meaning not captured by its English equivalent, hospitality. It’s not just “the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors.” To be precise, it’s not just an “act.” It is a code of values with deep roots stretching all the way back to antiquity, one shaped in part by myth, history and religious beliefs. Philoxenia is a state of mind and a way of life with which Greeks have been nurtured over the centuries. In more recent times, many have applied its principles in business ventures that make up what we today call “the tourism industry.” It is also a subject of anthropological and sociological study, and not beyond scrutiny; the notion that philoxenia is part of the “Greek DNA,” for example, is challenged, even by writers in this issue. Closely related to philoxenia is another famous Greek word, which often moves, inspires and baffles foreigners, as it has no direct equivalent in other languages: philótimo. “This concept concerns personal honor – the ability to do something for someone above and beyond what is dictated by feelings or professional obligations, an ability to transcend even personal animosity and grant them a favor with no strings attached,” writes Constantine Buhayer in his book “Culture Smart Greece” (Kuperard Publications), a pocket-sized guide that contains a trove of insightful information on the customs and culture of Greece.

Last but not least, philoxenia is sister to geneodoria (literally meaning “brave at giving presents”) – the famed Greek generosity and yet another key trait in the complex character of this people. You are likely to witness, or better yet receive, expressions of geneodoria everywhere, whether this involves finding yourself a guest at the table of people you’ve never met before on an island or in some remote village, or witnessing something that worryingly resembles a fight over who gets the privilege of picking up the bill at a taverna for the entire party. As Buhayer advises in his book, “the best response is to go with the flow and spread some of it around yourself.” If tourism is the major driving force of the Greek economy, then philoxenia is its fuel. It is an attitude that can be encountered in small family-run guesthouses and luxury resorts alike; in hedonistic Mykonos and in the sacred monasteries of Mt Athos; in the initiatives of the new breed of tourism professionals highlighting the country’s unsung natural treasures, and in those of the entrepreneurs always looking for new ways to offer their guests original and memorable experiences. All of the above contribute, in one way or another, to achieving the main goal of the Greek tourism industry over the next decade: to make the shift from destination promotion – which has the aim of attracting more visitors – to a sustainable and diverse destination management, one that works to the benefit of foreign visitors and locals alike.

Οne of the countless expressions of Greek philoxenia: eating al fresco at Vioma Estate, in the Mykonian countryside. P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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E C L E C T I C H O S P I TA L I T Y H E R I TA G E


CONTENTS G R E E C E I S - I S S U E # 4 2 P H I L O X E N I A 2 0 19 - 2 0 2 0

102

34

WELCOME

DISCOVER

FOCUS

EXPERIENCE

10. BASICS

34. TRADITION

80. MYKONOS

112. ACTIVITIES

The essence of Greek hospitality in pictures.

Before tourism became an industry.

Where billionaires rub shoulders with fishermen.

20. TOURISM

44. ORIGINS

86. CRETE

What Greece offers to the nature lover is extraordinarily rich and diverse.

What’s next for the country’s leading industry?

The ancient roots of Greek hospitality.

Greek hospitality at its most exuberant.

26. CUSTOMS

54. ESSAY

96. MT ATHOS

Greek philoxenia through an anthropologist’s eyes.

The reception of the foreigner in Greek poetry.

30. FIRST PERSON

68. NOSTALGIA

A haven of faith and spirituality offers a once-in-a- lifetime experience.

Author Victoria Hislop’s recollections of hospitality in her adopted homeland.

The transformation of Greece into a cosmopolitan destination.

104. PROFESSIONALS Entrepreneurs who help make the Greek experience utterly unforgettable.

120. GUESTHOUSES Cozy, small-scale and affordable establishments offering homespun TLC. 126. FOOD Why Greek cuisine is one of the prime reasons to visit the country... and a few traditional dishes, best enjoyed when shared. 138. ACCOMMODATION The different faces of contemporary Greek luxury.

ON THE COVER: illustration by Anna Tzortzi

ISSN: 2529-041X PUBLISHED BY:

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WELCOME BASIC S

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE Its mild climate, natural beauty and traditional open-handed hospitality all contribute to Greece’s long-held reputation as one of the world’s most inviting destinations.

SUMMER SURRENDER The warm days of summer invariably bring with them a greater sense of ease and an air of informality that’s contagious. People leave windows and doors wide open, relax their dress code, and slow the pace of their lives a little. Evenings are spent outdoors; you’ll spot people hanging out on their balconies, relaxing in their gardens, lounging around cafés or enjoying their dinners in taverna courtyards. Contented calm really is the best way to describe the Greek summer.

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© WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ / ART + COMMERCE, PERIVOLAS HOTEL

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WELCOME BASIC S

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JOIE DE VIVRE The Greeks really have their own special approach to life. Spontaneity is anything but uncommon; an outing or a visit to a friend’s house is more likely to take place on a whim than as a result of planning. Meeting for a “quick” coffee is an occasion that can last for hours, stretching even into an evening meal. The lack of planning is liberating, and also means that you can join in the fun, even if you turn up at the last minute.

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WELCOME BASIC S

© PERIKLES MERAKOS

COUNTRY CHARM The Greeks’ genuine affection for and interest in strangers is even more evident in less touristic parts of the hinterland and the more remote villages on the islands. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the locals, who may know some English and certainly have plenty of non-verbal communication skills to draw on in any case. In all likelihood, you’ll be treated to a glass of something nice at the local kafeneio – normally on the main village square – or even invited into someone’s home for a coffee or a meal.

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WELCOME BASIC S

© GERASIMOS DOMENIKOS / FOSPHOTOS

IMMERSION In Greece, the natural world is a largely welcoming place. The climate is generally moderate (with a few sweltering days in the summer) and the sea is inviting. Small coves with sparkling azure waters, pebble beaches tucked away along rocky coastlines, long stretches of sand – there’s a swimming spot for everyone, and once you’re in the water, you’ll find that it’s like a cool blue embrace.

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PULL UP A CHAIR When Greeks say they “had a good time,” they usually mean they were part of some impromptu gathering of a few people that turned into something of a party. They truly enjoy that sense of camaraderie, of sharing time with others. In Greece, friendship isn’t confined to a tight circle of individuals who know each other well; it’s something that can occur between strangers who happen to meet at a café or taverna. Greeks are quick to make friends, express their feelings and display their generosity, even with people they have never met before.

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© JOHN HUBA / ART + COMMERCE

WELCOME BASIC S


WELCOME TOURISM

What’s Next?

Greece has been attracting more and more international visitors, but improving and diversifying its tourism product is an ongoing effort. B Y IOA N N A DR E T TA*

T

hroughout the economic crisis and this challenging decade that’s about to come to a close, Greek tourism didn’t just withstand the pressures imposed on it; the tourism industry boosted both the country’s economy and its public image. And yet, when all is said and done, have we truly reflected on what tourism is, how it affects our life and what relationship we bear to it, whether directly or indirectly? Tourism isn’t just a sector of the national economy, it’s a value production chain. There are so many different players involved in tourism, ranging from the hotel industry to the restaurant and food industry to the transport industry to cultural institutions to local government authorities and the central government, all influencing one another. The way each of these groups perceives tourism, however, is different, and it’s constantly evolving, too.

FOR TOURISTS The buzzword in tourism today is “experience.” Many members of that highly sought-after demographic group known as “millennials” choose travel destinations based on what they perceive as authenticity. They enjoy discovering their destinations by embracing a trend called “localhood,” in which they experience the places they visit in a way that closely mirrors local life. These tourists are highly informed, and they research everything thoroughly online both before and during their journeys, which means that nothing, whether good or bad, can remain a secret for long. They’re also happy to pay more for options that actively 20

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SIFNOS

INSTAGRAM @xry_4022 protect the environment. In general, they travel more and spend less time at each destination, seeing more places during the course of a year. For them, Greece is still synonymous with blue seas, clear skies, beautiful natural landscapes, history and good food, but above all, it’s the people that count. What makes the trip special is the uncontrived and unaffected relationships that they develop with local residents, whether tourist industry professionals or not; it is the immediacy of those encounters which create moments that will remain indelible in their memory.

FOR LOCALS LIKE US For most Greeks, tourism today is about income; the €125 billion in tourist revenue accrued during the years of the economic crisis found its way across Greek society. We stopped worrying that tourism would turn us into the “servants

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WELCOME TOURISM

CAPE TAINARO INSTAGRAM @maniwatersports

ACROPOLIS MUSEUM INSTAGRAM @v4vanessa

of Europe,” and embraced the opportunities that it provides. During peak season, tourism creates more employment than any other sector, even the public sector. What’s more, it’s slowly becoming a career path consciously chosen by people with a wide variety of skills. Tourism also feeds our sense of pride; we know that our country and our people can provide our guests with beautiful experiences, no matter where they go, thanks to a national character that instinctively extends genuine hospitality and a natural environment that’s second to none in beauty.

AGHIOS SOSTIS, SERIFOS INSTAGRAM @xry_4022

FOR PROFESSIONALS In decades past, when entrepreneurs working in tourism (most of whom worked in the hotel business) thought about their work, they saw their efforts as a parallel activity to other basic sources of income. As a new generation came along in the industry, a rise in the demand for specialized skills took place. The tourism industry was no longer simply about providing services to guests on a large scale, even though that’s still a vital part of the picture. Tourism also requires highly developed technical skills, a substantial elasticity as regards demand, and a fiercely competitive approach to other countries. It involves carrying out high-impact projects that need substantial capital for the initial investment. At the same time, because demand is, among other things, also a seasonal phenomenon with high and low periods, tourism requires patience and cool-headedness on the part of investors. It does not lend itself to easy or to quick profits. And yet it remains a financial activity that benefits the wider public, with a plethora of diverse businesses forming its ecosystem. The very backbone of tourism is the small family business that fights hard to compete P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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with bigger players. Such enterprises have progressively overcome the poor practices that, in the past, gave birth to an unregulated and haphazardly structured product. Today, the tourism sector in Greece across the board follows good practices that meet international standards, and being small is not a drawback. Small-scale or very small-scale Greek hotels today aren’t at a disadvantage; owners can welcome clients in person, offer lavish breakfasts made with quality local ingredients, organize or recommend authentic experiences in the surrounding area, and raise the standards of the travel experience for visitors to our country.

FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES In Greece, as in every country, the driver of demand, the focal point around which a tourist product is constructed, is the destination. The central players, and often the weak links in the chain, are the local municipal and regional authorities. It is they who are responsible for the overall public operating standards at the destination; for infrastructure; for services provided to local residents and visitors alike; for the development and

THE INTERNATIONAL LANDSCAPE IS PARTICULARLY COMPLEX, AS COMPETITION CONTINUES TO INCREASE AND DAUNTING CHALLENGES EMERGE.

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ELAFONISOS INSTAGRAM @thaleino

SEYCHELLES BEACH, IKARIA INSTAGRAM @thodoris_skoutakis

promotion of an enhanced tourist product; and for organizing public debate and dialogue on these themes among all those involved. It is becoming ever more evident that tourism is not an aim in itself, but a means for the development of destination sites. One cannot have happy tourists without happy local residents.

FOR THE STATE The Greek state and the administrations that ran the country during the economic crisis soon realized that tourism could play a leading role in bolstering the country’s GDP, creating new jobs and keeping people from leaving rural areas for urban centers, thereby reinforcing social cohesion while also mitigating to a large extent the negative consequences of the recession. In this manner, Greek tourism found its place within the national narrative and became a part of the effort to exit the vicious circle of the financial crisis. Successive governments took steps to modernize the legal framework surrounding tourism and to bolster the tourism industry institutionally, finally addressing it with the seriousness that was its due. Greek tourism at this point is no longer a parallel or occasional opportunistic activity. It is a fundamental engine driving the Greek economy, and the finest ambassador for our country to the outside world.

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WELCOME TOURISM

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LOOKING AHEAD The international landscape is particularly complex, as competition continues to increase and daunting challenges emerge. A major cycle in long-term tourism development is slowly drawing to a close. The continuous goal for all of us must be to preserve and strengthen the competitiveness of Greek tourism so that it can contribute even more to the Greek economy and, of course, to Greek society. What we need today in order to respond to the new demands is a new national plan for strategic development for the 2020s, so we can enter a new cycle of growth focused on a vision of maturity, on helping Greece become a mature tourist destination. We aren’t here just to record the great changes taking place; we aren’t passive spectators of the New. We aspire to reformulate, to have an impact on the upcoming changes. With every passing day, we, too, change. We become more extroverted, more dynamic, more modern. We are ready and well-prepared to respond to the global market’s new trends and new requirements. Greek tourism is ready, once again, to take charge of its future.

FACEBOOK

NISYROS

INSTAGRAM @travellookela

PAXOS

INSTAGRAM @george_bozouris

#SHARE YOURGREECE

Marketing Greece invites you to share your own snapshots and travel tips on Greece on Facebook and Instagram. The photos accompanying this article have been posted by real travelers. Follow #weareALLmarketingGreece and #ShareYourGreece

* Ioanna Dretta is the CEO of Marketing Greece, a not-for-profit company that promotes the Greek tourist product. Privately funded, its job is to help develop a comprehensive tourism picture for the whole of Greece, and to operate as a multiplier for the messages that the Greek tourism industry seeks to disseminate.

ATHENS

INSTAGRAM @indiana_jamie

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RANDOM

ACTS OF KINDNESS The hidden layers of meaning in Greek hospitality, seen through an anthropologist’s eyes. BY SOF K A Z I NOV I E F F I L LUST R AT IONS A N NA T ZORT Z I

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first lived in Greece in the late 1980s as a student. I’d exchanged chilly Cambridge for the beautiful Peloponnesian town of Nafplio and was carrying out postgraduate research on modern Greek identity and tourism. Like many first-time social anthropologists, I was learning on the job – studying the language, attempting “participant observation,” and trying to meet as many

“informants” as possible. “Come for a coffee and you can study us!” friends would quip. Whenever I visited someone’s home, I was consistently treated with kindness and generosity; almost without fail, there was a glass of cool water and some homemade spoon sweets. This was often followed by coffee and koulourakia (cookies), and often cooked food followed as well. Whenever I de-

I WAS INITIALLY BEMUSED BY PEOPLE PAYING FOR ME WHEREVER I WENT. IF I PROTESTED, THE RESPONSE WAS OFTEN: “YOU CAN PAY FOR ME IN ENGLAND.” 26

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clined to be fed on the spot, I was regularly sent away with parcels of spinach pie or other delicacies for later. This largesse was a delight and I began to appreciate how significant hospitality was in Greece – caring for the stranger resembled a Christian virtue but was clearly a tradition from Homeric times, when an individual’s worth and honor was measured according to how he treated a guest. Nafpliotes were proud of being philoxenoi, of literally “loving” the xenos – the stranger or foreigner. As a foreigner, I began to realize that there is an established etiquette not only for the host but also for the guest. Nobody should forget what Odysseus did to Penelope’s greedy, inappropriate suitors, who lost their dignity (and eventually their lives) for abusing the rules of hospitality. Was it disrespectful, I wondered, if I rejected an offer of food? What should I do after the third or fourth home visit in a day, when faced with yet another slab of walnut cake or cut-glass saucer of bitter orange peel in syrup? Most Greeks would disapprove of someone who doesn’t even offer water to a visitor, but a guest who doesn’t respect his host’s munificence is a disrespectful, ungrateful wretch. Of course, hospitality didn’t only exist in the home; by extension, a café, taverna or bouzouki club worked just fine. I frequently witnessed disputes and even anger flaring between diners in a restaurant when one person succeeded in paying the entire bill, and thus made himself the “host.” I was initially bemused by people paying for me wherever I went. If I protested, the response was often: “You can pay for me in England.” Possibly. But would they ever come? And in England, this wasn’t the way things were usually done; bills were regularly split between all the diners. However, even in England they say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” And this saying points towards the hidden layers of meaning in Greek hospitality. Anthropologists argue that there’s more to the phenomenon of hospitality than free-floating kindness – it’s part of a system. In many pre-industrial socie-


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ties, you automatically give a stranger a meal or a bed for the night, knowing that someone else should do the same for you or your loved ones. These habits become deeply ingrained. Some degree of reciprocity is always implied, even if it is not implemented. Add to this equation the fact that historically, an unknown visitor always represents potential danger, and making them grateful and obliged becomes an even better idea. More significant than either of these factors is the way hospitable behavior contributes to social standing. Malinowski’s seminal research amongst the Pacific Trobriand islanders showed how the competitive exchange of gifts between communities (known as the Kula) was a method of forging alliances, creating social solidarity, and obtaining power and influence. A Trobriand “big man” will attempt to outdo his rivals with the extravagance of his gifts. One only has to witness Greek “big men” paying for everyone on an evening out or offering feasts in their homes to realize that a not-dissimilar process is occurring. I recall times in Nafplio when food was almost forced on me by insistent hostesses; it sometimes felt like world domination by food! And, naturally, it’s not just Greeks working these systems; wealthy US philanthropists are doing something comparable when they pay thousands of dollars to attend glittering, well-publicized charity dinners. Social power deals in perceptions. The Harvard anthropologist Professor Michael Herzfeld argues that, on Crete, hospitality allows a symbolic reversal of power relations. The guest or stranger who is offered nourishment or a gift or invited into someone’s home becomes obliged, whatever their social standing. A host acquires the upper hand over a guest, even if he or she is poor and powerless and the visitor rich and powerful. As Herzfeld writes, “At the level of collective representations… [hospitality] 28

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signifies the moral and conceptual subordination of guest to host.” Over a decade after finishing my PhD, and after having lived in Moscow, London and Rome, I returned to Greece with Vassilis, my Greek husband, and our two young daughters. In Athens, I soon saw that aspects of traditional hospitality and generosity have survived, even if circumstances have changed. The

reality of millions of tourists visiting each year makes it harder to find the random acts of kindness encountered by earlier travelers. And while many Greeks have been inspiringly hospitable and openhearted towards refugees and migrants (whose mass arrivals coincided with the country’s own recent economic crisis), we have also witnessed philoxenia’s ugly opposite – xenophobia. Nevertheless, the tendency to maintain social ties and

rules of hospitality within the city is still reminiscent of earlier times in more rural communities. I believe that one reason why these old systems still flourish is the Greeks’ long history of doubting power and mistrusting the state. When you don’t believe the authorities will protect you or fulfill their duties, it is vital to create bonds with individuals who may help you at some point. At its worst, this tendency is seen in the rousfetia (favors) handed out by politicians hoping for support, or in the fakelakia (“little envelopes” of cash) slipped to hospital doctors. The use of slang words for potentially useful, personal connections (koné, meson) hints at their significance. At their best, however, these bonds are an informal association between people creating loose ties of obligation through gifts and hospitality. When you treat someone to a coffee or a meal or invite them into your home, you bind them to you in a fluid, open-ended debt that may never be repaid but that may help you in some way in the future. This is the village within the city. Needless to say, the potential for self-interest does not detract from the positive impact of hospitality which, by its nature, creates a “virtuous circle.” The smaller rituals of traditional hospitality remain hardwired in Greece; you rarely enter someone’s house without being offered a glass of water, and usually much more. A host is still expected to bestow abundance on a visitor and, while anthropologists may tease out symbolic or practical meanings, these potential benefits are unlikely to be the conscious motivation for the person giving or receiving. Greece has changed dramatically in recent decades, but the self-worth and honor of an individual – their philotimo – is still reflected in how they treat a guest.

* Sofka Zinovieff is a British author. Her books include “Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens” and “The House on Paradise Street.” Her latest novel is “Putney.” sofkazinovieff.com


W ELCO M E F I R S T- PE R S O N

VICTORIA HISLOP’S GREECE

The renowned English author of bestsellers including “The Island” and “Those Who Are Loved” offers recollections of Greek hospitality as she has experienced and enjoyed it.

© BILL WATERS

BY GIORG O S T SI RO S

 reek Philoxenia: my definition G I like the myth of Zeus traveling in disguise and sometimes (and sometimes not) experiencing philoxenia [hospitality] from strangers. In Crete, where Zeus was born, of course, in a cave not far from my house, strangers always seem incredibly generous. It really is as if the Cretans think that you might be a god in disguise – so they give you as much food as possible!  he first time I truly experienced it T My godmother, Margarita, is the most hospitable person on the planet. She is 30

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an amazing person with deep religious faith, and overflows with kindness and generosity. But to me, the definition is this – I went to her house once with some friends, and friends of their friends (who even I didn’t know), just to say hello. From nowhere, she produced fifteen dishes of food (amazing food, from her own garden and flock: artichoke hearts, broad beans, lamb, snails – really I don’t know how she did this) and was so happy to see all these total strangers eating. She didn’t even know their names. This would never happen in the UK.

 y idea of a perfect day (and night) M in Greece A perfect day for me is a summer day. I get up early and go down to the beach close to my house in Crete (Voulisma Beach near Aghios Nikolaos) before the crowds get there and swim out to a distant buoy, then back, and dry off in the sun. At 9.30 I go back to the car and buy a coffee on the way home and by 10:00 I’m at my desk. I write for a few hours. I have lunch (tomatoes and feta and olives, generously covered in olive oil) and then read for a while (if it’s very hot, I nap for a bit). Then


W ELCO M E F I R S T- PE R S O N

it’s back to my desk for an hour, then a late afternoon drive to Aghios Nikolaos to the local beach to find my god-daughter and her mother. This is the best time on the beach, when the sun is going down. All the tourists have gone by now. We play in the waves and then make a sandcastle. After that, there’s a cantina close by, which serves the best souvlaki in Greece, salad and unbelievable patates tiganites [french fries]. With the sound of the waves crashing on the stones, we sit until midnight, sipping white wine and talking. By then, my god-daughter is sleeping peacefully in her stroller, tired after all the fresh air. Someone often brings a laouto or bouzouki so music will extend the evening even more. When the moon is high, we eventually go home. One local custom that stunned me This probably sounds normal to everyone reading… but I was amazed. Every week, a refrigerated lorry arrives in Aghios Nikolaos to collect food in Tupperware from the mothers of the town to take to their children studying in Athens… In the UK, university years are about cutting those umbilical cords, learning to stand on your own two feet, learning how to cook, how to survive alone. So this is very touching, but I think it turns “parenting” into “controlling.” Yes, it’s nice for kids to eat well. But…? So this is a custom that’s both good and bad. The best place I’ve ever stayed The most expensive place was Amanzoe in Porto Heli – but, to be honest, I don’t really love luxury hotels… I find them hard to relax in. I prefer simpler places. My top hotel in Greece is the Daios Luxury Living in Thessaloniki – it’s on the seafront. I’ve stayed there more times than I can count and every time, it’s like coming home. And it has the most gorgeous signature scent! The most unexpected place I’ve ever stayed I once had to sleep on a beach in Tolo. I was a student, and we couldn’t afford any of the local hotels – it was surprisingly comfortable, but I am happier in a bed!  he best meal I’ve ever had in Greece T I have eaten thousands of times in Greece… how to name the best meal? 32

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On set with extras from the series “To Nisi,” based on Hislop’s novel “The Island”.

