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EXPERIENCE CULTURE, GASTRONOMY & MORE

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ISSN: 2529-041X

ISSUE #44 | SUMMER 2020

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SU M ME RT I ME

This year, fortunate are those with a summer home to return to, an ancestral village to reconnect with, or even a spot at a campsite where their kids can roam free.

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H ASH TAGS

Mt Olympus; the scenic Galaxidi seafront; the endless beach of Preveza; the rich forests of Agrafa: Greece is so much more than its famous islands.

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DES T INAT IONS

From the Peloponnese to Halkidiki, Epirus to Evia, Pilio to Evrytania, Greece is a mosaic of natural wonders, cultural riches and amazing experiences.

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S TAYCAT ION

Staying in Athens or Thessaloniki doesn’t have to mean missing out on summer fun. Both cities offer plenty of options for playful summer days and nights.


© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

WELCOME

ACHIN’ FOR A VACATION? We hit the road and head for Greece’s most breathtaking spots. 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

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the countries with the best road infrastructure networks in the world are the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Switzerland. Each of these countries does have its merits, of course; but this summer especially, I doubt that they'd rank among the most popular responses on a TV game show asking contestants something like: “We surveyed 100 people about which countries they'd like to visit for their holidays. Which were the most popular?” In contrast, good ole (and safe) Greece would likely be way up on the list. Looking at the WEF figures, Greece was awarded a respectable 4.5 regarding the quality of its road network (with the top countries scoring over 6), placing the country in the upper 30 percent globally. Needless to say, if we were to take into account the diversity of the local landscape and the beauties in store on even the most difficult of routes – such as on some serpentine mountain roads that leave you breathless – then Greece would be at or near the top, hands down. Here, you might be traveling through an alpine scene above the clouds one minute and suddenly be facing an imposing ancient temple the next; or you might be passing through a dense forest, only to find yourself – just an hour later – swimming at a fantastic beach; or you may be exiting some nondescript, unattractive

provincial town, and only ten curves later find yourself gazing at a stunning landscape, feeling like you're the first person to ever lay eyes on it; or, lastly, you might pick up a rental car for five, 10 or 15 days and experience your own personal version of "On the Road" (minus the sense of vastness, but with more beauty), and never feel bored – not even a little bit. And all of this while staying safe with your loved ones and maintaining distancing – simply enjoying life, in other words. This was the thinking behind this issue of Greece Is, the second to come out in what is the most upside-down summer of our lives. So, we returned to beloved places, refreshed our notes, photographed the beauties of the country and put together small illustrated stories to offer all of you, whether readers of our Greek edition or friends from around the world who enjoy our English edition, some vacation ideas, as well as our best wishes for a splendid – and safe – summer! PS. Our Greece Is Islands issue was very warmly received, and we’d like to thank you for that. If you missed it, however, you can obtain it free of charge via subscription.kathimerini. gr/greece-is, paying only shipping costs. This also goes for all of the back issues we have in stock.

Just what we needed, in a single, eloquent photograph. MAINL AND 2020

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CONTENTS GREECE IS - ISSUE#44 MAINL AND SUMMER 2020

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PUBLISHED BY:

EXPLORER SINGLE MEMBER SA Mass Media Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos, Athens, 18547, Greece Tel. (+30) 210.480.8000 Fax (+30) 210.480.8202 EXECUTIVE EDITOR

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Alexis Papahelas

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Giorgos Tsiros (editor@greece-is.com) COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR

Vassiliki Albani (valbani@kathimerini.gr)

ADVERTISING DIRECTOR

Kelly Lorentzou (klorentzou@kathimerini.gr) COMMERCIAL INQUIRIES

04. 50 YEARS ON THE ROAD An American friend shares some of her memories from a lifetime’s worth of trips around the Greek mainland. 10. SWEET SUMMER HOME Author Amanda Michalopoulou on the joys of a modest seaside family retreat. 14. BASE CAMP Manina Danou has spent every summer of her life at the same camping site and is grateful for that. 18. BELOVED TZOUMERKA Reconnecting with one’s ancestral village. 24. VOVOUSA’S AWAKENING How an alternative arts festival turned a sleepy village into a cool summer destination.

28. ELEGANT EQUILIBRIUM A photographic game of contrasts, celebrating the beauty of Greece.

HASHTAGS

38. ACHERON #MYTH 40. KAVALA #CHARM 42. NAOUSSA #VINEYARDS 44. PIERIA #VARIETY 46. OLYMPUS #CONQUEST 48. PARGA #POSTCARD 50. AGRAFA #PURITY 52. PREVEZA #BEACH 54. GALAXIDI #WEEKEND 56. ZAROUCHLA #SURPRISE

DESTINATIONS 58. EVRYTANIA The cool factor

78. ZAGORI Top 10 summer experiences. 86. HALKIDIKI Perfect peninsulas 96. PELOPONNESE 80+1 Things we love in the most versatile region of Greece.

Eva Loudi Tel. (+30) 210.480.8227 Fax (+30) 210.480.8228 E-mails: sales@greece-is.com emporiko@kathimerini.gr

PUBLIC RELATIONS:

welcome@greece-is.com

GREECE IS - ISLANDS

is a special edition distributed free of charge. It is illegal to reproduce any part of this publication without the written permission of the publisher.

SUMMER IN THE CITY

114. the athens riviera The toast of the coast 126. gps: great places to swim ...and how to locate them. 132. THESSALONIKI Cools spots for summer days and nights.

66. PILIO Journeys across the magic mountain 72. EVIA Just a bridge away

ISSN: 2529-041X COVER: ILLUSTRATION BY ANNA TZORTZI

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SUMMERTIME

YEARS ON THE ROAD An American friend shares some of her memories from a lifetime’s worth of trips around the Greek mainland. B Y D I A N A FA R R L OU I S I L LUST R AT ION S BY A N NA T ZORT Z I

CLIMBING MT OLYMPUS IN JULY, 1980s We (three adults, three teenagers) had taken the train from Athens to Litohoro, where we spent the night, hiring a taxi the next day to take us to the first refuge. From there, we walked up to the second refuge on a fairly gentle path shaded by trees and strewn with wild flowers. After lunch there, the younger ones crashed but I ventured out for a postprandial stroll on the mountain. One of my companions had the same idea and we started walking, never intending a major climb. Without realizing it, we found ourselves fairly near the summit and were debating whether to continue, when suddenly, the 04

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blue sky turned black, thunder rattled round the curved slope and hail pelted from above. We took shelter under a ledge and watched as the mountainside turned white. Zeus had revealed himself, still very much alive in his kingdom. The others made it to the peak of Mytikas the next day, while I nursed sore toes, bruised in the steep descent.

“DOING” THE VIKOS GORGE IN SUMMER EARLY 1980s With pre-election propaganda blaring in Athens, about eight of us escaped to Epirus to walk the famous gorge. A

guide shepherded us down a vertical “ladder” path at Monodendri to the track that parallels the river. It was surprisingly bare, few things growing on the steep slope, and very hot. After a few hours, we reached an enticing translucent pool so icy that only a couple of intrepid females dared to dip. We had a snack on its banks before making the almost vertical ascent back up to somewhere near Papingo. One of our party, a 40-year-old smoker, collapsed on the way but we coaxed him to the path’s end and then watched in disbelief as our guide scampered like a goat further up the mountain while we sat utterly exhausted, waiting for a pickup truck to take us to our hotel.


SUMMERTIME

CLIMBING MT OCHI, EVIA

LAKE KERKINI

NYMPHAIO

We parked near a chestnut forest on the eastern flank of the mountain and climbed up to the summit, where Zeus and Hera were allegedly betrothed. If we’d gone up the south slope, we would have passed countless granite columns, lying like logs, some only halfformed, abandoned as though the Roman quarriers had left in a hurry. But this time our aim was to see the Dragon House, perhaps an 8th c. BC shrine to the goddess Hera, but so named, or at least so I’ve heard, because these houses seem to sometimes puff out clouds, like smoke from a dragon’s mouth, as mist escapes through gaps in their roof slabs. Just after we’d inspected it, a dense fog descended without warning. My friends disappeared from view and silence reigned, until minutes later I heard a clanging bell. Spellbound, I watched as the form of a large goat emerged from the grayness. Could it have been Pan?

Fish break the water’s surface over and over in an eccentric rhythm, sleek cormorants and grebes with blond crests disappear under the metallic surface of the lake, and several Dalmatian pelicans float serenely by, causing barely a ripple. At intervals along the shore, blue herons are standing like sentinels among the grasses while beige squacco herons, a third their size, perch in the branches of dead trees. A night heron, black as its name, streaks across the water in front of our plava, the narrow, flat-bottomed boat common to Macedonia’s lakes. A herd of water buffalo wade in to bathe and drink, and our guide points out rooftops in mid-lake, from a village drowned when the reservoir was built (scenes of this were immortalized in Theo Angelopoulos’ “Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow”). “This is the richest wetland in Greece for birds, more than 300 varieties,” the guide tells us, “but you should see it in October, when patches of the lake turn pink, there are so many flamingos!” I could have floated there forever.

With its gray stone houses, immaculate cobbled paths and its monumental school and church, Nymphaio lived up to its reputation as the most beautiful village in northern Greece. Pink and white peonies bloomed in its gardens, firs and plane trees towered over them, and there were no cars. Instead, horses were roaming freely, grazing in the main square, ambling up and down the lanes. There were hardly any people. Rebuilt in the 1980s by a Vlach-speaking group led by writer Nikos Mertzos and the winemaker and later Mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, the village could have been a movie set for “The Sound of Music,” but the only time it came alive was when a school bus arrived at the nearby Arcturos Bear Sanctuary or later at the Wolf Sanctuary. It seemed a shame that such a lovely spot, rebuilt with such care, should be nothing more than a retreat for weekenders. We did find it amusing, though, that Boutaris’ mother lived there with a Filipina maid who spoke Vlachika, not Greek.

LATE OCTOBER, 1980s

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MAY, 2005

EARLY 2000s


SUMMERTIME

KISSAVO

KORONI

ELAFONISOS

Who knew that Ossa was the same mountain as Kissavo! The Titans wanted to pile Ossa on Pelion to get to Olympus, but for us, it was more like the Garden of Eden. It was cherry season and we walked through orchards where Albanian pickers were at work; one named “Clyde” handed us each a handful. Unlike Pelion, Kissavo’s towns such as Aghia and Metaxohori make so much money from fruit, especially apples, they don’t need tourists. We also stumbled upon a hotel decorated with hand-painted maps of the area: watercolors showing Aghia’s 23 churches and the south face of the mountain with its 43 landmarks. The artist even drew us our own map to make our hikes easier, and as we halted, hot and sweaty, at a café under an enormous plane tree, the owner served us tsipouro, a local spirit he pronounced as “Chipouro,” and delicious spring water, ouzo being nonexistent in these parts. “Why don’t you come back in October and walk when it’s cooler?” he asked. Kissavo has all the attractions of Pelion – architecture, scenery, cafés, food – without the crowds. There is a distinct pleasure in visiting a place that has no need for visitors.

After spending Easter on Spetses, I packed my 7-year-old son and a few bags into our Fiat 500 and, inspired by Kevin Andrews’ “Castles of the Morea,” set off to explore the Frankish castles of the Peloponnese. We’d “done” Mystra and Pylos and were walking around the upper part of the Venetian fortress at Koroni when I spied a gate in the high walls that opened onto a garden. We ventured in for a peek, and then saw something irresistible – a patch of koukia, fava beans, in pods as long as boars’ tusks, plump and ripe. The two of us had been introduced to the delicious combination of raw koukia and salami when we’d lived for a year in Italy before moving to Greece in 1972, and I just happened to have some salami, cheese, fruit and bread in my rucksack for a picnic. We looked around furtively – not a sign of any onlookers – and quick as a wink started plucking pods from their stalks. We weren’t greedy and, with about a dozen in hand, we snuck out again and had a picnic to remember, perched on a thick wall with a view of the sea.

Neither of us has any recollection of how we chose this tiny island as the spot for our first illicit holiday. Perhaps because it was so remote there was no chance of being discovered. The one village stretched along the north coast, divided by a pier lined with fishing boats. We found a room on the east side, on the ground floor, with nothing separating us from the passersby on the narrow sand-paved street but a flimsy curtain over a screen door. I remember the public phone room, where you sat and waited your turn with the operator; privacy was not an option. I also remember the island’s eateries, two or three tavernas. The best one, which would have been special anywhere, was run by the mayor, a portly Robert Morley lookalike, who used to inspect the day’s catch wearing a safari jacket and helmet, and then turn it into a Michelin-quality fish soup. Every morning, we’d turn up there to place our order for dinner. Nowadays, the island’s south shore beach is renowned but back then we had no idea anything so beautiful existed in Greece. With its gentle white sand dunes framed by prickly cedar trees and turquoise water, it could have been in Tahiti. And it was empty.

MAY, 2005

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MAY, 1974

EARLY SEPTEMBER, 1974


SUMMERTIME

Sweet Summer Home BY A M A N DA M ICH A L OP OU L OU

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For decades, acquiring a second home was a dream come true for the average Greek family. This year, when so many are seeking the safety of the familiar for their vacations, even the most modest of these retreats is invaluable.

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e’ve been going to Melissi, near Corinth, since we were kids. Every summer, beginning in 1978, we’d load up the Renault with board games, Mickey Mouse comic books and Dr. Scholl’s sandals and drive off for an amazing three months. My father would come on the weekends, tired and cranky from the heat, not to mention the two jobs he had to work in order to pay for our seaside summer home. Back then, cars had no air conditioning. He’d arrive bathed in sweat, his shirt clinging to his back, a newspaper under his arm and his aviator Ray-Bans on his eyes, with the green lenses all the dads wore back then – an army of imitation Robert Redfords. While I’m not very forgiving about seaside architecture – all those hideous vacation villas and maisonettes, offspring of predatory building practices (one of which was within sight of our place) – I have to admit that my parents got extremely lucky. Our compound had been built by a French architect whose love for Greece kept him from making the familiar mistakes of the time. For the walls, he did choose that textured stucco that was all the rage, but he also picked dark wood for the kitchen and the balcony railings, and diamond-shaped dark-red terracotta tiles for the floor. My mother, of course, being a typical Greek housewife, destroyed those tiles. She couldn’t get used to the matte finish and scrubbed them in vain for years, until finally she gave up and had them varnished a garish red. My sister and I spent summers of undisturbed joy at that compound beside the waves. The architect had baptized the two buildings Artemis and Leto – and like the mother and daughter of ancient myth, we too spent legendary summers with our invincible parents, then in their fifties, and our aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends. At some point, of MAINL AND 2020

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© DIMITRIS TSOUMPLEKAS

SUMMERTIME

Corinthia revisited. A member of the younger generation taking a nap.

course, we discovered the Cyclades and never looked back until, eventually, we returned, heads bowed and tails between our legs. We were parents now, too, and wanted a safe, familiar place where our children could roam; and thus our quirky little summer community came into being. The oldest generation began to die off, the young parents got older, and the children became teenagers and then college students. The cycle of life is more eloquent when you measure it in summers. I have a strong memory, for instance, of our summer neighbors arriving at my father’s funeral. It was the first time I’d ever seen them in winter clothes and shoes. In my mind, they were forever walking around in flip-flops and bathing suits, rinsing off the saltwater with a garden hose at the entrance to the building. A summer home shelters not just people, but memories, too. I remember Argyris’ general store, which later became a hair salon. I remember Pefkia Beach in Xylokastro before they added sun loungers, and the elevator we got into two at a time to check our Farrah Fawcett hairdos in the full-length mirror. I can picture the bunk beds, and feel the cool dark of the room when the shutters were closed. I see the Brooke Shields poster on the wall opposite the beds (was it an orange wall?) 12

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as well as the amber worry beads and the carved wooden Bulgarian sculptures over the fireplace. There were the collected works of Kundera, too, that I read on the daybed in the living room, during the years of Greek “Kunderamania.” And there were all those other manias, too, like the obsession with making us nap in the afternoon, which always seemed nonsensical, or the obsession with windsurfing, with the souvlakia from Maxoutis, with loukoumades, delicious fried dough balls, and with the open-air cinema in Xylokastro. Sometimes all that comes to mind are the sounds. Not of cicadas, but of the violin. Our neighbor made his daughters practice every morning. Years later, they both became accomplished soloists, thanks to all that squeaking and sawing of the bow. We had other hardworking neighbors, too, who let off steam in the evenings with dance music, who had mothers who read Harlequin romances on the beach, who held parties on fishing boats tied up on the dock. From our balcony, we watched women with widebrimmed hats swim like adorable puppies, caressing the water, exchanging recipes. Some kept tabs on who came and went and some, including me, were endlessly oblivious. We were, it seemed, in a novel by Karagatsis, full of characters who gave us, like it or not, our first lessons in both class consciousness and aesthetics. But

that made sense, too; after all, the Greek poet Sikelianos had lived down the road in Sykia, and the novelist Menis Koumandareas not only summered on Xylokastro Beach, he wrote about it, too. Later on came the first evening outings to the clubs in Corinth, where we danced to Boney M. and Blondie. Nadina the Cloud won the title of Miss Diminio (or was it Miss Kyato?) back when it seemed entirely natural for us to cheer and clap for girls in bikinis and skin-colored stockings on a makeshift runway. The dads stared open-mouthed at the 18-year-old beauty queens, while we secretly drank the first beers of our lives. Lots of things happened there for the first time: our first cigarette, our first flirting in the dark. “I want you, no, never mind, yes, I want you again.” There was souvlaki on the beach, incredible water fights, squabbles as to whether or not we’d cut down the tamarisk trees, and the eternal dashes along the pebbles on the shore – before the water came up and swallowed the better part of the bay and the entire shoreline had to be lined with boulders they brought in with cranes so the sea wouldn’t come right into our homes. It was an all-purpose home: from hide-and-seek in the parking lot under the building to a winter getaway (the apartments, with their damp blankets and electric heaters, groaned for the eighteenyear-olds of our generation). And, on the horizon, a sea for all seasons: sometimes as calm as a lake, sometimes choppy, tossing up seaweed, sometimes full of jellyfish that the kids would hunt with nets. In September, just before we’d head home for the beginning of the school year, a sense of melancholy always prevailed: the last swim, this time in the rain, with the smell of wet earth. When I was very young, I used to be ashamed to invite friends to our humble summer home. Plenty of them had summer homes with swimming pools, high walls and fences covered in bougainvillea. Today, I know that our summer home is in fact my center, my hard core. It’s a time capsule of my personal history, where I still unearth old comics and discover dresses that became dust rags, and where my mother still fries meatballs in the kitchen.


SUMMERTIME

BASE CAMP

© ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS

Manina Danou writes about the “homeland” of her childhood years, the place where she learned more than anywhere else about nature, people and life itself.

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henever someone asks me to talk about camping – as though I were some kind of authority on the subject – I feel a tad awkward. Not that I don’t have the experience to be able to share my views on the subject; after all, I’ve been staying at campsites since the age of five. It was back then, in the early 1980s, that my parents decided that from then on our vacations were to take on this form, and duly purchased an RV for that purpose. After that monumental decision, we set off to find some campsite a colleague of theirs had recommended, which was located “somewhere near Astros Kynourias,” in the Peloponnese. My parents – who, it turned out, were no experts when 14

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it came to finding their bearings – along with five-year-old me in the back seat ended up spending hours searching for our own much-longed-for Ithaca, like some kind of modern Odysseuses, lost on the endless curves and bends of the coastal road linking Astros and Leonidio. At some point we deemed that we’d finally found it. A half-built entrance lay open on the left-hand side of the road; we went through it and descended a steep hill. At the bottom we came upon a few RVs and a small number of tents, and were thus able to make our way down as far as the seashore. From what my folks used to tell me (as I’m unable to recall the details), the three of us were rendered speechless by the clear waters, the pristine beach, the fantastic vacant “front-row seat” under the

immense old olive tree, the beauty of the bay that lay before us and the mountain that rose behind us – all linked up as in children’s drawings, with the sun sinking behind every evening. We set up camp, grateful for the colleague’s suggestion, and the RV has stayed there – to this day. Today, my parents are no longer alive, but with the RV in its same magical spot, my daughter now enjoys the same pleasures I had (well, almost, as the 2020s are quite different compared to the 1980s in terms of summertime carefreeness and parental fears). And still vacationing around us are our neighbors from way back then, people who‘d begun gathering at that spot that very first summer or the ones that followed. They gather there now, or their children do, or, best


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to us upon departure, the one that made us feel the proudest was that of watering those flower beds. It was the sole obligation that we’d execute as asked. All the other ones – like making our beds, taking the trash up to the main garbage bins, keeping the fridge well-stocked with bottled water and keeping the RVs clean and tidy – we’d ignore until the day before our parents’ return. We did this because we could get away with it, and because when the whole world is yours, you just don’t make your bed. At the last minute, we’d do everything together. Our parents would return on Friday evenings and we’d hand over the campsite, and the world at large, in excellent condition. So, when people ask me about camping as a vacation option – as if I were some kind of expert – I’m not quite sure what to say. Having the luxury of an RV with a patio-like extension, a kitchen sink, furni-

© ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS

© ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS

of all, three generations are present. My childhood friends (we met and grew up there together) are now parents, and their mothers and fathers the grandparents. As children, we’d spend the entire summer at the campsite. Whenever the vacation time ran out for one set of parents, we’d be handed over to others who would look after us; thus, our care would pass from aunts to godmothers and from neighbors to parents’ best friends. Sporting tar-like tans, we’d climb rocks and pry limpets off them, fish for bream, organize treasure hunts, and set up little markets where we’d sell little bracelets we’d woven and big round stones from our beach that we had drawn upon and colored. Over time, we made our way through childhood, adolescence and university, and we set out on vacations elsewhere as well. However, everyone always returned to our “base” for at least one week each year, often grumbling about the perpetual repetition of summers at the campsite (but also grateful for this gift, deep down inside). University studies, marriages, separations and divorces, children, deaths, relocations, career changes, illnesses, trials and tribulations and bankruptcies... We experienced them all, the only constant for everyone being this little dot on the map. When we were little, we’d live at the campsite for almost the whole summer, without donning shoes or entering any enclosed spaces except for our RVs, living more in nature than we perceived or could ever wish for. We’d do the dishes in makeshift sinks, build treehouses in the old olive tree, and chill under the locust tree, cooled by the boukadoura – the afternoon wind that helped parents and children alike to drift asleep. We’d eat cherries and apricots, tossing the pits into the flower bed with the geraniums and bougainvilleas. There were years when we were lucky and some of these would sprout; eventually, everyone ended up with a fruit tree in their flower bed. After we’d grown up a bit, our parents would depart for Athens and leave us there on our own for a few fantastic days. Whenever they did this, we felt as though the campsite – and the whole world, for that matter – belonged to us. Of all the adult responsibilities they handed over

© ANGELOS GIOTOPOULOS

SUMMERTIME

ture, a fridge, a chemical toilet, a TV, an air-conditioning unit, a shower with hot water until sunset (and even, for one year, a satellite dish), I don’t know if I have the right to talk about what might be called “classic” camping. I can only talk about my home, my own “village,” the one constant in my life to date, the “homeland” of my childhood years, the place where, more than anywhere else, I learned about nature, the world and people. And, like everything else in real life, it came about completely by chance. Remember that campsite the colleague had told my parents about, the one we’d been looking for back in 1981 and that became the spark for 40 summers? Well, it turns out we ended up finding a completely different one. Camping comes with the sensation that you’re in a small town, where everyone knows each other and news travel fast.