For me, a meal is about the ambience, the company, the mood, the location, not just the food. One of the best and most memorable meals ever was in Plaka, in Crete, at Haroupia. I was with my children and lots of their friends, we had been on the beach all day, and the mood was high – it was the birthday of my son’s best friend, so there was a special cake and singing. We ate meze, drank wine, and there was live music. It was magical.  social occasion I’ll always rememA ber - and why The wedding of my friends Zoi and Leonidas in Crete. I think there were nearly a thousand people (they tell me this was a small wedding) and the tables were all laid out in the schoolyard. This was no ordinary schoolyard – it’s near the top of a mountain in the village of Kroustas, so it’s surrounded by trees and spectacular views. Everything was simple and natural – amazing aesthetics with brown paper and string and fresh wild flowers. It was really cool and original – and, above all, totally unpretentious. Nothing plastic, nothing garish. It was typical Cretan food – lots of it cooked by Leonidas’ mother (who is the best cook in Crete) and the meat was baked by local people. The wine and raki flowed, and we danced until dawn. Everyone was taken over by the spirit of the place, and the joy of this marriage.

The best traits of the Greek people Friendliness. Everyone loves talking! I’ve never met a sullen person, not once in my 45 years of coming to Greece. The most “authentic” Greek person I’ve met I ‘ve met so many wonderful people over the years… but the most memorable is Manoli Foundoulakis, who was an inspiration to me. He lived in Elounda when I met him, he was 80 years old and had suffered in the past from leprosy. He was the kindest, most hospitable and funniest person I ever met, and the reason I learned to speak Greek. We spent wonderful times together – a man of huge charisma and wisdom. He helped us with the filming of “To Nisi” – to get things “right.” Sadly he died just before the first episode went on air, but the series was dedicated to him. And he lives on in my memory – and in those of everyone who met him. A totally “authentic” person if ever there was one. When in Greece... The three first tips I’d give to a friend who visits the country for the first time Go to the Acropolis (it’s obligatory). Take a ferry to an island. Watch the sun rise.  here’s something about Cretan hosT pitality... but what is it? It has no limits. None at all.


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DISCOVER TR ADITION

Portrait of a miller in his windmill on Ios, 1963.

BEFORE TOURISM BECAME AN INDUSTRY Greek society has always found a place for the stranger, not just at the table or in the guest room but in the culture as well, with rituals and traditions dictating the duties of guest and host. B Y E VA N G E L O S K A R A M A N E S * - E D I T E D B Y N A T A S H A B L A T S I O U P HOTO S: ROBE RT A . McC A BE

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Schoolchildren on Patmos taking part in celebrations marking Greek Independence Day.

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01. Lambrini Plati, Ano Peristeri, 1961. 02. Yannis Dikaiolakis on the waterfront on Mykonos, 1957. 03. The first mate of the caique “Eleftheria,” in the Sporades, 1963. 04. Young waiter on Alonissos ,1963. 05. Maria Ioakim, Mykonos, 1957. 06. Unknown woman in the Cyclades.

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hroughout the centuries, migration, commerce and war brought Greeks to foreign lands, where they sometimes found themselves in need of shelter, assistance or protection. The phrase “They ate bread and salt,” meaning that a group sat together at a table and shared food, was used to express a strong bond of friendship. Only “bread-stompers,” or ingrates, would trample on such bonds: that pejorative term was used to describe those who, after having been given welcome and food, which is to say “hospitality,” turned against the family that had offered them. In Menander, we find the exhortation “Give welcome to strangers, for at some point you yourself will be a stranger.” Gregory the Theologian (329-390 C.E.), Archbishop of Constantinople, urged people to “welcome strangers, lest you become a stranger to God.” The friendly relations that ancient hospitality created were, in fact, so strong that they were passed on to descendants as a valuable legacy; they functioned reciprocally as well, no matter how much time had passed. A characteristic example from the Iliad is that of the Achaean Diomedes and the Trojan ally Glaukos, who, as they are fighting one another, learn that their ancestors were bound by the ties of hospitality. They stop fighting and exchange their armor, in order to seal their own inherited friendship. In ancient times, hospitality was seen as a hallmark of civilization. In the Odyssey, when Odysseus washes up on the shore of the Phaeacians, he wonders aloud whether the inhabitants of the land are civilized people who know the rules of hospitality, or wild men who don’t know how to welcome or honor guests. The ritual of hospitality seems to obey a relatively simple principle: the stranger is an unknown, and has to be treated with circumspection. He is the other, he’s different, he may be dangerous, an enemy, someone fleeing persecution or the law. On the other hand, he may just be a simple visitor or traveler. The ritual of hospitality will ease the stranger’s transition from the strange (mysterious and perhaps even


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Travelling to Mykonos in deck class seating on the “Despina.” The ship, originally built for the US Navy, found its way to Greece after WWII.

taboo) to the familiar (as, for instance, in Odysseus’ meeting with Nausicaa on the island of the Phaeacians). The path from stranger to friend involves a series of intermediary steps that may be seen as a test or a trial that runs from initial recognition and transformation to a determination of what the stranger really is: a visitor, a friend, an enemy or a potential member of the family or of the community. In the traditional societies of the ancient Greek world, social groups existed on a small scale: a nomadic group of herdsmen, a shepherds’ encampment, a village. In such small communities, the person obliged to host the stranger was the one who was best able to observe the conventions of welcome: this was usually either the most well-to-do person or the community leader (or mukhtar, during Ottoman times). In other words, hospitality took place either in the context of the family or of the community. In many mountain 38

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villages of Central and Northern Greece, in order for those passing through – including itinerant craftspeople such as tailors, builders and others – to be ensured hospitality and spared the harsh weather conditions, there was a special structure, the amiliko, or community guesthouse (from the Turkish amil, the “monk’s cell”), which usually belonged to the church or to the community. This is where those passing through would stay, and the villagers took turns providing their visitors with food. In the past, the possibility of the appearance of strangers was always anticipated. Every household set aside homemade wine or spirits to offer to visitors. There were always almonds, walnuts, spoon sweets or Turkish delight in the pantry. The woman of the house had small glasses and utensils for the express purpose of serving these treats. The stranger would be seated at the head of the table, the place of honor, and offered the first plate with

the best portion. The man of the house would cross himself, saying “Welcome.” During the meal, he would encourage the stranger not to be shy, to eat as if they were in their own home. And when the stranger left, they would never be empty-handed, but always carrying gifts of food and wine for the road. What’s more, the host would often show them the way, accompanying them for a portion of the onward journey. In almost all of the Greek world, there was the custom of making an extra loaf when baking bread. Frequent references can be found to “Christ’s portion,” which is to say the Stranger’s portion, since any stranger could be Christ himself. Even for a family’s everyday meal, the woman of the house always made an extra portion, which was for the stranger. This portion was real, not imaginary; there was always a bit extra, more than necessary. This practice of household economy is still expressed in local idiomatic sayings: “Cook


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Dancing at Aghios Panteleimon Monastery in Mykonos at a baptism on the saint’s feast day in 1955. The woman dancing is Argyro Kypraiou.

for many, but set the table for few” (Cyprus and throughout Greece) or “Six people in the household, plus a stranger, makes ten” (Kefalonia). A stranger could come by at any moment and need the community’s aid: “The blind man needs guiding, and the stranger a place to stay…” In the absence of a visitor, this extra food did not go to waste; the next day, it was shared with the poor. Local communities knew who was in need, and they made sure to send those people leftovers without insulting them. This custom, which never really disappeared from rural communities, became visible again during the recent economic crisis. Not everyone in need ended up at the soup kitchens organized by the church, the local community, or citizens’ groups. In the villages in particular, but in many city neighborhoods as well, food was left at a specific 40

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place with the understanding that whoever was in need should take it, without feeling embarrassed about having to do so. Relationships created by hospitality are not wholly altruistic; they contain an element of “exchange.” Whoever assumes the role of host enjoys the honor that comes from being in a position to offer hospitality. To spread this honor, it was once customary in a number of regions for strangers to be hosted by different families in turn, one day in one house in the village, the next day in another. If the stranger was staying in the community guesthouse, villagers would take turns sending food over for him. When someone stayed for a length of time, he had an obligation to develop relations with everyone in the community and to respect their way of life; otherwise, they would think he was being

disdainful. Even today, while strangers or visitors are usually associated with some “favored interlocutor” who welcomes them, they still have to keep in mind their duty to speak with everyone in the community that has welcomed them and to pay everyone the proper attention. Of course, there is always the understanding that this is all temporary, reflected in a saying that isn’t exclusively Greek: “After three days, both fish and visitors start to smell.”

*Evangelos Karamanes is Research Director at the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre (HFRC), Academy of Athens, where he has worked since 2002. He publishes texts in widely circulated journals and newspapers, and participates in television and radio broadcasts dealing with ethnographic themes.


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Robert McCabe strikes a pose with local residents in the village of Metsovo, 1961.

TREATED LIKE A GOD IN DISGUISE...

The photographer Robert McCabe captured the kindness, hospitality and zest for life that’s always been so characteristic of Greece. BY M A RGA R I TA P OU R NA R A

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mong those who witnessed Greece’s transition and transformation from a poor, agrarian country into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations is the American photographer Robert McCabe, who first visited this country 65 years ago. Over the ensuing years, he’s had the privilege of experiencing the spontaneous, selfless philoxenia of the local inhabitants of the islands and the mainland. Those residents once lived lives of tremendous deprivation, but the way in which they welcomed and took care of foreigners was extremely generous, both in intangible and material terms, and that type of welcome has not disappeared. On his first trip to Greece, Robert accompanied his brother Charles, who had been encouraged by his good friend Petros Nomikos from Santorini to visit the country. According to the photographer, the hospitality shown towards a foreigner was something remarkable. Greeks be42

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haved towards the visitor as though this person were an honored member of their own family. “In my eyes, in a sense they carried on the tradition of Homer, back when people believed that someone arriving from a foreign place might just be a god in disguise. The most striking example was the time when I went to the island of Ios with a friend, our family doctor, in fact. The mayor of the island gave up his own bed for my friend and he himself slept on the floor, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. By today’s standards, something like that would be considered insane.” Yet another such moment occurred in Santorini, in 1963. “I visited the island with the doctor I’ve already mentioned [and others],” McCabe recalls. “For the whole time we were there, we ate, day and night, at the only taverna on the island, at Louca’s in Fira. The owner was a cheerful but poor man. After every meal, we’d go up to him to pay the bill for our

party, which had a total of five people in it. But he’d always reply, ‘Tomorrow.’ On the last day, when I went to settle the final bill, he refused to take any money, uttering one of the few words he knew in any foreign language: ‘Souvenir.’ He wanted us to remember him after leaving the island. And the truth is that I still do remember him, even today.” Even today, something remains of that selflessness. Many of the people who live in the Greek provinces still possess philotimo (a sense of duty and honor), when it comes to the generosity they show their guests. Other things have changed, however; what saddens Robert McCabe most is that some of the most beautiful areas in the country have been spoiled through unbridled and haphazard development. In many cases, what has been lost, along with the pure and genuine hospitality of the locals, has been the older generations’ wise understanding of how to coexist in harmony with nature.

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“The Embassy to Achilles,” with the hero (L) receiving King Agamemnon’s emissaries. Engraving, after John Flaxman (1805). Royal Academy of Arts.

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THE ROOTS OF HOSPITALITY

One of Greece’s greatest attractions is its reputation as a welcoming destination, where visitors are treated as honored guests. From where does this open-armed approach stem? Myth and history hold clues.

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he tradition of hospitality is a timeless characteristic of Greek culture. Even today, a visitor’s first contact with Greek lands and people is often memorably colored by the generous hospitality offered by their host. This custom dates back thousands of years, commemorated in the semi-historical pages of the anonymous bard or bards we know as “Homer,” whose frequent descriptions of hospitality highlight the tradition’s religious, social and politi-

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cal functions. The proper provision of hospitality in ancient Greece was an important ritual that encouraged social, political or military “networking.” It was a sacred responsibility that came under the watchful eye of the Olympian gods. Zeus Xenios, “the strangers’ god,” ruled as hospitality’s chief protector. To behave inhospitably was an offense worthy of divine punishment, as hospitality was governed in by a well-known code of conduct and duties for both host and guest. Regardless of a guest’s identity

Hospitality scene, from the Collection of Greek Vases by Mr. Le Comte de Lamburg (Paris, 1813-1824).

– king, general, other dignitary, friend, or simple messenger – one had to welcome him with food, drink and shelter before asking any questions. A guest was equally respectful, listening attentively to his host and returning his favor by entertaining the assembled banqueters with his own story.


DISCOVER ORIGINS

DIPLOMACY From at least the Late Bronze Age and early centuries of the Iron Age, long before any hotels and star-ratings, hospitality thrived in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East as a vital, ubiquitous practice, a religious duty, a facilitator of commerce and, for elites, of state diplomacy. The Classical Greek institution of “proxeny, ” wherein city-states selected certain well-todo citizens to serve as local hosts for foreign ambassadors, also relied on hospitality. A proxenos, like all good hosts, had to have diplomatic skills. Respect was demonstrated by both parties and an exchange of gifts indicated the acceptance or continuance of friendship. To ensure the longevity of that relationship, hospitality could even be hereditary. Euripides’ fifth-century BC play “Medea,” for instance, reveals that sometimes a host and his guest would exchange a distinctive token that could be redeemed whenever hospitality might again be desired or that could be passed on to the next generation. HOMERIC HOSPITALITY Our ceaseless fascination with Homer’s epic tales arises largely from the window they provide onto the mysterious and mythical yet strangely familiar ways of ancient Greek life. Chief among the array of ancient practices and beliefs described in those works was hospitality. In the Iliad, top-level diplomatic hospitality is demonstrated when Agamemnon dispatches an embassy to the disgruntled Achilles. His ambassadors, Odysseus, Ajax and Phoenix, are received in grand style and offer lavish gifts to Achilles, including: …seven tripods, that the fire hath not touched, and ten talents of gold and twenty gleaming cauldrons, and twelve strong horses… [Also,]…seven women skilled in goodly handiwork, women of Lesbos…, and amid them… the daughter of Briseus…

Appropriate hospitality gifts also included finely crafted banquet equipment, such as the drinking cup and krater (mixing jar) presented to Telemachus by King Menelaus in Sparta. Careful planning often went into the act of being hospitable in order to show respect and gain favor – with the best meat, wine and seats selectively offered to acknowledge a guest’s high social status. Homeric poetry, with its recurring theme of hospitality, was well-suited as dinner time entertainment: providing such amusement to guests was itself an essential element of hospitality. Moreover, the guests were in the midst of enjoying actual hospitality, whose practical code of do’s and don’ts would have

ing of hospitality: arrival; the wait at the threshold; the supplication; the reception; the seating; the feast; the after-dinner drink; the identification of the visitor; an exchange of information; entertainment; the visitor’s blessing on host, the shared libation or sacrifice, the request for sleep; the bed; the bath; the host’s attempts to detain the visitor; the guest-gifts; the departure meal and libation; the farewell blessing; the departure omen and interpretation; and the escort to visitor’s next destination.

PLAYING WITH CONVENTION In the Odyssey, a broad spectrum of hospitality is presented, from the generosity of the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa towards Odysseus, or of the

HOSPITALITY THRIVED IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN AND NEAR EAST AS A VITAL, UBIQUITOUS PRACTICE, A RELIGIOUS DUTY, A FACILITATOR OF COMMERCE AND, FOR ELITES, OF STATE DIPLOMACY.

been on everyone’s minds at that very moment. The tale of the Iliad recalls the Trojan War, the Greeks’ reaction to a blatant violation of xenia, the proper conduct for hosts and guest, which occurred when Paris, leaving Sparta, “stole” his host’s wife. The Odyssey, which recounts its protagonist’s tireless search for hospitality on his homeward journey, serves as a vehicle for examining the nature of xenia as well. At least eighteen scenes of hospitality are found in Homer’s works, philologist Steve Reese reports, including four in the Iliad, twelve in the Odyssey and two in the Homeric Hymns. These unique scenes, although distinctly Homeric, together reflect a traditional formula for the giving and receiv-

swineherd Eumaeus with his near-perfect hosting of his master, to the amoral suitors’ final scene in which all the conventions of hospitality are shockingly inverted. Along the way, Homer juxtaposes good and bad hospitality, essentially parodying the tradition with colorful characters. The cruel giant Polyphemus, instead of feasting his guests, makes them the feast and offers Odysseus the “gift” of eating him last. The insolent suitor Ctesippus similarly mocks xenia by hurling the “gift” of a hoof at Odysseus. The ill deeds of both the Cyclops and the suitors epitomize brazen inhospitality, condemned by all, and are later memorialized through Euripides’ artful terms “xenodaites” (he who devours guests)

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and “xenoktonos” (the slaying of guests and strangers). Nevertheless, the outrageous transgressions of sacred and social responsibility that are featured in Homer’s poems continue to make for humorous, mildly moralizing, ageless entertainment.

MYTHICAL REMINDERS Hospitality became interwoven with myth and legend in the belief systems of ancient Greeks, Romans and even the early Christians, as mythical or biblical stories were often cautionary reminders that proper rules of conduct should be followed. To behave inhospitably or to fail to give hospitality was to act contrary to divine will, as King Nestor avows when Athena and “godlike” Telemachus wished to depart from Pylos: …Nestor…sought to stay them, and…spoke to them, saying: “This may Zeus forbid, and the other immortal gods, that ye should go from my house to your swift ship as from one utterly without raiment and poor, who has not cloaks and blankets… whereon both he and his guests may sleep softly…

HOSPITALITY WAS A SACRED DUTY ALMOST AKIN TO A RELIGIOUS SACRIFICE. ANY STRANGER THAT “RANG THE BELL” COULD BE A GOD IN DISGUISE, THERE TO TEST THE MORTAL HOMEOWNER’S HOSPITALITY.

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Never surely shall the dear son of this man Odysseus lie down upon the deck of a ship, while I yet live….

GODS COME CALLING Ancient hospitality was a sacred duty almost akin to a religious sacrifice. Any stranger that “rang the bell” could be a god in disguise, there to test the mortal homeowner’s hospitality. Even apparent friends could be divinities incognito, such as “Mentes,” Odysseus’ old comrade, actually Athena, who is generously received by Telemachus:

He beheld Athena, and went straight to the outer door; for in his heart he counted it shame that a stranger should stand long at the gates. So, drawing near, he clasped her right hand, and took from her the spear of bronze; and he spoke, and addressed her with winged words: “Hail, stranger; in our house thou shalt find entertainment and then, when thou hast tasted food, thou shalt tell of what thou hast need.” All-powerful Zeus, as Zeus Xenios, was hospitality’s divine embodiment,


DISCOVER ORIGINS

AS BASIC AS THE SEA… Mythology showcased the essential role of hospitality in ancient Greek life. The classicists Charles Victor Daremberg and Edmond Saglio wrote that “the itinerant and social nature of…

Greeks, the feasts, the needs of trade and very often…the political exiles… render[ed] hospitality…necessary in all parts of the Greek world.” Hospitality was as basic to the Greek experience as the sea, sky and mountains. Its mythical descriptions were allegories for the pleasure, pain and anxiety inherent to a human world ultimately governed by mysterious, almighty nature. Hospitality was a suitable medium for the apparition of a god, observes anthropologist Julian Pitt-Rivers, as a stranger at one’s door was nothing

“Ulysses [Odysseus] Following the Car of Nausicaa,” engraving, after John Flaxman (1805), Tate Britain Museum.

© LOOK AND LEARN / BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

although Hestia, goddess of the hearth and household order, was also linked to the custom. In addition, Hermes, the gods’ herald and Zeus’ personal messenger, assisted the king of the gods in overseeing hospitality and protecting travelers.

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less than a confrontation between the familiar, ordinary world and the unknown, unpredictable “extra-ordinary” world. If the potential danger that arrived with a guest was to be avoided, Pitt-Rivers continues, “he must either be denied admittance, chased or enticed away like evil spirits…, or, if granted admittance, he must be socialized.” This happened through ritualized inversion, during which the visitor was transformed from a hostile stranger to a welcome guest.

© DE AGOSTINI, HULTON ARCHIVE /GETTY IMAGES / IDEAL IMAGE

HOSPITALITY, HOWEVER HUMBLE Often in ancient myth and literature, the rich and greedy declined to offer a proper welcome, while the poor but generous threw open their humble household to what is later revealed to be a deity. This mythological sub-genre, theoxeny, is given a heroic twist by Homer, notes classicist Bruce Louden, when the poet has “a mortal play the role normally assigned a god. Odysseus both tests hospitality and exacts punishment on the impious who fail to be hospitable.”

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In Roman times, Ovid tells the tale of Philemon and Baucis, an elderly couple who welcome Zeus/Jupiter and Hermes/Mercury into their humble home. They go to great lengths to offer their unknown visitors hospitality, even preparing to slaughter their prize goose. Held up as an example of proper host behavior, they are spared from a massive sinkhole that swallows their entire neighborhood, while their house becomes a temple.

A HOST’S EVIL SCHEME Such cautionary tales abound in antiquity. As was noted earlier, the Trojan War in the Iliad was sparked by the “theft” of a Greek host’s wife, while the Odyssey recounts how a hero returns from that war only to find his wife plagued by would-be suitors abusing his/her hospitality. A particularly gruesome tale involving Zeus/Jupiter appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where the god as a traveling stranger is put up by King Lycaon of Arcadia. His impious host, however, plots his murder after first serving him flesh from a grilled Molossian hostage. Zeus per-

ceives Lycaon’s evil scheme and decimates his palace with thunderbolts before transforming his bloodthirsty host into a raving, shaggy-haired wolf.

DO UNTO OTHERS… In Roman times, hospitality became less about a sacred duty to properly welcome a stranger and more about a host’s role in providing for his guests. Nevertheless, in the Christian World, the importance of hospitality as an element of morality continued to be transmitted through religion. Scholars suggest hospitality is central to virtually all Old Testament ethics. In a passage particularly relevant today, Leviticus 19: 33-34 pronounces: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.“” Odysseus and Nestor sacrifice a bull to Poseidon, witnessed by Telemachus and Athena. Illustration (1900), Hulton Archive.


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DISCOVER ORIGINS

Ultimately, hospitality in myth and religion manifests the age-old “golden rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

LAWS OF HOSPITALITY Hospitality was so important in antiquity that in Classical Athens it even became legally codified. Plato’s Laws record how four types of foreign visitors should be variously received by Athenians, depending on their purpose, position and social status. Merchants, cultural visitors and civic dignitaries received formal treatment from, respectively, commercial officials, priests and temple custodians, and government representatives. High-status cultural visitors over the age of fifty were welcomed formally, but in a friendlier manner, hosted by equally wise figures, educational officials, or recognized specialists in art and culture. In all cases, both host and guest had certain legal obligations. DUTIES END AT THE DOOR Hospitality’s rituals and codes

have long intrigued anthropologists studying human cultural behavior. “A host is host only on the territory over which on a particular occasion he claims authority,” Pitt-Rivers observes, adding “a guest cannot be guest on ground where he has rights and responsibilities.” Thus, a host’s courtesy in “showing a guest to the door or the gate underlines a concern in his welfare as long as he is a guest, but it also defines precisely the point at which he ceases to be so, when the host is quit of his responsibility...”

RESPECT AND RECIPROCITY Although mutual respect was required between hosts and guests, they weren’t considered equals when they met; equality invited rivalry. The guest, whoever he was, had to remain deferential to his host while accepting his hospitality – but with the understanding that the kindness would later be returned, with the guest now in the dominant role. Key elements of hospitality, then, were reciprocity and alternating roles, even when a host

and guest may be bitter enemies – as in the case of King Priam’s visit to Achilles’ tent to request his son’s body.

OBEYING THE RULES Whether king or beggar, a visitor had to adhere to his duties as a respectful guest. If he violated the rules of hospitality, he returned to the role of hostile stranger. Everyone understood the hospitality code, but sometimes chose to violate it. In the Odyssey, Menelaus says to Telemachus, “I would condemn any host who…acted excessively hospitable or excessively hostile… It is as blameworthy to urge a guest to leave who does not want to as it is to detain a guest who is eager to leave…” However, both Menelaus and Nestor prevent Telemachus from leaving Sparta and Pylos, thus prolonging his homeward journey. In the climax of the Odyssey, the rules of hospitality are dramatically reversed, and the sacred tradition polluted; Odysseus’ slaughter of his “guests,” the suitors, is rightful justice, after which order and peace are restored.

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“Ulysses [Odysseus] Conversing with Eumaeus,” engraving, after John Flaxman (1805), Tate Britain Museum.

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“Veiled” in the most picturesque site of Attica, on the Athenian Riviera, Lake Vouliagmeni is a unique destination for the seekers of well-being. It is one of nature’s miracles. This unique environment comes together by the existence of a daunting rock, thermal waters, labyrinthine underwater tunnels and the lush vegetation. Situated on an idyllic landscape, this rare topological occurrence is waiting to be discovered. Being globally defi ned as a unique geological phenomenon, the Lake is included in Greece’s national NATURA 2000 network and as a Site of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the Ministry of Culture. In addition, Lake Vouliagmeni is also included on Greece’s list of recognized thermal springs. The lake’s brackish waters which are continuously replenished by the sea and underground thermal springs, with a temperature between 22 to 29 degrees Celsius all year round, offer a natural and unique thermal spa experience. A holistic experience for rejuvenating both body and mind! Swimming in the lake is more than pleasurable, stimulating the swimmers’ energy and balancing their wellness.

The Doctor Spa fish, part of the Lake’s unique ecosystem, rids the skin of its scales and offers a natural rejuvenation. Sunbeds and Umbrellas are offered around the Lake’s shoreline. After submerging in the beneficial waters of the Lake, indulge in a soothing massage under nature’s scenic surroundings. Privé Area promises moments of lavishness and complete relaxation. Immersed in the pine shade, Privé exuding an air of cosmopolitan luxury. Synonymous to absolute relaxation, is the ideal choice for escaping from the ordinary… Nero restaurant, gracefully nested in the Lake’s scenic location, is one of the most alluring fine dining destinations. Embracing Greek hospitality, Nero’s menu is dedicated to Greek and Mediterranean cuisine reaffirming that authentic food brings back memories and experiences which please the eye and delight the soul. With a magnificent view to the Lake’s unique natural beauty, Nero also promises an unforgettable dining experience.


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STRANGERS FROM THE SEA Pantelis Boukalas, recipient of the 2019 State Literary Award for Best Essay Criticism, looks at the reception of the foreigner in Greek poetry. B Y PA N T E L I S B OU K A L A S P HOTOS: E I R I N I VOU R L OU M I S

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rom its earliest beginnings, Greek poetry has treated foreigners or outsiders honorably and with respect – even those from lands at war with the Greeks, as we see in the ancient word themixenos , meaning “acting justly towards strangers,” which we owe to Pindar, and the word xenotimos, indicating “one who honors his guests.” Greek poetry showed respect both to a stranger’s pain and to his bravery. In the Homeric epics, valor and the deep bitterness of war and death are common to all, regardless of tribe or race. And it’s not insignificant that the patriotic words “Fight for your country – that is the best, the only omen!” are spoken in “The Iliad” by Hector, a warrior fighting against the Greeks, a fact we often forget or fail to mention nowadays when quoting them. With a rich inheritance from the Homeric epics, the high art of Classical Greek tragedy, with its comprehensiveness and perspicacity, couldn’t help but show the foreigner’s pain – even that of the foreigner who fought against Greeks on the battleground, either in myth or in history. Aeschylus’ “The Persians” and Euripides’ “The Trojan Women” offer timeless examples in the way they honor foreign pain. The same is true of Aeschylus’ The Suppliants, in which 50 Danaides, who escaped from Egypt to avoid unholy incestuous marriages with their cousins, are welcomed by the city of Argos according to the will of Zeus Xenios, who oversees the trials of refugees and migrants. “But yet the wrath of Zeus, the suppliants’ lord, / I needs must fear: most awful unto man / The terror of his anger,” says King Pelasgus of Argos. The ancient Greeks created their twelve gods in their own image: they shaped them in accordance with values and beliefs they considered incontrovertible, and which they had codified as legal, inalienable rights. These beliefs became the basis for the institutionalized role of the xenofylakas, the nobleman tasked with the protection of foreigners. From the outset, the foreigner was also, of course, protected by language itself: the word xenos, or “foreigner,” 56

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which had a particular weight, was wisely endowed by poets, philosophers and by the customs of the city with a duality of meaning that offered the word an enviable richness, since it referred both to host and guest. In encapsulating this social experience, this word looked ahead to see that the host would likely at some point find himself in the place of need which the guest currently inhabits. It warned him, in other words, to honor these obligations so that he himself, in his own moment of need, would have the right to demand that they be honored for

Moved by the thousands of refugees crossing over from Turkey to the Greek islands, photographer Eirini Vourloumis undertook a project titled “The Mermaid Madonna,” after a book by the acclaimed Lesvosborn author Stratis Myrivilis. The photos accompanying this article are from that project. eiriniphoto.com

him as well; that others welcome him, as is suitable in human societies – or else be judged to be little better than the Cyclops, as described in Homer’s “Odyssey” and by Euripides in his satyr play “Cyclops.” However, while the word xenos in Homer (and in the ancient Greek literature that fed off his rich table) is used to indicate any wanderer or refugee in need of the comforts of hospitality, for the Romans “the original name for a stranger (hostis) came to mean enemy” (Henry Liddell and Robert Scott, “A Greek-English Lexicon”).


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In contrast to this usage, the word xenos appears to have particular foresight in later forms of Greek as well. Likewise embodying a social experience, it often ends up identifying the foreigner with the beleaguered, and indeed with someone in distress who is worthy of compassion. According to Emmanuel Kriaras’ “Dictionary of the Medieval Greek Demotic Language, 1100-1169,” the xenos in Byzantine years is, as is true in our more modern era, the migrant, the persecuted, the exiled, the refugee, as well as the unhappy, the careworn and the one who has lost everything.

In addition, Kriaras notes, xenos as “the adjective of Christian philanthropy is usually associated with the adjective ‘poor’: ‘always help the stranger and have pity on the poor.’” This line is from the poem “On Exile,” which was written in 15-syllable lines during the 15th or 16th century by an unknown author. While Zeus was invoked in order to enforce certain behaviors in ancient times, our anonymous post-Byzantine Christian poet calls on God, who “created the world for strangers, too.” Moreover, in order to give examples to his readers, he reminds them that Christ himself took human form as a stranger and experienced all the torments a stranger often endures: “I’ll truthfully tell this truthful thing: / Even the Maker of All Things, the creator of all, / He, too, became a stranger and appeared in the world / and he first of all experienced the bitterness expressed towards strangers, / the sadness and torments.” The unknown poet must certainly have been influenced by the highly poetic encomium to hospitality composed in the 13th century by the Byzantine Georgios Akropolitis. This encomium is what we hear each Good Friday, after the procession of the Epitaphios, as put to music in the 17th century by Germanos of Patras. Its refrain, “Give me this stranger,” refers to God as a stranger, as Christ, who embraced “strangers and the poor,” a discourse of supplication that shapes the face of the human stranger. In Greek folk songs about exile created by women, the foreigner is the Greek who leaves his homeland, which has been enslaved by Turks, in order to make his way to some other place in the West or East, in Frankish or Slavic lands. His life far from his people is described as full of torments and traps, which is why the songs advise him always to wear black. Precisely because of this knowledge and bitter experience, one of the most beautiful and popular of the folk songs, “Amarantos,” supports the obligation of hospitality even when you have nothing to offer but your poverty and love. Mother and daughter find a bedraggled, wounded stranger up on the mountain. The mother hesitates

ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FOLK SONGS, “AMARANTOS,” SUPPORTS THE OBLIGATION OF HOSPITALITY EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER BUT YOUR POVERTY AND LOVE.

to bring him to their poor home, but the daughter insists: “Mother, let’s take this stranger / into our home.” “But we don’t have bread to eat, what will we do with him?” “Mother, my bread is plenty for me to share.” Greek folk songs as a genre are not naïve. Full of history and social experience, they know that human behavior is often not determined either by the fear of God nor by pure feelings nor by the law, but by prejudice, including bigotry. The song of the “Little Refugee Girl,” with its extremely harsh imagery, comprises a continuation or variation of the “Song of the Bulgarian Girl” or “Orphan Girl,” and was sung by the Greek refugees from Turkey who arrived in Greece after the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe. They may have been Greek, yet, as we know from the writings of George Seferis, himself from Asia Minor, they didn’t find in Greece the hospitable kindness their trials and tribulations had earned them. The folk song, meanwhile, uses harsh images to describe the unwelcoming attitude of the motherland: A mother doesn’t want her son to marry a young refugee. And because he insists, trusting to his love, his mother welcomes the young woman by cooking a soup of snakes. Her son’s beloved eats it, is poisoned, and dies. This single folk song is enough to clear up any delusions that “Greek hospitality runs in our blood.” P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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Patrick Leigh Fermor, known affectionately as Paddy, seen here in his Kardamyli study in a 2004 photo taken by Australian writer Sean Deany.

PADDY’S FINAL ACT OF PHILOXENIA

The home of the late Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor in Mani is now a writers’ refuge. This is the story of the house and the legacy of the couple who created it. BY MICHA EL SWEET

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n December 1933, 18-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor purchased a pair of hobnail boots in an army surplus store in London and set out on a trip that would take him on foot from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, the seat of the Byzantine Empire. This journey would be one of the two great adventures that would come to define this revered travel writer, the second being his experience as an agent for the British Special Operations

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Executive (SOE) in Crete between 1942 and 1944. On the “great trudge” (as he would later call it) to Turkey, Leigh Fermor journeyed through a Europe that would shortly change forever as a result of the Second World War – ancient identities and cultures were soon to be savaged by conflict, and then brutalized by Soviet communism. His amazing trans-European trek ended in Istanbul in December of 1934, but he


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The southeastern sunken, open-air seating area under a pergola.

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resumed his travels a few weeks later, going to Greece, to Mt Athos, where he experienced philoxenia, that enveloping Greek hospitality, for the first time.  It wasn’t just the welcome given to him by the monks of Mt Athos that impressed the young Briton; one storm-soaked night, when he was hopelessly lost in a forest near Pantocrator Monastery – cold, hungry and sodden – he was befriended by woodsmen who gave him shelter, raki and a place by their fire, before serenading him with a “strange wailing chant, clapping their hands together and tossing their heads about like dogs baying the full moon.” After Mt Athos, the mysteries, spirituality and traditions of Greece would become touchstones in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s life, and Greece itself would gain paramount importance.  When, in 1940, the British Army’s Intelligence Corps were looking for officers with

That Paddy chose to make his home in Mani in the Peloponnese after the war rather than on the island of Crete is unsurprising. His wartime actions and the intimate friendships that resulted from them would have made privacy impossible; the blood-ties were too deep, the mountain paths too well trodden. After everything that had happened, Paddy’s longed-for home in Greece would be a place to start afresh. It was in late June 1962 that he first saw Kalamitsi (a name meaning “place of reeds”), a small peninsula south of the village of Kardamyli. He described finding it: “Walking down into a gently sloping world of the utmost magical beauty… The view is an enormous sweep of sea… Not a house in sight, nothing but the two rocky headlands, an island a quarter of a mile out to sea with a ruined chapel, and a vast expanse of glittering water, over which you see the sun setting till its last

IN CRETE, FERMOR WITNESSED PHILOXENIA DURING WARTIME – THE SELFLESS GENEROSITY OF THOUSANDS OF ORDINARY CRETANS WHO HELPED THE ALLIED CAUSE, MANY OF WHOM WOULD PAY WITH THEIR LIVES. a knowledge of Greek, Paddy (as everyone called him) jumped at the chance, and it is his exploits as an SOE agent in occupied Crete, as much as his fabled walk across Europe, that are at the heart of the Leigh Fermor legend. Paddy waded onto a beach at Irakleio in June 1942, one of a number of British intelligence agents sent to work with the Cretan resistance. His audacious abduction, two years later, of General Kreipe, commander of the German forces on the island, was the act that would come to define him for many. As for Paddy, the time he spent on the island, living in the mountains beside his andarte (rebel) brothers-in-arms or protected in villages by heroic civilians as together they all defied the German occupiers, left an indelible mark. In Crete, he witnessed philoxenia during wartime – the selfless generosity of thousands of ordinary Cretans who helped the Allied cause, many of whom would pay with their lives. 60

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gasp. Homer’s Greece, in fact.” Paddy went swimming that first day from the pebbled beach below the headland. He was smitten. After nearly two years of negotiation with the landowners, Paddy and Joan signed the contract for the plot in March 1964; the price was over 200,000 drachmas (more than $6,700). By the summer, the Leigh Fermors were camping on the site and planning their future home. Their choice of architect was Nikos Hadjimichalis, an expert on both Greek vernacular architecture and the preservation of traditional villages. Key to the project would be local stonemason Nikos Kolokotrones, whom Paddy described as “the last of seven generations of master-masons from Arcadia who had all played the violin.” In the years that followed, the house, cradled in a bower of cypress trees, took shape. It would not, however, be complet-

ed until the end of the 1960s. Its details, lovingly assembled, were a kaleidoscope of artistic references gathered from Paddy’s and Joan’s travels; the pebbled terrace was based on designs from Olynthos, the ancient city of Halkidiki; a fireplace was modeled on ones that Paddy saw in Baleni, Romania; and a great circular marble dining table was inlaid with motifs copied from a 13th-century Verona church. For forty years, a legion of friends and admirers would beat a path to Paddy and Joan’s door. Artists, poets, royalty and writers came, all taking inspiration from their erudite hosts. A visit was an act of communion, a sharing of ideas and stories. One guest in the 1980s was author Sofka Zinovieff, who remembers Paddy’s passion for entertaining. “When I met them, they were already in their seventies, but had the good looks and dynamism of people decades younger. The house seemed a mix between a Byzantine monastery and an English country home, with its stone arches and comfortable armchairs, the walls covered in books and paintings by Nikos Ghikas. Paddy loved being with people, it was his natural way to be.” Like Zinovieff, American author David Mason became a friend of the Leigh Fermors in the 1980s, and even a neighbor for six months, living in a stone hut near the house. Thirty years later, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Mason recalled their grace and generosity. “Never inclined to introspection, Paddy was endlessly curious about the world, and that curiosity distinguished his life and writing from our confessional age. He insisted that the reference library be near the dining-room table for consultation during mealtime arguments... Paddy and Joan lent me books, fed me, regaled me with stories, introduced me to their friends, and never once required proof that I was a personage of any stature. They were the most generous human beings I have ever known…” Artemis Cooper, Paddy’s biographer, who became as close to the Leigh Fermors as anyone still living, recalled the first time she visited, accompanied by her husband, the British historian Antony Beevor. “I remember the long, hot road and the feeling that, after all that dust and sweat, you were entering another world. It was a calm night with millions of stars…


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01. Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor on the terrace at Kardamyli. 02. The east elevation with the outdoor arched gallery 03. Patrick Leigh Fermor dancing with builders during the construction of the house, 1965. 04. Southern outdoor courtyard with views towards the sea. On the right, a seating area on the edge of the plot is visible.

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01. March 1967. Paddy celebrates the house’s completion over lunch with master stone mason Nicos Kolokotrones and his family. 02. The main living room with the fireplace.

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We were six people around the marble table with a sea view: Paddy and Joan, Xan Fielding [PLF’s closest friend and former SOE agent in Crete] and his wife Maggie, Antony and me.” That night they dined on roast chicken stuffed with black olives, and drank red wine from Nemea, a favorite of Paddy’s. “What did we discuss that night? I don’t remember anything except the velvet night, the sound of the sea, the faces in the candlelight, the laughter and the voices – and the thought that nothing could be better than that moment.”  In 1996, Paddy and Joan made the decision to bequeath their home to the Benaki Museum. The house was to be used to host researchers “looking for a quiet and hospitable place to work.” Sev62

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en years later, Joan passed away, after a fall at the house. Paddy soldiered on. By the late 2000s he was tiring and declining interview requests. Visitors were few. But in the last year of his life, I had the honor of meeting him. On a trip to the Mani in the summer of 2010, a chance conversation with the grocer on Kardamyli’s main street brought up Paddy’s name. “Would you like to meet Mihalis?” said the shopkeeper (using the name Paddy had been known by in Greece since the war years). “Let me call him.” The meeting was arranged by phone for the same morning. Near the post office, I excitedly bought a paperback copy of Paddy’s book “Mani –Travels in the Southern Peloponnese,” a volume which

I’d first bought and read 20 years earlier. The drive from the village to the headland above Kalamitsi Beach takes a few minutes. After a gentle ascent by foot through the olive trees, I was there. Elpida Beloyannis, his housekeeper, greeted me and led me to Paddy’s studio where the legendary writer, war hero and polymath greeted me with a warm but frail handshake. Almost immediately, he spoke of his work on the third and final volume of his trek across Europe in the 1930s, which he was struggling to complete. I remember my sense of awkward humility as Elpida took a photograph of us together. Just before leaving, I asked if he would sign the Mani book for my son Alexander, then six years old. He smiled at hearing the name, and wrote in Greek “To Alexander, signed by Patrick Leigh Fermor - brothers in arms.”  That was Paddy’s last summer. He stayed on at Kardamyli until the 9th of June 2011, when he left Greece for the last time. He died in England the following day. As had been his wish, he was buried beside Joan. On his gravestone is an inscription in Greek, a quotation from Constantine Cavafy: “In addition, he was that best of all things, Hellenic.” In the immediate years after Paddy’s death, the house remained largely untouched, with Elpida, employed by the Benaki Museum, acting as its caretaker. In 2014, it was opened to visitors. Delays in obtaining licenses to begin necessary repairs meant that it wasn’t until 2017 that significant renovations (overseen by the museum) could begin, funded by a donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Eighteen months later, the works were complete. The original structure of the house – with few interventions – has allowed for the creation of five guest rooms, each with its own work space. Communal rooms will be used for what Paddy and Joan always intended: for relaxation and reflection, for sharing ideas and inspiration, and for joyful celebrations. INFO: The Leigh Fermor House is open for scheduled visits and guided tours every Tue, Thu and Sat at 11:00. Reservations: leighfermorhouse@benaki.gr. For information on the use of the house as a writer’s refuge, applicants should contact the Benaki Museum at the same email address. For enquiries regarding renting the property (available from summer 2020), contact Aria Hotels at plf@ariahotels.gr.


ADVERTORIAL

HOSPITALITY WITH AN “URBAN NATURE” FEELING This city center hotel overlooking the Pedion tou Areos, Athens’ largest park, just a stone’s throw from the National Archaeological Museum, has been newly refurbished with welcoming natural elements that allow the guests to feel the presence of the park inside the hotel. It boasts luxurious accommodation, 1000 square meters of stylish state-of-the-art conference facilities, and a “Yes I can!” service philosophy. The St’Astra rooftop restaurant-bar, featuring a view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill, and the rooftop swimming pool, with its 360-degree view of Athens, offer truly memorable experiences.

Radisson Blu Park Hotel Athens • 10 Alexandras Avenue, 10682 Athens • Tel. (+30) 210.889.4500 • info.athens@radissonblu.com • www.radissonblu.com/hotel-athens


DISCOVER LEGEND

A RESPECTFUL MAKEOVER

© BENAKI MUSEUM/LEONIDAS KOURGIANTAKIS

Architects Maria Kokkinou and Andreas Kourkoulas talk about the renovaiton project of the Leigh Fermor residence.

The interior of Leigh Fermor’s study at the edge of the garden.

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only adds to its charm. “There are views all around,” Kokkinou notes.”There’s an incredible sense of tranquility in the garden, and great liveliness inside.” Every major interior space, including Leigh Fermor’s office and the maid’s quarters, has been sectioned off and given an en-suite bathroom. They changed the roof, modernized the casings so as to improve energy efficiency and passed all the electrical wiring through the ceiling so that it wouldn’t be visible. “Leigh Fermor had thoroughly studied the surrounding area and, in his mind, had built a traditional Maniot house with beamed ceilings and arches. But this house had completely different proportions and its layout was reminiscent of a monastery, with corridors adjoining all the rooms. It’s the home of Leigh Fermor, the home of a legend,” says the architect. “It is made of stone and entirely integrated into the surrounding landscape, with local flagstones similar to those used in Pilio and with many elements inspired

by his travels, such as the handmade tiles and lamps he brought from Morocco. He had made several pieces of furniture himself – all of which have been restored in their entirety – and every room had a fireplace providing heat,” explains Kokkinou. “Our brief was to maintain this special atmosphere while modernizing the rooms,” says the architect. “This is what the Benaki Museum wanted, but it’s also what we wanted.”

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hether you know about architecture or not, as you step through the blue door into the beautiful courtyard of the Leigh Fermor House in Kalamitsi in the southern Peloponnese and walk across the pebble mosaic created by the distinguished Greek artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, you’re bound to marvel at how discreetly and tastefully this historic property has been renovated. Carried out by the award-winning architectural firm of Maria Kokkinou and Andreas Kourkoulas, the daunting task of remodeling the cut-stone complex into five independent suites has been accomplished so successfully that the interventions are almost imperceptible to the untrained eye – as was the intention all along. “We had to meet a very specific specific target at the Leigh Fermor House, where the main creative challenge was to keep its character intact,” says Kokkinou. The house is perched on a hill, which

Andreas Kourkoulas Maria Kokkinou, kokkinoukourkoulas.com


Home

away from

Home

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Opora Country Living Pirgiotika, 211 00, Argolida, Greece │ Tel: (+30) 27520 22259 Mobile: 694 7617160 & 6944 505353 │ info@oporacountryliving.com

www.oporacountryliving.com


INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

S

ince April 2017, Fraport Greece has been in charge of managing, operating and upgrading 14 Greek regional airports, with a focus on providing an excellent travel experience, safety and functionality for passengers, airlines and, indeed, all airport users. The company is currently investing approximately â‚Ź415 million in the revamping of the 14 airports, in accordance with international aviation standards and guidelines, while also introducing new services, amenities and commercial spaces.

I NVESTING IN THE FUTURE OF GREECE By the end 2019, Fraport Greece will

have completed works at nine of the 14 airports. The renovation of airports on the islands of Zakynthos, Skiathos and Crete (at Chania) and in Kavala and Aktion on the mainland has finished. Passengers now enjoy an upgraded travel experience, new services and a hassle-free and speedy arrival and departure process. Works at the airports on the Aegean islands of Samos, Lesvos (at Mytilene) and Rhodes, as well as on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, will be officially completed by the end of this year. The upgrading program and the modernization of the infrastructure of all airports will be completed by 2021, with the completion of works at five airports

on the islands of Corfu, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini and in the city of Thessaloniki. The new facilities will serve the needs of passengers, partners and airport employees, providing significant amenities to the increased number of travelers with more check-in points, more passenger control points, state-of-the-art baggage handling and management systems, comfortable waiting rooms, fast WiFi connections and integrated family services.