SUMMERTIME

AH, MY BELOVED TZOUMERKA This year’s Feast of Saint Paraskevi, the most important celebration of the year for the charming village of Pramanta, may have been canceled, but that doesn’t mean that it’s been forgotten. BY N I KOS TOD OU L OS P H O T O G R A P H S B Y VA N G E L I S G I O T O P O U L O S

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t’s been a whole year, a very strange year in fact, but if I concentrate, I can remember what happened here last summer in detail. It’s July 26, 2019, the feast day of Saint Paraskevi, and dawn finds me in the main square of the village of Pramanta, kneeling at the historic Arapis fountain, trying to quench my thirst after a night ascent under the stars.

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I’m in the area called Tzoumerka, my home region, on the majestic mountain slopes of my grandparents. The lively center of this region, the village of Pramanta is built amphitheatrically at an elevation of 860m at the foot of imposing Mt Strongoula. The morning mist gradually clears, as too does the fog of my thoughts. And how could it be otherwise when I’m breathing the

same clean air that nurtures – together with the waters of the Arachthos River – these untouched Epirus forests? I gulp in deep breaths of life, which bring with them wonderful memories. In the summers I spent in the village as a child, there was no firm concept of time, neither hours nor days of the week, just the morning, the midday rest and the evening. The only time


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01

we showed interest in a particular day of the month was in the case of a local festival, which we eagerly awaited. Looking back, I remember how the summer presented me with a palette of warm colors, sounds, aromas and fragrances. On the high peaks, though, it was always still springtime, with gurgling streams and mountain springs everywhere, some hidden and others visible. Rivulets cut through patches of snow that refused to melt and brooks fed by spring water meandered through the meadows, forming small ponds. Wildflowers in full bloom, broad sheets of different colors, created an alpine atmosphere framed by rocks and yet more rocks with imposing vertical faces. Even today, the only inhabitants of these remotest parts of Greece at the heart of the mountain range are wild goats, wolves and bearded vultures. I pause for a little under a plane tree that is more than 100 years old; it’s where my grandfather would bring me to play when I was a child. He would sit at the coffee shop, sipping his tsipouro (a strong local spirit) and playing cards with fellow villagers, supposedly keeping an eye on me; it could have only been one eye, because the other was firmly fixed on his hand. As the 20

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02

game progressed, they’d constantly tease each other and make small talk. The plane tree is so enormous that its branches are intertwined like massive hands and its deep shade covers the entire square. For many decades, the tree has provided a cool respite from the hot summer sun for passing merchants, travelers and sightseers. It’s still early and that same coffee shop has not yet opened. It remains as it was then, with its weathered wooden sign, small wrought-iron tables and

wicker chairs. I am waiting for Mr. Yiannis (my father’s third cousin or something of the sort) to arrive so that I can enjoy a double helping of his lovingly prepared Greek coffee. Less than half an hour later, I see him slowly making his way up the 01. Making music with replicas of ancient Greek instruments at the small stone theater of Tsopela near Pramanta. 02. On the cusp of springtime.


ADVERTORIAL

NIKKI BEACH Summer is only 2.5 hours away

At the height of summer, the Nikki Beach Resort & Spa in picturesque Porto Heli should unquestionably be your no. 1 destination this year! Why? At just 2.5 hours from Athens, it puts summer right within your reach, even if you choose to make up your mind at the very last minute! Nikki Beach Resort and Spa Portoheli, part of the Nikki Beach Brand, which spans the globe with 4 resorts & 13 Beach Clubs, is a 5-star boutique hotel in central Porto Heli, located on one of the rare sandy beaches in the area. The resort is ideally situated and allows guests to enjoy the crystal clear blue waters and stunning panoramic views from almost every corner of the property. A unique contemporary lifestyle boutique resort with stylish and elegant living areas, impressive bright spaces and stunning sea view, Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli immerses guests in a fresh luxury-drenched hotel lifestyle and invites them to an elegant, chic, fresh, fun and glamorous new destination which

is the most upmarket second-home residential area in Greece. Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli includes: 66 state-of-the-art hotel rooms and suites, all with direct sea views of the beautiful bay; two restaurants, Café Nikki, with Mediterranean flavors, and Terasu Rooftop, with Japanese cuisine; the brand’s world-renowned Beach Club, Nikki Spa and Tone Fitness Center; and unique topline amenities. At Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli, guests will encounter active, dynamic and experienced individual luxury travelers; sophisticated jet setters; cosmopolitan citizens of Greece and the world; and relaxed and glamorous trendsetting guests enjoying their vacation. For those who pursue pleasure to invigorate their senses, for local and International travelers seeking a hip, vibrant and yet elegant vacation spot only 2.5 hours from Athens, and for those who want experiences to remember and a lifestyle to call their own, Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli is the ultimate vacation destination.

PLEASE CONTACT US TO ARRANGE YOUR DREAM HOLIDAY PACKAGE: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa • Porto Heli, 21061 Argolida • Tel. (+30) 27540.985.00 Email: info.portoheli@nikkibeachhotels.com • Instagram: @nikkibeachportoheli • Website: porto-heli.nikkibeach.com


SUMMERTIME

01. A procession of the icon of Saint Paraskevi.

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02. Snow-dusted Mt Strongoula as seen from the village square.

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cobblestone alley in the trademark woolen flat cap that he wears all year round. “Good morning. Isn’t is a bit early for you, Nikola?” he asks. “I’m not used to you coming at this time…” The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee mingles with the morning mountain breeze. After I tell him all about my nighttime exploits, he says: “Wait a little and I will bring you some spaghetti pie to keep you going.” Savory pies have always been the backbone of Epirus cuisine, and they hold pride of place in the gastronomic tradition of Tzoumerka. I remember the ones that my grandmother made; she 22

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would wrap them for me to take on my first ventures into the mountains when I was just a schoolboy. Her specialties were blatsaria (a type of vegetable pie with wild greens and feta cheese) and pies made with trachana (a fermented mix of grain and dairy). The renowned Greek chef Alexandros Giotis, who has recorded 178 different pie recipes, notes: “The pie of Epirus is both bread and meal, main dish and accompaniment, for it is the key component in the diet of the nomadic herders, the Vlachs and the Sarakatsani.” My train of thought is interrupted by Mr. Yiannis. “Eat up and get some sleep

because this evening, outside the church after vespers, it’s the festival,” he says. Indeed, a big day and a big night do lie ahead. The annual feast is celebrated with dancing, live music featuring the clarinet and other traditional instruments, and unforgettable Epirus delicacies and local meats. All of this is accompanied, of course, by plenty of tsipouro and by wine made from Isabella grapes (a cultivar that originated in America and is highly valued in the region), at first slightly sweet to the palate but with the aftertaste of a dry wine. In terms of aroma and flavor, both beverages are quite unique. The following morning the villagers honor the custom of Kangelaris. Without any musical accompaniment, children and adults gather in the square to form a long chain by interlocking elbows and holding each other’s hands, fingers entwined. They then begin to dance while singing traditional songs that exalt the Orthodox religion, tell of the hardships of emigration, and laud the heroes of the struggle for liberation waged against the Ottoman Turks. These songs are part of the local culture; the lyrics are passed down unchanged from generation to generation. The dance is led by men dressed in traditional costume, followed successively by the elderly, young males, women and children. As the dance progresses, the chain becomes longer and longer until it fills the entire square. This year, there won’t be a festival, but I’m sure we’ll have one next July. Up here in Epirus, in the mountains of the north, you find a part of Greece that’s deeply committed to its traditional culture. It’s a place that will fill you with optimism, inhabited by kind, hospitable people who have each walked a separate path in life, paths connecting the past with the present and showing us new routes into the future. No one typifies this more than the great Ioannis Tsamakos, known as “the Eagle of Tzoumerka,” the legend of Greek mountaineering, who was still climbing in his nineties.


ADVERTORIAL

Ariá Estate Suites & Spa Summertime in the most beautiful corner of Greece The ideal destination for this summer is only 3.5 hours from Athens, at fairytale-like Limeni in Mani, with its stonebuilt houses and crystalline waters. Ariá Estate Suites and Spa offers an experience that is full of history and natural beauty, inviting you to live the most special summer escape in luxury, high comfort and safety. The 16 spacious and luxurious suites of Ariá Estate Suites & Spa, whose design reflects Mani’s local architectural traditions, are amphitheatrically arranged right by the sea, surrounded by gardens and borders in full bloom.

The spellbinding, unobstructed view of the Messenian Gulf and the unique color palette of Mani’s sunset will help you create unforgettable moments. At Ariá Estate Suites & Spa, services have been enhanced to meet the new needs for privacy and safety and, combined with the beauty of the natural landscape, they constitute the ultimate definition of luxury for an authentic hospitality experience, ideal for the whole family. Please contact us for a vacation experience in the most beautiful corner of Greece!

Limeni, Laconia, Peloponnese, 23062 • Tel. (+30) 27334.405.00 • Email: info@aria-estate.com • Facebook & Instagram: @ariaestatemani • Website: aria-estate.com


SUMMERTIME

VOVOUSA’S AWAKENING

An innovative festival packed with art, workshops and activities set against a pristine natural landscape, turned this beautiful mountain village in northern Greece into a cool cultural summer destination. BY DIM ITR IS TSOU MPL EK AS P H O T O G R A P H S B Y G E O R G E D E T S I S / V O V O U S A F E S T I VA L

M

y first acquaintance with Vovousa was eventful. In the summer of 2016, escaping from a boiling hot Athens, we headed to East Zagori. Towards the very end of the drive, when we had left Ioannina behind us and were following the winding road leading up to the village, an indistinct brownish-gray shape suddenly leapt in front of us and

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barreled down the mountainside. By the time we stopped and stepped out of the car, it had already disappeared among the dense trees. Too large for a dog, too hairy for a deer, too agile for a wild boar – what on earth could it be, we wondered? Once in the village, we overcame our bashful Athenian naivety and asked. The locals informed us that this wasn’t an unusual sight. Bears are quite

common around Vovousa, they said, but added that they usually didn’t come this far down the mountain in the summer. The rest of our stay proved equally memorable. There were high mountains, dips in the freezing river, endless hikes, amazing Epirote cuisine, small glasses of tsipouro sipped under giant plane trees, pastures lit by fireflies, and a night sky fit for an astronomy lesson.


Relaxing riverside moments and artistic workshops against a unique mountain backdrop.

Vovousa is a well-hidden village of 50 inhabitants at the center of the Northern Pindos National Park, on the edge of the Valia Calda area. Bisected by the Aoos River, it used to be known only to Epirotes and keen lovers of nature. Many Greeks first heard of it in 2013, when a local citizens’ group protested against a planned second dam on the river, which would have reduced the flow of the Aoos to a trickle and caused significant damage to the local ecosystem. Camilo Nolas and Dimitris Droulias organized the first Vovousa Festival in 2015, combining cultural events, film screenings and art workshops with activities focusing on environmental awareness and the region’s unique natural beauty. In winter, the village goes into hibernation, but in summer it fills with life as both festivalgoers and returning “expatriates,” many with children, take to the mountain tracks and the riverbanks. A typical day of the festival begins 26

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with a hatha yoga session on the wide green lawn outside the beautiful stone church of Aghios Georgios (built 1814); this is followed by mountain hikes and swims in the river, or walking tours of the village’s cobbled lanes and visits to exhibitions staged in the old sawmills, which are worth visiting in their own right. There are talks and workshops, and in the evening everyone congregates in

the village square, in front of the stone bridge for tasty local treats and the inevitable tsipouro. The roar of the Aoos – while somewhat reduced these days – continues to justify the village’s name (Vovousa means “the roaring one”). If you’re lucky, you might come across an impromptu jam session, with local musicians adding their own notes to that gentle roar.

NOTES • It might be too late to attend this year’s festival (which ended August 8), but it’s never late to visit this magical place. In any case, stay tuned to vovousafestival.gr for further news. • If you’re driving from Athens, buy your gas in Mylotades; if you’re coming from Thessaly, stop at Strata; there are no other gas stations in the area. There are no shops, kiosks, ATMs or mobile credit card readers in Vovousa, so bring cash and supplies with

you. Pack sunscreen, insect repellent, sun hats, water bottles and walking shoes. • You’ll find well-cooked simple dishes, with an emphasis on meat done on the grill, at Angelo and at La Punti, the latter of which is also known for its savory pies and its giant beans. Kids (and their parents!) will also enjoy La Punti’s homemade ice cream, made with milk from the village. Both eateries are in Vovousa. Meals are available at the mountain shelter, two kilometers out of town, as well.


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SUMMERTIME

Elegant equilibrium Nikos Gatsos’ poem “The Journey” inspires a veritable game of images in which the beauty of the Greek landscape is to be found in a balance between opposites.

©PERIKLES MERAKOS

EDITED BY DIMITRIS TSOUMPLEKAS

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©PERIKLES MERAKOS

“I run, I fly, I wave my hand

to the wildest kids of all and every rock on which I stand opens like a heart“ On the left is the single-arch Bridge of Kokkoros, spanning the Vikos Gorge – a preindustrial wonder of architecture, and a monument to the skills and efforts of the master craftsmen of Epirus, who had to tame the savage landscape in order to link up their villages. On this page is the natural stone arch of Trypito, on the island of Sfaktiria, a rocky islet that acts as a breakwater in the Gulf of Pylos. Today an idyllic landscape, it was the scene of innumerable bloody battles, from antiquity all the way up to the Greek War of Independence in 1821. MAINL AND 2020

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SUMMERTIME

“I want to embrace everyone with a warm kiss and from my west to come right to the east.”

© KONSTANTINOS SFITIS

On this page, a young woman strikes a pose at the celebrated Kavourotrypes Beach on the peninsula of Sithonia in Halkidiki. On the right, a mountaineer stands near his tent on the slopes of Mt Olympus. Their surrounding couldn’t be more different, but their feeling of ownership is the same: it’s as if the whole world belongs to them.

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© OLGA CHARAMI


© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU

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“I run, I fly, I chase birds and dreams And every day I swim in deeper streams...”

© DIONYSIS KOURIS

On the left is Lake Plastira, artificially created sixty years ago to secure the water supply and electric power supply for the Plain of Thessaly. On this page is the Sacred Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos, “suspended” over the gorge of the river Lousios, in Arcadia, for more than four centuries. Both are examples of human achievement, done at different times and built for very different needs, yet they have both become as one with nature.

MAINL AND 2020

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TO MOVE FORWARD, YOU MUST FIRST LOOK BACK. PIRAEUS BANK GROUP CULTURAL FOUNDATION Reviving our en�re produc�ve history. With our nine thema�c museums throughout Greece, our specialized publica�ons, our research and educa�onal programmes, our Library, but also our invaluable Historical Archives in Athens, the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Founda�on presents and highlights how us, Greeks, have always known how to make the most out of our natural resources, to create, to innovate, and to move forward. This is our heritage. This is our iden�ty.

1. SILK MUSEUM (SOUFLI) 2. OPEN-AIR WATER-POWER MUSEUM (DIMITSANA) 3. MUSEUM OF THE OLIVE AND GREEK OLIVE OIL (SPARTA) 4. MUSEUM OF INDUSTRIAL OLIVE-OIL PRODUCTION IN LESVOS (AG. PARASKEVI) 5. ROOFTILE AND BRICKWORKS MUSEUM N. & S. TSALAPATAS (VOLOS) 6. MUSEUM OF MARBLE CRAFTS (PYRGOS IN TINOS) 7. ENVIRONMENT MUSEUM OF STYMPHALIA 8. CHIOS MASTIC MUSEUM 9. SILVERSMITHING MUSEUM (IOANNINA)

CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION: 6 Ang. Geronta St., 105 58 Athens Tel.: +30 210 3256 922 HISTORICAL ARCHIVES: 2 Doridos St. & 14 Eirinis Av., 177 78 Tavros, Athens Τel.: +30 210 3418 051 LIBRARY: 72-74 Salaminos St., 176 75 Kallithea, Athens Tel.: +30 210 3739 651-2 Co-financed by Greece and the European Union

www.piop.gr


ADVERTORIAL

An important project comes to fruition

I

n April 2017, Fraport Greece, a consortium of Fraport and the Copelouzos Group, took on a major challenge: to extend, build, modernize and upgrade 14 airports in Greece simultaneously over a four-year period while still keeping them in operation. Fraport Greece originally estimated that the project would cost €330 million. Today, it is expected that the total investment will reach €440 million. According to modeling performed by the company, the total direct benefit to the Greek state over the 40-year concession period will be around €10 billion. In terms of indirect benefits, the better, more comfortable, safer and friendlier the country’s tourism infrastructure is for travelers, the more attractive it is and the easier it will be to fill its hotels, restaurants, museums and beaches. From Corfu to Rhodes and from Thessaloniki to Chania, the determination to get the job done never waned, with the result that the work on 10 of the 14 airports has already been completed.

island of Zakynthos has been completed, and, as a result, check-in desk numbers have risen 35%, and there has been an increase of 150% in passenger checkpoints. At “Ioannis Daskalogiannis” Airport at the city of Chania, the terminal building was completely redesigned, the number of gates was increased by 25%, and the number of check points was doubled. At “Alexander the Great” Airport, in the city of Kavala, the terminal building was expanded by 2029 square meters. On mainland Greece, yet another airport that was completely refurbished is the airport of Aktion, which was expanded by 2381 sq. m. On the island of Samos, the airport’s expansion by 1550 sq. m. has resulted in an increase of the number of check-in desks, departure gates and checkpoints. This is also the case at the airport on the island of Skiathos, where an 2185 sq. m. expansion project has been completed, as has the renovation

Facts and figures on the ten The renovation and the redevelopment of the terminal building on the

WORK ON 10 OF THE 14 AIRPORTS HAS ALREADY BEEN COMPLETED.

The new modern baggage control and handling system at Kefalonia’s airport

The new terminal building at “Anna Pollatou” Airport on Kefalonia


ADVERTORIAL

of the pre-existing terminal building. The island of Mytilene has a new, fully modernized and comfortable airport, covering a total area of 7185 sq. m., while work completed at “Anna Pollatou” Airport on Kefalonia has resulted in a new 10,700 sq. m. terminal building. The airport on Rhodes, the second-largest of those managed by Fraport Greece after “Makedonia” Airport, now boasts a completely new image. It is a fully modern airport of international standards, comfortable and passenger-friendly. The same holds for “Ioannis Kapodistrias” Airport on Corfu. The new 10,350 sq. m. terminal building, added as an extension to a pre-existing terminal, houses 28 check-in desks, 8 checkpoints and 12 departure gates. Four airports where ongoing works are expected to be completed within the next few months are those in Thessaloniki and on the islands of Mykonos, Kos and Santorini.

The interior of the new terminal at the airport on Mytilene


ACHERON # MYTH

Contrary to the ancient belief that saw the Acheron as the river for souls traveling to Hades, this is, in fact, a place teeming with life, and ideally suited for a vacation break, offering a cool climate, plenty of activities and easy access to the sea. You can hike along the Straits of Acheron and in the area of Piges Acheron. There’s rafting (difficulty level: zero) and horseback riding, too. For all of these activities, your starting point should be the village of Glyki. There’s boating, too; you’ll board at the seaside village of Ammoudia for an upriver ride, during which the boatmen will explain the stories associated with this meeting point between the living and the dead. Make sure to visit the Nekromanteion in the village of Mesopotamos, which dates back to the 4th century BC – there are even more fascinating myths waiting for you there! - OLGA CHARAMI

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© GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE

SPECIAL SPOTS AND THEIR KEYWORDS

MAINL AND 2020

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H A S H TA G S

© NICHOLAS MASTORAS

The aqueduct of Kavala, with the city’s fortress in the background.