HIGHLIGHTS In this issue, we are delighted to present Skiathos and Aktion airports, which were recently delivered to the public.


ADVERTORIAL

OF GREECE Skiathos Airport 1. Expansion by 2,185 m2 and refurbishment of the existing terminal 2. Reconfiguration of the aircraft parking area 3. Construction of new fire station 4. 10% increase in the number of check-in counters 5. 70% increase in the number of departure gates (from 3 to 5) 6. Doubling of the number of baggage carousels 7. Installation of modern baggage handling system 8. Construction of new guardhouse 9. Redevelopment of existing forecourt and parking

Aktion Airport 1. E  xpansion by 2,500 m2 and refurbishment of the existing terminal 2. 7  5% increase in the number of check-in counters (from 8 to 14) 3. Installation of modern baggage handling system 4. 4  0% increase in the number of departure gates (from 5 to 7) 5. C  onstruction of new access control guardhouse in the aircraft area 6. Reconfiguration of the apron 7. R  efurbishment of the airside pavement


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THE GOLDEN AGE

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Greece came into its own as a destination for a new brand of traveler, known as the “tourist.”

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© SERGE DE SAZO VIA GETTY IMAGES / IDEAL IMAGE

Left: A still from Jules Dassin’s film “Phaedra,” starring Melina Mercouri, from a scene shot on the Acropolis. Right: Tourists snapping photos of a woman in traditional garb, on the island of Corfu.

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hey traveled to Epidaurus on one of those old buses. “It was a Saturday and the performance began on time. Shortly after, however, it started to rain, so it was postponed. We spent the night in cars and the following day watched the performance without a problem.” This is an account from Mary Ioakeimoglou, then a young employee at the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), of how in the summer of 1960 she traveled from Athens to Epidaurus – back then it was a real journey, not the two hours at the most that it takes today – to see Maria Callas in the title role of Bellini’s “Norma,” the ultimate diva’s first appearance at the ancient theater. As I read “Journey in Time,” a book by Kostas Katsigiannis on the history of the GNTO and Greek tourism, I couldn’t help wondering how Mary’s 1960 experience would play out in the summer of 2020. Computer, social media and mobile networks would no doubt be buzzing with outrage, along with demands for compensation. With hindsight, one might be tempted to say that, for one day at least, Epidaurus must have resembled a campsite or Woodstock-like gathering for the performing arts – although that American rock music festival wouldn’t take place

01. Tea for two with an amazing view of the Temple of Zeus, at the Royal Olympic Athens Hotel, 1969. 02. The jewel of the Athenian Riviera: Astir Beach, 1961. 03. A group of visitors posing for a souvenir photo at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, 1963.

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04. GNTO Poster, 1964. 05. Xenia Nafplio was designed by the architect Ioannis Triantafilidis and .welcomed its first guests in 1961. 06. GNTO Poster, 1962. 07. GNTO Poster, 1964.

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until nine years later – capturing, to some extent, the innocence of the decade from 1955 to 1965, which now is justifiably referred to as the “golden age” of Greek tourism. In the mid-20th century, Greece started welcoming the first recreational visitors, who swam in pristine seas and discovered on the mainland not only an ancient civilization but also a people with customs and traditions which, compared to their own, were very different, even exotic. It was then that the term “touring” was phased out by the relevant authorities and irrevocably replaced by the word “tourism.” One of the first slogans, simple but clever, to target foreign visitors was “Going to Greece is like coming home,” which was launched in the 1930s. As the number of visitors constantly increased, so, too, did the great changes and transformations in Greek tour-

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ism. The 71,000 arrivals in 1930 rose to 200,000 in 1955, 400,000 in 1960, while in 2018 the country attracted some 33 million visitors. But let’s go back to the golden decade, before the appearance of jet skis, when celebrated graphic designers Freddie Carabott and Michalis Katzourakis created posters for the GNTO, Anthony Quinn danced on the beach in “Zorba the Greek” and Sophia Loren gave eternal fame to the island of Hydra with the film “Boy on a Dolphin.” Greece had left behind a turbulent past marked by war and conflict. In the 72

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IT WAS THEN THAT THE TERM “TOURING” WAS PHASED OUT AND IRREVOCABLY REPLACED BY THE WORD “TOURISM.”


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01. John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Athens, November 20, 1969. 02. GNTO Poster of Hydra by Yiannis Moralis, 1948.

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03. GNTO Poster, 1967. 04. One of the Paris Opera dancers jumps from a boat off the coast of Epidaurus, 1965.

05. Marlon Brando and Jules Dassin on the Acropolis, 1958. 06. Anthony Quinn plays backgammon with locals during the filming of “Zorba the Greek,” Crete, 1964. 07. GNTO Poster 08. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the Acropolis, June 12, 1961.

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minds of many Europeans and Americans, it was a country striving to get back on its feet, endowed with great natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage but little else. In the early 1950s, the first concerted efforts were made in the tourism sector, including the re-establishment of the GNTO, the state agency that laid the foundations for attracting mass tourism; the know-how the GNTO acquired in these years would be later exploited by the private sector, which further developed the concept of Greek hospitality. In 1951, the GNTO initiated an ambitious program to construct hotel facilities throughout the country; at ancient Epidaurus, Delphi and on Mykonos, as well as at other sites, the hotels were the work of the modernist architect Aris Konstantinidis. The hotels built under this program were called the Xenia (this designation became increasingly associated with those hotels designed by the team under Konstantinidis) . These were constructions that took full advantage of their locations while remaining sensitive 74

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Marianne Ihlen, with her son Axel Jensen Jr. on her lap, at a table with (L-R) Leonard Cohen, an unknown male friend, and the couple George Johnston and Charmain Clift, Australian authors. Hydra, 1960.

to the natural landscape, and were built with an emphasis on the simplicity and purity of form. This unprecedented – by Greek standards – project resulted in a series of hotels designed with a uniform architectural concept, prompting the Ministry of Culture to later designate some – including the Xenia of Igoumenitsa, Platamonas, Kalabaka, Paliouri, Vytina and Sparta – as “monuments.” Great Greek and foreign artists appeared for the first time at newly inaugurated music and theater festivals, and there was a rare mood of optimism in the air. Callas was packing them in, as was Dimitri Mitropoulos with the New York Philharmonic. A little later, Herbert von Karajan and the legendary team of Rudolf

GREAT GREEK AND FOREIGN ARTISTS APPEARED FOR THE FIRST TIME AT NEWLY INAUGURATED MUSIC AND THEATER FESTIVALS, AND THERE WAS A RARE MOOD OF OPTIMISM IN THE AIR.


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03 01. Aristotle Onassis takes Sir Winston Churchill for a drive, 1959.

02. An advertisement for Olympic Airways, 1966.

03. GNTO Poster, 1963.

Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn would bring further glamour and international recognition to the Athens Festival. Construction of the Hilton Athens began in the heart of the city, and work on Astir Vouliagmeni Beach carried on apace. As the 1960s unfolded, Greece hosted its first International Exhibition (Biennale) of Sculpture, and the Hotel Mont Parnes opened its doors on Mt Parnitha. Romy Schneider and Alain Delon watched Katina Paxinou perform at Epidaurus. In the 1970s, Greece continued to be a magnet for the international jet set, welcoming visitors such as Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Raquel Welch, Warren Beatty, Sir Laurence Olivier and Jean-Paul Belmondo. The GNTO posters and photographs of the time were works of art by celebrated creators. Before World War II,

the first snap for the first poster promoting Greek tourism featured a shot of the Parthenon by the acclaimed Greek photographer Nelly’s. In the years that followed, Greek tourism posters would alternate between blazing works of color, abstract pieces, and creations of geometric minimalism – works by great painters and artists including Spyros Vasiliou, Panayiotis Tetsis, Michalis Katzourakis, Alekos Fassianos and even the pioneering sculptor Takis. With so much going on, one or two amusing blunders were inevitable. One such instance, mentioned in Katsigiannis’ book, occurred in 1972 when a GNTO brochure informed foreign tourists about the Afandou Golf Course on Rhodes. Absolutely thrilled, one American golfer traveled with his clubs all the way from

New York to Rhodes only to discover that the course was still under construction. Such slips aside, the mood at the time is aptly reflected by the proposal for the a GNTO advertising initiative that began in 1959. The British specialist Richard Stubbs, asked to design the program for the 1959-1960 season, noted in his proposal, among other things, that the advertising campaign should present Greece “as an exclusive country, as a holiday ‘Eldorado,’ far off the usual tourist itineraries, and as a country for persons of wealth and refined taste.” This was the time when ouzo began to acquire ardent fans, the greeting “kalimera” became known internationally and “horiatiki” salad became synonymous with Greek cuisine. In short, it was the era when the world met Greece and they became friends.

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FRAPORT GREECE PRESENTS THE NEW DESIGN OF MYKONOS AIRPORT:

TRADITIONAL CYCLADIC ARCHITECTURE IN A MODERN AIRPORT ENVIRONMENT

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s part of its mandate to assume the management and operation of 14 Greek airports, three of which are on the mainland and the rest of which are on islands, Fraport Greece has prepared a comprehensive plan for the modernization and development of the airports of Aktion, Zakynthos,

Thessaloniki, Kavala, Corfu, Kefalonia, Kos, Mytilene, Mykonos, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos and Chania. The company’s plan includes immediate projects and development works designed to upgrade the airports’ facilities, which will contribute significantly to improving the overall customer travel

experience and to accommodating the expected increase in passenger traffic. By 2021, Fraport Greece will have invested a minimum of €415 million for these development works. In the context of this undertaking, Fraport Greece is proud to present the new face of Mykonos Airport, which


ADVERTORIAL

combines modern architecture with the traditional style of the Cyclades, and the philosophy behind the design choices. The challenge for the architectural teams was great, given that the airport has gone through repeated expansions since it first opened in 1971. The idea, nonetheless, was to design a façade that included specific references to the principles of Mykonian architecture, while also meeting the requirements of a modern airport terminal. The first and last impressions that air travelers have of a destination are formed at the airport they use. With this in mind, the architectural teams wanted to create an arrivals area where the first sense would be one of expectation for what is to come, while the last impression would be one that

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reflected the memories of an unforgettable stay on the island. Inspired in part by Aegean dovecotes, much-loved examples of traditional island architecture, the design approach for the airport combines elements of these classic Mykonian structures with the modern aspects of the island as well. Therefore, in 2021, when the redevelopment of the airport is completed, the building will be a continuation of the island’s overall aesthetics, inviting travelers to begin their island exploration from the moment they land. Apart from the refurbishment of the terminal, Fraport Greece’s plans for the development of Mykonos Airport include: • A n extension with a total area of

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2000m2 added to the northern side of the existing building, which will host the airport’s new arrivals area. • The expansion of the existing building by another 500m2, creating more gates • The complete remodeling and refurbishment of all airport areas • New retail and F&B areas • T he complete refurbishment of the existing sanitary facilities • The creation of two new VIP lounges • The installation of a new automated luggage handling system • The redesign of the entire curbside area With a total investment of €25 million, Mykonos Airport will become one of the most modern airports in Greece – a worthy gateway to this outstanding island.

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© VOULA PAPAIOANNOU/BENAKI MUSEUM PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

F O CUS M Y KO N OS

THE AGE OF TOURISM A billionaire rubbing shoulders with a fisherman, a sweet young bride flirting with a local charmer: it was the upending of social conventions that drew the world to Mykonos. BY DESPI NA NA ZOU*

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Young people partying on Paradise Beach. (Left) A photograph by Voula Papaioannou, one of Greece’s foremost 20th century photographers, renowned for the way she captured life in the country during more innocent times. Her images of Mykonos depict the island before it was forever changed by mass tourism.

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Fredys Dactylidis, founder of the legendary Paradise Beach, helped shape Mykonos’ image as a tourist destination, injecting it with a free-spirited vibe when he created the island’s first campsite and official nudist beach. Here he is seen happily posing with two tourists in 1999.

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ykonos is an exceptional case not only in the Aegean but in the Mediterranean in general: an archetypal cosmopolitan island of dreams, desire and hedonism, and, at the same time, a perfect example of tourism-led development, where a subsistence agrarian economy has evolved into a service-oriented one, driven by innovative business practices. The island has around 11,000 permanent inhabitants and can support up to 10 times that number in the summer months. As a tourist destination, it now possesses an unmistakable identity, albeit one which is still evolving. The media, visitors both famous and “anonymous,”along with the first local entrepreneurs, have all been 82

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crucial contributors to this identity, which began to form in the 1930s, when the first tourists arrived on Mykonos.

GENEALOGY OF THE TOURIST INDUSTRY Mykonos was always open-minded, as is evident from the multiple references to the island made by early travelers from mainland Europe and voyagers on the Grand Tour, from the 11th to the 20th century. Long before the island became part of the global tourism network, it was already part of the extensive maritime and trade networks of the Mediterranean. It sent many an emigrant to Athens and the United States, and also welcomed exiles in the interwar period.


Jackie Kennedy’s visit to Mykonos in 1961 boosted its reputation tremendously and was instrumental in turning the island into a magnet for the jet set.

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GLIMPSES OF THE CULTURAL CODES OF AN OLDER, AGRARIAN WORLD – THE EVIDENCE OF WHICH YOU’LL FIND IN LOCAL ISLAND GROUPS, NICKNAMES, RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES AND FEASTS – CAN STILL BE SEEN AT TIMES.

The spark that ignited the tourist trade in the 1930s was the international interest stirred up by the archaeological site on Delos. This was the period when an educated elite of artists, architects and wealthy urbanites “discovered” the island and started giving Mykonos its global character. By the 1950s and 1960s, Mykonos was already enjoying a worldwide reputation independent of Delos. The “authenticity” of its Cycladic landscape, the hospitality of the locals and the general admiration for its vernacular architecture all came together to form the nucleus of an idea around which the island’s identity as a hot destination was developed. Reading the accounts of many visitors of the time and flipping through publications from that era, it’s clear that the encounter with the otherness of the place and its inhabitants was part and parcel of a visit to postwar Mykonos. For many visitors, the island played host to all kinds of unions and syncretisms. Bonding with the Cycladic spirit, with the “divine” element of Delos and Mykonos, became part of a metaphysical appreciation of the place. A feeling of conviviality brought together visitors and locals, celebrities and mere mortals. Many postcards from the 1960s and 1970s record this type of melding: celebrities, tycoons and politicians armin-arm with fishermen in celebration; resident self-taught artists hanging out with 84

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their more famous colleagues; beauties and debutantes seated with local boys; youthful groups of western Europeans, Americans and Greeks full of the vacation spirit, sitting at cafés or strolling down the streets of Hora, singing alongside local revelers. Mykonos had already become what anthropologists call a liminal space, a place of freedom where the rules of everyday life are suspended, a paradise for tourists looking for a break from their Western, work-centered routines, and for others who simply wanted to continue their bohemian, hippy lifestyle on their vacation. The island tolerated the unconventional, and this is one of the reasons why it quickly became a magnet for the gay community. The addition of basic hospitality services provided an opportunity for fertile cultural exchanges. In the beginning, these services were offered on an ad hoc basis, as there were no proper tourist accommodations and many locals rented out rooms in their family homes to visitors. This is how many friendships – and romances – were born. From that point on, Mykonos became a place of tolerance and exploration. The unconventional and the carnivalesque remain among its main attractions. In the years that followed, the island opened up even further, offering the combined sale and consumption of “nature” – sun, sea and picturesque Aegean scenery – as well as a playground for the fashionable and wealthy. The many nightclubs, restaurants and designer clothing boutiques painted a picture of Mykonos as a place dealing in style, fashion, images and fantasy. As Mykonos became a world-renowned destination, the local population faced radical changes in their daily lives. Large expanses of land changed hands and became commercialized, losing its agricultural character to serve the development plans of local and foreign entrepreneurs. A class of elites began to emerge, altering the political and social balance on the island. The businessmen, both local and foreign, created their own socioeconomic group and, by driving development, were central to the new

balances that emerged. In more recent times, the tourism-driven employment market has brought women to the fore as dynamic forces in their own right, with their own financial resources and greater professional freedom. This, in turn, broadened local attitudes, creating new notions of what is acceptable and permissible.

COSMOPOLITANISM AND IDENTITY Despite the problems created by intensive development, Mykonos is still considered a symbol of cosmopolitanism, a “Manhattan of the Aegean.” After the mass arrival of Greek tourists in previous years, the island is now a top destination for Chinese, Russian and Arab visitors. At the same time, Mykonos is inhabited by people who experience the island in different ways, such as the workers in the tourist industry, seasonal and not, among whom are many economic migrants from eastern Europe, India and Pakistan. Another cultural group is made up of the various foreigners, primarily Europeans and Americans, who have started businesses, bought homes and land, and live on the island year-round. Among the other population groups that share the island are Greeks from different parts of the country who view it as a place to make a living or find success during difficult economic times. Today, one might argue that Mykonos is defined more by cosmopolitan traits than by its traditional values or by stereotypical notions of local culture. Still, glimpses of the cultural codes of an older, agrarian world – evidence of which you’ll find in local island groups, nicknames, religious ceremonies and feasts – can still be seen at times. Meanwhile, issues of collective memory and indigenous symbols are becoming the focus of the many cultural associations on the island trying to preserve local identity in the midst of a shifting social landscape.

* Despina Nazou is a social anthropologist. She is an affiliated lecturer at the University of the Aegean and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Crete. This article first appeared in Greece Is - Mykonos, 2018 Edition.


A table of delights at the Manousakis winery in Hania, where visitors can enjoy authentic Cretan cuisine and wine straight from the vineyard.

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“In Crete, the stranger is still the unknown god. Before him all doors Nikos Kazantzakis, “Report to Greco” and all hearts are opened.” B Y D I A N A FA R R L OU I S *

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At a pre-wedding meal in a rural village, the women plate up homemade pasta topped with grated myzithra cheese.

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knock hesitantly on the door of a house on a back street in Hania. A gray-haired woman opens it and looks at me with questioning eyes. “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you,” I say in my American-accented Greek, “Your neighbor says that you make the best pites [pies, often savory] in town. I’m writing a cookbook and would love to talk to you, if you have time . . .” Almost before I can finish the sentence, the woman – we’ll call her Ioanna, and add a Kyria, or Mrs., in front, to show her respect – has whisked me through the door and into her kitchen and sat me down at the table. She opens her freezer and pulls out a bagful of doughy squares about twice the size of raviolis, explaining that she always makes more than her family can eat at one sitting and freezes the rest. She pops them into a frying pan with a bit of her own olive oil, makes me a tiny 88

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cup of Greek coffee at the same time and, in less than ten minutes, I’m biting through honey-drizzled, crunchy pastry from which tongue-burning white cheese oozes. (After a few weeks of research, I would find out that Cretan women serve their guests little pies as a routine welcome, in the same way that housewives in other parts of Greece present them with a saucer of spoon sweets, iced water and a cup of coffee.) As I eat, I’m also trying to take notes, while Kyria Ioanna is talking, telling stories and giving me recipes as well as stirring a pot that’s sending out lovely aromas. After a while, some family members begin to wander in and out, and all of a sudden it seems to be lunchtime. Embarrassed, I get up to leave but am urged so warmly to stay that I feel leaving would be rude. Amazingly, this scene was re-enacted countless times as I returned to Crete again and again in the late ‘90s for re-

search on the book that would eventually be published as “Feasting & Fasting in Crete.” It didn’t seem to matter in which part of the island I found myself; the hospitality and generosity was unfailing, though perhaps even more unstinting in the villages than the cities. I shouldn’t have been too surprised. My Athenian husband had told me of a camping trip in western Crete in the ‘60s, where, once they were discovered by locals, he and his first wife were not allowed to eat on their own. They were invited to dinner in homes every evening, and after a few days became so overwhelmed (and overfed) they took to slinking away at dusk to avoid local generosity. Nevertheless, I am still dumbstruck by the temerity I showed in setting out in my Fiat Panda, alone, to unearth the secrets of Cretan cuisine. Of course, friends and friends of friends had doled out names of good cooks (and good


© EFFIE PAROUTSA

FOCUS CRETE

When it comes to Cretan feasts, the company that you find yourself in is as important as the food you enjoy.

eaters) before I left Athens, but once in Crete, each contact invariably produced several more – the project was received with such enthusiasm. After following up some recommendations in Irakleio, where I stayed with my husband’s nephew and his wife, I set off to explore the eastern half of the island. It was October, 1997, and I spent my first few days in unaccustomed luxury, as the guest of Elianna Kokotou at the Elounda Mare hotel complex, in my own private

bungalow. Elianna had promised her sister-in-law, my friend Anne, that she would put the hotel and its staff at my disposal. The very next afternoon, after lunch was served and cleared and before preparations for dinner were due to start, the spacious kitchen at the Porto Elounda next door became the scene for a one-woman cooking demonstration just for my benefit. Ypapandi Velivasaki, round face beaming with pleasure, round body bouncing, speedily transformed

THEY WERE INVITED TO DINNER IN HOMES EVERY EVENING, AND AFTER A FEW DAYS BECAME SO OVERWHELMED (AND OVERFED) THEY TOOK TO SLINKING AWAY AT DUSK TO AVOID LOCAL GENEROSITY.

the vegetables, zucchini flowers and vine leaves picked from her own garden into mini dolmadakia, stuffed leaves or flowers. Stirring with a plump hand, she chattered all the while, and soon had a little audience of kitchen staff. The lesson turned into an impromptu meal, as we all tucked in when the food was cooked. That evening, one of the hotel maids took me 30 minutes – and seemingly light years – away to meet her mother and grandmother at their home in the inland village of Krousta. They welcomed me into a cozy living room/kitchen and began to teach me the trick of using a souvlaki skewer to transform sheets of homemade pasta into twirls of double macaroni about as long and as thick as my pinkie. When they were done, Maria Pangalou boiled some of them for our supper. Ignoring the stove, she squatted on a low stool in front of the fireplace, where P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2

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Dimitris Kornaros entertains in his home/kafeneio in the village of Profitis Ilias, near Irakleio. In Crete, even the simplest of occasions can evolve into spontaneous celebrations.

she’d placed a two-burner gas cooker, surrounded by jam jars filled with seasonings and a bottle of their own olive oil. Besides the oil, Maria also produced her own cheese, bread, and wine, and she brought those out, too, as she told me how she’d woven her daughter’s dowry – sheets, curtains and tablecloths – from wool and silk threads. “But the curtains are sitting in a trunk, because her husband wanted store-bought ones.” I left with a warm glow and a Coke bottle filled with dried vine leaves for dolmades. Maria had tried to give me some cheese and pasta, too, but I convinced her they would spoil before I got home. Two evenings later, I’d be given another lesson in pastry – savory and sweet pies being central to Cretan cuisine – by Kyria Georgia in Piskokefalo, a large village south of Siteia. I must have gotten her name from someone at the hotel and made our appointment by phone. Again, this was no ordinary lesson. Before we started, she served me a huge piece of 90

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honey-drenched walnut cake that I knew would leave no room for sampling pies. But my protests were futile. And once the lesson and the evening news were over, Georgia’s husband Iosif joined us in the kitchen for a night of storytelling and lots of homemade wine. We sat till midnight, and while it would never occur to me to base a dinner party on five types of pie preceded by cake, it certainly was a night to remember. When it was over, they bundled me into my car with bags of their own raisins (Siteia is the raisin capital of Crete), pies, some cake and a bottle of homemade raki, the local strong spirit, “for your husband.” (As it turned out, by the time I headed back to Athens at the end of the whole trip, the car was so full that I could have opened a Cretan grocery store.) The most extraordinary example of Cretan hospitality, however, was still to come. I pushed eastwards from Siteia to Kato Zakros, a crescent beach with a smattering of tavernas and modest hotels and the ruins of a Minoan palace

behind them. An archaeologist friend had told me about Mary Daskalaki, who, he said, owned a taverna there. At the eatery, her son told me she’d retired; we arranged to meet at her home in Zakros the next day. Passing through the “Gorge of the Dead” that lay beyond the ancient site, I walked up the hill to the larger village where Mary greeted me. She spent the morning sharing recipes with me, filled my arms with bags of dried marjoram and thyme she’d picked from the hillsides, and then took me to the communal kitchen, a shack on the outskirts of town, where five men and women were preparing food for a baptism feast that evening. One woman was stuffing tiny sausages while others chopped vegetables for the salad and the men made broth – from yearling goat – in two big cauldrons for the customary celebratory macaroni (in western Crete, it would have been pilaf). Mary contributed a large pan of dolmades. We talked for


© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

© PERIKLES MERAKOS

FOCUS CRETE

Traditional specialities being served at a pre-wedding gathering in Anogia, attended by the entire village.

It is a custom in Sfakia, and all over Crete, to treat guests to specialties such as homemade myzithropita (fresh cheese pie), along with a small glass of raki.

a while, they invited me to the baptism party, and then Mary sent me to her sister’s place “just up the road apiece,” telling me that they were baking bread in their outdoor oven. I shyly peered into the courtyard where three people were gathered round a large soot-blackened oven; a set of five tall wooden paddles and rakes stood against the white wall next to it. I announced myself, explaining that “Mary sent me,” and was immediately invited to join them. Mary’s sister, Alexandra Nerolidou, told me it was a pity I hadn’t come a bit earlier. She had just finished kneading 30 kilos of flour which, combined with her sourdough starter, would make 40 loaves of bread. Most of the loaves would be turned into paximadia (rusks), which would last the extended family two months. I was sorry to have missed this spectacle but enjoyed the chitchat while she and her co-in-laws, Irini and Yannis, waited for the bread to bake. And then watched, amazed, when they transferred the bread onto wooden slats on the courtyard floor and 77-year-old Irini squatted down to break the scored loaves into thick slices with asbestos

fresh bread as a gift, of course, I dragged myself away. After all, there was that baptism later. The next day, I dropped by to say farewell to Alexandra, who was hard at work on the next event; it turned out she was also the most popular maker of xerotigana – delicate pastry spirals that are served at Cretan weddings – in Zakros. She was longing for the wedding season to end, since a thousand guests are routine at these affairs, and she was, she confided, exhausted. As we continued to talk, I asked if there were other specialties for which she was in demand, and she explained that, as it happened, she was also an expert at casting out the evil eye. I said I was happy to report that I certainly didn’t need her services in that area. I felt blessed, and could have stayed in Zakros forever. Hospitality exists all over Greece, of course, but to get the full experience, you really have to go to Crete.

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hands. As they finished putting the bread back in the oven where it would remain until the next day, I attempted to say goodbye and thank them. But Alexandra grabbed my arm and we all set off to Irini’s for lunch with the hostess’ children and grandchildren. Irini must have been slaving over a hot stove while Alexandra was kneading the dough, because the table was already set for seven and the meal was plentiful – fried anchovies, roast chicken with okra and potatoes, salad and the new bread, in addition to ample amounts of raki and wine. As we ate, Yannis began to tell stories: about hardships during the war, his barefoot hikes to Siteia with mules to bring supplies for the Germans and Italians, and then the triumph of romance over parental opposition when Yannis “stole” Irini. “This was in the early ‘50s. We were on foot, of course, and when we came to a river, I picked her up and carried her piggyback across it. We spent the night in a cave and when we came back, no one could argue anymore, so we got married.” By this time, I felt like one of the family myself. Eventually, and with a loaf of

*Diana Farr Louis is a food & travel writer. Her book, Feasting & Fasting in Crete: Delicious Mediterranean Recipes (Kedros, Athens, 2001) is available from the publishers at: kedros.gr


FOCUS GRECOTEL

MASTERS OF WELCOME

Grecotel, the largest hotel group in Greece has firm roots in the rich soil of its native Crete, where its bold founders were born into a rich tradition of hospitality. BY M A R I A C OV E OU

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ere we are, sitting on straw chairs under some olive trees, enjoying our Greek coffees and listening to nothing but the song of the cicadas. In a little while, we’ll be enjoying tsikoudia (a local pomace brandy), served up with tomatoes and crisp “waterless” cucumber, and then some freshly baked bread, which we will drizzle with organic olive oil, surrendering ourselves to some of the tastes so open-handedly offered by Greek nature. No, we aren’t visiting some beloved relative’s welcoming country home. We’re at the innovative AgrecoFarms, part of the Grecotel Hotels & Resorts Group in Rethymno. With 32 luxurious hotel complexes located in the most enviable destinations throughout Greece – its total accommodation capacity stands at around 6,300 rooms and its workforce numbers about 6,500 – there’s no question that Grecotel ranks as the country’s leading hotel chain and is the largest single employer in the Greek tourism sector. And even though it may seem strange for an article on a hotel group of such magnitude to start off at this farm, it is precisely here, in a place where heartfelt hospitality meets the Cretan soil, where the philosophy of its founders finds its fullest expression. At this point, a trip back in time might be helpful, so let’s go back to the 1970s. Brothers Nikos and Takis Daskalantonakis, 94

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sensing bright prospects for the area they love and inspired by the traditional Rethymniot hospitality as taught to them by their mother, envision a Crete transformed into an international destination. They let this vision guide them and decide to cross over from the olive oil-processing sector in which they were working to the field of tourism, initially joining with other Rethymniot entrepreneurs who band together to construct the El Greco Hotel. At the same time, they use their own resources to create the Rithymna Beach, one of the largest hotel complexes in Crete, which ultimately propels them forward to create Grecotel, in collaboration with the tourism colossus TUI, in 1981. Almost four decades later, and with thousands of international awards ito its name, the Grecotel Hotels & Resorts Group continues to evolve and develop, its gaze fixed firmly on the future. In the last three years alone, it has invested some €62 million in upgrading its hotels, while simultaneously helping to enhance the luxury hotel experience in provincial Greece by delivering new products and services. One example is the very successful innovative hospitality concept Lux Me, which, following international trends, Grecotel has extended to a number of their hotels, offering haute-cuisine restaurants, wonderful rooms, impressive swimming pools and personalized service.

And while one might expect that by now such an industry giant would have lost touch with the vision of its creators and with its roots, Grecotel continues to be indissolubly linked to its birthplace, its people, its traditions and its products. This is where AgrecoFarms comes in. The farm is a place where visitors can participate in activities such as sheep shearing, grape picking and grape stomping, and feel a closer bond with the land. AgrecoFarms also serves as an outstanding ambassador of the Cretan Diet, which is the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet. At the same time, it’s a profitable enterprise as well, with its food and cosmetics products available at duty-free shops throughout Greece and in countries around the globe. As for Nikos Daskalantonakis’ love for his native land, this affection remains undiminished, as he proved in 2017 when he founded Nikos Daskalantonakis–NDF, a not-for-profit philanthropic and cultural society. Among other undertakings, NDF has already set in motion its second scholarship program for young people from Crete, aimed at helping them make the smoothest possible progress in their studies. “Some people define charity as a ‘social obligation.’ To me, it’s a sacred duty towards those who belong to tomorrow…” INFO: grecotel.com • agrecofarms.gr


MYKONOS BLU KERAMEIKOS

KERAMEIKOS

CORFU IMPERIAL

CARAMEL, CRETE

AGRECOFARMS

THE VINEYARD OF AGRECOFARMS

LUX ME WHITE PALACE, CRETE

LUX ME DAPHNILA BAY DASSIA, CORFU

AMIRANDES, CRETE

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Simonopetra, one of the eight monasteries on the west coast of Mt Athos sits on an imposing 300-meter perch above the sea.

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SOUL SANCTUARY Spirituality, contemplation, pristine natural landscapes and exceptional food all come together in a unique hospitality experience in the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain of Mt Athos.

© SHUTTERSTOCK

BY IOA N N I S C H RY S A F I S

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01. A section of the old cobblestone path in the center of Karyes, the administrative capital of Mt Athos. 02. An inner courtyard: the solid stone construction is typical of the monasteries. 03. In addition to their spiritual duties, monks are assigned practical work, such as gardening.

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he Byzantine tower of Prosforio has dominated the entrance to the port of Ouranoupoli, on the southeastern fringe of Halkidiki, since the 14th century. During the early1920s, the tower – the property of the Monastery of Vatopedi for centuries – became a home for refugees newly arrived from Asia Minor; from 1928 until the 1980s it was the residence of the humanitarian couple Sydney and Joice Loch. Today, it marks the gateway to Mt Athos, also known as the Monastic State of the Holy Mountain. This isn’t my first trip to Mt Athos; in fact, I’ve visited more times than I can remember. Nonetheless, I still lift my gaze upwards (as I always do) to stare at the tower, which stands there so solid a presence. In my hand, I clutch the requisite diamonitirio (the visitor’s permit, obtained in advance from the authorities), my boat ticket (as access is only by sea) and my ID card. I find myself surrounded by men only, 98

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as females are prohibited from entering the area, in accordance with an age-old regulation based on the mountain’s status as an avaton (a religious site with restricted access). This restriction notwithstanding, Mt Athos is a much-loved destination for many men seeking to give priority to spirituality and to get in touch with their religious feelings, as experienced, in this case, under the auspices of the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, it is essential that the visitor delete the term “tourist” from his vocabulary. The people who come to this monastic state do so more as pilgrims, rather than as visitors, although all men, regardless of their religion, are welcome. Mt Athos occupies the whole of the easternmost of the three peninsulas that comprise the region of Halkidiki. The Holy Mountain is about 50km long by 10km wide, and is home to some 20 independent monasteries – most of which are located on or

near the seashore – as are their many dozen smaller dependent parts, including sketes, monastic cells, kathismata (stand-alone structures for one person) and hermitages. Those arriving won’t encounter cities, towns or villages, save for two; one is a small town called Karyes, which is situated almost in the dead center of the peninsula. This town is the seat of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities, and of the 20 monasteries’ official delegations which constitute the administrative body for the area. It also includes a small commercial district designed to meet the needs of the entire monastic community. The second settlement is that of Dafni, the main port, which is my destination today. I’m on the first boat of the day, which has been departing at 09:45 daily for decades now, and it stops for what seems to be only seconds at each of the seaside monasteries and little ports along the west coast: at Yiovanitsa for the Serbian Hilandar Monastery;


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All the monasteries were constructed like fortresses, surrounded by high walls and surmounted by towers for security. Withins the walls, communal buildings, churches and the living quarters of the monks took up nearly every inch of available space.

at the port of Pyrgos for the Bulgarian Zograf Monastery; at a narrow little port for Konstamonitou Monastery; at a pier for the Monastery of Dochiariou, the first seaside monastery; at another wharf for Xenophontos Monastery; and, finally, at a jetty for the Russian Aghios Panteleimon Monastery. All of these monastic buildings are spectacular, with awe-inspiring architecture. I disembark at Dafni and head from there for Karyes aboard a large bus traveling along the only linking road (minibuses and taxis are also available). Moving through this landscape is perhaps as close as you can come to time travel: your gaze might first fall on something dating to the 16th century before moving onto a structure from the 18th century or, depending on where you look, a far older landmark. The custom of pilgrimage here is directly linked to the Church of Protaton, which first opened its doors in the 11th century and is considered unique in

terms of its sanctity, beauty and history. Its murals date to the 13th century and are in the manner of the renowned Macedonian School of painting. The church also has the great privilege of safeguarding and honoring what is regarded as a most sacred icon of the Panaghia (the Virgin Mary), known as the Axion Esti, which is from the 11th century as well. It is worth noting that the whole of Mt Athos is, in fact, dedicated to the Panaghia, and is often referred to as the “Garden of the Panaghia.” Mt Athos’ monasteries and their constituent parts are home to some 2,000 monks, all of whom are devoted to study and renowned for their spirituality and for strictly upholding the traditions and the piousness of the area. I meet some of them at the first monastery I visit, where they receive me with courtesy (just as they greet everyone), with their classic, traditional welcome that includes a loukoumi (Turkish delight), a coffee and

some local tsipouro (a pomace brandy). An announcement follows setting out the daily schedule, including times for religious services and meals, visiting hours for museum areas, and bedtime. There are beds on hand, complete with spotless sheets and blankets, inside two-person or three-person rooms. It goes without saying that everyone adheres to the timetable. The religious services – from the orthros (matins) to the divine liturgy – begin at 04:00. Each person participates in his own way, experiencing a Byzantine ceremony graced with the mellifluous sounds of a chorus of monk cantors. The atmosphere is one of reverence, augmented by the darkness of night outside the church and the dim lighting within, accomplished with candles and vigil oil lamps (no external electrical network supplies Mt Athos; each monastery produces its own power). The morning religious services draw to a close at about 08:00, but the surprises continue for the first-time visitor. A P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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01. A student of the Athonite Academy in Vatopedi Monastery. 02. A day of fasting for Father Epiphanios, the monk who made the cuisine of Mt Athos famous.

meal follows, and it’s a full one, as though it were lunchtime; this is because 09:00 seems like midday to the monks, who have been up since 02:00 for their personal observances and prayers. The menu includes everything, and it’s all locally produced: soup, pulses, salads, fruit and, depending on the day, cheese and fish – but never meat. About 185 of the 365 days of the year are fasting days, and, in fact, most of these also include the foregoing of olive oil. But every choice item of food, regardless of the day, is a wonderful creation of exceptional quality and flavor. Genuine Mt Athos wine is offered, especially on festive days and Sundays. The abundance found on the refectory table is in direct contrast to the simplicity, or even austerity, of how the meal is conducted. It opens with a prayer, followed by a silence that permits no conversation at all, disturbed only by the clinking of cutlery and the loud 100

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voice of the monk reading excerpts from the life and teachings of the saint of the day. The evening program goes something like this: Vespers at 16:00 or 17:00, followed by the second and final meal of the day, which is quite similar to the earlier repast, both as far as quality and ritual are concerned. Having experienced this monastic life as described above dozens of times, I feel that I’m allowed to deviate from what could be dubbed the “Classic Program.” Fully acquainted as I am with the many historic cobbled lanes of Mt Athos – which for centuries served as the area’s main arteries – I make my way from one monastery or cell to another, hiking and meeting monks along the way who, by this stage, have become good friends and who joyfully welcome me and insist I stay with them. One of these is Father Epiphanios at the Mylopotamos cell, which has an unrivaled and world-fa-

mous culinary reputation and produces an exceptional wine that bears the cell’s name. Another destination I enjoy is the Skete of Prophitis Ilias, not to mention all the large, historic monasteries as well. Stays on Mt Athos are officially limited to four days, so as to provide the opportunity to as many people as possible to visit the peninsula. Approximately 300,000 people arrive each year. All are received with the same openhearted hospitality, absolutely free of charge, within an unwritten framework of mutual respect and the upholding of the age-old traditions of a sacred area dedicated to contemplation, spirituality and worship, an area of incomparable and untainted natural beauty and unique monastic complexes with stunning murals and wondrous icons.

INFO: mountathosinfos.gr


F O C U S M T AT H O S

DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

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01. Monks can put their own personal touches on their living quarters. 02. Fishing is a necessity on Mt Athos, as the consumption of all meat is prohibited. 03. The refectories of all monasteries, such as that of Aghia Lavra pictured below, welcome guests with excellent food that nonetheless always adheres to the monastic rules.

DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

Š ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS

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A FAMILY AFFAIR ON SANTORINI

Today, Oia is a world-famous destination closely associated with glamorous luxury, and that’s largely thanks to one family of enterprising hoteliers: the founders and owners of Canaves Oia. BY M A R I A C OV E OU

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t may be hard to imagine a time when Santorini was simply an island of fishing villages, when its caldera was of interest only to volcanologists and the only accommodation options were some cheap rooms in private houses or a few yposkafa, structures dug into the volcanic rock. And yet, Santorini was exactly like that back in 1985 when husband and wife Yiannis and Anna Chaidemenos inherited the two 17th-century canaves (yposkafa used to store wine) that would form the foundations of one of Santorini’s most luxurious, and beloved, resort complexes: Canaves Oia. “The business venture was a huge risk,” says the resort’s managing director, Markos Chaidemenos, whose parents purchased two additional canaves before setting up their hotel business in Oia, along the northern edge of the caldera. “Most tour operators back then didn’t even bother promoting the caldera, while tourists who came to Santorini preferred the beaches at Kamari and Perissa.” Things, however, were about to change, as tourism was slowly introduced to the small fishing village of Oia. The hotel that had started off with just four converted canaves soon expanded to 18 hotel rooms, eventually becoming an ideal romantic hideaway for couples and newlyweds. In 1995, it expanded even further with the addition of a new property, Canaves Oia Suites. In contrast to the hotel’s more 102

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traditional rustic style, the suites featured impressive paintings and mirrors that made the property seem like a living art project, and it soon attracted A-list celebrities, politicians and royalty. In 2006, the two properties underwent their first full renovation, and an elevator with full access to all room levels was added at Canaves Oia Suites, something that had once been considered impossible to achieve. In the meantime, Markos Chaidemenos, who from a young age had been groomed to take over the business – working nearly every job at the hotel, from reception to room service – was already beginning to envision something grander for his parents’ already successful business. In 2010, returning to Santorini after tourism studies in Switzerland, he joined forces with his brother Alexandros and they set about making some changes. Their modern approach to hospitality took the brand to new heights, with international awards and top-tier media exposure for both properties. In 2015, Canaves Oia Hotel and Suites underwent another full renovation, acquiring its now characteristic all-white minimalist style. In the summer of 2017, Canaves Oia Sunday Suites, with eight custom-designed suites, launched next door, and in 2018, Canaves Oia Epitome was introduced: a luxury complex featuring six different types of self-contained villas perched above the picturesque

fishing town of Ammoudi. The latter was so successful that it was ranked first among the Top 10 Resort Hotels in Europe, first among the Best Resort Hotels in Greece and 17th among the Top 100 Hotels in the World by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine in the World’s Best Awards 2019. And the brothers continue to push forward; just last summer, they inaugurated the three-villa complex Eden Villas Santorini, on the cliffside in a unique location in Imerovigli. Six different properties, numerous awards and distinctions and a myriad of happy customers later, one thing remains the same. The resort that helped usher in a new era of luxurious hospitality in Santorini is run as a family business. It’s run, in fact, by a family whose members are personally involved in the daily operations of all the properties, who choose their staff members for their smiles and personalities, and who, most importantly, take it upon themselves to make their clients feel at home. “Our guests aren’t just room numbers. They’re people who come here, in most cases, to make a dream come true, so we want to make them feel special,” says Markos Chaidemenos. And indeed, location and luxury apart, it is this special treatment that has been winning the hearts of their guests all these years, bringing them back to Canaves Oia again and again. INFO: canaves.com


POOL VILLA AT EPITOME KERAMEIKOS

KERAMEIKOS

RIVER POOL SUITE AT CANAVES OIA SUITES

PANORAMA BALCONY CANAVES OIA SUITES

EPITOME POOL VILLA

THE CHAIDEMENOS BROTHERS

MASSAGE SESSION WITH A VIEW

CANAVES OIA HOTEL

INFINITY POOL SUITE AT CANAVES OIA SUITES

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B Y O L G A C H A R A M I , M A R I A C OV E OU, N E N A D I M I T R I OU, PAU L I N A B J Ö R K K A P S A L I S A N D A L E X A N D R A M A N D R A KOU

FIVOS TSARAVOPOULOS FOUNDER OF PATHS OF GREECE

© PERIKLES MERAKOS

A decade ago, Fivos Tsaravopoulos decided to go hiking on Kythira, the island of his childhood. Confronted with overgrown and neglected footpaths, he had to find his own way through the undergrowth to discover the hidden beauty of the island. Following this experience, he decided to create a network of footpaths on the island. He traveled widely to acquire the necessary know-how, found funding and worked with locals to establish trails. Over the next five years, Kythira became a destination for hikers. Tsaravopoulos’ company Paths of Greece has created trail networks from Samos to Prespes totaling more than 630 km in length; a further 500 km are in the process of being realized. One of the latest projects, the Paths of Peace in Florina, traverses a virgin forest to link the villages of Nymfaio and Lechovo; the latter, burnt to the ground by the Nazis, was rebuilt in the postwar period. Today, the opening and signposting of the paths is being financed by the Greek-German Fund of the Future in a gesture of reconciliation. With his hiking trails and as a member of the World Trails Network, Tsaravopoulos has attracted a great new category of nature-loving visitors, who come to Greece in order to walk in its uniquely beautiful landscapes and connect with its nature and civilization. N.D. INFO: pathsofgreece.gr

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Meet some entrepreneurs who’ve turned highly original initiatives into thriving tourism ventures, and discover what they do to make their guests’ Greek experiences utterly unforgettable.

ELENI FOTIOU

FOUNDER OF MAMAKITA.GR

“Mommy, look” (“Mama, kita,” in Greek) is a phrase that mothers the world over can relate to. So can Eleni Fotiou, mother of three, travel consultant and founder of mamakita.gr, a platform she launched just a year ago to help families from abroad plan their holidays in Greece. Using the knowledge she has acquired while traveling across the country with her own kids about what places and activities are most suited for families, and drawing on the network of top service providers she has built up, she provides personalized travel planning and tailor-made experiences to anyone seeking genuine adventures, cultural immersion and meaningful connections. A firm believer in sustainable tourism, she promotes less-visited but equally awe-inspiring destinations, like the Peloponnese, the Diapontia Islands in the Ionian Sea, the Lesser Cyclades and small islands in the Dodecanese, and so far she’s brought joy to more than a 100 families whose kids never stopped uttering “Mommy, look!” in wonderment. M.C.