KAVALA # CHARM A typical day in this city: in the morning, plan your day over breakfast at Tsalapetinos, a versatile establishment offering different menus through the day. At lunchtime, drink an ouzo and enjoy fried calamari at Krokodilos, with locals on their lunch break. In the afternoon, find a table at the café Briki next to the castle to enjoy the sunset against the backdrop of the city. Then, stroll down to the rocks at Panaghia to see the night sky reflected in the water, and head for seafood in the Sfagia district. In the evening, visit Hasoulaki-Blekou for ice cream. Then, take a leisurely drive along the coast road from Palio to Perigiali. Check out the sailboats in the harbor, pass the floodlit Kavala aqueduct, colloquially known as the Kamares, and give 40

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yourself up to the cool breeze coming through. Stay up all night at 180° where award-winning bartender Tasos will serve you his latest special cocktail. On the other hand, if you’d rather skip all this and going swimming instead, a 40-minute drive east of Kavala will take you to Keramoti Beach, one of the longest stretches of sand on the Greek coastline. The 5km-long expanse of golden sand, with water in all the shades of blue and a small pine forest running down the middle, resembles an atoll. To the west are sand dunes, a complex of three bays with white-gold sand and clear, turquoise waters. Here you’ll also find the ruins of the Byzantine fort of Nea Peramos, cosmopolitan beach bars such as Peponi and Almyra, as well as plenty of room for you

to spread out your towel undisturbed. For those who don’t want to wander out of town, the Tosca and Batis beaches, both with facilities, boast blue flags. Perhaps the most unique place to stay in town is Imaret, a 19th-century Ottoman madrassa converted into a hotel in 2004. Spending time here is a treat – from the fragrant gardens to the traditional hammam and the beautifully renovated rooms, formerly scholar’s cells, everything excites the spirit even as it calms the soul. This year, the hotel’s Orange Garden also hosts an open-air cinema screening classic films, and there is also an exhibition on the film Topkapi, which was filmed here, under the aegis of the Melina Mercouri Foundation. - JOHN PAPADIMITRIOU


H A S H TA G S

A sea of vineyards at Ktima Kyr-Yianni in Yiannakohori.

NAOUSSA # VINEYARDS During the summer, the trees on the Plain of Imathia are laden with fresh fruit: cherries, plums and, of course, the aromatic peaches of the region are all in season. Those traveling through the region often stop at makeshift roadside stalls to buy baskets of these items picked only a few minutes earlier. This bountiful landscape, however, is renowned for a different fruit altogether, the one in its famed vineyards encircling the mountain slopes and the plain. This is where the Xinomavro grape variety is cultivated, the leading red variety of Greece. This is also where more than 20 notable wineries are located, a fact that explains why Naoussa is called Greece’s Napa Valley. Paliokalias, Fyteia (or Fytia), Vrana Petra, Gastra, Ramnitsa, Karaoutsa, Strantza, and Polla Nera are place names that also 42

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indicate renowned vineyards and wineries; depending on location and microclimate, the grapes and, by extension, the wine are both endowed with particular characteristics. The more mountainous Fyteia gives finesse and acidic tones; Paliokalias produces wines that are suited to long ageing; and Vrana Petra, with its granite subsoil, provides finesse and a full body. By prior arrangement, you can enjoy a guided tour, often led by the producers themselves, of these wineries (17 of which lie within the PDO region of Naoussa). You can enjoy sampling current or previous vintages as well as wine produced using different styles of vinification. Choose between rustic and robust Xinomavro varieties or more modern and easy-drinking options, accompanied by local delicacies such as batzio, a

cheese from the dairies of Mt Vermion. If you’d like to combine wine tasting with some more physically demanding pursuits, the outdoor activities company Trigiro (www.trigiro.com) organizes hiking or cycling excursions, including one-day (a cycling tour and a visit to 2 wineries), three-day and custom-made trips. In the center of Naoussa, behind Karatasos Square on a street that features superb neoclassical buildings dating to the early 1900s, stands the boutique hotel Palea Poli. In its courtyard, you can taste 32 PDO labels selected from every winery in the region, paired with fine food. The right combination is key, because when Xinomavro finds its perfect food match, it’s as though it were blossoming in your wine glass. -NENA DIMITRIOU


© OLGA CHARAMI

H A S H TA G S

A waterfall in Orlias Gorge.

PIERIA # VARIETY The best thing about Pieria is the variety of options it offers its visitors. I can be drinking an ouzo and nibbling on mussels on the waterfront one minute, and in a flash I can find myself sipping tsipouro and getting carnivorous in a traditional mountain villages such as Paleos Panteleimonas. My choice here is usually 44

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Taverna Olympos, who also do great things with wild boar. When I feel like swimming, I head for Neoi Pori Beach with its golden sands or to Platamonas, in the shade of a medieval castle. To stay cool in the afternoon, I might move inland to the foothills of Mt Olympos for bracing dips in the mountain pools

in Orlias Gorge. On the other hand, I could rent a bike in the Pieria Mountains and ride through the forests there. One morning might find me wandering the sacred sites of Macedonia like Dion, with the ancient city and its archaeological museum, while the evening could include a search for cormorants or herons on the waters of the Aliakmon River, whose wetlands are home to a variety of migratory birds. At bird blinds or on the trails in Nea Agathoupoli, you might spot some rare feathered guests. As for places to eat, this year undoubtedly belongs to the beach-bar restaurant Mandala Seaside Luxury on Katerini Beach. Chef Tasos Albanis and his team, recently arrived from Mykonos, oversee a fusion kitchen with Nikkei influences, and operate an exceptional sushi bar. Here you can start your morning sunbathing on the comfortable loungers or coffee by the pool, and stay into the evening to enjoy seabass with black risotto, lobster sauce and vegetables. A classic mainstay of the culinary scene, the restaurant Apolafsi near the municipal park in Katerini offers delicious creations from chef Kostis Aïvazoglou, whose excellent network of local producers is reflected in his dishes. If you prefer seafood, at Makrygialos you’ll find the seafood taverna Akrogiali, which serves fresh mussels and other shellfish, juicy shrimp and well-cooked whole fish on a corner terrace by the sea. There’s great wine to be had in Pieria, too. At Kolindros, in the foothills of the Pieria Mountains where the nine muses were once worshipped, at an elevation of around 450 meters, oenologists Pavlos Argyropoulos and Andreas Pantos have revived the 15-hectare vineyard of Aghios Dionysios Monastery. At the Pieria Erateini Estate, in addition to tasting wines which blend imported and domestic grape varieties – such as Efhes Erateines, which is a blend of Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Chardonnay – you can enjoy unforgettable dinners served in the vineyard. The Chrisostomou Estate at Kitros is also worth a visit, and you can combine a stop here with a stroll through Ancient Pydna. - JOHN PAPADIMITRIOU


ADVERTORIAL

MUNICIPALITY OF KATERINI

One destination, a thousand options From its sandy beaches to the slopes of mythical Mt Olympus and the enchanting Pierian Mountains, the welcoming Municipality of Katerini constitutes an ideal tourist destination for all.

THE SEASIDE VILLAGE PARALIA IN KATERINI IMMENSE GOLDEN BEACHES IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF KATERINI

BEACHES Paralia – Olympiaki Akti – Korinos: the award-winning beaches of the Municipality of Katerini, with their endless stretches of golden sand and the warm and friendly waters of the Thermaic Gulf, are the leading safe choice for summer this year. Access is easy, whatever your preferred means of transport, and in the urban seaside commu-

OLYMPIC BEACH (OLYMPIAKI AKTI)

THE FORESTS OF THE PIERIAN MOUNTAINS

www.katerini.gr

KATERINI MUNICIPAL PARK

nities you can take pleasure in browsing the shops, tasting traditional flavors and fare, or enjoying your coffee or your drink gazing at the endless blue horizon and the slopes of Mt Olympus. The region is also famous for its vibrant night life. The area’s hotels and private lodging accommodations offer high-quality tourist services at reasonable rates.

IN THE MOUNTAINS Traditional communities, mountain villages, gorges, lakes, verdant slopes, monasteries and mountain shelters are just waiting to be explored. You can find dozens of high-quality private lodgings and hostels, places to eat out and options for entertainment. KATERINI Katerini, a modern center of commerce, lies between the sea and the mountain, right on Greece’s central road and railway networks, and there is easy access to dozens of sights, monuments and archaeological sites.


The Plateau of the Muses and, towering above it, the Stefani summit, the throne of Zeus.

OLYMPUS # CONQUEST Daybreak finds us at the Gortsia crossroads, loading our backpacks with sleeping bags, clothes, snacks and water, in accordance with mountaineering protocol. For those of us who love Olympus, this is the beginning of our favorite hike to the heart of the mountain, the Plateau of the Muses, and the high peaks. It’s a lovely initiation route, even for inexperienced hikers who have decided that their souls – and their lungs, to a lesser extent – can take the climb, which may seem short (13.5 km), but becomes challenging due to the 1600m difference in elevation. We start off, and the most optimistic among us predicts we’ll reach the top in six hours. Over the next hour, however, 46

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the steep slopes up to Barba makes us wonder if we want to get there at all. As we go on and the trail becomes smoother, our ambivalence subsides and chitchat resumes. Walking through the oak forest is a joy, at least until the trail gets steep again. The only thing to hope for now is the respite of the bench at the end of the long climb, an opportunity to take a break and regroup before we push on the Petrostrouga refuge. A delightful traverse through imposing pines takes us further up the mountain. After this, the bare – treeless – slopes begin, and the climb becomes demanding. At Skourta, for the first time, we’re awestruck by the mountain landscape:

rock upon rock, and sky. A panorama of mountain peaks opens up before us: Profitis Ilias, Stefani, Mytikas, Skala, Aghios Antonios and the Kalogiros-Pagos ridge. It’s afternoon by the time we reach the narrow ridge of Laimos, probably the most famous site in Greece that safely lets you enjoy a sense of the void. The Plateau of the Muses will appear shortly and, in the distance, the mountain’s most celebrated spot, the site where mortals placed the throne of Zeus: the rugged Stefani summit. Our goal – the refuge – is now within sight. Most of the photographs will be taken here, step by step until our final destination. Our mobile phones aren’t


© OLGA CHARAMI

good for much else (there’s no signal up here, except at a single spot that the mountain’s aficionados call Astropyli, or “Stargate”). At the two refuges, the smaller Christos Kakkalos and Giosos Apostolidis, we can look forward to some rest, a chat with fellow travelers known and unknown, and a strengthening meal accompanied by plenty of tsipouro (a strong spirit). First-time mountain climbers shouldn’t plan on summiting Mytikas peak (2918m). There are more than enough easy summits around the plateau that will still give you satisfying climbs, including Mikri and Megali Toumba, the Profitis Ilias peak with its charming chapel, and the

Portes summit, with astounding views of an amiphitheatrical cavity called Kazania. A little lower down, you’ll find the trailhead for the return journey, the “classic” route as it’s known, which loops around the mountain and ends up at Prionia via the famous zonaria, or folds, that run along the walls of the high peaks and their steep crevices. As night falls, the lights of Litochoro are the only thing reminding you that city life exists, somewhere. We’re expecting clear skies, ideally moonlight, so we can sink into the chaises longues at the Kakkalos refuge and gaze up at the Stefani summit as if we were at the movies. We’ll watch dim shadowy clouds

drift by, and indulge our imaginations – someone’s sure to say they see the face of Zeus, and even the most skeptical among us will feel the presence of the gods and the magic spell that Olympus casts upon those brave enough to climb this high. - NATASHA BLATSIOU NOTES Petrostrougas Refuge: Τel. (+30) 697.724.6350 · Spilios Agapitos (aka Zolotas) Refuge (2100m): Τel. (+30) 23520.818.00 · Christos Kakkalos Refuge (2650m): Τel. (+30) 693.736.1689 · Giosos Apostolidis Refuge: Τel. (+30) 23510.828.40 / 693.977.7064 / 694.804.3655 · Sakis Prokovas, taxi driver: Τel. (+30) 693.717.6867

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© OLGA CHARAMI

View of Parga, with its castle on the hill to the left.

PARGA # POSTCARD For years, I was convinced that the postcard I had seen, with the colorful buildings and the islet of Panaghia in the crystal-clear waters, had been carefully cropped to show only the prettiest corner of Parga. I would have sworn that there was no way the entire town could be that attractive. But it is. And although it’s in Epirus, which most of us associate with high mountains and fast-flowing rivers, Parga is a coastal town that wouldn’t look out of place on an island. This whole section of Thesprotia and Preveza is full of beaches, which are traditionally popular with northern Greeks who can get here quickly on the Egnatia Highway. Now that the Ionian Highway has made the whole area more accessible from Athens, Parga’s popularity as a great weekend destination has soared. And why not? The colorful captains’ houses and steep, narrow alleyways, immortalised in song, are charming. You’ll come across archways (called volta) offering convenient shady 48

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resting points, as well as a seafront esplanade along which you can stroll, admiring both the town rising up behind you and the Ionian waters spread out before you. There are countless ouzo bars, and boutique hotels offering high-quality accommodation (I will never forget the beautiful decor and the restful sleep I enjoyed at Salvator Villas). Dense vegetation rings the town and there are, of course, endless beaches along the Ionian coast. You’ll make wonderful memories – and take marvelous photos – at the Venetian castle, which also houses a café where you can sit and gaze over the town and the sea, pausing for a bit after wandering the paved paths and ancient ramparts which were cleared by volunteers during the recent lockdown. A swim to the islet of Panaghia with its recently spruced-up castle is a must, and the old olive press, owned by the Lekka Brothers, who founded their business in 1929, is impressive. It was the first mechanised olive press in Parga;

today the building operates as the Paragaea Museum (paragaea.gr). Here you can find out about local history, and about the importance of olives and oil to the people of Parga. You can also sample extra virgin olive oil and other local delicacies, and sign up for cooking classes and wine tastings. You can swim at Kryoneri, the town’s main beach, or Piso Kryoneri and Valtos, located on either side of town. Alternatively, you can head south for Lychnos or Aï-Yiannakis, or further down the coast to the renowned beach of Loutsa in Preveza, 25km away. To the north, you’ll find the beaches of Sarakiniko, Karavostasi and Arilla, while 30km away lies Syvota. In the afternoon, you can stroll uphill to the Chapel of Aghia Eleni for some amazing views, or take the tourist mini train to either the watermill of Anthoussa or the well-preserved castle of Ali in nearby Aghia. One thing is certain; in Parga, you’ll never get bored! - OLGA CHARAMI


H A S H TA G S

©PERIKLES MERAKOS

In the summer, the plateau of Niala plays host to the shepherds who bring their animals up from the plains to graze.

AGRAFA # PURITY When I heard about the plans for placing large-scale wind farms on Greek mountain ranges, I thought to myself that if there were one such place I’d want to keep just as it is, it would be Agrafa. It may sound strange to want to hang on to a place that can’t be accessed by paved road, that doesn’t have gas stations or auto repair shops, that is, in fact, just a maze of dirt tracks leading to remote villages and lightning-struck summits, but Agrafa has everything I’ve always loved in my travels through Greece, and all that would be needed for a restart after mass destruction: pristine mountains – Borlero, Flytzani, Pente Pyrgi – wild goats and contented cows grazing in the high plains of Niala, and the tastiest feta cheese made by Nikos Tsigaridas at the famed Sarakatsani pastoral settlement at Kamaria (1500m altitude). It even has a tale to inspire optimism; in the Greek 50

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Civil War, fighters on both sides paused hostilities briefly and spent the night of April 12, 1947, huddled together, waiting for a blizzard to pass. If you’re coming from Evrytania, you’ll notice that the Agrafiotis river valley narrows soon after the village of Varvariada, and you may feel you’re entering a different world, the world of Agrafa. Nature asserts itself, and the spruce-covered slopes, deep gorges, and rushing streams seem to leave little room for the area’s tiny villages: Marathos, Agrafa, Tridentro, Trovato, Epiniana, Monastiraki and Vrangiana. Drive carefully here; every bend in the road hides a surprise. There are fallen rocks, flocks of livestock and walkers headed for Asprorema – one of the most beautiful trails in Greece. On the road to Agrafa, the main village of the region, you must take a dip at Tripa tou Agrafioti (a 20-minute

walk along the riverbank) and stop to visit Neromylos. In the village itself, narrow walkways offer beautiful views. The Guesthouse Kyra Niki is known for its amazing food, prepared with vegetables from the owner’s garden and eggs laid by her hens, and served in a lovely terrace. It’s also the best place to ask about the history and geography of the area. You’ll hear how the mountains hardened the locals, and how modern life all but wiped out the herding lifestyle, although some traces remain. Small communities live on very little and welcome a few visitors yearround – visitors who made the choice to come here. The locals are guardians of an unsullied landscape, and I for one hope that their region can remain that way. - NATASHA BLATSIOU


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© SHUTTERSTOCK

Monolithi Beach is ideal for social distancing.

PREVEZA # BEACH This summer, the enormous coastal strip (22km long and 80m wide in spots) that makes up Monolithi Beach a short distance from Preveza, went viral – because the European Best Destinations organization, a member of the EDEN Network, declared it the safest beach in Europe, citing the proximity of an airport and three local hospitals, as well as the scale of the beach itself, as factors in safeguarding swimmers. If you head north out of Preveza towards Parga, you’ll come across the larger beaches in this region: Monolithi, Vrahos, and Loutsa, all featuring fine sand and crystalline waters. On my trips to Parga, I usually stop at the small harbor of Lygia, where the small fishing boats come to unload their daily catch. The taverna Skaloma is here, and it serves fresh seafood. Preveza stands right at the spot where the Ionian Sea joins the Ambra52

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cian Gulf (otherwise known as the Gulf of Actium). The city’s location has been one of the major factors in determining its history, which has always been closely linked with shipping and with commercial fishing. Whether through open sea fishing, or in conjunction with lagoon aquafarming, a form of pisciculture that uses special installations with fish traps that allow fish to enter the lagoon but block their way out, or through more traditional commercial fish farms, the city is constantly provisioned with fresh seafood of every kind: sole, red mullet, anchovies, gilt-head bream, flathead grey mullets, and even eels! However, it’s actually the humble sardine for which Preveza is renowned. Inside the city itself, I like to go to Treli Garida (“Crazy Shrimp”), for local shrimp from the Ambracian Gulf, and for tasty squid, steamed mussels and grilled

sardines. In addition to my standard stroll along the sea port of Preveza, where I look at all the vessels anchored in the marina, I always enjoy a drive around the Ambracian Gulf as well. Koronesia, a small village almost halfway along the gulf, has a panoramic view over the entire span of the lagoon, its rush-filled marshlands, and the gulf’s island chains. I pay a visit to the taverna Myrtaria (or Patentas, as it is known more locally), for smoked eel grilled on a brick slab, local shrimp straight from the gulf waters, salted pilchards, and butterflied flathead grey mullets, cooked using the “petali” method (the fish is sliced open, laid flat, salted, and left to dry in the sun). - LINA KAPETANIOU


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© SHUTTERSTOCK

A view of the city with the Pera Panta pine forest on the right.

GALAXIDI # WEEKEND Galaxidi is equally beautiful in all seasons. Its summers are warm and hazy, with the sea resembling a lake. Autumn is more melancholy, and quiet. Winter finds it darker, harsher, and deserted, while in the spring it comes back to life in a lush green symphony that highlights its unassuming grandeur, with the imposing and impressive Church of Aghios Nikolaos dominating its peak and the pine forest across the way in Pera Panta sprawling down right to the sea’s edge. All year round, the town has a genuine island feel to it that is completely unlike the surrounding area. A nautical town, Galaxidi is renowned for its fleet, which played an important role in the Greek War of Independence of 1821. A protected area of historical and cultural interest, the town is characterized by the rare architecture of its tiled roof mansions. A destination that’s perfect for an idyllic weekend or a month-long vacation, Galaxidi is a peaceful, romantic spot with remarkable food and small gulfs with pristine waters for swimming. From here, you can take short day-trips and excursions to the mountains – it’s a pleasant 40-minute drive to the mountain village 54

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of Arachova – or the sea, and it’s only 210km from Athens. Upon entering the cobbled streets that lead to Agora, one of the town’s two ports, you find yourself in a different world. Fishing boats, small leisure craft and yachts are lined up along the entire length of the harbor, extending around to the side opposite the restored captains’ mansions and picturesque shops. Enjoying the waterfront are couples of all ages, children on their bicycles, and families walking along the pier, gazing at the sailboats and observing the ducks as they stage their own performance in the sea below. Our annual get-together at Galaxidi usually spans about 10 days in August. We’re mostly grandmothers now (no grandfathers in the group), a mix of old and new friends who, for these days, all become 18-year-olds again. This means we wake up late in the morning. Whoever has the energy heads to centrally located Manousakia Square (aka Iroon Square) for bread fresh from the bakery, for sweets from Konaki (a pastry shop with local delicacies) and for groceries at the supermarket.

Our days are spent swimming at Vistrithra Beach, then a late lunch, a little reading, siesta for some, card games for others, and a lazy traquility that lasts until dinnertime. Tavernas such as Maritsa and Skeletovrachos are timeless classics for seafood and urban grandeur. Tasos is a traditional fish taverna at the port, while nestled a bit further from the water, near the Church of Aghia Paraskevi, awaits Albatross with its dreamy magirefta (traditional dishes usually cooked in an oven dish or a deep pot). Next up, just like the good old days, come the bars. The first stop is either To Kioski or To Kaffeneio for a warm up. Walking to the end of the harbor with the sea glistening below we arrive at Ocean Drive Galaxadi, where we relax on the sun loungers until we greet the sun peeking over the tip of Mount Parnassus in the distance. The kafeneio (coffee shop) near the Police Station on Manousakia Square is where all late-night revelers end up for breakfast. So don’t forget: if you’re heading out for a drink in Galaxidi, be sure to take your sunglasses with you. - MARIA CHAPSOULA


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© NICHOLAS MASTORAS

H A S H TA G S

Gazing at Lake Tsivlou.