© PERIKLES MERAKOS

INFO: mamakita.gr

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© PERIKLES MERAKOS

© THALIA GALANOPOULOU

FOCUS PROFESSIONALS

GIORGOS LOURDIS

ANDREAS KOKKINOS

FOUNDER OF FISHINGTRIPS.GR

FOUNDER OF “THE SHEPHERD’S HUT” AGRITOURISM EXPERIENCE

Giorgos Lourdis, the son of a fisherman, spent his childhood years on his father’s boat, even though he was not officially allowed to go fishing with him. This was because, until 2015, professional fishing boats were prohibited by law from carrying non-professionals for any reason at all. This is no longer the case, thanks in no small part to Lourdis’ own efforts. One of the first who pushed for fishing tourism to be legalized in Greece, he also created the fishingtrips.gr website where today fishermen with a fishing tourism license can offer fishing experiences to Greek and foreign tourists. So far, more than 150 fishermen have signed up to the platform, which works in much the same way as Airbnb. Following a website revamp currently taking place, visitors will be able to book experiences, and read reviews and view photos posted by other users. Lourdis hopes fishermen will embrace the many benefits of fishing tourism: shorter working days, better wages and the chance to let foreign visitors experience a traditional local activity close up, all while easing pressure on fish stocks, too. M.C. INFO: fishingtrips.gr

TINA KYRIAKI

An avid traveler, Tina Kyriaki always looks for the authentic, finding ways to mingle with the locals, to dine with them and to venture beyond the must-do’s. In 2013, she set up her own company to provide these sorts of experiences for visitors to her native Athens, starting with a food tour: “At the time, hardly any tours here ventured away from the archaeological sites.” Visitors loved her new initiative. Today, her company Alternative Athens works with over 60 guides, offering tours on everything from street art to nightlife to mythology; it constantly creates innovative new itineraries, too. The latest challenge is something unique: a tour of the Acropolis for the visually impaired. P.B.K. INFO: alternativeathens.com 106

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© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

FOUNDER, ALTERNATIVE ATHENS

The reason why the tiny village of Krana, on the slopes of Mt Psiloreitis, is on the tourist map at all, is due to one man: Andreas Kokkinos, a priest and a shepherd. The surrounding area, even though it’s a rural treasure, was long far from the beaten path. Until, that is, Kokkinos, together with his four brothers, built a traditional mitato (a shepherd’s hut) here, erecting it stone by stone. Today, The Shepherd’s Hut offers authentic agricultural experiences to its day visitors. Kokkinos and his family do exactly what they would be doing as part of their daily routine, but with an audience of 50 on average during the summer, made up of people who come here in order to live like real farmers for a few hours. Depending on the season, the tasks change: the milking of the farm animals and the traditional cheesemaking takes place throughout the year, but herbs are collected mainly in the spring, the sheep are sheared and the cereal crops harvested in the summer, and in the autumn the Kokkinos family distills the traditional spirit raki, prepares xinohondros (traditional handmade pasta) using fresh milk, and weaves on the loom. A.M. INFO: tospititouvoskou.gr


© CHRISTOS MANIOROS

ALEXANDROS RONIOTIS

FOUNDER OF CRETANBEACHES.COM

MARKOS SKORDALAKIS

OWNER OF THALORI TRADITIONAL VILLAGE

Kapetaniana, in the southern part of the regional unit of Irakleio, lies on the arid slopes of the Asterousia Mountains. A few years ago, Markos Skordalakis and his wife, Popi, decided to bring this abandoned village back to life; they began buying ruined houses and restoring them. Today, the guesthouse they created has 20 self-contained small houses, all with views of the Libyan Sea. Skordalakis, who knows the region like the back of his hand, shows his guests around and arranges activities including 4x4 tours, trail hiking, rock climbing and fishing and canoe trips. On any given day, you might find him clambering up craggy rocks atop the precipitous cliffs of the Asterousia Mountains, in pursuit of a glimpse of golden eagles or other wildlife, out riding horses, cooking in the guesthouse’s kitchen or steering his boat along the rugged coastline. Nearly a part of the Cretan landscape himself, he loves introducing his corner of the world to anyone who might be interested in getting to know it. O.C. INFO: thalori.com

How long does it take to traverse the Lasithi Gorge? Does Lentas Beach in Irakleio have any facilities? Are there any beaches with shade on the southern coast of Rethymno? What myths are associated with Crete? CretanBeaches. com, the project of scientist Alexandros Roniotis, is a website with all the information that a traveler to the island might need. Ten years ago, Roniotis began to search the internet, without much success, for information on places he had visited on the island. So he started a blog in which he recorded certain details of his visits to various places, and shared his photographs, too. Over time, the blog became a site where, together with collaborators and other travelers, he compiled information on 600 beaches, as well as material on gorges, archaeological sites, footpaths, lakes, rivers and monasteries on Crete. The platform now attracts thousands of visitors – in summer, it can get as many as 20,000 individual hits per day from people visiting the island. The texts on the site, penned either by him or by other contributors, are factually accurate and do not contain the exaggerations that sometimes come with this genre of writing. Roniotis frequently updates information to reflect changes such as those in environmental conditions. The site features four languages: English, German, Greek and Russian. N.D. INFO: cretanbeaches.com

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© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

FOCUS PROFESSIONALS

TASOS PAPADOPOULOS Having earned his tour guide license in 2014, archaeologist Tasos Papadopoulos could have chosen the well-worn career path of most guides before him, spending all his working hours at the archaeological sites. Instead, he decided he wanted to show visitors more than that. Designing experiences for Thessaloniki Walking Tours, he realized that his other passions, such as rebetiko music and modern history, were interesting to visitors as well. “People are intrigued by more than just ancient history and Byzantine churches,” he explains, “and there’s something particularly exciting about the dark political stories of modern history, of which Thessaloniki has so many.” Even locals are taking his city tours now; besides archaeology, the walks are focused on themes such as Jewish history, cemeteries and Thessaloniki’s red-light district. His popular “Dark Memories” tour features the true tales of smugglers and murderers – parts of the city’s past normally only talked about in hushed voices. P.B.K. INFO: thessalonikiwalkingtours.com 108

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© ALEXANDROS ANTONIADIS

TOUR GUIDE, THESSALONIKI WALKING TOURS

THOUKIDIDIS PAPAGEORGIOU

OWNER AND OPERATOR, THOUKIDIDIS TRADITIONAL GUESTHOUSE

Born and raised in Kapesovo, a remote village in the Zagoria region of Epirus, Thoukididis Papageorgiou came to know the mountains, the gorges and the footpaths that link the surrounding villages from a very young age. In 1998, his family opened Sterna, a traditional café and pastry shop on the village’s main square. There, the family turned a gamut of seasonal ingredients into finished food products with an admirable sense of home economics: they found a use for almost everything that grew in nature around them, from acorns to forest fruits, natural herbs and wild mushrooms. The village, which then had no more than 20 permanent residents, experienced a renaissance of sorts, largely thanks to Sterna, which became a regional destination of note. A few years later, Papageorgiou opened the guesthouse Thoukididis, and the convivial hospitality offered by his family now draws additional visitors to the village. In addition, he took it on himself to reopen all the old footpaths around Kapesovo and organized the first mountain running event in the region. A lover of nature and of outdoor activities, Papageorgiou is a staunch advocate of Kapesovo’s potential as a center for organized nature tourism and never misses the chance to point out the wealth of experiences it already has to offer. N.D. INFO: thoukididis.gr


SOPHIA ANTONIADOU AND ALEXANDRA TILIGADA

COSTAS MAKKAS

OWNER OF MAKKAS HOTEL

FOUNDERS, DISCOVER GREEK CULTURE

What if you could slip into the underground vaults of the Benaki Museum, or hold precious artifacts in your hands, or have dinner in one of the historic private residences of Plaka? In 2013, Sophia Antoniadou and Alexandra Tiligada, the former with a degree in archaeology, the latter in philosophy, were both looking for a new job opportunity when together they came up with the idea for Discover Greek Culture. Today, they offer bespoke cultural tours during which, thanks to contacts at some of Greece’s most famous museums and sites, visitors gain entrance to limited-access spaces for private viewings of treasures not on public display. P.B.K.

© VANGELIS ZAVOS

Costas Makkas is the owner and operator of the Makkas Hotel and taverna in Krentis, the last village on the edge of an almost inaccessible mountain region of Evrytania as yet untouched by tourism. Makkas is the man who will welcome you, find you a seat by the blazing fireplace and tell you about the area’s driving routes, hiking trails and scenic spots. He runs a largely self-sufficient operation, which in the past was necessary for all such outposts in remote regions. He keeps livestock and chickens, produces cheese and vegetables and makes his own wine and tsipouro with grapes from his own vineyard. While the guesthouse may not possess all the most modern comforts, what goes on in the kitchen more than makes up for what might be lacking elsewhere – Makkas is, in addition to everything else, a particularly good cook. His kid goat in red sauce, his traditional meat dish cooked in a clay pot, and his homemade bread all evince a sense of care that is part of the unpretentious hospitality of the countryside. O.C.

INFO: discovergreekculture.com

© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

INFO: www.makkashotel.com

NIKOS FRANTZESKAKIS

© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

FOUNDER, VAMOS VILLAGE

Nikos Frantzeskakis is one of the people who, back in 1994, helped lay the early foundations for agritourism in Greece. Together with his friends, and at a time when no one was discussing sustainable development, and tourism was largely a mass product, he made the Cretan village of Vamos into an alternative destination. Later, as president of the Hellenic Agrotourism Federation, he rallied this industry sector to successfully lobby for a legal framework for agritourism accommodation and multipurpose farmhouses. Vamos remains one of the most popular agritourism villages, with guesthouses, a taverna and a tourist office that offers a wide range of activities. With all this to offer, the village has managed to attract not only Greek and international visitors but new permanent residents as well, who have come from around the world to settle here. O.C. INFO: vamosvillage.gr

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PANORAMA With dozens of wetlands, a long and varied coastline, 10 woodland parks, five UNESCO Global Geoparks, two marine parks and more than 15 other national parks, what Greece offers to the nature lover is extraordinarily rich and diverse. BY OLGA CHARAMI

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n recent years, numerous initiatives and concerted efforts to preserve and foster Greece’s exceptional natural environment have made it increasingly welcoming to visitors. The most striking feature of the country’s natural heritage is its diversity, a magical combination of mountains and sea. Imagine yourself on Mt Olympus, standing on the Plateau of the Muses at an elevation of 2,550 m. Precipices and steep slopes surround you. To the west are the peaks of Stefani (2,909 m) and Mytikas, the highest in Greece (2,919 m). Lower down, dense clouds shroud forests, deep gorges, sheer cliffs and alpine landscapes. Through a small gap in the peaks, your gaze extends as far as the sea. Here visitors find natural settings virtually untouched by tourism development. Until fairly recently, such natural environments, with the exception of the sea, did not hold much attraction for the majority of Greeks, but lately they have begun to discover their wonders. For local inhabitants of more remorte areas, too, outlooks are changing; just a few decades ago, harsh winters and other difficult conditions meant res110

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idents felt they had no choice but to leave their villages. It seemed that the topography of the land itself was hostile. Then something changed; improvements in infrastructure and roads, advances in technology and the development of nature tourism made whole areas viable again. In the not-too-distant past, no one could have imagined, for instance, that the jagged peaks on the island of Kalymnos, the “curse of the island” as they were called by the locals because they were useless for cultivation and livestock grazing, would, in the space of just a few years, become a top destination for international rock-climbers. Nobody could have predicted that, in the mountains of Crete where herds of livestock could graze only in summer, a handful of “crazy” enthusiasts would begin promoting the sport of ski mountaineering. Nor could people have imagined that the rushing rivers of Epirus, which once made entire areas inaccessible, would today be attracting rafting enthusiasts from all over the world. For years, the rocky peaks and plateaus of Greece were home to hermits and shepherds only. When the first moun-

Horseback riding down wooded lanes on Mt Pilio, mythical home of centaurs.


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taineering schools opened in the Alps, mountain sports and activities were unknown in Greece. “The first organized expeditions and ascents in the country were introduced by clubs in the late 1920s,” says Themistoklis Mystriotis, general secretary of the Greek Mountaineering Association of Athens, the country’s oldest mountaineering club, established in 1928. “These expeditions included climbing, hiking and winter mountain activities, with only a handful of participants.” Although interest did gradually increase, it was not until the 1980s that several pioneers introduced organized tourism around such activities to Greece. Among these trailblazers were Michael Tsoukias and Christos Lambris, founders of Trekking Hellas, now the country’s biggest outdoor pursuit company. “The first river descents began on a trial basis in 1989 with an inflatable boat on the Nestos and a river raft on the Acheloos,” Tsoukias recalls. Today, Trekking Hellas has a network of 13 franchise companies, which, along with a large number of other enterprises and individual professionals, are putting many little-known areas firmly on the tourist map.

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“THE FIRST ORGANIZED EXPEDITIONS AND ASCENTS IN THE COUNTRY WERE INTRODUCED BY MOUNTAINEERING CLUBS IN THE LATE 1920s WITH ONLY A HANDFUL OF PARTICIPANTS.”

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THRACE:

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01. Lake Drakolimni, an alpine lake, on Mt Tymfi in Epirus.

03. The black pine forests of Valia Calda in Grevena are ideal for off-road excursions.

02. The hoopoe, with its impressive plumage, is a common sight in the Evros Delta.

04. On Arcadia’s Menalon Trail, the first footpath in Greece to meet the standards for international certification.

AVIAN PARADISE Black and Egyptian vultures circle high in the sky, as griffon vultures with a wingspans of nearly three meters squabble for dominance on the ground. You’ll see this and more in the greater Evros area, home to the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park, one of the few remaining refuges for rare birds of prey in Europe, criss-crossed by fascinating hiking trails (dadia-np.gr). Further south, in the Evros Delta, you’ll spot many other species of birds. In an eerie landscape of flat expanses, marshes and sandbanks, you can enjoy guided boat tours organized by the wetlands’ management body, as well as bus and hiking tours (evros-delta.gr). On the Nestos River in the regional unit of Xanthi, the most popular activities are canoeing, kayaking and rafting (riverland. gr, gonestos.gr).

MACEDONIA:

SERENE LAKES, DENSE FORESTS Macedonia is home to a number of stunningly beautiful lakes in serene landscapes. Lake Kerkini has become an attractive ecotourism destination thanks in no small part to Ioannis Reklos and the tourism company Oikoperiigitis (oikoperiigitis.gr). The lake has a fine reputation for birdwatching, with a rare colony of Dalmatian pelicans often stealing the show. The same is true of tiny Lake Zazari, which very few people would know about if it were not for Takis Voglidis, whose outdoor activity company Artemis (artemisoe.gr) offers canoeing and horseback riding. Vegoritida is one of the largest lakes in Greece and is popular with windsurfers, while the Prespa lakes are special on account of their unique ecosystem, now protected as part of a national woodland park. Here you can enjoy hiking, road trips and boat excursions in the border region with Albania and North Macedonia (Nikos Traianopoulos, Tel. (+30) 694.615.0074). Nearby is the Vigla-Pisoderi Ski Center (vigla-ski. com), one of the most beautiful in the country, while further south lies the Vasilitsa Ski Resort (vasilitsa.com), renowned among snowboarders. Also located in P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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the regional unit of Grevena is Valia Calda, an area with dense forests and rare flora and fauna that is definitely worth discovering on guided hikes (Overland, Tel. (+30) 24620.850.32).

THESSALY:

FROM THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN TO THE SEA Mt Olympus, straddling the border between Macedonia and Thessaly, is, in addition to being the home of the gods in Greek mythology, the country’s highest mountain, its first national park and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, offering a choice of mountaineering and climbing routes. The first ascent came in the early 20th century, while the first refuge, Spilios Agapitos (mountolympus.gr) was founded in 1930 but significantly improved in the 1960s by its then manager, Kostas Zolotas. It was largely thanks to his efforts, and those of his German wife, that the refuge became popular among foreign visitors, too. For 114

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mountaineering, you can find the Styllas brothers at the Christos Kakalos Refuge (olympus-climbing.gr), while the mountain guide Lazaros Botelis operates out of the Giosos Apostolidis refuge (apostolidisrefuge.gr). To the southwest, the extraordinary rock columns of Meteora create an almost unearthly landscape. Composed of a mixture of sandstone and conglomerate, these enormous natural pillars rising precipitously from the plain were first climbed by hermit monks in the 10th century. Two German climbers began establishing rock-climbing routes in the 1970s; since then, locals and visitors

alike have turned the rare geological phenomenon into a top climbing destination, with more than 700 routes (visitmeteora. travel). Further south, Lake Plastiras offers a range of outdoor activities, including hydrobiking. The lake’s calm waters, free of hidden hazards, made it ideal for tourism development, and among the first to see this was Dimitris Charalampidis and his company Tavropos (tavropos. com), which also offers canoeing, archery, mountain biking and other activities. Memorable hikes and horseback riding adventures await the visitor to verdant Pilio, a mountain region with dense forests

THE EXTRAORDINARY ROCK COLUMNS OF METEORA, RISING PRECIPITOUSLY FROM THE PLAIN, WERE FIRST CLIMBED BY HERMIT MONKS IN THE 10TH CENTURY.


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01. Rafting on the Lousios River is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Arcadia. 02. Nothing compares with summiting Mt Olympus, Greece’s tallest peak at 2,919 meters.

washed by the sea. For horseback riding, contact Milies Equestrian Club (ifom.gr); for hiking, the aptly named Hike Away in Pelion (Tel. (+30) 2426.049.724).

EPIRUS AND CENTRAL GREECE:

NATURE AT ITS FINEST In the 1970s, a German professor paddled his way down the Aoos River in a kayak before the astonished eyes of the townsfolk of Konitsa. A few years later, he donated three of his kayaks to the local municipality. In 1994, a local resident who had become a skilled river kayaker, Nikos Kyritsis, founded the outdoor activity company No Limits (Tel.

(+30) 694.475.1418), which significantly raised the profile of a place that – before then – had not been known for tourism. The Epirus region is blessed with some of the richest natural areas of Greece, including the spectacular Vikos Gorge, one of the deepest in the world (1200m), sections of which can be explored on hiking trails. There is also the smaller Vikaki Gorge; numerous ravines that are ideal for canyoning; and two rivers, the Voidomatis (one of the cleanest in Europe) and the Aoos, both of which are great for rafting. Epirus is also home to majestic Mt Tymfi, with dozens of peaks above 2000m for hiking and climbing, where you will find Drakolimni, one of several alpine lakes in the Pindus mountain range, located at an elevation of 2050m. This breathtaking landscape forms the core of the Vikos-Aoos National Park and is one of the UNESCO Global Geoparks. In the south of Epirus lies the Ambracian Gulf, a national park boasting the country’s largest contigu-

ous wetland that is also one of the most important wintering grounds for shorebirds and waterfowl. In addition to 20 lagoons separated by narrow strips of land, the gulf features numerous marshes, water meadows and reed beds, all of which you can discover while doing some birdwatching, thanks to the efforts of the enterprising Amvrakikos Wetlands Management Body (amvrakikos.eu). Heading east into Central Greece, you can explore the tall mountains of Oiti, Giona and Parnassos, which are criss-crossed by dozens of hiking, climbing and mountaineering routes. On Parnassos, you’ll find one of the most popular ski centers in Greece (parnassos-ski.gr) while nearby, in the magical landscape of Delphi, there’s a growing network of relatively easy but extremely interesting hiking trails. The regional unit of Evrytania, too, has many impressive mountains and deep gorges such as Panta Vrechi, which offers an outstanding river trekking experience. P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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THE PELOPONNESE:

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS A wonderful story is being written in Arcadia: in 2015, a group of local volunteers undertook to open up the Menalon Trail (menalontrail.eu), the first footpath in Greece to be certified by the European Ramblers’ Association. The trail has a total length of 75km and crosses mountains, forests and rivers. Most people take five days to complete it, with overnight stays in a different village each night. But it is not the only success story in these parts. Near the coast of Arcadia, at Leonidio, the celebrated 250m high limestone face known as the Kokkinovrachos (“Red Rock”) and its surrounding cliffs have, in recent years, become a very popular climbing destination, with over 800 routes (climbinleonidio.com). Visitors to Mt Helmos, in the northern Peloponnese, are attracted by hiking trails, the ski center (kalavrita-ski.gr) and the Vouraikos Gorge, which you can hike through or view from the carriage of a delightful cog railway train. The gorge, the cold springs of the Aroanios River, Mt Helmos and the crystal-clear mountain lakes of Tsivlou and Doxa together comprise a UNESCO Global Geopark. The highest mountain in the Peloponnese is Taygetus, which has hundreds of trails. The most famous leads to the peak (2407m), but you can also traverse several impressive gorges, including those of Viros and Rintomo, led by the experienced guides of 2407m Mountain Activities (2407m.com) and Climb Up (climbup.gr). In the west, towards Messinia, the sea takes center stage. A coastline that alternates between long sandy beaches

01. On the snow-covered slopes of Mt Psiloritis in Crete. 02. Set the alarm clock for early-morning birdwatching at Lake Kerkini. 03. Leros, with more than 10 shipwrecks in the waters off its shores, is a superb diving destination. 04. The network of footpaths on Andros takes walkers to breathtaking locations.

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and jagged indented stretches, together with a fascinating seabed, means visitors can choose from a range of water sports, including diving and kayaking (exploremessinia.gr).

AEGEAN AND IONIAN ISLANDS:

OUT ON THE WATER Nature and sports tourism have, in recent years, been growing in importance on islands long associated with a more conventional approach to sun, sea and fun. Sea kayaking has become increasingly popular on Milos (seakayakgreece.com) and Kefalonia (outdoorkefalonia.com); Santorini offers memorable sailing trips in its unique caldera (sunset-oia.com); Lefkada, Naxos and Rhodes have deserved reputations for wind and kite surfing off some amazing beaches; numerous impressive shipwrecks have made Leros a great diving destination (hydrovius.gr); while Alonissos and Zakynthos both feature national marine parks (alonissos-park. gr, nmp-zak.org) waiting to be explored. If you’re interested in chartering a catamaran or yacht for sailing adventures, Istion Yachting (istion.com) has nearly 40 years of experience in the business. In the beautiful interior of Chios, you can find out more about the island’s most precious product, mastic, by participating in activities related to its cultivation, or explore the island’s natural splendor on cycling or hiking tours organized by Masticulture Ecotourism Activities (masticulture.com), the island’s alternative tourism specialist. The island of Kalymnos has established itself as one of the top sport climbing destinations in the world. The quality of the rock, the climate and the landscape first attracted a handful of Italians in 1996, who went on to open 43 sport routes. Their work was carried on by celebrated climber Aris Theodoropoulos, whose dedication and passion have been instrumental in making Kalymnos a climber’s paradise. Between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors arrive each year from all over the world to climb some of the 3,000 routes found across 65 crags. While each island has its own charm, the main trend in recent years has been the creation of networks of routes for hik118

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ing and mountain running. Andros (androsroutes.gr), has an impressive network of over 300 km of paths, with 180km of hiking routes restored and signposted, including a 100-km continuous walking route certified to European Ramblers’ Association standards; likewise, Tinos boasts 150km of routes (tinostrails.gr). And these are only two examples. From Kythira to Samos and tiny Donousa, these trails are changing the “map” of the Aegean and the habits of its visitors.

CRETE:

ON THE BIG ISLAND Every region of Crete boasts a main mountain range with soaring peaks and deep gorges, many of which open onto exotic, secluded beaches washed by crystal-clear waters. On the plains, centuries-old paths traverse forests and connect villages. One of the bestknown hiking routes is the E4 European long-distance path, which runs for 320km from Kissamos in Hania to Kato Zakros in Lasithi. The best-known gorge is Samaria, in the Lefka Ori National Park, while the island’s highest peak, at 2456m, is Psiloritis (a UNESCO Global Geopark) in the island’s center. On Crete’s countless beaches you can enjoy every kind of water sport, while the interior of the island offers a host of other outdoor activities. Often described as a microcosm of mainland Greece, Crete is a place where you can go mountain skiing in the morning and look down at the stretch of sea where you’ll be kayaking in the afternoon, parallel to a beach lined with palm trees (cretantrails.ga).