ZAROUCHLA # SURPRISE

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nibbles, and lots of conversation. Places are made by people, and Petros and Eva are at the center of an ideal mountain universe. Built in the shadow of Mt Helmos, in a fairytale spruce forest with shaded paths, streams, waterfalls and lakes, beautiful Zarouchla is a summer destination for nature lovers seeking metaphoric and literal coolness. The village – with its stone-built guesthouses and tavernas, the Nymfes center with horses and children’s activities, and the wonderful pool at the Styga Mountain Resort (also open to non-guests) – is a great base for short and longer trips. Visit Lake Tsivlou for a swim and a meal at the taverna To Petrino. Other recommendations include the bucolic Spring of Golfo – famed in Greece as the setting for a play of the same name – hiking and swimming at waterfalls near the hamlet of Solos, and a stop in Solos at the

best taverna in the area, run by Giorgos Zidropoulos. Longer trips include Lake Doxa, reached via a decent dirt road, and Kalavryta, which involves a panoramic drive on the slopes of Mt Helmos. - NATASHA BLATSIOU Eva and Petros at the jazz bar Sto Rema.

© NICHOLAS MASTORAS

I was surprised! Jazz bars in Greece can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and yet one of the best is to be found in a mountain village called Zarouchla, near Akrata, in north Peloponnese. Admittedly, it’s one of the best in part because of its superb location, in a wood cabin next to a river, but it’s also great because behind the bar is a couple, Petros and Eva, who’ll teach you how to stay hip and happening forever. Hip and happening is opening a jazz bar when your client base is ten non-jazzy seniors from the village. “It was like opening a bar for extraterrestrials,” says Eva. “They were expecting music of a certain era, and we had to defend our choices.” In the end, jazz prevailed and became the trademark not just of the bar, but of the whole village. It’s open in the morning for coffee and homemade sweets and until late at night for honest drinks, tsipouro,


DESTINATIONS KARPENISI l PILIO l EVIA l ZAGORI l HALKIDIKI l PELOPONNESE

From soaring mountains to sparkling beaches, and from traditional villages to luxury resorts, the map of Greece is a study in beguiling contrasts. ILLUSTRATION BY ANNA TZORTZI

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Left: Panta Vrechi Gorge is one of the most impressive natural features of Evrytania. Right: Horseback riding on the trail that leads from Saloon Park to the bridge of Koryschades is a pleasant activity for all ages.

D E S T I N AT I O N S E V R Y T A N I A

THE COOL FACTOR Tried-and-tested summer activities and excursions in a classic mountain destination of central Greece. BY NATA SH A BL AT SIOU P HOTOGR A P H S BY PE R I K L E S M E R A KOS

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rom Karpenisi to Mikro Horio and Megalo Horio and from Prousos to Roska, in a land of high peaks, deep gorges and raging rivers, Evrytania certainly stands out as a mountain destination. As you make your way through the heart of the region, traveling from Velouchi to the last houses of Kastania, the ever-changing scenery will give you plenty to see. In every village, there’s a good reason to make a stop, and every landscape presents an interesting challenge. From river swimming, gorge descents and forest walks to horseback riding, archery and abseiling, there is something for everyone, including kids. And most importantly, in a really cool place… literally!

STARTING OUT The most famous and most photographed sight in Evrytania is known by the locals as Panta Vrechi (lit. “Always Raining”) Gorge. This deep canyon boasts a towering watery veil at the narrowest part of the Krikellopotamos River, which flows between Mt Kaliakouda and Mt Platanaki. It can be reached from the villages of Doliana to the north and Roska to the south, from the Krikello-Domnista Bridge to the east and, in what I think is the most impressive approach, from the Kastania-Prodromos Bridge to the west. Offering two hours of walking and swimming, it is undoubtedly among the most beautiful river treks in Greece. Leave your camera behind (or protect it with a waterproof case), put on your swimwear and get started. Most of the trail runs along the banks of the river. You’ll encounter natural pools, narrow defiles and small waterfalls. The route by car is equally impressive. The dirt road begins just outside Doliana and winds through forgotten villages, afford-

ing glimpses of imposing Mt Kaliakouda, before reaching the bridge at Roska. From there, it is a 45-minute walk along (and sometimes in) the river until you arrive at the remarkable aquatic spectacle that gives the gorge its name.

 WIMMING OR CLIMBING S A mountain pool with vivid green water has formed at the base of a 10m-tall waterfall. The sign-posted path to the pool begins on the Prousos-Kastania road just before the old bridge. A 20-minute walk fairly high above the Prousiotis River will bring you to the waterfall. You can continue uphill along the winding footpath through an idyllic setting of plane trees, firs and babbling brooks. At the point where the gorge narrows and the landscape becomes even more enchanting, with more natural pools and small waterfalls, you’ll see, high up on your right, the Mavri Spilia (“Black Cave”) with a partially collapsed stone structure at the entrance. The cave was used by locals as a refuge during periods of foreign occupation. This is the starting point of a via ferrata, a climbing route equipped with cables, rungs and ladders fixed to the rock, which makes it possible to ascend rugged Mavri Spilia Gorge before continuing on foot to the Church of the Holy Apostles, for a total round-trip distance of 3.5 km. Because sections of this route require special equipment and relevant experience, you’re advised to contact one of the companies that organize outdoor activities in the area. SALOON PARK Saloon Park is located 4 km from Karpenisi, on the road to Prousos, in a beautifully tended expanse of 1.7 hectares. Here, children are free to play as parents enjoy a refreshing coffee, cool drink and

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In order to traverse the impressive Panta Vrechi Gorge, you need to walk in the river; it’s an “immersive” experience that mirrors what you’d have to undergo crossing Evrytania’s more inaccessible gorges.


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light food or… become kids again themselves and accept the challenges of the climbing/rappelling tower, the zip line or the archery range. Another option is horseback riding along the banks of the Karpenisioti River, accompanied by a local guide. The park puts safety first and all children’s activities are under the close supervision of experienced instructors. There’s a dedicated play area with a special floor covering, mini-train rides within a fenced enclosure and leisurely walks on a footpath through the botanical garden (Tel. (+30) 22370.246.06).

the distance, the traditional settlements of Koryschades and Gorgianades. The vegetation along the trail includes plane trees and tall holly bushes and there are clearings next to the riverbank. After passing two wooden huts, the trail continues along the verdant slope, always parallel to the river, until you reach a set of concrete steps that will take you to the celebrated village of Kefalovryso, site of a historic battle during the Greek War of Independence in which Markos Botsaris, a hero of the war, was killed.

WALKS IN NATURE A wonderful trail begins at Klafsi. If you set out on the main road from Karpenisi in the direction of Prousos, you’ll find, exactly at the 6th kilometer mark, a signpost for the village. As soon as you cross the concrete bridge, park the car and you’ll see a small wooden bridge, which is where the trail begins. To make sure you don’t get lost, walk along the Karpenisioti River and ignore the paths that lead higher up the slopes. Instead, follow the tracks left by the horses carrying riders from nearby Saloon Park. You’ll soon see the beautiful single-arch stone bridge of Koryschades on your left and, in

CANYONING Rappelling down gorgeous waterfalls, diving into mountain pools, whooshing down natural waterslides on smooth rocks, taking exhilarating dips in the river: you can do all this and more in the 13 gorges of Evrytania, all presenting varying levels of difficulty. The Mikro Panta Vrechi Gorge (or Halikorema) at Tornos is perhaps the best introduction to the magical world of canyoning, along a route that has water all year round and takes no longer than three hours. If you aren’t an experienced canyoner, you’re strongly advised to arrange your trip through an outdoor activity company with qualified guides.

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01. The natural pools (vathres) along Mavri Spilia Gorge are perfect for refreshing plunges and moments of solitude. 02. The restaurant To Spiti tou Psara, noted for its trout, also serves seasonal dishes.


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D E S T I N AT I O N S E V R Y T A N I A

NOTES

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• Dining suggestions: in Gavros, the foody paradise between Karpenisi and Prousos, head to Petalo (Tel. (+30) 22370.41487) for meat dishes, To Spiti tou Psara (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.02) for fresh trout. In Megalo Horio, the most popular local taverna is Aghios Athanasios (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.50). In Mikro Horio, choose from a wide variety of spit-roasted meat at To Horiatiko (Tel. (+30) 22370.412.57), while for good food and a great view of Mt Velouchi, head for the village of Palio Mikro Horio: classic dishes at Helidona (Tel. (+30) 22370.415.09) and an intriguing selection at Stin Poli (Tel. (+30) 22370.415.44). 01. The delectable galaktoboureko of Karvelis at Megalo Horio, accompanied by a cup of Greek coffee. 02. In the summers, the villages of Evrytania come back to life as ex-locals return from the city for family vacations.

• If you wish to organize guided excursions, contact Trekking Hellas (Tel. (+30) 697.818.7863, 22370.259.40) and F-Zein (Tel. (+30) 694.539.6808, www.fzein-evryt. gr). For information about walking routes, look no further than the Mountains of Evritania hiking map published by Anavasi.

• With Karpenisi as your base, you can enjoy a wonderful day trip with plenty of stop-off points as far afield as Prousos. Choose the most scenic route, heading for Klafsi, Mouzilo and Aniada. Stop at Megalo Horio for a stroll along narrow streets lined with stone-built houses before sampling the famed syrupy custard-filled pastry, galaktoboureko, at the Kafeneio tis Kyra Paraskevis. Carry on to Palio Mikro Horio, at the foot of Mt Helidona, a picturesque village renowned for its traditional architecture. Here, visit the Church of Aghios Sostis with its breathtaking views of the mountain’s east ridge, and explore the small lake at the edge of the village. In Prousos, be sure to see the Monastery of Panaghia Prousiotissa and its miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have saved the life of Georgios Karaiskakis, a leading figure in the Greek War of Independence, by curing his serious illness. The monastery affords spectacular views of the Prousiotis Gorge. I also recommend Stremmenos Delicatessen outside Prousos for some top-quality charcuterie-tasting in an idyllic setting.

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JOURNEYS ACROSS

THE MAGIC D E S T I N AT I O N S PILIO

© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

Trails, beaches, plane-shaded squares, natural springs, pleasant temperatures and good food: Nena Dimitriou and Lina Kapetaniou describe two unforgettable summers on the mythical mountain of Pilio.

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MOUNTAIN Relaxing at the thousand-year-old plane tree in the square of Aghia Paraskevi in Tsagarada.

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Š KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

Limnionas Beach, just below the village of Xourichti, is usually quiet even in August.

EASTERN PILIO

Between the forest and the sea Having visited the mountain several times for winter excursions, I wondered what Pilio (aka Pelion) would be like in July and August. In a word: cool. In addition to the Olympian gods, who were rumored to have their summer home here, there are more than 30 villages offering us common mortals everything we might want for our summer holidays. We made the most of our annual holidays with seaside jaunts, strolls around verdant and listed villages with enviable architecture, long, lazy coffees in squares shaded by ancient plane trees, and hikes along trails that lead to some of the most 68

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beautiful beaches in Greece. In eastern Pilio, we immersed ourselves in green! Tsagarada has some wonderful family-run guesthouses, providing their visitors with personal care: the owners get to know you by name, and they’ll remember you if you return. It was this that brought us back to the sparsely populated village, which is built in a forest. It has four neighborhoods, four squares and four churches, with paths connecting the neighborhoods to one another. Daytime in the village is spent in the squares, where visitors and locals alike gather together to enjoy good company, good food and, of course, good tsipouro. At night, you only need to take a few steps away from the lighted streets to see the star-stud-

ded sky and hear the calls of birds in a range of different tones. On our very first day, after a hearty breakfast at the guesthouse Amanita, we arrived at the beach in around 15 minutes. Mylopotamos is a favorite beach of the locals, as well as the residents of Volos who have holiday homes in the area. The beach, with its turquoise waters, is divided in two by a massive rock. In the cool cave behind the beach, we took an afternoon nap on the damp sand, and that is a memory I come back to often, whenever I want to give my mind a rest. The other nearby beach is Fakistra, which is harder to reach, along a trail that is straightforward but long. The waters of Fakistra reflect the trees that overhang almost


© PERIKLES MERAKOS

Hiking across the verdant Tsangarada.

half of the bay. A cypress-green sea. On the following day, we went swimming at the sandy beach of Limnionas with its crystal-clear waters, close to Kato Xourichti, while the day after we met some friends with their families at Papa Nero, the most child-friendly local beach, a 2 km stretch of coast lined with tavernas and cafés. At Ai Giannis, we parked the car and walked to Plaka, a beach with natural shade provided by oak and plane trees along the edges, and caves in lovely colors. To the south, we had a swim at Lambinou and Kalamaki, and on the way back we ate masterfully grilled meat at the famous Germanos taverna in Neochori. We arrived at the best time of day, just before sunset, and by the time we finished

our meal, we had seen the sky take on almost every shade of orange, purple and blue. One morning that we woke up very early, but totally refreshed after a good night’s sleep, and drove to Aghioi Saranta, Horefto and Parisena Beach. The latter serves as an open-air summer home for many campers. We stayed there until nightfall and swam amid bioluminescent plankton. Our bodies seemed to glow in the water. On the way back up, we stopped at Zagora for dinner on the small terrace at Niki’s taverna (also known as Meintani). On another day, under a cloudy sky, we decided to hike along the area’s most well-known trail, the one that connects Tsagarada to its old port and the only nat-

ural harbor in eastern Pilio, Damouchari. It took us 90 minutes to walk the 4.5 km route at a comfortable pace. It is waymarked for the most part, goes through forests of tall trees, ivy and oaks, and offers two natural springs with potable water at the perfect temperature. Our excursion to Aghia Kyriaki, the picturesque village at the end of the peninsula of Magnesia, lasted a whole day. The settlement has a very distinctive architecture: two-story houses with colorful facades, some with balconies, others without, as well as low fishermen’s cottages. It doesn’t quite look like a part of Pilio, but the journey to get there is steeped in green, along the sea, and the eye never wanders far from the beauty that Pilio is known for. – N.D. MAINL AND 2020

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The little train of Pilio runs on a 60bcm gauge track, one of the narrowest in the world.

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WESTERN AND CENTRAL PILIO

Villages overlooking the Pagasetic Gulf I’m always excited to reach the road that climbs above Volos, where the trees cast their shade and the air begins to cool. Come summer, this is the road I take to reach the mountain villages of Pilio. Just outside the city, it is time to make my choice: western Pilio for the views and the excellent food, or central Pilio for events and activities? 70

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If I turn left, the first stop is Portaria, which probably owes its name to the fact that it’s one of the villages closest to Volos, thus serving as the “gateway” (porta) to Pilio. Its large square with its massive plane trees is the village’s center of activity. The restaurant Kritsa serves tasty traditional food under the trees; Here I enjoy breakfast with homemade bread, soft galotyri cheese, pies with wild greens, and traditional sweet preserves, or local sausages, sautéed greens with eggs, and spetsofai, a dish made with

sausages and peppers. After eating, I stroll through the village admiring its stone buildings. Even though I’ve walked this route numerous times, I never tire of the Centaurs’ Path. En route to Makrinitsa, I reach the spring of Adamena. A sign here marks the start of the trail that goes over streams and wooden bridges, passes by natural springs and circles back to Portaria, always under the shade of the trees, to end up at the little church of Aghia Marina. Some choose to hike it in


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The Centaurs’ Path is like a scene out of a fairy tale.

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Breakfast at Karaiskos Farm with fresh produce from their garden.

reverse, starting from Aghia Marina, but I prefer to head straight into the forest. The next village over, Makrinitsa, has justifiably been described as “the balcony of Pilio,” since its views of Volos and the Pagasetic Gulf are unique. In the square under the plane trees there is a marble fountain with four bronze lion heads; legend has it that its water confers immortality. Here, you will also find the renowned traditional coffeehouse Theophilos, which is named after the painter Theophilos Hatzimihail, who in

1910 created the mural inside titled “The Battle in Krya Vrysi”. It isn’t often that I’ll come to Pilio and not grab the opportunity to take the train from Ano Lechonia to Milies: it’s one of the most enjoyable things you can do in the area. The journey lasts one and a half hours, departing on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00, and returning from Milies at 15:00. The charming little train runs along track just 60 cm wide and goes through tunnels and over stone bridges – like the one just before Milies,

built by Evaristo de Chirico, father of the acclaimed painter Alberto Savinio. My final stop is the village of Aghios Lavrentios, where every August the alleyways are flooded with music, as part of Music Village, a multifaceted festival for musicians, with parallel events for the public, which has been running for the past ten years. This year, the festival will be a more limited affair due to the measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but music will once again be heard in the village’s open-air spaces. Meet you there? – L.K. MAINL AND 2020

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It’s an island, and it’s not. It is mountain and sea together, cosmopolitan and unknown at the same time. It’s also a stone’s throw from Athens and the ideal destination for that very different summer.

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JUST A BRIDGE AWAY


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via is very popular this year. Ever since the weather warmed up (and travel was allowed once again), the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I’m considered a “local,” as I happen to have a summer house there, and have been visiting the island since I was a child. Every day – every single day – some friend, colleague or relative will call for advice about visiting Evia. One asked for sandy beaches protected from the winds; I sent him to the South Evian Gulf, which is dotted with sheltered coastal spots. Another requested an isolated beach, so I sent her to experience her exile on stunning Arhampoli Beach in Cavo D’Oro, only accessible via a two-hour trek. Relatives asked for a quiet town, with guesthouses, tavernas and promenades for leisurely walks: Karystos, Marmari and Edipsos are their primary choices. My hiker friends wanted to combine time on the shore with some mountain action: the climbing sectors in Kymi and the Agali, Nileas and Dimosari gorges are just some possible recommendations, and they’re all close to the sea. I also told them about the trails leading to Dirfys and Xerovouni (the summits of the mountain range in Central Evia), and about the Drimona Waterfalls deep in the forest where you can swim in mountain pools. There are so many contrasts and contradictions; these are only some of them. Still, word appears to be getting out. This year in particular,

when time, money and travel are all being valued differently, Evia – the second largest Greek island, easily accessible by car via the Halkis Suspension Bridge – looks to be having its moment. Northern Evia is verdant. The south is relatively barren but not less beautiful. Mountains rise up, slopes covered with forests and crossed by streams. To the east and west, amazing beaches face the Aegean and Euboic seas respectively, each one very different from the other. Summer houses dot the shore, interrupted by stretches claimed by campers who’ve pitched their tents on the sand. There are Frankish towers at Alonari, castles such as the Castello Rosso in Karystos, ancient citadels in Eretria, and wetlands such as Dystos in Aliveri, and you reach them on roads that cut through pristine forests, or climb high above the sea, hugging the edges of towering cliffs. You can experience it all in Evia. I’ve stood and watched the “crazy waters” of the Evripos Straits from the bridge in Halkida. I’ve nibbled on innovative culinary creations and sipped fine wines at Ginger All Day on pedestrianized Ermou Street. I’ve downed ouzo while eating fresh seafood by the sea at Deka Vimata stin Ammo in Artaki and at Kapetanios by Lampsakos Beach. I’ve ambled through Kymi, admiring the beautiful old captain’s houses. I’ve swum the waters of the endless Mourteri Beach, keeping one eye out for the ferry to Skyros. I’ve climbed

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01. The best preserved “Dragon House”, on the summit of Mt Ohi. 2. In the Euboic Bay, wooden piers jut out into calm waters. Pictured here is a pier in the settlement of Hronia, between the town of Limni and the village of Rovies.

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the slopes of Mt Dirfys, out of breath, motivated by the thought that the finest chops were waiting for me at Kissos taverna in Steni, followed by dessert and coffee at Tsayius and a wide range of mushrooms for sale at Manitaropoleio in the village of Katheni. One year, on August 15th, when the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated, I was swimming alone at Kokkinia Beach and saw dolphins in the open waters, while another year at Limnionas Beach, on the same day, I couldn’t find a spot to put my towel down for the crowds there, whereas Almirihi Beach had the balance between too few and too many swimmers just right. At Klimaki Restaurant in Agios, I indulged in the local pasta with seared myzithra (a white cheese); at Zaharakis in the same village, I had the finest beef steak; and then there were the traditional tyropitaria (cheese pies) and tiganopsoma (fried bread), wherever I could find them. I’ve climbed down Dimosari Gorge in the south of the island just to take a refreshing dip at Kallianos Beach; I’ve pitched my tent on nearby Aghios Dimitrios Beach and sought refuge from the


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Networks of trails for hikers of all levels can be found in and around the village of Steni on Mt Dirfys, in the nearby wooded area known as the Aesthetic Forest of Steni, and on Mt Xerovouni.

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01. Relaxing at Loutra Edipsou | 02. Summer fun at Hiliadou Beach. In the background is the small islet that locals call “the Turtle.” | 03. At Dimosari Gorge in Southern Evia, you come upon small waterfalls and the old stone-paved trail of Skala Lenosaion.

© OLGA CHARAMI

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midday heat at the small taverna Stefosi in the village above the beach; I’ve enjoyed the best magirefta (traditional dishes usually cooked in an oven dish or a deep pot) at the Cavo D’Oro Restaurant in Karystos; I’ve walked through the barren landscape of Karystia and suddenly come across the lush village of Platanistos, where I dove into the crystalline waters of the river and let them carry me until I arrived at Potami Beach, with its picturesque taverna. On the promontory known as Cavo D’Oro, the winds are savage. If you come here, you’ll happen across sparsely-populated villages such as Antia, where, to your astonishment, you’ll discover a rare whistling-based language scheduled to be recognized and protected by UNESCO as a monument of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Should you seek out the 76

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legendary Drakospita (“Dragon Houses”) of Styra and Mt Ohi, bizarre structures dating from antiquity, you’ll see at once why traditional folklore has associated them with those great legendary beasts. Straight across the island in the north, on the beaches of Lihada, Gialtra, Gregolimano and magical Lihadonisia, the pine trees come down to the water’s edge. You can watch the seals in the deep waters of Cavos or drink ouzo at the port in Aghios Giorgios. At Loutra Edipsou, the spa town with thermal springs, you can enjoy beauty treatments in the pools of Thermai Sylla Spa. Hungry, or thirsty? There’s freshly grilled fish at the fish taverna Maravelis and exquisite cocktails at the new bar El Matador Bar in Oreoi. At the ever-popular Aghia Anna camping site, you’ll find everyone, while at Prokopi you might see scores of pilgrims

walking (or even crawling) by to fulfill their vows to Aghios Ioannis Rossos (Saint John the Russian), all while you enjoy traditional Greek coffee and a slice of amazing portokalopita (syrupy orange cake) at the pastry shop Chrisavgi. From south to north, at the beaches of Styra, Almiropotamos, Kalamos, Korasida, Limni, Rovies and Ilia, you’ll find calm waters, sandy beaches and the easy life that comes with the timeless triptych of a rented room, a favorite beach and a local taverna. Things are similar in Pefki, Ellinika and Psaropouli. As for the secret beaches and caves around Vlahia, Glyfada, Hiliadou and Kymi, don’t tell anyone – if too many people knew, the sunsets would never be the same. Hiliadou ofers its visitors so many options, including diving off the rocks, canoe excursions to Hiliadonisi, hikes along the gorge, and delicious rustic meals at the restaurants Rinni and Bougazi. On moonless nights, I fish for calamari; on moonlit nights, I count the stars. When I finally do go to bed, I enjoy the most beautiful sleep; balcony doors wide open, I drift off to the sound of crickets chirping and waves gently lapping the shore. It’s difficult for me to remain impartial about the charms of this place, as it is here that I learnt what summer really means.