01. The rock faces of Kalymnos make it a top climbing destination for enthusiasts from around the world. 02. Exploring the waters surrounding the volcanic island of Santorini by sailing boat or catamaran is particularly popular among foreign visitors. 03. Greece is renowned for its unique shoreline, and for the sea kayaking opportunities its islands offer.


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The building that has been converted into the Bellaiko Guesthouse in Stemnitsa, in the Peloponnese, dates from 1650.

HOME

Cozy, small-scale and affordable establishments offering home-spun TLC, family-run guesthouses represent Greek philoxenia at its very best. B Y E L E F T H E R I A A L AVA N O U

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zoumerka is a rugged mountain range in western Greece that’s home to dozens of villages. One of these is Tsopela, a tiny hamlet where you’ll find the guesthouse Xenion. Resembling a country villa, it has a large living room with a fireplace and a staircase leading up to 10 rooms on the upper floor. It was opened in 2004 by singer Giorgos Merantzas, who was born in the house right next door and who operated it for a while under the following unorthodox business model: visitors could pay what they wanted and, if they weren’t satisfied with their stay or didn’t have any money, they could leave without paying. What exactly did that make it: a hotel, a shelter? Merantzas says he likes to call it a “hospitality house.” I ask him where this romantic approach came from, given that the state so unromantically demands neverending taxes and social security payments. “It was a childhood dream,” he says. “When I was growing up in the 1960s and a stranger turned up at the village’s main kafeneio (traditional coffee house) the locals would argue over who’d have the privilege of taking them into their house, preparing a meal, making a bed and hosting that person overnight. The people of Tzoumerka are renowned for their hospitality.” The guesthouse Xenion is special in that its philosophy is the ultimata distillation of what makes a perfect Greek guesthouse. It’s not just a B&B or a country version of a boutique hotel. It’s all that and more; it’s a state of mind and a way of life. For many Greeks, the word xenónas (“guesthouse”) immediately conjures up images of a refuge: a warm, hospitable and welcoming place where they can expect creature comforts such as those lavished on them by their grandparents, uncles and aunts when they would visit them in their villages. In the tourism vernacular, it means providing all the comforts and care possible, giving patrons the best possible treatment not because they’re customers, but because they are privileged guests. This is the narrative that has defined the word over the course of the years, and you can rest 122

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01. Viglatoras Hotel in Ano Poroia, Central Macedonia, is ideally placed for excursions to Lake Kerkini. 02. Guests enjoying the cozy atmosphere of Anemi Country Cottage Inn in Zagori, Ioannina.

assured that any business using the word “xenonas” or guesthouse in its name is eager to highlight the generous hospitality it offers. Realistically, of course, not every unit advertising itself as a guesthouse in Greece is a warm and friendly hug. You’ll find everything imaginable in the

market, from hosts you don’t want to say goodbye to, to those you never want to see again in your life. There are, however, those that set the standards that everyone else aspires to. Aspros Potamos Houses is one such case. Built at the mouth of a canyon in southern Crete, it was once a seasonal settlement used by


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01. Robolo Boutique Hotel in Litochoro, near Mt Olympus, is housed in a late 19th-century mansion. 02. The greenhouse at Vasilikia Mountain Farm & Retreat, in Pavliani, Central Greece.

the villagers of Pefkoi; the locals would shelter their animals here and keep olive groves, too. The land and buildings were abandoned a few decades ago – no one knows exactly when – but then Aleka Halkia, an inquisitive traveler who was touring southern Crete, came along in the 1980s and spent some time explor-

ing the area. She saw the property and made it her mission to bring it back to life. She was traveling at the time with her 8-year-old daughter Myrto Botsari, who now runs the 10-room guesthouse. “The buildings that have been converted into guestrooms are more than 300 years old,” says Botsari. “Maintain-

ing them is an uphill battle, but putting your entire heart and soul into the project is part of what’s so wonderful about it.” Mother and daughter were careful about the way they chose to restore Aspros Potamos: they kept the thick stone walls (“They are quite special, built with local stone and mud, without mortar”), insulated the ceilings with reeds, beams and locally sourced clay (“It stops the water from coming through”) and painted the outside walls the color of the surrounding hills using a mixture of whitewash, red soil and ochre pigment. They were committed to preserving, as faithfully as possible, southern Crete’s vernacular architecture, which is at risk of disappearing. Moreover, Aspros Potamos is run along completely eco-friendly lines: the rooms are lit with oil lamps, while a photovoltaic system (awarded with the European Solar Prize) supplies electric current to the lobby and to appliances such as the fans that run in the summer. “From the outset, the idea was to return this old structure to its original state. We wanted our guests – the foreign ones particularly – to get a taste of what life was like in Greece 60 years ago,” says Botsari. The idea succeeded and Aspros Potamos now boasts many repeat guests who just love the place. Botsari attributes this to its simplicity and authenticity, and to the personal relationship she and her mother strive to develop with their guests. “We have guests who’ve become very close friends over the years,” she says, adding that this is basically the quality that distinguishes a guesthouse from a hotel. “Hotels are more impersonal,” she says, “whereas the operation of a guesthouse relies on a close relationship with the guest. Even the ‘Good Morning’ is different.” From southern Crete, let’s travel to the mountains of the Peloponnese for our third hospitality story, to Mpelleiko, pronounced Beleiko and meaning ‘Bella’s house,’ a traditional guesthouse in the beautiful village of Stemnitsa in Arcadia. “Mpelleiko is our family home,” explains owner Nena Grintzia, “and the building dates from 1650. We decided to restore it in 2003 and run it as a guesthouse. P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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01-02. The owner of Kyra-Niki Guesthouse in Agrafa, Evrytania, is renowned for her warm hospitality and her excellent cooking. 03. At the Aspros Potamos guesthouse in southern Crete, traditional architectural elements such as stone platform beds have been preserved. 03

We kept the original building’s character and layout, so we have five bedrooms and one common area that functions as a lounge and breakfast room. Even though I’m the one in charge of managing the place, my family is always around to help.” There are all sorts of little things that make the experience of staying at Mpelleiko more like being at someone’s 124

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home instead of a hotel. The main factor, though, is the manager herself. Even if you’re just passing by and have no intention of staying the night, she’ll treat you to a coffee with a piece of cake or savory pie, tell you about the area and explain some of the local ways. Her greatest reward is seeing her guests come down to breakfast in their pyjamas and bathrobes. “This means that they feel as comfortable

as they would at home.” The success of a guesthouse, Grintzia says, depends on “intimacy, warmth, coziness and a high standard of service.” So, is she a host or a hotelier? “A host, of course, because Mpelleiko is my home,” Grintzia points out. “And in a Greek home, you grow up learning about hospitality.” Grintzia has put her finger on what has made the Greek guesthouse such a steady presence in a constantly changing tourism landscape; it’s the mentality of Greek families, who always put the needs of their guests above their own. Those guesthouse operators who apply in their proffessional lives the same mentality that they grew up with when it comes to hospitality are those who run successful enterprises and enjoy a loyal clientele. The experts agree. Gerasimos A. Zacharatos is a professor emeritus of tourism economics and management, and author of “Milestones in the Evolution of the Greek Hotel Sector,” published by the Hoteliers’ Chamber of Greece. I ask him for a comment on whether the Greek family-run guesthouse model has a future, given the competition from big resorts and boutique hotels. “I believe it’s a model that’ll always have a future,” he says. “But the more well-trained the operators are, the better. There was an explosion of family-run businesses in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but they were mostly run by people without any formal training. That has changed today, and we have small establishments that serve very good breakfasts and have very well-trained staff.” Don’t even ask how many guesthouses there are in Greece, because there’s no answer to that question. In 1993, a law was passed that meant the term could only be formally applied to youth hostels. Greece has a total of 9,965 discrete hospitality units and it’s near impossible to know how many of these operate along the guesthouse model. However, from the evidence at hand, including Merantzas’ generosity at Xenion, Botsari’s commitment at Aspros Potamos, Grintzia’s warmth at Mpelleiko and Zacharatos’ expert opinion, it would seem a very safe bet that the Greek guesthouse is here to stay.


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BE THEIR GUEST VIGLATORAS HOTEL Ano Poroia, Serres, Macedonia

NAPOLEON ZANGLIS GUESTHOUSE Kalarites, Epirus

KYRA NIKI GUESTHOUSE Agrafa, Central Greece

Located on the slopes of Mt Beles, the mountain range separating Greece and Bulgaria, this establishment is an ideal launch pad for your excursions to Lake Kerkini. Awaiting you here are warm rooms, warm-hearted people and a wholesome breakfast in a guesthouse that started out as an inn a century ago. O.C. INFO: Tel. (+30) 23270.512.31, viglatorashotel.com

Napoleon Zanglis is perhaps the most largerthan-life resident of the village of Kalarites in the Tzoumerka region. For all their simplicity, the rooms of his guesthouse exude a welcoming warmth. Zanglis, who also runs the local village café, will provide you not only with tips but also with the keys you need to visit the monuments of the region, and he’ll serve you wonderful local delicacies, too, such as stewed goat, and yiaprakia, the Macedonian version of stuffed cabbage leaves. O.C. INFO: Tel. (+30) 26590.615.18,

Located amid the luxuriant natural landscape of the Agrafa region in Evrytania, this guesthouse-taverna is an ideal back-to-basics retreat. Without any special comforts, but boasting Kyra Niki’s exceptional care, this spot will make you will feel particularly welcome. At the taverna, you can enjoy soups, goat in red sauce and homemade pastries. O.C. INFO: Tel. (+30) 22370.932.09, kyra-niki.gr

ROBOLO BOUTIQUE HOTEL Litochoro, Macedonia Owner/operator Roula Malti will graciously welcome you to this restored 1883 building. The spaces exude a sense of warmth and comfort, while the breakfast menu has a homey slant, featuring local ingredients and natural herbal teas from Mt Olympus. Each of the six rooms is decorated differently, but they all feature Coco-Mat bedding, modern comforts and charming details. O.C. INFO: Tel. (+30) 6942.018.939, fb.com/ roboloboutiquehotel

PAPAEVANGELOU HOTEL Megalo Papingo, Epirus George Papaevangelou is a particularly friendly host, with a great willingness to guide you around the region, and his guesthouse exhibits his personal touch. Built according to the architectural style of the region, it features spacious rooms and a spectacular courtyard (with views over the peaks of Astraka). The breakfast menu features traditional items. N. B. INFO: Tel. (+30) 26530.411.35, hotelpapaevangelou.com

www.xenonasnapoleon.com

ANEMI COUNTRY COTTAGE INN Kato Pedina, Epirus Lila and Pavlos’ guesthouse resembles no other in the region. No interior designer chose its décor – this is a guesthouse that is a pure reflection of its owners’ personal taste. The common areas, including a rather impressive kitchen, a dedicated space for a loom and a balcony with unobstructed views, are all inviting. Pet friendly. N.D. INFO: Tel. (+30) 26530.720.03, anemi-zagori.gr

AMANITA GUESTHOUSE Tsangarada, Pilio Amanita (named after a type of mushroom) is a guesthouse situated in one of the greenest parts of the Tsagarada region that operates on the food philosophy of “from farm to table,” using vegetables from their land. It’s wonderful to stroll through the bountiful garden, but if the season is right, don’t pass up the chance to learn how to identify and collect edible wild mushrooms; the owner is an expert. N.D. INFO: Tel. (+30) 24260.497.07, amanita.gr

VASILIKIA MOUNTAIN FARM & RETREAT Pavliani, Central Greece This unique guesthouse, situated in a region boasting dense pine forests, resembles an American ranch. It is made up of small, independent houses, spread across an estate that also includes a greenhouse, a lookout point with a telescope (so you can enjoy the view over the mountains), stables and poultry coops. N.D. INFO: Tel. (+30) 22310-82992, vasilikia.gr

PORTARI HOUSES Kythira This guesthouse in Aroniadika is ideally situated to serve as a base for exploring both the north and south parts of this relatively large island. The guesthouse features modern rooms with minimalist décor and built-in beds and sofas so you know that you’re on a Greek island. Stone-paved paths snake around the estate and through the attractive garden. N.D. INFO: Tel. (+30) 27360.333.98, portari-houses. com (Open June-October)

(Open April-October)

Papaevangelou Hotel in Megalo Papingo

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With the right tools, the workman can’t go wrong, and the bounty of the natural world has supplied Greece and its cooks, professional and amateur alike, with a panoply of outstanding ingredients. BY NENA DI M ITR IOU

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ED CUISINE

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Breakfast at the traditional kafeneio Bakogia in Mykonos Town.

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f you google the words “Greece” and “food,” it’s possible you’ll stumble on a recent article about the island of Milos and its relatively unknown local cuisine, which is divine. Or you might read somewhere that every summer, Mykonos gathers the crème de la crème of Greek chefs, who present some of the most interesting dishes from a very special micro-cuisine that we could call “Cycladic fusion.” Or perhaps you’ll find yourself scrolling your way through articles on Santorini’s Assyrtiko, wine made from the grape variety that was born on that volcanic island and has won over oenophiles all around the world. Another thing you’ll probably come to learn is that Ikaria is known as the island of longevity, and that this is believed to be the direct result of the eating habits of its inhabitants. Something else you might find out is that if you make your way to Patmos – that enigmatic island where the Book of Revelations was written – you’ll have to book a table to enjoy an unforgettable seafood meal on the neighboring isle of Marathi, where luxurious vessels from all over the Mediterranean drop anchor. You might even discover that Tinos has become a trendy destination for knowledgeable foodies. Thessaloniki, you’ll read, has acquired one of the most interesting restaurant scenes in the entire country. It’s more than likely that you’ll come across articles describing Athens as one of the hottest capitals in terms of both its food and nightlife options. However, everything that is being writ-

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ten these days about Greek gastronomy is really nothing new. For Greeks, food has always been a big thing. City dwellers depend on rural producers. In the past, relatives who lived in the provinces would send their families in Athens or other cities part of whatever they produced: fresh eggs, olive oil, incomparably sweet tomatoes, crunchy little cucumbers, wild greens (like “pheasant’s-eye”) picked from their yard, as well as herbs with medicinal properties gathered from hills and mountains. Today, this job has fallen to a number of notable producers and distributors who spread the bounty of the land across Greece and abroad. With a climate that truly is a farmer’s best friend, the country has a renewable treasure in its agricultural products. Add to this the riches of the sea, and what emerges is a wealth of raw materials.

THE STAR PRODUCTS Many items that are hard to find and much sought-after in other countries are readily available in Greece and are not at all pricey, as nature produces them in generous amounts. In this country, “gourmet” is a plant that makes its appearance for just a few days each spring, like thin, green wild asparagus; it is cheese products from the islands, made using exceptionally high-quality milk from goats and sheep that sip seawater; and it is mastic, a resin produced naturally by the tree of the same name, found solely on the island of Chios. The special saffron known as Krokos Kozanis PDO, which has made the entire area of Kozani famous, is gourmet, and so are dozens of varieties of olive oil, from Koroneiki – the best-known – to Kolovi and Manaki, which may not be famous but are indeed very special. These products, rare and not, are what help create the cuisine of Greece, a way of cooking that is dependent on the change of seasons. The complex character of Greek cuisine is derived from the different products found in each area; for that reason, if we were to analyze the national food culture, we’d soon find ourselves exploring the many smaller local ones that comprise it. It is thanks to the specific products of


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01. A glance at a grocer’s shelves is enough to let you know what season it is. 02. The famed cherry tomatoes of Santorini are, in fact, only available fresh for two months a year. 03. Beekeepers move their beehives according to the flowering periods of the different species of plants their bees pollinate. 04. Messolongi is the home of Greek avgotaraho, or salt-cured fish roe.

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EXPERIENCE FOOD

Many of the edible treasures that enrich the country’s cuisine come fresh from the Aegean.

different areas that distinct local cuisines emerge. Examples include Santorini with its fava purée and its cherry tomatoes; Arta with its citrus fruits; Kavala with its mussels; the Cyclades with their sterling small-scale cheeses; Crete with its incomparably tasty vegetables, rusks, olive oil and wine; Messinia with its delicious fruit, nuts, olives and honey; and Central Greece with its sheep, goats and dairy products.

A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION Professional chefs were the first to work towards building Greece’s gastronomic reputation. It was they who started spreading a culinary message that was familiar to Greeks but wholly unknown to visitors; people wondered what kind of cuisine Greece had. Then, when fine dining and the gourmet food industry became the focus of global trends, and food became a reason to travel and explore, it was these same chefs who also began to travel abroad in order to train with, and to become inspired by, famous international chefs. One of the results of this development was that these Greek 130

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chefs no longer viewed tradition as an obstacle preventing them from evolving. They imported new techniques and methods into their kitchens, while retaining Greek ingredients (for the most part) and attempting to elicit the full, pure tastes of these products. Of course, not all chefs chose to do this, but enough of them did to allow the shift in Greek gastronomy to become a tangible, visible change. Among the discoveries that these more adventurous chefs made was the realization that they didn’t need to make rich sauces filled with saturated fats when olive oil was available, and that the greasy fried dough wasn’t a necessary evil, given that they had access to traditional wood-burning ovens. In turn, producers further improved their products through the use of new technologies, greater standardization and more stringent quality controls. This is what led Ferran Adrià, the famous Spanish chef and one of the fathers of contemporary gastronomy, to use Greek avgotaracho (bottarga) from Messolongi exclusively, for instance. Many other chefs have followed suit with favorite items of

their own; once you’ve tried these local stars, you’ll know why.

DARE TO SHARE Greek cuisine isn’t predominantly a matter of technique. It is what it is because of the unique raw ingredients that go into it. They give the final product its tastiness. But there’s another component that’s common to many Greek dishes – it’s the idea that food is to be shared. Cooking for others is an act of offering, of giving, of philoxenia (hospitality). The fact is, Greeks like to share their food. So don’t think it odd if someone hands you fruit from their orchard; or if you happen to be at some port in the Cyclades as fishing vessels are mooring and someone offers you some fresh sea urchin caviar. It’s entirely possible that someone will invite you to a kafeneio (traditional coffee shop) and insist on treating you to a coffee or another beverage, or good-naturedly demand you attend some celebration or village panigyri (festival). Be sure to accept these invitations with grace. In doing so, you’ll be adding the final ingredient in Greek cooking: the welcome guest.


ADVERTORIAL

Varoulko Seaside

A TIMELESS CHOICE FOR FISH AND SEAFOOD In 1987, the Athens culinary scene changed forever when Varoulko Restaurant (its name translates as “winch”) opened in Piraeus. It ushered in a new style of seafood cooking, under award-winning Lefteris Lazarou, the first chef in Greece to bring an all-seafood menu to a fine dining restaurant. Varoulko introduced the Athenian public to lesser-known and previously neglected types of fish, many of which became so well-loved they are now recognized as modern classics. Lazarou has never stopped innovating. His imagination, together with his mastery of a range of culinary techniques, led to the creation of new dishes and flavors, rich yet elegantly creative and sophisticated. The emphasis is on offering dishes that make use of fresh local fish and seafood, always prepared with a Varoulko twist by chef de cuisine Ioannis Parikos. From classic favorites such as squid with basil pesto in a potato nest with tomato confit to more innovative creations like crayfish tartare with basil,

ginger and grapefruit, diners can relish unique culinary treats. Varoulko Seaside is located in Mikrolimano, one of the most picturesque spots in Piraeus, occupying a prime waterfront position in front of the little harbor. Open for lunch and dinner, it welcomes guests from near and far who come to enjoy an elegant dining experience in a truly inviting atmosphere. An extensive list of fine regional Greek wines and international labels wait to be uncorked in the Varoulko cellar by knowledgeable sommeliers, whose expert suggestions are an intrinsic part of each meal. Those who appreciate exquisite desserts will discover new pleasures sure to excite the palate from the refreshing range created by pastry chef Theodore Moysidis. By offering a truly authentic dining experience for all the senses, Varoulko Seaside always leaves its patrons with a desire to return.

Cuisine: Seafood and Mediterranean • Parking service available • www.varoulko.gr • Instagram #varoulkoseaside • 54 Akti Koumoundourou, Mikrolimano, Piraeus, Greece • Tel. (+30) 210.522.8400 • info@varoulko.gr


HAPPY MEALS EXPERIENCE FOOD

Greece is... food. And food in Greece isn’t just about taste. It’s a labor of love, a source of pride, an expression of generosity, an act of hospitality, a reason to get together and share so much more than a meal. Everything that traditional Greek cuisine represents can be found in these recipes; they’re pure, unique and genuinely welcoming creations. BY NENA DI M ITR IOU

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What can you make using some flour, a a little water and a bit of cheese? A pita, or pie, of course! Greek pies, generally savory in nature, have always been a staple, on many occasions even serving as the main dish on the family dinner table. Lacking access to a great range of food items, residents of more remote mountain villages slowly built up an extensive collection of no-frill recipes, in which the pita appears in dozens of variations – either with or without filo pastry, and with fillings consisting of greens, dairy products or even pasta. For reasons of economy and necessity, people would put nearly anything that could be used into their pies; they certainly didn’t throw anything out. And pies, in addition to being very filling,

served the agricultural lifestyle well, as they could be carried from place to place and broken into pieces and eaten on the go. In mainland Greece, you can try pies baked in large pans, while on the islands you can find little pies – that is, single portions mainly prepared in frying pans. Nowadays, pies are considered a choice food item, as they demand a lot of effort and time to prepare. Layers of handmade filo pastry go into making the hortopita (a pie filled with greens), which is arguably the best-known pie and especially tasty when fresh wild springtime greens are used to make it. In contrast, a couple of the more unusual pies are the cod pie from Kefalonia and the nettle pie, which you can get a taste of when on Crete.

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THE COUNTRY PIE

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MAGIC BEANS

Based on first impressions, you might conclude that either souvlaki or moussaka is the national dish of Greece. But ask a Greek, and chances are they’ll tell you that fasolada (bean soup) holds that honor. This dish became firmly established as a staple during times of financial hardship, as beans have always been relatively inexpensive raw ingredients. The classic fasolada is made using small white beans, which, after soaking, are boiled in a tomato broth sweetened through the addition of carrot and celery. In some places (or during periods of fasting), they make it

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simpler, using only olive oil and lemon. In other areas, they like to add sausage or spinach and other greens. It is largely regarded as a wintertime dish and, because it contains no meat, is considered rather humble, gastronomically speaking. However, fasolada is traditionally accompanied by cured or smoked fish such as herrings or sardines – and this combination is anything but humble! Enjoy it piping hot, preferably inside some mountain refuge on the slopes of Psiloritis, Taygetus or Olympus, where the cold weather outside will make it all that more welcome.


EXPERIENCE FOOD

FROM GARDEN TO PLATΕ

(or tomato paste out of season) are necessary. Among the best-known ladera are: green beans; yemista (stuffed vegetables with rice, baked in the oven); and briam or tourlou (a ratatouille-style dish) made using any vegetables available. Many contend that ladera are even tastier the next day, after spending the night in the fridge, as this allows their flavors to mingle. But whether you enjoy these dishes fresh or the next day, eating ladera is like going for stroll through a vegetable patch.Just don’t forget to take some fresh bread with you on your walk!