D E S T I N AT I O N S

DEFINITIVE ZAGORI

Chilly plunges to awaken the body, hikes through forests along paths in deep shade, and daring outdoor activities that get the adrenaline pumping: this is summer in the beautiful mountains of Epirus. TEXT & PHOTOS OLGA CH A R A MI

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WALKING THE VIKOS GORGE For years, I looked forward to the moment when I would traverse the Vikos Gorge, one of the most notable gorges in the world, its fame resting on the proportions it presents. The Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the world’s deepest gorge in relation to its width; it’s 1100m wide and 900m deep. I had looked down into it from a number of viewpoints, including those of Oxia and Spitalia near the village of Monodendri and Beloe in Vradeto. Every time, the stunning spectacle made me want to explore this miracle at the heart of the Vikos-Aoos National Park, which is also a UNESCO Geopark. When you do trek the gorge, however, it loses just a bit of its mystique, as you find yourself walking for five to seven hours through the same – albeit beautiful – landscape. The only sounds are from birds and insects, although you may find yourself listening hard to make sure there are no bears around. The gorge is known for its wild herbs. At times, you’ll be walking under stone outcroppings. Summer is the ideal season, as the Voidomatis River is very low, except at its source. The classic route through the gorge starts either at Monodendri and ends at the village of Vikos or vice-versa, but there are other options. In any case, you’ll want to be following the signs for the O3 Trail. Be sure to give yourself ample time, as the distances you need to cover are significant. 78

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Around 100 stone bridges adorn the rivers and creeks of Zagori, blending seamlessly into the natural world surrounding them. They were built in the 18th and 19th century by renowned craftsmen who tried to tame the rough landscape of high mountains and deep gorges by easing the movement of people and goods from place to place. Rounded or pointed, with single or multiple arches, all are works of art. It is worth spending some time admiring the stonework, now often overgrown with weeds, and noting the clever architecture that went into these structures. Some of them can be easily spotted from the road, including the bridge of Noutsos (also known as Kokkori or Kokkorou) on the road from Dilofo to Koukouli. Others require a short walk, such as Plakida or Kontodimou with its triple arch on the edge of the village of Kipoi. For still others, you’ll need to take longer hikes. Some of the easier treks include the circular path around Kipoi, which takes in four bridges, and the one starting at Vitsa and ending at the Kokkori Bridge, which takes about an hour and a half – it’s very manageable, suitable for children, and takes in the Skala (stone steps) at Vitsa and the Bridge of Misiou as well.


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HYMN TO THE VOIDOMATIS

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THE LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD OF PAPINGO Sterna is a one-of-a-kind shop, and its owner, Elli Papageorgiou, is one of a kind, too. She was raised in Kapesovo. Her father was a champion of self-sufficiency, and she found herself like a real-life Little Red Riding Hood foraging for berries and herbs in the forest, and learning about them at her mother’s side. Today she runs Sterna in Megalo Papingo, a quirky café with a beautiful terrace, where you can enjoy homemade beverages and sweets – in summer this means homemade lemonade or sour cherry cordial, cake with chocolate sauce and ice cream, halva mousse and “Little Red Riding Hood” ice cream. Afterwards, you can browse the shelves for anything from fruit preserves and liqueurs, handmade by Elli, to powdered mushrooms and other local products. You can also pick up gifts, decorative items and fashion accessories, many of which are also made by the owner (Tel. (+30) 697.720.2817).

RIVERSIDE AT ARISTI-PAPINGO BRIDGE

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The locals at Kipoi, Tymfi and Vikos say that the water of the Voidomatis River is clean enough to drink, and will happily do so themselves to demonstrate. Here, you’re close enough to the source of the river to make it unlikely that any impurities could have entered the stream. It’s certainly worth a swim in the frigid water. The easiest beach to reach – and therefore the most popular – is at the Papingo Bridge, right by the road. The plane forest and the cold, deep, blue-green waters create a fairytale landscape. Just a little to the west of the bridge, you’ll see a sign for an amazing trail, which winds alongside the river and leads to the Klidonia Bridge. The hike itself shouldn’t take more than two and a half hours, but along the way you’ll find small beaches for swimming that could stretch it out into a full day. Just remember that, as this is a National Forest, you shouldn’t use sunscreen (it taints the water), cut any flowers or herbs, or leave any rubbish behind.


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OVIRES

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COOLING OFF AT OVIRES Imagine large natural troughs carved by the currents of the Rogovos River flowing down from Tymfi, blue-green waters where you can swim, and smooth rocks where you can lie back and take in the small waterfalls and rich vegetation. This is Ovires, or Kolymbithres, located between Mikro and Megalo Papingo, in the Rogovos Gorge. The flow of water between these natural reservoirs, which act like connected holding tanks, is controlled with a series of sluices and dams that locals use to create luxurious natural swimming pools. MAINL AND 2020

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DINNER WITH A VIEW OF ASTRAKA I can’t imagine a more spectacular setting for enjoying the sunset than a terrace with a view of the imposing natural towers of Astraka, rising dramatically over Mikro and Megalo Papingo, and it’s even better when the view is accompanied by a delicious dinner. At Astro (Tel. (+30) 26530.421.08) in Megalo Papingo, one of the best tavernas in Epirus, the Tsoukmanis brothers serve as their own suppliers; they raise their own animals, grow their own vegetables and everything they serve is thoroughly homemade. They have superb lamb chops; tender kid goat; fresh salads; savory pies; risotto with wild mushrooms; zucchini flowers stuffed with rice; and the local specialty skotobriamo (liver with rice and seasonings baked in the oven). An old standard, popular with climbers, is Dias (Tel. (+30) 26530.412.57) in Mikro Papingo, featuring an alternating menu of classic comfort food, including well-seasoned beef patties, lamb chops, and unforgettable savory pies. You’ll also find good grilled meat dishes served with a view at the Pantheon (Tel. (+30) 26530.422.39), and Nikos & Julia (Tel. (+30) 26530.418.93).

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SWIM AND PICNIC AT ILIOCHORI I had barely reached the Balta di Striga waterfalls at Iliochori, the northernmost village in central Zagori, but I could hear the splashes, over and over again, as three friends from Thessaloniki dove into the green waters. The Vlach name translates as “Lake of the Scream; it is said that a young woman once jumped to her death here. Three mountain pools are formed by an equal number of waterfalls, the largest of which is around 20 meters high. The trail from the village is paved and takes about 30 minutes to walk, while the space next to the largest of the pools has a wooden platform with picnic tables. There are also life buoys for safety. The steep uphill return can be a bit tiring, but the sense of wellbeing after a rejuvenating swim makes it well worth the effort.

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ACTION FOR ALL Those who go rafting on the Voidomatis in the summer usually leave the rafts with smiles and words of praise. Water levels may be low this time of year, but that’s probably part of what makes the activity a favorite for families. Parents with children can also choose among easy hikes and rides on electric bikes in the virgin forest of the Gyftokampos area. For others, there is canyoning in the Rogovos Gorge (one easy route and one very challenging option), and mountain biking on forest trails of varying degrees of difficulty. River trekking in Vikaki (if there is water) or at the source of the Voidomatis, where there is water year-round, offers a unique way to see this beautiful section of the Vikos Gorge which is not traversed by the Vikos trail. All of these activities can be undertaken safely with the specialists at Trekking Hellas in Ioannina (Tel. (+30) 694.475.0009).

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BALTA DI STRIGA


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REFRESHMENTS UNDER THE PLANE TREE

THE VIA FERRATA OF AOOS RIVER

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VIA FERRATA WITH THE “SON” OF AOOS Nikos Kyritsis refers to the Aoos River as his “dad”, and it’s hardly an exaggeration, as he has lived his entire life alongside the waters of the roaring river, and has learned many lessons from it. You’ll find him in Konitsa, which may not be officially part of Zagori but is just 20km from Aristi. He can take you monorafting and river trekking on the Aoos, send you across ziplines, and show you the amazing via ferrata (a climbing route with steel cables, rungs or ladders affixed to the rock) here, which is the longest and most impressive in Greece. The course is very manageable at the start, with a few metal steps and a small rope bridge, and the climbing sections are relatively easy. Everything changes when you reach the 15m-long bridge which spans the river at a height of 35 meters. Crossing that wire bridge while looking down into the captivating Aoos Gorge is an incomparable experience sure to cause an adrenaline rush. Estimate around 4 hours for the course; all the equipment is provided by Nikos and the trip also includes a free stay at a mountain refuge (No Limits, Tel. (+30) 694.475.1418). While you are here you can visit the Stomiou Monastery (accessible from the via ferrata) and the stone bridge in Konitsa, and dine at the restaurant Gefyri (Tel. (+30) 26550.237.80) in the most picturesque location in the area. 84

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The gentle mountain breeze stirs the leaves of the old plane tree until you swear you can hear it whispering. There’s no other sound – Kapesovo is one of the quietest and most beautiful of the stone villages of Zagori. The old village café Mezaria is operating again, revived by the young photographer Konstantinos Vasilakis who settled here seven years ago. Coffee, sweets, savory pies and snacks, as well as interesting conversations about his photographic expeditions will keep you in the old square for hours. You might also enjoy the atmosphere at the traditional coffeehouse in Bradeto, especially if you’ve just ascended the famous Skala, the cobblestone mule track which, until as recently as 1970 when the road was built, was the only link to the village of Kapesovo. If you’re in the mood, take the 20-minute walk from here to Beloe, to enjoy perhaps the most beautiful view of the Vikos Gorge. Alternatively, it’s equally pleasant just to sit in the local café and try local delicacies washed down with tsipouro to the traditional tunes from the cassette player. The café Vikogiatros in Koukouli is of particular interest for its herbal remedies. Owner Nikos Kontodimos can tell you all about their therapeutic properties and offer you one of his unique herbal teas. At the café Mesohori, you’ll find yet more tsipouro, tasty dishes and good company. MEZARIA


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Renowned Kavourotripes Beach in East Sithonia.

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PERFECT PENINSULAS


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Gorgeous sandy beaches, turquoise waters, densely forested mountains, significant historical monuments and plenty of fine dining options combine to create a unique setting for a summer vacation. B Y J O H N PA PA D I M I T R I OU

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alkidiki is a region blessed with places of rare natural beauty as stunning as they are diverse. In an enchanting blue-green setting dominated by forests of pine trees and beautiful stretches of seashore, visitors can discover locations ranging from exotic islets and endless sandy beaches washed by crystal-clear waters to dense forests with oak trees and waterfalls. What’s more, it’s a region scattered with Byzantine towers and other fortification works as well as the ruins of ancient cities. The latter include the remnants of Ancient Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, in addition to remains of temples and other sites of great historical significance, such as the Canal of Xerxes at Nea Roda. And, of course, among the region’s many cultural attractions, it is perhaps the monasteries of Mt Athos that have brought the region its greatest international renown; they certainly established it as a leading religious tourism destination. The region’s unique geographical form, with its three peninsulas jutting out from a much less touristy “mainland” to form two sheltered gulfs, is conducive to local travel by boat and to coastal exploration, while also providing good fishing grounds. The abundance of seafood (including the celebrated mussels of Olympiada), the local meat, the delicious cheeses, the area’s famous green olives and other agricultural produce are all put to good use by talented culinary professionals and presented in amazing dishes of the highest caliber. Award-winning chefs, traditional cooks and passionate restaurant owners working with local ingredients create delectable dishes for all tastes; from the monastic recipes of Mt Athos to exceptional meat

01. Lush Mt Holomon is perfect for hikes and bike rides in the woods. 02. The village of Arnea is the architectural jewel of Halkidiki.

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03. Jogging through the countryside near Sani Marina. 04. Many of Halkidiki’s beaches are sheltered and therefore safer for water sports. Here, at Kriaritsi Beach in Sithonia.

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and fish dishes to traditional fare often augmented by creative personal touches, the food you find will further enrich your travel experience here. With the passage of time, each peninsula has established its own personality, while also selectively borrowing from the others. So, Kassandra, the westernmost, is chiefly known for its cosmopolitan feel, with Sani Marina and beach bars stealing the show, although it’s not without its pristine landscapes. Sithonia, the middle peninsula, while offering five-star and boutique hotels, is especially popular among nature-lovers on account of its many secluded beaches and its camping options. Lastly, the area north of Mt Athos in the easternmost part of Halkidiki, a region which includes the island of Ammouliani, is constantly upgrading its services to offer visitors unique experiences, such as the Aristotle Trail and mountain trekking on Mt Holomon.

PICK YOUR PLEASURE

COSMOPOLITAN CHIC The luxurious Sani Marina, located on the northwest coast of the first peninsula, is the most cosmopolitan part of Halkidiki. The ideal place for people-watching and leisurely evening strolls, it offers a wide selection of shops with leading foreign and Greek brand names, as well as many dining options. You’ll find everything from restaurants serving Asian and modern Greek cuisine to renowned seafood tavernas, chic bars and fine delicatessens. The best time here is twilight, when the reflections of the yachts in the water combine with the hues of sunset to create an idyllic picture-postcard setting. CAMPING Sithonia has many of the most attractive camping spots in the country, some of which now offer the “luxury” alternative known as glamping. The wellknown campsite Armenistis Camping (Tel. (+30) 23750.914.87) is located on a long stretch of golden sand surrounded by pine and plane trees that reach right down to the beach. There are many activities to choose from here, including scuba diving and yacht excursions. On a slightly smaller scale, Akti Oneirou (Tel.

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01. The famous plump Olympiada mussels.

04. The Byzantine Prosforio Tower in Ouranoupoli.

02. Klimataria Beach near the small town of Sykia in Sithonia.

05. Aristotle’s Park, featuring scientific instruments mentioned in the philosopher’s textbooks.

03. Seafood meze at the fish restaurant Aristos at the water’s edge.

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(+30) 23757.709.10) enjoys an equally stunning setting on a secluded, pinefringed bay with turquoise waters and a fine sandy beach. From a distance, it looks like an island settlement. The decorative elements feature natural materials such as wood and stone, with white as the predominant color throughout.

HISTORY Near the village of Aghios Mamas are the remains of Ancient Olynthus, allegedly founded by Olynthus, son of Heracles. This is one of the most important archaeological sites in Halkidiki (open Wed-Mon 08:30-15:30, Tel. (+30) 2310.285.163). 90

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The city was razed in 348 BC by Philip II of Macedon, who punished the Olynthians thus for breaking their alliance with him and shifting their allegiance to Athens. Among the ruins of the city, there is an impressive mosaic floor in excellent condition which depicts Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus and chasing the Chimera. It’s best to visit in the morning, because there’s really no shade to be found. You should give yourself about one hour to visit the site. If you prefer Byzantine history, head for Ouranoupoli and its marvelous Prosforio Tower. Standing proudly beside the sea since the 12th century, the tower

is part of a heartwarming story of human solidarity. In 1928, Joice Loch and her husband Sydney, both members of humanitarian organizations, made their home in the tower and generously offered assistance to refugees who’d settled in the area during population exchanges between Greece and Turkey some years earlier. Today, the tower hosts an exhibition dedicated to the couple and is the best preserved tower in Halkidiki. Fishermen mending their nets in the shade of the tower and seagulls flying above it add to the charm of the scene. From here, you can walk along the coast to the Monastery of Zy-


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MT ATHOS

While Mt. Athos is again open to pilgrims, only a few are currently being granted access because of the pandemic. As of 1 July, each monastery may host up to 20 guests per day. The monastic communities known as sketes are also open to pilgrims; the sketes of Aghios Andreas, Timios Prodromos and Profitis Ilias may admit up to 15 persons, while the sketes of Aghia Anna, Kafsokalyvia and Nea Skete may admit five each. Isolated monastic houses, or kelia, are allowed to admit three. The main prerequisite for pilgrims is an invitation from a monastery or its dependency. Pilgrims from one monastery or dependency may visit other monasteries, but can’t stay at them overnight.

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gos on a 3km-long path through olive groves and vineyards.

ARCHITECTURE Located in the eastern part of the Halkidiki hinterland, at an altitude of 600m on the slopes of Mt Holomon, Arnaia is the region’s architectural gem. Built of stone, the town’s traditional houses are mostly two-story. The exteriors of the upper levels are often painted (pink, ochre or blue). Arnaia is famous for its woven fabrics, its honey and its cheeses. Generally speaking, summer temperatures in the area are very pleasant. Wander the narrow, stone-paved streets, drop by the

Church of Aghios Stephanos or relax in the main square. In the mood for a picnic? Choose a quiet spot in the nearby Alsos (“Grove”) of Aghia Paraskevi.

ARISTOTLE TRAIL There’s a historic trail of great natural beauty in the eastern part of Halkidiki that starts from Aristotle’s Park at Stagira, a lovely theme park at an elevation of 500m, where you can see a statue of the ancient philosopher and interact with a number of instruments, including a compass and a sundial, which demonstrate basic natural laws as described in Aristotle’s “Physics.” From here, a six-

hour walk (about 17km) takes you to the archaeological site of Ancient Stagira (open Wed-Mon 08:30-15:30, Tel. (+30) 23710.220.60), the philosopher’s birthplace (next to the modern-day settlement of Olympiada). Part of the Natura 2000 network, the area abounds with an amazing variety of wild herbs and rare plants, while offering a breathtaking view of the Strymonic Gulf. However, bear in mind that the walk is not recommended in July-August, unless you start out very early and cover just part of the trail. For greater safety, employ the services of a certified mountain guide. To find out more, visit mountathosarea.org MAINL AND 2020

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BOUKADOURA

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DANAI BEACH RESORT

NOTES KASSANDRA

• On the west side of Kassandra, just to the north of Sani Beach, you’ll find Bousoulas Beach Bar. The turquoise hue and the clarity of the shallow waters here will put you in mind of tropical island paradises (Tel. (+30) 23740.994.18). Tip: Approach the beach on foot from the north side of the Sani Resort hotels. For a set of two sun loungers and an umbrella, you’ll pay €40, and €10 for each additional lounger. You’ll also be provided with towels. • On the east coast of Kassandra, after Pefkohori, lies the natural harbor of Glarokavos. Next to the harbor there’s a long strip of golden sand that pleases all tastes, offering both stylish beach bars and food trucks, plus plenty of space to spread your towel. You can fish and swim from the rocks at the entrance to the lagoon harbor. Tip: If you want some peace and quiet, choose the end of the beach nearest the harbor. • Faros Possidi. In roughly the middle of the west coast of the peninsula Kassandra, near the Possidi Lighthouse, a gorgeous sandbar extends into the sea. Lay out your towel on the dense white sand and enjoy a dip in the deep blue water with a view of Mt Olympus in the distance. Be sure to stay until sunset! Tip: Take a beach umbrella and a cooler with water and some food. There’s no shade and 92

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nowhere to buy refreshments. • If you feel the need to chill out completely, which is to say, if you’d like to enjoy a swim with everything taken care of, look no further than Villas Seaside Lounge & Restaurant at Polychrono (Tel. (+30) 23740.625.18). It has comfortable loungers, earth tones décor, atmospheric music until midday (in the evening and at weekends the volume rises) and a full menu (beverages, cocktails, food). Don’t be surprised if some Greek celebrity is occupying the lounger next to you. Tip: Whether you want a lounger or a table, be sure to make a reservation, even on weekdays. A lounger costs €6-8 depending on the type. • The El Puerto restaurant at the recently renovated Porto Sani hotel, headed by Michelin-starred chef David Ibarboure, is the latest gastronomic project of the Sani/ Ikos Group (Tel. (+30) 23740.995.02). On an inviting veranda featuring muted earth tones and designer décor, you can enjoy the taste of Spain, executed with a modern twist and the finest local ingredients. • Handmade ravioli filled with dusky grouper in shrimp broth; charcoal-grilled golden grouper; tamarisk greens from Sithonia; and incredibly delicious cheeses exclusively produced by two local cheesemakers: at Trizoni in Kryopigi, in an enchanting courtyard

shaded by a majestic mulberry tree, Stergios will spoil you with the delicious flavors of beautifully cooked seafood, including wonderful fish-of-the-day dishes (Tel. (+30) 23740.519.45). • For over a decade, To Spitaki in Kallithea, with its stone-paved yard, white furnishings and lounge atmosphere, has been the premier destination for cocktail lovers. One of the standouts among this year’s concoctions is “Make your Death,” an explosive combination of silver tequila, ignited by a spicy primer of hot chili peppers and red wine, mixed with ginger ale and pineapple cordial, which is sure to set your palate, and your evening, alight (Tel. (+30) 23740.231.30).

SITHONIA

• In Vourvourou Bay, there’s a small island just off the coast called Diaporos, known locally as Hawaii. Sheltered from the wind, with tall pine trees, sandy bays and crystal-clear turquoise water, it invites exploration and discovery. Tip: The most convenient way to reach the island and circumnavigate it is by renting a motorboat. You don’t need a license, prices are reasonable and having your own boat will give you greater freedom of choice in your sea trips. • At the very end of the cosmopolitan summer resort of Vourvourou lies Karydi Beach, where there are no shops, bars or loud music. What you will find are fine sand, blue-green waters, white rocks on either side of the bay and shade trees lining the shore. The water here is shallow and quite warm.


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You’ll have to walk out some distance before the sea deepens. Tip: The best time of day for a swim is late afternoon, when most people have left and the cool breeze wafting through the trees tempers the heat.

• With its wild, jaw-dropping beauty, golden sand and views that take in majestic Mt Athos, exotic Tigania lies between the beaches of Klimataria and Kriaritsi. It comprises three adjacent sandy coves. You’ll also find a laid-back beach bar with beach umbrellas made from palm leaves. Tip: The difficult thing about Tigania is finding it. The easiest way to get there is to follow the Sykia coastal road, pass the signpost for the Klimataria Taverna and continue straight ahead. A little further along, the road makes a turn; about 300m after this, turn left onto the dirt track that leads to the beach. • Since 2002, Yiota, the tireless cook at Boukadoura near Porto Koufo Beach, has been preparing imaginative Greek recipes firmly rooted in the farming and fishing traditions of the wider region. Her cuisine is both “mom-style” and exciting at the same time. Meatball soup with monkfish, stuffed vine leaves with chard and shrimp, and tuna balls are among her biggest hits with diners (Tel. (+30) 6944.547.239). • At the old fish taverna established by his grandfather at Ormos Panagias in 1971, Aristos pays gastronomic homage to the treasures of the sea. With the fresh fish he selects daily and local vegetables from nearby villages, he pleases his discerning patrons with delicious dishes such as steamed monkfish in lemon sauce, and fish soup with scorpionfish and cod. If you arrive early, you may get one of the tables right next to the sea (Tel. (+30) 23750.314.20). • Two hotel restaurants are raising culinary standards in Halkidiki by offering

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• Much photographed and very well known, Kavourotrypes on the east coast of Sithonia is actually a string of small beaches that form a monument to nature and attract large numbers of visitors. After making your way through a pine forest that was once full of people camping wherever they pleased, you reach a narrow beach where sun-bleached rocks artfully sculpted by wind and waves create an otherworldly setting. Tip: Go early in the morning to find a spot to lay out your towel. If you’re looking for the nudist beach, head as far right as possible, almost to the end of the bay. MARIGOULA

gastronomic experiences of a lifetime. The first is Treehouse at the Ekies All Senses Resort (Tel. (+30) 23750.910.00), where chef Dimitris Pamporis, in a cozy space for just 10 persons with a stunning view over Vourvourou Bay, crafts a menu that expertly pairs select ingredients to create dishes that are intriguing both in terms of taste and structure (think tzatziki macarons, or Wagyu beef with eggplant and cider). The second is The Squirrel at Danai Beach Resort & Villas (Tel. (+30) 23750.204.00-2). Here, chef Vasilis Mouratidis has created a degustation menu with à la carte features (i.e., some courses offer a choice of dishes). The skillful and often bold combination of ingredients results in genuinely exciting dishes, such as cod with beer and caviar. In addition, the hotel’s amazing wine cellar, built deep into the mountainside and housing over 1600 labels, is another good reason to pay a visit. Place yourself in the very capable hands of the resort’s head sommelier, Apostolos Plahouras, for the perfect pairing.

POLYGYROS

• Marigoula is a traditional eatery of a kind that you might not expect to find in Polygyros. With a history going back 80 years, the cuisine is rich and tasty, tipping its hat to Greek producers and making optimum use of local ingredients. Bite-size fried savory pies (with a filling of zucchini, peppers and mizithra cheese), carrots stuffed with minced beef and trahanas, and chickpeas with cod and turmeric are just some of the fine dishes you will savor (Tel. (+30) 23710.231.71).

ON THE DOORSTEP OF ATHOS

• In the Gulf of Ierissos, just north of Mt Athos (whose proximity has undoubtedly spared it from excessive housing development), there is a roughly five-kilometer stretch of sand separated by a rock outcropping into two beaches, Mikri Komitsa and Megali Komitsa. Surrounded by lush vegetation, they have coarse sand and are washed by crystalline waters. Tip: Pick the first beach, which doesn’t have facilities and therefore attracts less people. Be sure to take a beach umbrella, water and food. • Surrounded by waters rich in fish, Ammouliani is a small island in the Bay of Mt Athos with very few permanent residents. The island is famed for its fresh fish and sandy beaches. On the west coast, the long crescent-shaped beach of Alykes is noted for its white sand and calm, swimming pool-like waters. Tip: Ammouliani is relatively isolated from the rest of Halkidiki, so you may want to consider staying overnight, if not longer stay. • At Karagatsia, on a small and verdant sandy bay on the northwest shore of Ammouliani, Yiannis lovingly prepares local meats at his seasonal canteen (Tel. (+30) 6974.734.311). Your only dilemma here is whether to go for the pork belly or the souvlaki, both served with fries. It’s the perfect place for those seeking an alternative, value-for-money meal right next to the sea. MAINL AND 2020

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ADVERTORIAL

KINSTERNA

A BYWORD FOR CAREFREE HOLIDAYS

E

njoying a privileged view of Monemvasia Castle, Kinsterna Hotel is constantly evolving. Today it is a small piece of heaven on earth, offering pure hospitality and unique experiences to its valued guests. It is an alternative getaway with a unique aura, a combination of historical mansion and hermitage hidden on the slopes of Mount Parnon, shielding guests with its unique microclimate and stunning flora.

 AFETY AND NATURAL S ADVANTAGES The adoption of new strict hygiene protocols and new operating procedures, in combination with its natural advantages, make Kinsterna the ideal proposition for a summer holiday or a quick escape in a protected, safe environment. Its advantages include: • Road access to the southernmost and safest tourist destination in Greece

• Remote location, 6 km from Monemvasia Castle • 10 hectares of vineyards, gardens and olive groves • Lodgings naturally separated by the original architecture • Large exterior common areas • Al fresco dining in the gardens or spacious private balconies •8  00 m from a long coastline featuring open beaches plus


ADVERTORIAL

THE JEWEL OF MONEMVASIA HAS IMPLEMENTED STRICT NEW HYGIENE PROTOCOLS AND HAS ADDED MORE SERVICES, GUARANTEEING ITS GUESTS EVEN MORE PRIVACY AND FREEDOM.

access to remote beaches on the hotel’s boat

ADDITIONAL SERVICES Kinsterna Hotel boasts impressive private grounds and offers guests the option to simply relax or enjoy the hotel’s services in newly created spaces in a natural setting, ensuring privacy and personal freedom. Services include: • Breakfast under ancient olive trees • Extended relaxation area around the

swimming pool with loungers arranged in the shade of aromatic orange and lemon trees and ancient olives • Almost all produce cultivated on site in terraced gardens • Extended dining area of the Linos taverna, set under pomegranate and quince trees • Option of remote accommodation in a 1770s farmhouse located in a magical setting between three streams, 20 km from Kinsterna

• Redesigned outdoor activities featuring horse riding, trips by horse and cart, visits to the vineyards and sheep stable, to the old Ottoman tower and the Maleas Hill, cycling and hiking on well-marked trails – enjoyable experiences for guests of all ages. Kinsterna Hotel Monemvasia, Peloponnese tel. +30 27320.663.00 info@kinsternahotel.gr, www.kinsternahotel.gr


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NNESE 81 things we love in what is perhaps the most captivating region of Greece.

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ARGOLIDA 1. The Lion’s Gate

The great archaeological site of Mycenae transports visitors to the kingdom of Agamemnon. You enter the acropolis through the legendary Lion’s Gate, the precise construction techniques of which remain a mystery. The placement of the lintel, estimated to weigh up to 60 tons, has been attributed to the Cyclops, a mythical race of giants. Open daily 08:00-20:00, Tel. (+30) 27510.765.85. N.B.

2. Feasting at Kitsomanis

During the summer months, Kitsomanis Restaurant (Tel. (+30) 27510.222.90) relocates to the 15th km on the old national road between Argos and Tripoli, where the classic pit-stop Ardamis was formerly located. While the space, Kitsomanis Garden Hall, appears to focus more on catered events, its dishes are nonetheless impressive. In fact, the paidakia provatinas (mutton chops), horta yiachni (stewed wild greens), kolokithokorfades (stuffed zucchini flowers) and tiropitaria (fried cheese bread) are exceptional. N.B. 98

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3. Meet me at the Sitaropazaro

Every Wednesday and Saturday, people from across the Argos Plain gather to do their shopping, from groceries to garments, at the Sitaropazaro in Argos, an open-air market first set up next to the Kapodistrias Barracks, named after the first leader of independent Greece. Just opposite, the Municipal Market, built in 1899 by the famous architect Ernest Ziller, today is home to a variety of shops and cafés. N.B.

4. Discovering the Butterfly

The coastline between Nafplio and Astros is not famous for its sandy beaches, but rather for the tavernas dotted along the shoreline, which serve exceptional meze and ouzo. There is, however, one amazing pebbly beach for those in search of peace and quiet. Called Petalouda (“Butterfly”) or Viles, it is located on the coastal road between Kiveri and Astros. N.B.

5. Giosa meat at Birbou’s

Served warm or cold on parchment paper, this meze goes well with a cold beer. Giosa, which is mutton or goat meat

cooked in a wood-fired oven, is considered the best meze in the mountainous regions of Argolida and Corinthia. Give it a try at Birbos’ taverna in the village of Panariti (Tel. (+30) 27520.445.71). Vegetarians can try the roasted eggplant with garlic or skordalia (a potato and garlic spread), another local delicacy. N.B.

6. Cultural gifts at the PFF A visit to the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation in Nafplio is a veritable journey into Greek culture and civilization. The items on display, including paintings by Theophilos, embroidery from the Dodecanese and Cyclades, and local traditional costumes were selected by the museum’s founder Ioanna Papantoniou. The shop, which sells museum replicas, is particularly interesting. Open daily 09:00-14:30, Sun 09:30-15:00, pli.gr/ en, Tel. (+30) 27520.283.79/289.47. N.B. 7. Argolida through the centuries Housed on the top floor of the old Venetian barracks, where the interrogation rooms were located during the German occupation in World War II, the Archae-


MYCENAE

ological Museum of Nafplio is home to more than 40,000 years of history. Look for the bronze armor from Dendra and the plastered square floor panel with dolphins from the Mycenaean citadel of Tiryns (Tel. (+30) 27520.275.02, open daily except Tue 09:00-16:00). N.B.

both young and old that also serves food and drink. Highlights include painting and pottery workshops, activities raising environmental awareness, concerts, puppet shows and outdoor film screenings (fougaro.gr, Tel. (+30) 27520.473.00.) N.B.

8. Invitation to the Last Supper In the Church of Aghios Giorgios in Nafplio, the first cathedral of independent Greece, you’ll find one of the five best copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” attributed to one of his students. N.B.

11. For wine lovers, and not only Taste a variety of wines from the Peloponnese and the rest of Greece at tiny Alkioni Wine Bar or at the more luxurious 3Sixty, which is also known for its cocktails and sells their wines to go as well. Allday hangouts with great tunes include Skatzochiros Bar on Siokou Street, the classic Mavros Gatos, and Raspberry Caffeine & Alcohol, which also boasts great views of the Palamidi fortress. N.B.

9. The Anapliotis promenade

This beloved route begins at the harbor of Nafplio and then hugs a sheer rock face studded with prickly pear trees until Arvanitia Beach, from where you can continue on to Karathona Beach or to the Palamidi fortress. Tradition has it that 999 steps lead to the fortress’ entrance, but in truth there are just 857. N.B.

10. Art for all ages Fougaro is an established arts center for

12. Products from Trachia The village of Trachia is only a few kilometers south of the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. Here at Katsouli’s, you can find traditional dairy products and cheese for sale. Stop by on the way back to Athens to stock up on homemade leavened bread, sharp feta

FOUGARO ART CENTER

cheese and sweet graviera cheese. L.K.

13. Sailing in Porto Heli

Another way to explore this cosmopolitan resort area is to rent a boat and visit the islets of Korakia and Hinitsa, hidden Kounoupi Beach and plenty of small bays that have no name. E.A.

14. A French lady at Iliokastro

Refined flavors, great meat dishes, a short but interesting menu and a lovely courtyard characterize the Maryvonne family restaurant (Tel. (+30) 27540.913.52), which has turned Iliokastro, a quaint mountain village, into a culinary destination. Highlights include the rooster in wine sauce or in beer sauce, and the slow-cooked lamb, available only after prior request. Reservation required. A.M.

15. Before the performance Take a morning swim at Gialasi Beach in Ancient Epidaurus. If it’s too busy, head towards Kalymnios and its “sunken city,” where, with the naked eye, you can spot Mycenaean tombs and amphorae on the sea floor. L.K. MAINL AND 2020

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ARCADIA 16. Hiking across Pan’s land

One of the best ways to get to know the mythical homeland of the ancient Greek god Pan is to walk the Menalon Trail, a serpentine 75km route that begins in Stemnitsa and finishes at Lagadia (menalontrail.eu). Our favorite parts include the Stemnitsa-Dimitsana section (12.5 km/5 hours/difficult) across the Lousios Gorge that goes by the Prodromos and Filosopou monasteries, and the Elati-Vytina section (8.5 m/2.5 hours/ moderate difficulty) that winds through plane trees and past a number of important sights, including the Makrinou Fountain and a series of abandoned watermills. E.A.

17. Dimitsana of the water

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After you wander its cobbled alleys lined with old mansions, you’ll learn at the Open-Air Water Power Museum of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) how water forged the identity of Dimitsana. With its watermills and tanneries, industry thrived here, and in wartime, the gunpowder mills greatly contributed to the Greek War of Independence. Open daily except Tue, 10:00-18:00, Tel. (+30) 27950.316.30, piop.gr, E.A.

18. Sweet Stemnitsa

Steep alleyways, stone houses with wooden loggias, chapels; whatever your choice, the best walks in Stemnitsa always have a sweet ending. At the kafeneio (traditional coffee shop) Gerousia, you’ll find tasty portokalopita (syrupy orange cake) and galaktoboureko (custard pie) prepared by Arbaroriza pastry shop. You can also buy delicious glyka tou koutaliou (spoon sweets) and amygdalota (almond cookies) at Arkadiko. O.C.

19. Delicious Vytina

You should visit this famous winter destination during the summer for… supplies. Renowned feta cheese and goat’s milk yogurt from Tsatsoulis, pasta and other local products from the Palia Agora store and amazing honey and jams from Liaropoulos. O.C.

20. Genuine farm-to-table

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ry is embodied at Zerzova (Tel. (+30) 27950.317.53), a wonderful traditional taverna in the village of Panaghia that boasts great wines, meat from animals reared on site, many local dairy products produced in-house and traditional savory pies and pastas. N.D.

21. The symbol of Tegea

The marble Temple of Athina Alea, one of the most important in the Peloponnese, was constructed in the mid-4th century BC by Scopas, the architect and sculptor from Paros. The ruins we see today are actually the temple’s foundations. The fourth and final room of the exceptional Archaeological Museum of Tegea in Alea is dedicated to this renowned Arcadian temple, which “comes to life” through 3D representations and state-of-the-art technology. Open daily except Tue, 09:00-16:00, Tel. (+30) 27105.56.540. A.M.

22. The ascent to Kosmas

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Starting from Leonidio, a 29km journey along meandering roads brings you to Kosmas, a village in the Parnon Mountains located at an elevation of 1127m and nestled in verdant pine forests. The quaint square of this mountain village offers an ideal escape from the summer heat. E.A.

23. Local flavors The restaurant Myrtoon in Poulithra, very close to Leonidio, sits by the waters of the Myrtoon Gulf. This eatery specializes in Mediterranean dishes and local cuisine. Tel. (+30) 27570.513.39. E.A. 24. The Fabbrica at Leonidio The Fabbrica of Culture, housed in a historic building that once served as a power plant, features exhibits on the region’s history, local gastronomy and dance (some researchers claim these dances are rooted in antiquity). Open: Mon-Fri 08:00-15:00, Sat 11:00-13:00, Sun 18:30-20:30, Tel. (+30) 27573.602.02. E.A. 25. Swimming in Fokianos While the journey to Fokianos may be tiring, the effort you expend reaching this pebble beach will be rewarded. Enjoy your swim with the slopes of Mt Parnon as an impressive backdrop. E. A. MAINL AND 2020

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STROFILIA FOREST

ACHAIA 26. On the Train in Vouraikos Gorge

The cog railway is like a time machine transporting you to the late 19th century, when it was built to link Diakopto and Kalavryta via the Vouraikos Gorge. The landscape is largely untouched, although the trains and their infrastructure have been upgraded since. The journey lasts an hour and is by reservation only (Tel. (+30) 26910.43206). When you reach Kalavryta, head to Café Stathmos for some refreshments. E.A.

27. Tentura liqueur stop

While in Patra, make time for a visit to Castro Spirits (Tel. (+30) 2610.277.077), a distillery and store on Aghiou Nikolaou Street, to pick up a bottle of proper Tentura. This traditional liqueur comes in all sorts of flavors – classic, semi-sweet, masticha and sour cherry – and there are alsosyrup and loukoumia (Turkish delight) versions. E.A.

28. Archaeological Museum of Patra This isn’t your typical archaeological museum, either in terms of location (it’s inside a very modern building designed by Bobotis 102

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and Bobotis Architects, with a domed roof made of titanium sheets) or taxonomy (the exhibition is arranged according to subject rather than geography or chronology). Highlights include the mosaic floors and the miniature Roman-era replica of the gold and ivory statue of Athena that once graced the Parthenon. (Daily 08:00-20:00, Tel. (+30) 2613.616.100, www.ampatron.gr). E.A.

29. Strofylia’s umbrella pines

Nature buffs mustn’t miss Strofylia Forest, home to the umbrella pine, or Pinus pinea, which lends the landscape something of an exotic African note. The forest grows down to the beach of Kalogria, whose sand dunes are also reminiscent of Africa. It is an absolute delight for hikers (with eight routes), cyclists (four routes, but C2 is best avoided), birdwatchers and landscape photographers. (Forest Management, Tel. (+30) 26930.319.39). E.A.

30. Cave of the Lakes and Planitero The Cave of the Lakes, or Kastria, is just 17km from Kalavryta and well worth a visit for its crystalline waters and weird rock formations. Make sure to wear long sleeves or a light jacket, because

the temperature inside the cave is never above 16°C (Open: Mon-Fri 09:0016:30, Sat-Sun 09:00-17:30, Tel. (+30) 26920.310.01). Wrap up the excursion with a visit to the village of Planitero for delicious trout and a walk among the plane trees. N.B.

31. Going in circles at the river

A great way to really appreciate the attraction of the area of Ladonas River is the 55km route starting from the village of Dafni that runs through Kontovazena and Paos before returning to Dafni. The natural landscape is beautifully lush and there are plenty of opportunities for a refreshing swim. In Dafni, try the homemade pizza at Ferles (Tel. (+30) 26920.714.44), served in its flower-filled courtyard. N.B.

32. A meal among the trees Located on a verdant hillside on Mt Erymathos, 25km from Kalavryta, Ano Vlasia is renowned for the waterfalls, known as Taxiarches, at the southern end of the village. For a meal, head to nearby Tsapournia and to the fir-shaded balcony of the taverna Zacharakis (Tel. (+30) 26940.913.55). N.B.


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ILEIA 33. Olympia

With a major archaeological site and three museums (one on archaeology, one on the history of the ancient Olympics and one focused on the excavations themselves), Olympia is not to be rushed through. Set aside at least half a day to to enjoy its treasures: the restored monument to King Philip II of Macedonia, the statue of Hermes crafted by Praxiteles, the splendid west pediment on the Temple of Zeus (depicting intoxicated Centaurs abducting Lapith women), and so much more. Open daily 08:00-20:00, Tel. (+30) 26240.225.17). E.A.

34. Kaiafa tranquility

Located on Kyparissia Bay, Kaiafas is renowned for its lake (which is also used by waterskiing enthusiasts and clubs) and its sandy beach (with pretty lilies growing everywhere), which is quieter and more untouched that other parts of the bay. E.A.

35. Sunset at Kakovatos

Just south of Kaifas, Kakovatos is another sandy stretch of beach, best known – as is most of the Ileia coastline – for its spectacular sunsets and good seafood tavernas. E.A.

36. Nemouta Waterfalls

Nerotrivi, Haratsari, Ai-Yiannis are just some of the cool natural pools and waterfalls waiting to be explored in the Ileia hinterland. The area’s walking trails have not been signposted yet, so be on the safe 104

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side and contact Eco Action (Tel. (+30) 697.840.0540) for advice or to arrange a two-hour guided excursion. E.A.

37. A historic winery

Most wine aficionados recognize Korakochori as the home of the Mercouri Estate (Tel. (+30) 26210.416.01), which has been in the business of winemaking for over a century. Visits to the estate include a tour of the family-owned vineyard, which is like something plucked from a fairytale, and tastings that reveal the range of its wines. E.A.

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nation among nature buffs. If you’re new to the area, you can get a good idea of the vibe by following the route from the Environmental Museum to the village of Foloi (best done on bicycle, but also great on foot or by car). E.A.

41. Trout galore

Mylos (Tel. (+30) 26920.513.80) is a fish farm and taverna; the eatery is housed in an old watermill on the banks of Erymanthos River in Astra. Enjoy a meal of fresh trout and then hang out in the shade of the plane trees. E.A.