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“Place a pan over high heat, add plenty of olive oil, chop an onion and start sauteing it.” Nine out of ten Greek recipes begin this way. Often a clove of garlic is added, too. Vegetables such as okra, green beans, eggplant, peppers or zucchini then follow. These are the protagonists of ladera (dishes cooked in olive oil), a food category connected with the summer season, when all these garden vegetables are at their delicious peak. Ladera came into existence thanks to the abundance of olive oil, which is a staple in every Greek home. Parsley and dill, fresh tomato in season

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THE TOMATO RULES

From the Ionian islands in the west to Lesvos (Mytilene) in the east, and from Epirus in the northwest to Crete in the south, kokkinista (dishes cooked in tomato sauce) hold a special spot on the Greek menu. In the Cyclades, tomatoes are sun-dried on the flat white roofs of the houses; from these, peltes (tomato paste) is made, a thick sauce that can be kept for an entire year without refrigeration. In Macedonia, they add peppers to their tomato paste. In Mani (southern Peloponnese), they add a 136

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bit of lemon. The use of garlic, mint or basil, which is common throughout Greece, enriches the flavor, whether the sauce is accompanying pasta, vegetables, meat or fish. A spoonful of sugar is added to all tomato sauces to regulate their acidity. Two of the most famous kokkinista dishes are beef with kritharaki (orzo), cooked in an earthenware vessel (after which this dish – youvetsi – is named), and rooster with thick spaghetti. These dishes are often the centerpiece of Sunday meals.


EXPERIENCE FOOD

GOING GREEN

Nowhere are there so many types of edible greens and herbs as there are in Greece (chicory alone has some 40 varieties). And nowhere else are they used in so many imaginative ways. From the wild greens that appear after the first autumn rains to the cultivated greens found on the stalls in farmers’ markets to herbs that are considered musts in Greek cuisine, these plants are extraordinary raw ingredients. They can be eaten on their own uncooked, or sautÊed; cooked with meat, poultry, fish or pulses; used

in pies, soups and pilaf dishes; fried with eggs; or made into patties or balls before frying. The magnificent, bittersweet taste of all these greens really comes out when coupled with an avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce. The liquid produced when greens are boiled can also be consumed as a drink and is considered to have medicinal properties. On the Blue Zone island of Ikaria, locals say that boiled greens with olive oil is one of the dishes responsible for their famously long lifespans.

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TWENTY Each with its own distinct soul, every one

FACES of these hotels has its own approach

OF GREEK to what defines exceptional 21st-century hospitality.

LUXURY BY CHR ISTI NA POUTETSI

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IKOS ARIA Kos

THE CASE FOR HOLISTIC ALL-INCLUSIVE

Comfort in space and time, a luxury not imposed on guests, but one that the environment itself creates in the background; this is what Ikos Resorts call the “infinite lifestyle.” A holistic approach to the all-inclusive concept, it is directly linked to how luxury family vacations are shaped and formed. Chefs with Michelin-star experience put together the menus; some 300 wine labels are on offer; leading mixologists create the cocktails; there are activities, supervision and entertainment for children; and visitors receive suggestions that help them explore the local area. Ikos Resorts were named the best all-inclusive resorts in the world in the 2019 TripAdvisor Annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. The Ikos Aria on Kos is the latest addition to the portfolio, created following the wholesale reconstruction of the facilities of the island’s Club Med, which had been closed for years. • ikosresorts.com

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FOUR SEASONS ASTIR PALACE Athens

THE GLAMOUR OF THE ATHENIAN RIVIERA

The Astir Palace is located in Lemos, Vouliagmeni, the most iconic spot along the whole of the Athenian Riviera. The resort’s history spans over 50 years, during which time it has hosted many world leaders and A-list celebrities. Its acquisition by AGC Equity Partners for €444 million in 2013 marked the first foreign investment of such a large scale in the Greek tourism market and paved the way for Four Seasons to make its debut appearance in Greece. What followed was a complete renovation of the hotel’s facilities and infrastructure. In the spring of 2019, the hotel complex began operating as a single unit under the management of the international luxury group and has since recaptured the glamour and prestige that characterized this corner of the Athenian Riviera in the 1960s and 1970s. • fourseasons.com/athens

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COSTA NAVARINO Messinia

As far back as the 1980s, the shipping magnate Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos had envisioned a luxury destination that would also be a model of sustainability, one that would operate to the benefit of the local community and the environment, showcase the history, civilization and culture of Messinia, and promote its agricultural wealth and gastronomic heritage. Today, Costa Navarino remains dedicated to this vision; this unique vacation and golfing destination has received more than 100 awards and distinctions for its environmental policies, its hospitality and its Navarino Icons series of select gourmet products. Its two signature golf courses, The Dunes Course, designed by Bernhard Langer, and the Bay Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. were the first of their kind in Greece, and will soon be complemented by two additional 18-hole courses, designed by José María Olazábal. Two new resorts – Navarino Bay and Navarino Waterfront – are also slated for completion in 2021. What’s more, Costa Navarino has launched a residential project, Navarino Residences, and is offering luxury villas and apartments for sale. • costanavarino.com

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A MODEL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT


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PETRA HOTEL & SUITES Patmos

PERSONAL PAMPERING IN AN INTIMATE SETTING

Nestled in Grikos Bay, Petra may have just 11 rooms and suites, but it is a full-fledged member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World network. One of Greece’s leading small luxury hotels, it has received notable mentions and reviews in international publications for successfully combining personalized care with the provision of services of the highest standard. Petra Hotel & Suites resembles a small village, constructed according to the traditional architecture of Patmos, and is under the constant care and supervision of the couple who own it and who ensure that guests experience authentic, traditional island hospitality. • petrahotel-patmos.com

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KYRIMAI HOTEL Mani This impressive building, dating to 1870, is located on Gerolimenas Bay. It has been transformed into a top-level hotel complex, one that combines traditional architecture with contemporary amenities. The Kyrimis family have converted the old wine cellar into a reception space, while onetime firewood storage areas now contain display items that trace the history of Mani. The rooms are decorated with period furniture pieces, bringing earlier eras to mind. The restaurant resembles a Maniot kitchen, and the menu is focused on locally sourced ingredients. The Kyrimai Hotel gained the distinction of “Most Romantic Historic Hotel of Europe” in the 2017 Historic Hotels of Europe Awards. • kyrimai.gr

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HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE Athens

THE GRAND DAME OF ATHENS

The Hotel Grande Bretagne, a landmark located in the center of the Greek capital, first opened its doors in the latter half of the 19th century, when the Dimitriou family mansion, built according to plans by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen, was acquired by Stathis Lampsas, a chef who had received his training at the Royal Palace and in Paris. Today, the hotel belongs to Lampsa Hellenic Hotels SA, which completely renovated it in 2003-2004. It has consistently been the hotel of choice for royals, heads of state and celebrities, and has even served as government headquarters in the past. Highlights include afternoon tea at the Winter Garden, award-winning cuisine at the GB Roof Garden and the most luxurious hotel spa in Athens. • marriott.com

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ELECTRA METROPOLIS Athens

THE NEW URBAN HOTEL

The building, designed by renowned Greek architect Patroklos Karantinos, housed the Greek Ministry of Education for decades. In 2016, it was transformed into one of the city center’s leading hotels in a move that helped revitalize the image of urban hospitality. The hotel pays homage to the retro-chic aesthetic that forms part of the history of modern Athens, and offers 216 modern, well-equipped rooms and suites, and a Roof Garden with a view of the Parthenon and all of Athens. Aghia Dynami, a small church dating to the 16th century, is situated on the ground floor just outside the hotel’s entrance, while remnants of the famous Themistoclean Wall, which once surrounded Ancient Athens, are still visible in the hotel basement. • electrahotels.gr

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EKIES ALL SENSES RESORT Halkidiki

THE PHILOSOPHY OF BAREFOOT LUXURY

Renovated in 2008, this small, environmentally responsible hotel on Vourvourou Beach offers a wide range of experiences. Despite its elegant modern design, it elicits a feeling of familiarity, and offers discreet privacy combined with a laid-back approach to gastronomy and outdoor activities. Here the natural surroundings have the first (and final) word, as all the manmade elements have been respectfully adapted to the environment, without pretentiousness or artifice. The entire project reflects a natural, outdoor way of life on a human scale. In 2017, Ekies was awarded a prize at the AHEAD Europe Awards for “Landscaping & Outdoor Spaces.” It earned another in 2019 at the German Design Awards, in the “Special” category. • ekies.gr

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EMELISSE NATURE RESORT, FISKARDO Kefalonia

SOOTHING SECLUSION AT A FAMILY GETAWAY

The Emelisse Nature Resort is located on Emplysi Bay, a short distance from the town of Fiskardo. Once known as an “art hotel,” it has since evolved into a nature resort. Everything in the resort has been designed as an extension of the natural environment. The two-story ochre-colored residences share the land with shrubs and cypresses. The furniture is made from teak wood and has a nautical theme. The facilities also include two pools and a spa. The hospitality concept revolves around the idea of family vacation fun in tandem with ample opportunities for relaxation; the resort has been designed with the aim of offering guests a sense of privacy and peace. • emelisseresort.com

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IMARET HOTEL Kavala

© NICHOLAS MASTORAS

OTTOMAN OPULENCE AND MODERN COMFORT

The Imaret is housed in the historical monument of the same name, in a prominent position within the walls surrounding Kavala’s old town. Regarded as a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture, the Imaret was built in 1817 and was designated a heritage monument in 1954. At the start of this century, it underwent a restoration to combine its authentic Ottoman architecture with contemporary luxury. Interior courtyards, dome-topped arcades, a series of arches and an outdoor stone-built cistern are among its main features. Its rooms and suites are richly decorated, and visitors can also enjoy the experience of an authentic Turkish hammam, or steam bath. The Imaret also offers organized tours of the property and of other Ottoman monuments in the city, such as the Halil Bey Mosque and the Residence of Muhammad Ali Pasha, widely regarded as the founder of modern Egypt. • imaret.gr

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COCO-MAT ECO RESIDENCES Serifos

SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS

The Coco-Mat Eco Residences are located on the coast of Serifos, overlooking Vagia Beach. They are, in fact, the former residences of miners who once worked on the island. Originally constructed in 1910, the complex has recently been completely rebuilt, but in keeping with the traditional architecture of the island and in accordance with contemporary environmental practices. The two-story buildings with their stone walls are a perfect fit for Coco-Mat’s “organic philosophy;” together they create an alternative experience in the Cyclades. Of course, the company’s signature beds and mattresses play a starring role, as sound, restful sleep is a prerequisite for an ideal vacation. Enjoying one’s sleep, the owners of this hotel maintain, is the “ultimate experience in relaxation and invigoration when one does so in an environment that harmoniously combines such slumber with the provision of high-quality services.” • serifos.coco-mat-hotels.com

BELVEDERE HOTEL Mykonos

QUINTESSENTIALLY CLASSY

The Belvedere is situated in the heart of Mykonos Town, just opposite the School of Fine Arts and inside verdant gardens filled with cypresses, bougainvilleas and wild laurels. This distinguished boutique hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, has preserved authentic elements of Mykonian architecture. It was constructed around the Stoupa Mansion, which dates to 1850 and is one of the oldest and most attractive residences in Mykonos Town. Today, it also houses the Six Senses Spa. The outdoor sushi restaurant Matsuhisa Mykonos, a creation of the world-famous chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa, opened in 2003 and has become an important focal point in its own right. • belvederehotel.com 150

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OLEA ALL SUITE HOTEL Zakynthos

DESIGNED TO SOOTHE

Constructed on a hill at Tsilivi, the Olea All Suite Hotel is an exception to the package tourism typical of Zakynthos. The hotel, which features some outstanding design elements, exudes a sense of tranquility that lends it a “mature” feeling, despite the fact that it just opened this year. Olea All Suite Hotel features 93 suites and boasts three restaurants which offer Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It has been named as one of the top five best hotels in the country for 2019, and also holds the distinction of being the first Greek hotel to receive an award from Interior Design Magazine – specifically in its 2018 Best of the Year Awards, in the “Large Resort” category. • oleaallsuitehotel.com

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EUPHORIA RETREAT Mystras

© VANGELIS ZAVOS © VANGELIS ZAVOS

Can you become your own therapist? The idea of creating a holistic wellness complex near the archaeological site of Mystras – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – belongs to Marina Efraimoglou, an economist with a career in finance and investments. In the midst of an intense and stressful work schedule, she had gone on her first alternative vacation to a destination outside of Greece, and this experience would prove to be a decisive one. The Euphoria Retreat draws inspiration from ancient Greek philosophers, Hippocratic medicine, Taoist philosophy and Chinese medicine. “We look forward to guiding you to meaningful life changes,” notes the introductory message on the resort’s website. An emotional and physical transformation is the goal, to be achieved through a program that encompasses personal healing, nutrition and relaxation. • euphoriaretreat.com

© VANGELIS ZAVOS

A HEALING PLACE

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POSEIDONION GRAND HOTEL Spetses

ARISTI MOUNTAIN RESORT & VILLAS Zagori

A HUNDRED-YEAR PEDIGREE

OVERALL EXCELLENCE

The Poseidonion Grand Hotel has been in operation for over a century, having welcomed its first guests in the summer of 1914. This landmark, and symbol of the island of Spetses, was the vision of national benefactor Sotirios Anargyros, who contributed greatly to the development of the island. The hotel was a favorite among members of high society, the royal family and wealthy Athenians. It reopened in the summer of 2009, following the completion of a five-year renovation project that imbued it with an atmosphere similar to that of the best hotels on the French Riviera. Two buildings comprise the hotel and offer guests a choice of luxurious rooms and suites, while the veranda affords wonderful views of the sea and the port of Dapia. • poseidonion.com

The Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas is a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, and was also named World’s Leading Eco-Lodge in 2017. Spread out amphitheatrically across the highest point of the picturesque village of Aristi in western Zagori, it offers a view of the peak of Astraka and the Vikos Gorge. The hotel is noted for its innovative approaches to sustainability and for its efforts to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Traditional wooden roofs and walls constructed using local gray stone define the complex with its 24 rooms, suites, villas and large heated indoor swimming pool that looks out towards the mountaintops. The cuisine shines a spotlight on traditional recipes, making use of top-quality local ingredients. • aristi.eu

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EXPERIENCE LUXURY

ANEMI HOTEL, Folegandros

AEGEAN AUTHENTICITY

Anemi Hotel rises amphitheatrically above the pebbly beach at Karavostasi, its 12 detached two-story buildings offering an arresting view of the Aegean Sea and the island’s port. In no way do these buildings disturb the beauty of the Folegandros landscape; rather, they serve to showcase traditional Cycladic architecture. The low, white structures that contain the common areas and the rooms are draped in fuchsia bougainvillea, while inside the the spotlight is on furniture created by international contemporary designers. Another standout feature of this fivestar hotel is its seawater infinity pool, which provides an ideal refuge from the winds of summer. •anemihotel.gr

KAPSALIANA VILLAGE HOTEL Rethymno

RURAL REVIVAL

In the case of the Kapsaliana, the history of a small Cretan village has been given a bright new chapter. Architect and owner Myron Toupoyannis has breathed new life into a place of great natural beauty and tranquility by reconstructing the buildings of a metochi (dependency) that once belonged to the Arkadi Monastery. He managed to do this while remaining respectful of the historical appearance of the village through the centuries. The Kapsaliana Village Hotel, a member of the Historic Hotels of Europe, is nestled in the highlands of Rethymno, near the museum of the archaeological site of Eleutherna. Today, it features a model guesthouse with an organic vegetable garden, and it also boasts a restaurant that serves Mediterranean and Cretan dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The millstone of an old olive oil press, as well as tools and wares from the last century, are on display in the communal areas. • kapsalianavillage.gr 154

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© GEORGE LIZARDOS

EXPERIENCE LUXURY

KATOGI AVEROFF HOTEL & WINERY Metsovo

© WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

The Katogi Averoff Hotel & Winery is considered one of Greece’s model wine tourism complexes. It began operation in 2008, setting its sights on combining the worlds of wine, the arts and hospitality, all within an environment that celebrates nature. Its 15 rooms, all featuring modern amenities and wine-inspired decorative elements, offer views of the winery and the Metsovo area. Here, discreet luxury comes with touches of tradition, and the overall experience is further enhanced through wine tastings and walks through the vineyards and forests, allowing guests to become better acquainted with the Metsovo region. • katogiaveroffhotel.gr

© PETROS ANDRIANOPOULOS - TINA WEBB

THE HOTEL IN THE VINEYARD

PERIVOLAS Santorini

PICTURE-PERFECT

Perivolas, which is spread out amphitheatrically across a secluded part of Oia, is, in the minds of many, characterized by its amazing infinity pool and the stunning views it offers. Photos taken from here have graced the covers of international travel magazines time and again, to the point where they have become iconic images conveying the magic of the caldera and of Santorini as a whole. Its founder, Captain Manos Psychas, was born in Odessa but had family roots in Santorini. In the 1950s, he decided to renew his ties with the island, and, in 1969, he and his wife Nadia bought property in Perivolas, in the upper part of the village of Oia. The section of cliff they purchased included 300-year-old yposkafa (cave houses dug into the rock) and stables. With the help of local craftsmen, they restored the yposkafa, once homes to fishermen and farmers, and this historic setting was gradually transformed into a luxurious 20-suite complex, which today finds itself on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List. • perivolas.gr P H I LOX E N I A 2 019 - 2 0 2 0

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SPONSORED

DURRELL’S PLACE

The story of the White House began in 1900, back when it was the first stone dwelling built on the shores of beautiful Kalami Bay. Once home to the famous author Lawrence Durrell, it was later acquired by the Atheneos family, who opened its doors to the public as an eatery in 1980. Located on the shore of a picturesque emerald bay in northeastern Corfu, the White House, which also provides accommodations, boasts elegant rooms offering stunning sea views that make it the perfect spot for a relaxing meal or a restful extended stay. The restaurant, on the ground floor of the original building, has tables perched on rocks washed by the gentle waves of the bay. The delicious dishes, inspired by Greek and Corfiot recipes, are made using fresh local produce. There are also boats for rent, either with or without skippers, so patrons can also enjoy excursions on the water. In 2018, the Atheneos family opened the Durrell Spot, a small shop in Corfu Town that sells books and mementos related to the Durrell family and the White House. Kalami Bay, Corfu Tel. (+30) 26630.910.40 • thewhitehouse.gr • •

AN “URBAN NATURE” EXPERIENCE

Radisson Blu Park Athens is a city center hotel overlooking the “Pedion Areos,” the largest park in Athens, in an ideal location just a few steps from the National Archaeological Museum. Newly refurbished with welcoming natural elements, the hotel allows its guests to feel the presence of the park within the hotel itself. It boasts luxurious accommodation, up to 1000 sq.m. of stylish conference facilities with state-ofthe-art technology, and a “Yes I Can!” philosophy when it comes to service. The elegant St’Astra rooftop restaurant-bar, with its great views of the Acropolis and Mt. Lycabettus, is the best place to unwind, while the rooftop swimming pool, also offering a 360o view of Athens, is a memorable experience in its own right.  10 Alexandras Tel.: (+30) 210.889.4500 • radissonblu.com • •

LET THEM EAT GREEK!

In 2020, Sympossio Greek Gourmet Touring by Aldemar Resorts will embark once again on a journey to showcase Greek gastronomy around Europe. Sympossio is a series of culinary experiential events staged in more than 30 European cities over three months with the twin goals of establishing Greece as a world-class gastronomic destination and of promoting the authenticity and richness of Greek cuisine and products. This edition, the 11th Sympossio, is dedicated to a product with a long history: Greek cheese. With the help of the Greek National Tourism Organization and a wide network of collaborators, Sympossio has established itself as the country’s largest collaborative promotional vehicle. •

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Tel. (+30) 210.628.8434 • sympossio.gr, aldemar-resorts.gr


* Offer expires December 31, 2019 and is valid for new subscribers in Athens and Thessaloniki only. This offer is not avalaible in all markets and hand delivery is subject to confirmation by our local distributor. Smartphone and tablet apps are not supported on all devices.


SPONSORED

A PLACE OF LEARNING

The Herakleidon Museum, in association with the Association for the Study of Ancient Greek and Byzantine Technology, has announced the commencement of the Herakleidon Academy. A select group of eminent university professors and researchers who specialize in the study of technology in ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire will hold a series of one-week seminars, in English, addressed mainly to foreign university students. Each seminar will include guided visits to archaeological sites in Athens and other parts of Greece, to complement the material taught in the classroom. • 16 Herakleidon • Tel. (+30) 210.346.1981 • herakleidon-art.gr

A SUPERSTAR IN THE CITY

Outstanding design meets a fabulous city lifestyle at the ultimate contemporary design hotel in Athens. Get ready to experience the brilliance of urban life in New Hotel’s luxurious rooms. Savor fine culinary proposals at the restaurant New Taste and enjoy the most incredible panoramic views of Athens from the rooftop Art Lounge while relaxing with a cocktail. Recharge your body and soul with New Sense Treatments and do business in style at the New Meeting Rooms on the mezzanine. Conveniently situated at 16 Filellinon, just 200 meters from Syntagma Square and within walking distance of the metro and the city’s main attractions, including the Acropolis and the picturesque neighborhood of Plaka, New Hotel is definitely a must! It’s an enviable choice, right in in the center of Athens, for leisure and business travelers alike. •

16 Filellinon, Syntagma • Tel. (+30) 210.327.3000 • yeshotels.gr

RENEWED AND RENOWNED

Metaxa Hospitality Group is embarking on a new era and going from strength to strength.This evolution is reflected in its new corporate identity, supported by a new website and accompanied by a new logo and the tagline “You at the Centre.” These elements express the three main pillars of the group’s values: authentic hospitality, sustainable development and the creation of value chains that benefit the local communities and economies in the destinations where it operates. With more than four decades of continuous success, Metaxa Hospitality Group is today an internationally recognized company with over 45 international awards and certifications to its name. •

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santomaris.gr, cretamaris.gr


SPONSORED

COUNTRY COMFORTS

Designed to resemble a small village neighborhood and set in a beautiful olive grove, Opora Country Living has opened its doors to those seeking authentic contact with nature without being deprived of comfort and discreet luxury. The threehectare farm, just minutes outside Nafplio on the road to Epidaurus, consists of a main building and three smaller structures, all rural in style, with panoramic views and a large outdoor swimming pool. The residential units are located within an olive grove, each with its own garden and easy access to the pool, a fully equipped kitchen and fireplace. Of course, apart from a comfortable stay, you will have the opportunity to experience the local culture and to take part in seminars on winetasting, olive harvesting and beekeeping and in endless bike rides in nature. Pyrgiotika, Argolida Tel. (+30) 27520.222.59 • oporacountryliving.com • •

TWO TREASURES

Athens Was, Athens | Anemi Hotel, Folegandros A breathtaking hospitality narrative that flows naturally from eternal Athens to the Cycladic soul of the island of Folegandros reveals the authentic character of the two 5-star Anemi Hotels: Athens Was in Athens, a proud member of Design Hotels; and Anemi boutique hotel on Folegandros, a wonderful blend of contemporary design and Cycladic architectural mastery. Inspired by the inimitable Grecian light, both Anemi Hotels offer a perfect fusion of fine hospitality values and a rich cultural legacy, and deliver a firstclass living experience. • •

Athens: 5 Dionysiou Areopagitou, Tel. (+30) 210.924.9954 • athenswas.gr Folegandros: Tel. (+30) 22860.416.10, anemihotel.gr

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