38. Ancient technological marvels

42. Wandering around Andritsena

39. The wise owl Named after the Greek word for owl, Kukuvaya (Tel. (+30) 26210.421.81) is a gift shop in Katakolo where you can pick up special souvenirs such as educational games inspired by Greek mythology, three-dimensional puzzles of Greek animals, and handmade statues inspired by classical art. E.A.

43. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Keep your eyes peeled on the snaking road leading to the “Parthenon of the Peloponnese,” the first Greek monument to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1986. You’re looking for Bassae and the wonderful late 4th-century BC temple that is attributed to Iktinos. It may be hidden beneath a giant protective tent and surrounded by conservation equipment, but it – and its location – is no less awe-inspiring. Open daily 08:0019:45. G.T.

Katakolo may be small, but it’s got a few cool surprises in store, like the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology (Tel. (+30) 693.183.1530). Among other great inventions and discoveries, you’ll see a Pythagorean cup and the wine mixing and serving apparatus designed by Philon. It is slated to open in late July. E.A.

40. Cycling through the oak forest Filled with stately oaks and other grand trees, Foloi Forest is a very popular desti-

Perched on the western slope of Mt Lykeo, Andritsena is a quiet force in the region, noted for its simple stone houses and a lack of annoying business signs. Take a walk around its streets and pick up some local products such as hylopites (noodles) and sausages from the small shops. E.A.

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CORINTHIA 44. A terrace for gourmands

The man-made lake of Doxa, created to protect the fields of the Feneos plain, which is famous for its beans, is ideal for hiking and cycling. End your trip at the taverna Trikrina (Tel. (+30) 27470.410.33) for locally reared meat. N.B.

45. Watching the ships go by At the submersible bridge of Isthmia, at the end of the Corinth Canal, the scene has an 1980s feel: a children’s playground, tables and chairs with a view of the canal and amateur fishermen at their task. Park in the parking lot and take your time: ship-spotting requires patience. But when the bridge is submerged, the boats will pass so close you could almost hop on board. A.M. 46. Swimming and antiquities

Combine a swim and a stroll through history against the backdrop of the Geraneia mountains. Lake Vouliagmeni joins the sea through a narrow canal and is ideal for swimming. End the day with a visit to remains of the temple of Hera, around 1 km away, then walk up to watch the sunset from the lighthouse (built in 1897) on the Melagavi peninsula. A.M.

47. The twin Kouroi of Klenia The new wing of the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth introduces the visitor to the concept of the city-state 106

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through various aspects of everyday life. However, the most moving display comes a little before the end, in the hall with the famous Kouroi of Klenia – the only archaic funerary statue group found in Greece – which were confiscated from antiquity smugglers in 2010. On their bodies you can discern the damage from the plough that drove over them. Open daily 8:0020:00, Tel. (+30 ) 27410.312.07. A.M.

48. A plunge in Kalogerolimano

Take the exit towards Epidaurus, turn towards the village of Amoni and after around 8 km (and a stretch of relatively smooth dirt track) you have arrived. Kalogerolimano has large pebbles, clean waters and pines at one end offering natural shade. Take care, the water gets deep suddenly. E.A.

49. At the Nemea vineyards The cellars of the 38 wineries of one of the most important wine-growing regions in Greece – home to the Agiorgitiko variety – promise a complete wine tourism experience. The Nemea PDO wine is the heir to the ancient Fliasio wine drunk during the Nemean Games. Experience your own version of the movie “Sideways” using the map you can pick up at the Nemea Winemakers Society (30 Dervenakion, Tel. (+30) 27460.224.87). Tip: The Great Days of Nemea festival, a celebration of the grape harvest (2830/8), offers a first-class opportunity to get to know the wines of the region. A.M.

A MUSEUM FOR NATURE

Crossing the vineyards of the Corinthian highlands, the landscape takes your breath away. On the horizon, majestic mountain ranges give way to one another – Zireia, Oligyrtos, Mavrovouni, Gravias – and lower down, you are greeted by the sight of the southernmost wetland of the Balkans: Stymphalia. On the slope of one of the lush hills that surround the lake, where, according to Greek mythology, Hercules defeated the Stymphalian Birds, stands a beautiful building, in perfect harmony with the landscape, that houses the Environment Museum of Stymphalia of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation. Its finely curated collection relates to the legends of the lake, its geological features, its flora and fauna, and the history of human habitation as well as the traditional occupations that developed in the area. The most remarkable exhibit is a cross section of the lake, with live fish and plants. Over the next few months, between July 29 and October 31, the temporary exhibition “Untamed Nature” by the well-known sculptor Afroditi Liti, created to reflect the spirit of the museum, will focus on the harmonious coexistence of mankind with the environment and history. Her representations of birds and animals convey the majesty of nature, as well as the need to protect it. Open daily except Tue, 10:00-18:00. Tel. (+30) 27470.222.96, piop.gr. N.B.


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(Tel. (+30) 27330.513.27). O.C.

50. Nights in Areopoli Charming Areopoli deserves a visit no matter what, but it is best to time your visit for the evening. That way, you will feel the pulse of the nightlife in the stonepaved alleys with their tasteful bars, such as Bukka and Aula. For a more relaxed scene, go to the Sti Rouga café-bar in Pyrgos Dirou. O.C.

53. Mystical Agitria

51. The “king” of caves

54. Cape Tenaro

Although only a limited part of the route through Vlychada Cave in Diros (a total of 300m by boat and 300m on foot) is open to the public this summer, the spectacle of the stalactites and stalagmites is unforgettable. Masks are required. Daily 9:0017:00, Tel. (+30) 27330.522.22/3. A.M.

52. Atmosphere at Limeni When the sun starts to set, head to Limeni. You will witness an amazing sunset and enjoy the twilight gazing on the stone houses from the tables of Takis’ taverna right on the water’s edge 108

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In the unforgiving landscape of the Mani, with its barren rocky terrain, the intense light and stone villages with their tower houses, the tamest place is the chapel of Panaghia Agitria. It is located next to the Tigani peninsula, and can be reached via a half-hour hike. In the afternoon, it is bathed in a golden light. O.C.

The hike to the lighthouse takes 45 minutes, but take the time to learn the whole story in order to get the most out of the experience. The ancient Greeks believed that the tip of the peninsula was the gate to Hades. It is here that the boatman collected the souls of the dead to take them to the underworld. Here, too, was a sanctuary to Poseidon, god of the frequently raging seas. This is where Orpheus is said to have descended to claim back his beloved Eurydice, and where Hercules fought Cerberus in his 12th and final labor. O.C.

55. Return to the familiar The beaches of Mani have their “returnees,” who visit every year to find things as they left them. You will find them at Vathy with its coarse sand and Caretta caretta loggerhead turtles, and at the family-friendly Skoutari with its shallow waters and the Byzantine chapel of Aghia Varvara on the water’s edge. A.M. 56. Two secret tavernas In the non-touristy villages of Horiari and Liberdo (also known as Platanos) you will find the tavernas Veatriki (Tel. (+30) 27330.938.04) and Mouria (Tel. (+30) 27330.914.64). The first is famed for its traditional comfort food, the second for its grilled meat. O.C. 57. Monemvasia by night The citadel in summer is ideal for a nighttime stroll, to avoid the heat and humidity. Walk down the alleys and along the sea wall at dusk. It is enough to make you feel like a the hero of a fairy tale. O.C.


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58. Malvasia at the source

Some winemakers don’t just make wine; they attempt to restore history. One such winemaker is Giorgos Tsibidis of Monemvasia Winery, who revived the sweet wine Malvasia, which is mentioned in historical sources dating back as far as the 13th century. At his winery in Velies you can taste the PDO wine made from a blend of the Monemvasia, Kydonitsa, Asproudes and Assyrtiko varieties. Tel. (+30) 27320.530.96. E.A.

59. At the Cape Maleas lighthouse The trail starts in Aghios Myronas, a little outside the beautiful island-style village of Velanidia, and takes about one and a half hours. The location and the lighthouse are charming in themselves, but ideally you will find the lighthouse keepers, who will tell you about the local lore and their way of life. O.C. 60. Laconian flavors

The Neraida taverna is located on the edge of the village of Aghios Nikolaos, almost hidden in a gully. Their specialties include caramelized pork shank, sweet

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braised Vatika onion yachni (stew) and tsaiti, a pie with a fresh goat-cheese filling. Delicious sweets top everything off. Open from the afternoon. Tel. (+30) 27340.312.27. N.D.

61. A museum for the olive Fossilized olive leaves 50,000-60,000 years old, copies of Linear B tablets with the first written evidence of olive oil production and reconstructions of prehistoric, Hellenistic and Byzantine olive presses are among the exhibits in the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation in Sparta, which is dedicated to the tree that is synonymous with Greece. Daily except Tue 10:00-18:00, Tel. (+30) 27310.89315, piop.gr. E.A. 62. From the caique

In the harbor of Gerakas (or the “village on the fjord,” as it is sometimes called) is the taverna Diamatis, serving “salamoura” salad (crab, shrimp and squid in an olive and lemon dressing) and fresh fish carpaccio. The taverna has its own traditional caique fishing boat. Tel. (+30) 27320.238.49. E.A.

63. Sunken city

A trip to the magical beaches of Elafonisos is worth it in its own right. But on the 10-minute boat trip out there from Viglafia keep your eyes peeled in the shallows and on the islet of Pavlopetri for the remains of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age settlement, which is considered the oldest known sunken city. O.C.

64. An island on the mainland

Kyparissi is a sandy cove with clear blue waters near the border between Laconia and Arcadia. Here you’ll find two or three tavernas, as many guesthouses and plenty of peace and quiet. Go there before it is discovered. L.K.

65. At Talanta watermill

Every Saturday between 10:00 and 15:00 the traditional watermill in the village of Talanta in the Laconian hinterland comes alive to turn wheat into a first-class dark wholemeal flour. It is worth witnessing the process up close, before hiking some of the little-known trails in the area. Tel. (+30) 697.721.2475. E.A.


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MESSINIA 66. Gastro-souvenirs in Kalamata For the crispiest lalagia (fried pretzel-like treats), head to Androvitsanea bakery (Tel. (+30) 27210.248.98), for the finest Messinian olive oil to Trofopoleio 51 (Tel. (+30) 27210.826.13) , and for traditional Kalamata pasteli (sesame snap), to the outlets of Lambou (Tel. (+30) 27210.227.38) . L.K. 67. Dancers in the square

The internationally acclaimed Kalamata Dance Festival will go ahead this year, implementing new safety measures. Twelve free public shows will be staged on the central square from 21-29 August. L.K.

68. Fish feasts and roasted pigs For fresh fish where the locals eat it, head for Mouria (Tel. (+30) 27210.821.12) on Kalamata’s western beach. Please note that the taverna closes in the afternoon, as soon as the day’s catch runs out. Fresh fish is also served at Krini (Tel. (+30) 27210.244.74), while if you want to sample the traditional gourounopoula (roasted pork) at Thiasos (Tel. (+30) 27210.884.07)

make sure you get there early because it’s in very high demand! L.K.

and 1918. The locals will tell you their story. E.A.

69. A wonderful collection Traditional women’s costumes from Evros, decorative coins from Pindos, uniforms worn by the guard of King Otto, and many other interesting exhibits make up the Victoria Karelia Collection of Greek Costumes in Kalamata. The presentation of the exhibits is sleek and modern, making use of cutting-edge technology. (Tel. (+30) 27210.869.23, www.vgkareliascollection.com). L.K.

72. Under the plane tree Stop at Platanos café (Tel. (+30) 27210.745.93), in the village of Thalames, for their omelets, their tomato fritters and many other tasty meze dishes. Make the most of the chance to cool down in the shade of the plane tree before venturing into the heat of Mani. L.K.

70. Dips and treats at Kitries It may be part of the Kalamata Riviera, but it’s on the farthest end and attracts the smallest crowds; the little bay of Kitries is ideal for swimming followed by delicious mezes in one of the two tavernas. L.K.

73. Kardamyli at dusk As the sun goes down, Kardamyli gets much cooler. Close to the entrance to the settlement, just past a bridge, you will see signs to Palia Kardamyli. Walking past imposing stone houses, you will reach the Troupakis-Mourtzinos Tower (built by an old, powerful Mani family) and the church of Aghios Spyridonas. L.K.

71. At Zorbas’ Kalogria This is a popular sandy beach, thanks to its beauty and literary fame: it was here, on Kalogria Beach, that two friends, Nikos Kazantzakis and Giorgis (not Alexis) Zorbas lived for two years, between 1916

74. Paddy’s house The British author Patrick Leigh Fermor and his wife Joan, famous philhellenes, bequeathed their home in Kardamyli to the Benaki Museum in 1996, with the request that, after their passing, it would MAINL AND 2020

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be used as a cultural hub and accommodation for researchers. Every Monday, Elpida Belogianni, the housekeeper, runs guided tours of the renovated house by appointment (leighfermorhouse@benaki. gr). The three buildings are also available to rent (ariahotels.gr). A.M.

75. Pick your beach

Between Finikounda and Koroni, seek out Tsapi Beach, where there is a small taverna, and Faneromeni a.k.a. Ammoudi, accessible via a complex network of dirt trails from Vasilitsi village. The latter has no taverna, but you will be rewarded with peace and quiet, and two consecutive beaches with caves and red pebbles. O.C.

76. Ancient Messene

One of the most “intelligible” archaeological parks in Greece, because it fully conveys to visitors the layout of the ancient city (founded in the 4th century BC) and its evolution over time, with the modern settlement overlooking it from above, and also because of the tireless restoration efforts of professor Petros Themelis and his team. If you’re lucky enough to be there during one of the 112

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professor’s guided tours, ask to join – hearing him talk of his life’s work is a special privilege. Open daily 8:00-20:00, Tel. (+30) 27240.512.01. G.T.

77. Discovering Andromonastiro

Wonderfully restored and relatively unknown, this 12th-century monastery-fortress has a fascinating tale to tell, as well as secrets that excite the imagination – from hidden punishment chambers to irregular steps designed to be booby traps for invaders. Ioannis Kleftogiannis, who was one of the engineers that undertook its restoration, is an excellent host and tour guide (Tel. (+30) 694.624.5114). Open daily 8:00-15:30. G.T.

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Castle, an important commercial hub of the Mediterranean. in the Middle Ages. After admiring the octagonal Bourtzi, head to the nearby beaches to watch the sun set behind the towers and fortification walls. Open daily 8:30-20:00 except Tue, Tel. (+30) 27230.287.58. O.C.

80. Sailing in Sphakteria For an alternative view of the Bay of Navarino, where a crucial battle in the Greek War of Independence took place, set sail on one of the boats departing from Pylos (Tel. (+30) 694.503.4205). You’ll be taken as far as the Tsichli Baba islet or the larger Sphakteria, where you can walk among the monuments to the fallen. O.C.

78. Voidokilia Its perfect “omega” shape revealed from above has earned it international fame, especially after the opening of the neighboring Costa Navarino, but how much you will enjoy your swim will depend on whether there are crowds. Try it early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. G.T.

81. The time of Foneas

79. Sunset in Methoni

GREECE IS TEAM: Eleftheria Alavanou, Natasha Blatsiou, Olga Charami, Nena Dimitriou, Lina Kapetaniou, Alexandra Mandrakou

Take an afternoon stroll around Methoni

To get a spot in the only natural shade of Foneas Beach – beneath an overhang on the left side – you need to get there early. The pebble beach features a massive rock that splits it in two and clear blue waters. Take water and supplies. L.K.


SUMMER IN THE CITY ATHENS RIVIERA l BEACHES IN ATTICA l THESSALONIKI

You don’t have to travel far afield from your vacation base to discover exciting new places and activity options during your stay in the city. ILLUSTRATION BY ANNA TZORTZI

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THE ATHENS

RIVIERA There’s an amazing stretch of shoreline that runs from Athens all the way to Sounio, past luxurious resorts, glamorous beach clubs and exotic swimming spots, bringing a cosmopolitan coastal charm to the capital city. B Y K E L L Y S T AV R O P O U L O U

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he first place I visited the day the lockdown was lifted in early May was Sounio. To be more precise, it was that small rock in Sounio. Located on a hidden beach in front of a house – you need to know where to go – this rock is smooth, as flat as a pancake and only a little higher than the level of the sea. After such a long time, when the only escape I could access was either inside my house or in my neighborhood streets, it almost went without saying that I would head to this particular beach. From the northern suburbs of Athens, it took about 116

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40 minutes to reach this spot. With the green waters, the hot sensation of the rock and the blue horizon stretching out before me, I felt as if the rock had been put there just for me. Of all the countless times I have gone swimming or shopping, eaten a meal or taken a stroll, enjoyed a coffee or stayed in a hotel along the Athenian coastline, I’d never appreciated its value as much as I did that day. I remembered the words of someone who works in the tourism industry, who once said that Athens isn’t much different from an island, if you think about it: it has its center (a proverbial

Hora) and, just as on the larger islands, the beach is just a 30-minute drive away!

THE GOOD LIFE This particular “beach” – that is to say, the Athens Riviera – is about 70km long. In 1954, Kathimerini newspaper published an article about how the beachfront area of Athens could be developed and eventually become more popular than the Côte d’Azur of the French Riviera, a rather unusual opinion for the time. A few years later, the restructuring of the coastline began with the creation of Asteria Beach in Glyfada. At the same time,


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Calm and relaxation in the green waters of Lake Vouliagmeni (left). Games in the sand on one of the many Riviera beaches. The coastline has something for everyone.

scenes in contemporary Greek cinema promoted an image of the good times that could be had in the wider area. Characteristic images from these days include shots of the airport at Elliniko, the first in the country, with the foulards of cosmopolitan ladies fluttering in the wind; of the bells of Asteras in Vouliagmeni; of water skiers skimming over the turquoise waters of Lemos in Vouliagmeni; and of new-model convertibles driving along the route from Faliro to Varkiza.

STARTING POINT: SOUNIO This might seem a little backwards,

but I like to start the long and enjoyable route along the coastline at the Temple of Poseidon. Dedicated to the god of the sea by the ancient Athenians, this structure, built on a high rock butte in Sounio, gazes out over the Aegean. For me, the word “sunset” always conjures up images of this precise location – not Santorini. A few minutes away, on Legrenon Avenue, you’ll find the taverna Theodoros and Eleni, which serves what I consider to be the most delicious mussels in Athens. Sautéed in garlic and wine, they’re always served with French fries, a wonderful Greek version of the classic “moules-frites.” In the

same area, Cape Sounio Hotel offers a five-star alternative for gastronomy and hospitality. The bungalows, nestled in pine trees and featuring private swimming pools and endless views of the Aegean, are the best option, while the same luxurious setting can also be found at Grand Resort Lagonissi a little further down. This independent resort, with its beaches, swimming pools and restaurants, conveys the impression that, once you enter, you never really have to go anywhere else until you leave. Most Athenians have visited at least once, if only as guests at a wedding reception. MAINL AND 2020

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ATHENS ISN’T MUCH DIFFERENT FROM AN ISLAND, IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT: IT HAS ITS CENTER (A PROVERBIAL HORA) AND, JUST AS ON THE LARGER ISLANDS, THE BEACH IS JUST A 30-MINUTE DRIVE AWAY!

ALL-DAY BEACH RESORTS As we continue along the coast we come across Varkiza where, this year, we welcome a much-awaited opening. Coyocan Playa, located in Varkiza Resort (the former Yabanaki), is the younger brother of the bar-restaurant in Thiseio that goes by the same name. This year, it is offering a high-quality beach concept, with boho decor. It seems that the owners have traveled to Tulum, in Mexico, and wanted to recreate the atmosphere of its beach bars right here. I would say that this has been largely very successful – plus the sea in Varkiza is much better than that of Tulum. Those who manage to reserve a sun lounger or pouf on the sand really should try the Mediterranean-Mexican menu, which has an emphasis on seafood (everything from ceviche to lobster spaghetti). For a more classic option, and one of the more refined choices on the Riviera and in Athens in general, I recommend Island, located a little further down. Owner and founder Chrystanthos Panas, who knows the Athenian restaurant industry better than most, has been talking for decades about how the true value of this city resides in its coastline. In fact, he might just be the person who introduced the term “Athens Riviera” into our vocabulary. Island Club Restaurant is built on a large rock on the edge of the sea, where Greek and international guests are known to dock their yachts before walking a short distance to the restaurant or to area clubs. Here, they can enjoy an exquisite dinner under the stars or a refreshing cocktail, an experience that could easily turn into an evening of dancing until sunrise. I think we all have memories of such nights on this city “island.” THE “FOUR SEASONS” CHAPTER A few sharp turns later and we’re al-

ready in Vouliagmeni. In terms of location, natural beauty and facilities, Vouliagmeni is the crown jewel in the Riviera’s crown. This is where Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens is located. Inspired by the historic glamour of the original Astir Palace Hotel, this landmark hotel, featuring 303 rooms and stretching across nearly three hectares of verdant landscape on the coast of the Athenian Riviera, was renovated last year to become the first Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts in Greece. The luxury and sophistication of this unique experience can be briefly encapsulated as follows: three private beaches connected via a 300-meter walkway; three swimming pools; five tennis courts; facilities for nearly every water sport under the sun; a 1000-sq.m spa that operates based on the philosophy of Hippocrates (considered the Father of Medicine); and eight different restaurants catering to all tastes and gastronomic preferences. This year, the talented Luca Piscazzi is at the helm of Mercato, one of the restaurants located in the renovated Nafsika building, to which he brings his extensive experience from a three-Michelin star restaurant in London, and his expertise in Italian cuisine. Special mention goes to the restaurant Matsuhisa Athens, just a few meters away, that Nobu Matsuhisa himself has dubbed the most beautiful of all his restaurants in the world.

VOULIAGMENI HAS IT ALL Divani Apollon is another iconic hotel in Vouliagmeni – it is impossible for me not to turn my head towards the imposing structure on Poseidonos Avenue. The key word here is “thalassotherapy,” since this is the only place in Athens where this beneficial body treatment is offered. © DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

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01. At play on the grass of Eleftheriou Venizelou Square, right next to the sea in Voula.

03. At Flisvos Marina, moments before the sun sets and the sky turns gold.

02. Skateboarders at Chariton Square in Glyfada.

04. Ice cream from a vendor on the beach at Palio Faliro.

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02 01. Afternoons at Skipper’s, the all-time classic haunt at Alimos Marina. 02. Stylish dips, privacy and 5-star service at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens.

As far as the neighboring Margi Hotel is concerned, this boutique hospitality option features an exotic, almost mystical atmosphere around its swimming pool. This is where you’ll find the Malabar Restaurant, a modern eatery that’s a special destination in its own right. Opening their own farm in 2015, in Kalivia just a few kilometers away, was a great move for the Margi; the hotel restaurant is now supplied with produce from this green expanse filled with olive trees and vegetable and herb gardens. What’s more, the area immediately around the farm is also available for unique dining experiences. The area around Vouliagmeni also of120

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fers a wide range of choices and experiences. For starters, there is its celebrated lake: rough rocks, a mysterious cave, pine trees, thermal hot springs, a natural fish spa, sun loungers on a wooden deck and delicious snacks served all day. Astir Beach is yet another classic option, where a reservation in advance to secure sun loungers has been necessary for years now. This beach completely fulfills the “To see and to be seen” need, and this is why we recommend you make your reservation a few days in advance to ensure your… place in the sun. The other place to be seen is Krabo Beach, a little further down. This restaurant-beach bar that was opened last year by architect Yiagos Agiostratitis, who also designed the space, became a hit overnight. It boasts a boho-chic atmosphere, natural shade from the stylish bamboo awnings and pergolas, straw on the roof that im-

parts a sense of permanent movement, wooden tables, cacti, Aztec patterns on the oversized pillows, wonderful cocktails and delicious food. It goes without saying that reservations are necessary. Ithaki Restaurant is as classic as a walk around Vouliagmeni itself. As children, we would go with our parents for the best fresh fish, and now we always stop by there with our own children (and friends) when there’s something to celebrate. The restaurant BlueFish Vouliagmeni is one of the area’s newcomers, bringing, I dare say, something of the new Mykonos aura to the mainland: fresh fish and other seafood carefully presented, an extensive list of fine wines and champagnes, and professional service. It’s not uncommon for a midday lunch to turn into a party with lively music that runs into the early evening, and those who come here always have a great time. Of course, I mustn’t forget Waffle House, the famous hangout that makes it hard not to stop for a delicious waffle, or even just a scoop of ice cream from their broad selection.

OUR VERY OWN MIAMI As you leave Vouliagmeni behind and enter a more urban environment, it’s almost like the vacation is slowly ending, although it’s still just as summery here. Let’s call Glyfada something like our own Miami – with palm trees, countless cafés, shopping boutiques, relaxed restaurants, trendy bars and residents who are the envy of other Athenians for their year-round tan. Huracan is one of the area’s best restaurants, especially if you love contrasts, such as what you’ll find by pairing their spicy ceviche with their refreshing cocktails. My personal favorite in Glyfada is Amigos, my oasis featuring relaxed attitudes, Mexican comfort food and frozen margaritas. You’ll find cool classic and inventive drinks at Holy Spirit, the funky bar that showed Athenians a more relaxed way to enjoy well-crafted cocktails. Regulars come here directly from the beach for a lazy drink or for its well-known parties. In the days before Covid-19, the place was packed. Now, with social distancing regulations in place, people can take their drink to go if there are no seats available.


ADVERTORIAL

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Accommodation options at the hotel range from beautifully appointed lightfilled rooms and suites to ultra-exclusive garden bungalows. At Nafsika, azure sea views dominate every room and suite – including some with private pools. For guests seeking more space and privacy, and perhaps a little nostalgia, Four Seasons offers the Bungalows, originally built in the 1960s and offering the feeling of a true Greek summer house. A selection of dining choices awaits, from the beachfront Taverna 37 showcasing local Greek specialties and deliciously fresh seafood, to Mercato, the stylish Italian trattoria, serving homemade pasta and pizzas; and Avra cocktail lounge and terrace, which is peaceful during the day and playful in the evening. Health and safety remain a priority at Four Seasons. To ensure a safe environment for guests and employees, Four Seasons properties across the globe are implementing Lead With Care, a comprehensive health and safety program designed in consultation with leading medical experts. As Four Seasons Athens reopens its doors, the entire team is committed to ensuring the highest standards of health and hygiene, without, of course, ever compromising the quality of the guest experience. *Take advantage of the Athenian Riviera Escape – 20% Off package and treat yourself to the perfect vacation for even less! For more details, please go to fourseasons. com/athens


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The setting at the Island Club & Restaurant transports its patrons far from the mainland.

FROM FLISVOS TO THE GOOD VIEWS The marinas of the Athenian Riviera fall into a category of their own. The most beautiful is probably Flisvos Marina, in Palio Faliro. Most of the 302 berths are occupied by large yachts (over 35 meters) and many of them aren’t owned by Greeks. It’s important to note that the marina and its surroundings are also enjoyed by the area’s residents – and people who live further afield – who come to cycle, go shopping or just enjoy views of the sea with a glass of ouzo or wine at one of the restaurants. It’s also a great place to take young children, as they can enjoy the promenade as they eat their ice cream. After Flisvos comes the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). Designed by famed architect Renzo Piano, it houses the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece; what’s more, it’s surrounded by a 20-hectare park with landscaped walking paths and a playground. The architect, noted the connection between the city of Athens and the sea, which he considered to be disrupted by Poseidonos Avenue, and made it a priority to reestablish, through his design, the natural and conceptual relationship between the city and the sea. The result is none other than this gem, visited by residents and visitors alike for a host of reasons. Some come for the opera performances, others for the park, 122

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and some just to admire the view from the Lighthouse, the highest point of the SNFCC, out over the Gulf of Faliro and back towards the Acropolis.

VACATION LAUNCHPAD The coastal road ends at Piraeus, which has its own character and follows its own rules. This port city, featured in songs, films, history and legend, has always been part of our summer vacations. This is where we all come every summer, if only to board one of the ferries to the islands. In a very real sense, Piraeus is always the starting point of our vacation. And, since we’ve come this far, a stop at chef Lefteris Lazarou’s Varoulko Seaside on Akti Koumoundourou is de rigueur for the great view and the best seafood in town, as its two Michelin stars indicate. Closer to the port, in an old industrial area, you’ll find the wine bar Paleo Wine Store, a wonderful and rather strange place with a rough, maritime character. Nonetheless, the quality of the wine, the attention to detail in the dishes and the warm welcome will quickly let you know you’re in safe and very capable hands. I can’t think of an ending that could do justice to this variegated journey along the endless Athenian coastline. Let’s just close by being thankful that, in this very different summer, we’ll still have all that the Athens Riviera has to offer.

• Theodoros and Eleni Taverna, Legrenon, Legrena, Tel. (+30) 22920.519.36 • Cape Sounio Hotel, 67th km Athens-Sounio, Sounio, Tel. (+30) 22920.697.00 • Grand Resort Lagonissi, 40th km Athens-Sounio, Lagonissi, Tel. (+30) 22910.760.00 • Coyoacan Playa Varkiza Resort (former Yabanaki beach), Varkiza, Tel. (+30) 694.866.8855 • Island Club Restaurant, 27th km Athens-Sounio, Varkiza, Tel. (+30) 210.892.5000 • Four Seasons Αstir Palace Hotel Athens, 40 Apollonos, Tel. (+30) 210.890.1000 • Matsuhisa Athens, Tel. (+30) 210.896.0510 • Divani Apollon, 10 Aghiou Nikolaou, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.891.1100 • The Margi, 11 Litous, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.892.9000 • Malabar, Tel. (+30) 210.892.9160 • Lake Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.896.2237 • Astir Beach, 40 Apollonos, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.890.1619 • Krabo, Thespidos, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.896.3309 • Ithaki, 28 Apollonos, Tel. (+30) 210.896.3747 • BlueFish Vouliagmeni, 4 Poseidonos, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.967.1778 • Waffle House, Aghiou Panteleimonos, Vouliagmeni, Tel. (+30) 210.896.1227 • Huracan, 81 Poseidonos, Glyfada, Tel. (+30) 210.894.0080 • Amigos, 65 Kiprou, Glyfada, Tel. (+30) 210.898.3167 • Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, 364 Syngrou • Varoulko Seaside, 54 Akti Koumoundourou, Mikrolimano, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.522.8400 • Paleo Wine Store, 39 Polidefkous, Piraeus, Tel. (+30) 210.412.5204 Varoulko Seaside


Piraeus: a port-city with a fascinating history, bustling with life and with plenty of sights and attractions worth visiting. It embraces with hospitality thousands of people daily who either travel to the Aegean islands and to Crete or choose to visit Piraeus for entertainment, seaside walks, shopping, to enjoy their coffee or meals as well as to visit its museums and its neoclassical buildings which reflect the city’s glorious past. Stroll around Piraeus with us and discover its unique spots and places which will attract you and make you feel the need to keep visiting it again and again.

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TÜV AUSTRIA COVID SHIELD: Shielding business from Covid-19

ADVERTORIAL

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The TÜV AUSTRIA CoVid Shield scheme addresses all business sectors, but has been explicitly embraced by the hospitality and catering sectors, being a “guarantee” and a passport for business continuity and high credibity. For TÜV AUSTRIA CoVid Shield certification, on-site audits are carried out by the specialized and certified team of assessors of TÜV AUSTRIA. There are three levels of certification – Principal, High, Excellent – and if the audit is completed successfully, the certificate is valid for one year with the possibility of annual renewal. While the certification is valid, continuous audits are carried out (the frequency depends on the level of certification) to ensure that the structure of the certified company remains fully functional in terms of its effectiveness and to assure customers that all steps have been taken to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading. TÜV AUSTRIA Hellas recently entered into strategic partnerships with Eurobank as well as the social initiative “Future Loading”, together with the Bodossaki Foundation and Coca-Cola in Greece, in order to support the hosting and catering sectors in restarting their business by implementing the TÜV AUSTRIA CoVid Shield certification scheme. The substantial restart of tourism requires audit and certification by an internationally renowned certification body. TÜV AUSTRIA, through the holistic certification scheme TÜV AUSTRIA CoVid Shield, actively contributes to minimizing the risk of the Covid-19 virus spreading in business. This is how trust is restored! This is how tourism is supported and we start with confidence, again!


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GPS

*

*GREAT

PLACES TO SWIM

There are hidden beaches in Attica where you’ll find clear blue waters, shady spots and a sense of accomplishment in discovering where the locals flock. T E X T B Y PAG O N A L A P S AT I P HOTO GR A P H S BY M A R I K A T SOU DE ROU

KAVATZA BEACH

37° 39 ’ 54.60’’ Ν – 24° 02’ 14.06’’ Ε A dip at Kavatza conjures memories of childhood summers, evoking the days before beach bars entered into the picture, times when you would just find a good spot in the shade under some tamarisk trees and play hide-and-seek behind the bushes. It’s a medium-sized beach, and at some points the vegetation runs right down to the water. There are also two old abandoned houses that help you understand what life must have been like here in bygone days. If you’re coming from Athens, you’ll find the beach after you pass the Temple of Poseidon. It lies just a few meters from the road, and a single curve separates it from Syrtaki Taverna (114 Souniou, Tel. (+30) 22920.391.25), where you can head to for a meal following your swim. You should note that your GPS will tell you when you’re above the beach but won’t show any way to get to there from the road, so be sure to look for the little bridge with the metal bars. From there, you’ll be able to make your way down on foot and, once you’ve walked a few dozen meters, the whole beach will unfold before your eyes. You need to be a bit careful driving because the road is full of curves and, consequently, it’s easy to overshoot the turn-off. What’s more, only a small section of the beach is visible from the road, keeping the existence of such an attractive beach a valuable secret. 126

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VAMVAKOUSI BEACH

37° 40’ 15.35’’ Ν – 24° 02’ 53.59’’ Ε Its name comes from the well-known Vamvakousi bakery (61st km on Sounio Avenue, Tel. (+30) 22920.392.61), a good place to make a stop to pick up some supplies (their tasty carob breadsticks are well worth sampling). Very few people, however, are aware that about 150m behind the bakery is a beautiful beach where locals hang out. Take the little road located to the right of the building and follow it to the end. When you see the small opening with the tamarisk trees and oleanders, continue along the trail on your right and, after about 20 meters on a sandy trail, you’ll come to the beach. The small bay in front of the beach is narrow and flanked by high sides, so from early on in the evening one part of the beach is in shade. On one end, an old landslide has created a natural pool, which you can reach either by walking over the fallen rocks (these extend out into the sea) or by swimming there. The beach is not sandy, but it does have very small pebbles and clear, azure waters.

ARCHIEPISKOPI BEACH 37° 48’ 44.20’’ Ν – 23° 46’ 15.84’’ Ε

Turn off of Kavouriou Avenue onto Litous Street and head in the direction of the Margi Hotel (11 Litous, Tel. (+30) 210.892.9000). Keep in mind that, after your swim, you might want to stop back here at this hotel to enjoy a drink, a revitalizing smoothie or some food. Park near the end of Litous Street before it reaches the sea, not far from the Oceanis Café, and look for the metal bars indicating where the Margi property ends. That is the location of the entrance point to a grove that will lead you to Archiepiskopi Beach. Follow the well-trodden path and, when it’s possible, the sound of the sea. You’ll come to a small beach that’s a favorite among young people, small groups of friends, and couples, all of them scattered about on the sand, some with umbrellas, others with tents set up near the rocks. Be mindful of the weather, as northerly winds can send seaweed ashore on one of its sides. If you swim about 20 meters straight out, you’ll notice Zen (formerly Niriides), a serviced beach over on your right that offers sun loungers and all the usual comforts. There’s a little road that leads there. MAINL AND 2020

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POUNTA ZEZA

37° 40’ 55.16’’ Ν – 24° 03’ 56.84’’

© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

Are you keen on swimming around a sunken city? According to historical records and findings brought to light by underwater archaeological activities, this was once the location of an ancient settlement. The beach is sandy and easily accessed; there’s a sign on Sounio Avenue telling you where to turn off. Just five minutes later, you’ll have reached the shore and will be choosing the tamarisk tree that will shade you. In the past, one section of the beach had sun loungers for rent while the other part was for general public use. This year, it is expected that sun loungers will be placed in sections of both Pounta Zeza and the nearby Limani Passa by the beginning of August. Until recently, it was mostly local area residents who enjoyed the beach; however, of late its fame has spread to the other municipalities in Attica, owing, no doubt, to its clear waters, and to the fact that the bay is sheltered from the north wind. If you go early in the morning, there’s a possibility that you’ll run into kids from the nearby summer camp.

KATAFYGI BEACH

37° 40’ 48.16’’ Ν – 23° 56’ 31.20’’ Ε Once you’ve passed both Alykes in Anavyssos and Thymari further along on Sounio Avenue, you ‘ll come across a sign for Aiolos, a building cooperative of the National Bank, located on a curve in the road in Palaia Fokaia. The larger of its two beaches is visible from the road before you reach the settlement, while the smaller one is accessible via the settlement itself. Both are pebble beaches. Because they’re sheltered from both north and south winds, the waters are tranquil, and they also deepen gradually, which is ideal for kids. The little Church of Panaghia Katafygiotissa stands right where a craggy outcropping separates the two beaches. Snow-white and modest, this small place of worship stands on a stretch of coast that offered locals a place to hide and a conveniently discreet escape route, particularly whenever political tensions ran high. 128

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© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

THYMARI BEACH

37° 42’ 10.07’’ Ν – 23° 56’ 24.09’’ Ε Thymari is located on the 55th kilometer of Sounio Avenue, the road that winds along the Attic coastline and links Athens and Sounion. Because of its many twists and turns, this route demands special attention. That may be why so many drivers overlook the charms of the area, preferring to keep their eyes fixed on the road. Two enticing beaches are to be found on the same bay – one is sandy, the other pebbly. They are named after a local settlement. For those interested in facilities, there’s a beach bar that’s not usually very crowded or noisy. Alternatively, you can put up your own beach umbrella and procure any essentials either from the bar or from a big kiosk located on the opposite side of Sounio Avenue. MAINL AND 2020

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RIBAS BEACH

37° 48’ 50.54’’ Ν – 23° 49’ 17.50’’ Ε Ribas was a legendary nightspot in Varkiza. It also lent its name to the beach located just down below it. The northern section of the beach is where you should head if you’re seeking the nudist area. If not, simply take a comfortable seat on the big white rocks or dive straight into the clear blue waters, which attract swimmers who don’t mind giving up the comforts of a serviced beach. There are spots where your feet can touch the seabed and where you can safely enter or exit the sea; in other words, you don’t need to be Indiana Jones to enjoy the place!

TSIOU BEACH

37° 40’ 37.28’’ Ν – 24° 03’ 31.29’’ Ε Although we’d looked at the map and followed the directions given by the GPS, we still needed to ask someone, “Is this the right way to Tsiou Beach?” The first two people we stopped were unable to help, but the third provided us with the information we needed: “Follow the sign that says ‘Akrotiri’ until you reach a flat, open space. Park your car there and go down to the beach on foot. You’ll see a trail.” Indeed, we found the lay-by, where another three vehicles had already parked, with ease. We stood back from the edge of the rocks that encircle the beach, surveying the scene from up high: tranquility; clear, azure waters; and very few swimmers in the sea. The buzz surrounding this beach grows louder with each passing year; to date, however, the difficulty in reaching it has safeguarded it from the crowds. Tip: be sure to bring all the necessities (water, food and whatever else you’ll require) with you.

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KLADIOU BAY

37° 48’ 56.27’’ Ν – 23° 45’ 35.32’’ Ε Kladiou Bay, which is nestled between the beaches of Kavouri and Akti Vouliagmenis, holds many pleasant surprises in store. This quiet, natural anchorage has clear turquoise and blue waters, smaller coves that you can discover and explore while swimming, white sands, and little shady spots ideal for laying out your towel. To get there, turn right onto the little road just after Ai-Yiorgis. Directions from your GPS will lead you to the end of the road. Leave your car in the shade (trees are to be found on both sides) and follow the cobblestone path, which at some points has a number of steps. The vegetation at the start of the path is dense: prickly-pear trees, olive trees, oleanders, pine trees and kermes oaks cover the hillside that you’re descending. The beach has a number of lentisk shrubs, both in the sand and on the rocks. Tip: be sure to bring along water and any other supplies you may need.

LIMANI PASSA (THE PASHA’S PORT)

© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS

37° 40’ 46.66’’ Ν – 24° 03’ 09.45’’ Ε

Poseidonia was an important ancient settlement, and the capital of the demos of Sounio in antiquity. Even today, the visitor can see a number of archaeological remains scattered around the area, which includes Pasalimani, Poseidonia’s beach. Today, Limani Passa (or Akti Poseidonias) attracts swimmers not only from the surrounding areas, but from the whole of Attica as well. Access is easy, the waters are crystal-clear, the sand is fine and you will also find little trees offering shade (it is probable that, by the end of July, beach umbrellas will also have been put up in one of its sections). What a lot of people might not know is that the area inland from the beach has been designated an archaeological site. Significant ancient finds have been unearthed there, including parts of columns, which you can see if you take a walk around the area. HOW TO USE THE COORDINATES: for Google Maps and GPS Apps for Android and IOS systems, enter the coordinates as listed above into the search field but without the relevant scientific symbols or designations, e.g., 37 40 46.66 24 03 09.45 MAINL AND 2020

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THE “COOL” SPOTS OF THESSALONIKI Courtyards, rooftops, walking/cycling paths and tasty hangouts for hot days and warm nights in the northern metropolis. B Y J O H N PA PA D I M I T R I OU

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© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

Cooling down at the fountains located in front of the famous “Umbrellas” by sculptor George Zongolopoulos.

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For something alternative in street food, try a steamed bao bun with imaginative fillings at Thess Bao.

At the vineyard of Ktima Gerovassiliou in the region of Epanomi.

W

hat do I love about Thessaloniki? A leisurely stroll along the Nea Paralia seafront promenade is sure to get me in the right mood and revitalize mind and body. Whenever I return to the city, there’s always something new to discover: a cozy ouzeri, a little-known rooftop bar where friends will take me, a photography exhibition at some gallery, a gourmet street food shack or truck. Another reason I love Thessaloniki is because it’s an “easy” city; in just two hours, I’m back in its swing. And I love the people. Warm and hospitable, they know how to have fun and spread their positive vibes. I’ve never been made to feel like an outsider here. That said, summer in the city founded by King Cassander is much easier when you know where to find a cool spot. The

concrete creates a stifling atmosphere and greenery is sparse. The breeze from the Thermaic Gulf brings some relief, but it’s not enough. So, until the sun goes down, I prefer to either hide away in courtyards that are like leafy oases sandwiched between the apartment buildings, or relax with a glass of ouzo and some seafood meze next to the sea. After sunset, when the evening sky turns red over Mt Olympus looming majestically in the distance, the atmosphere changes. The streets and the waterfront fill with people; recreational anglers set up their rods; open-air cinemas begin their screenings; foodie hangouts reveal their goodies, and the bars – many of which now also offer take-away service – prepare cool drinks for thirsty customers. It’s as if one big nighttime party has descended on the city. And this is the

AFTER SUNSET, WHEN THE EVENING SKY TURNS RED OVER MT OLYMPUS LOOMING MAJESTICALLY IN THE DISTANCE, THE ATMOSPHERE CHANGES. IT’S AS IF ONE BIG NIGHTTIME PARTY HAS DESCENDED ON THE CITY. 134

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magic of summer in Thessaloniki: getting caught up in a festival of fun that feels at once impromptu and very well planned.

MORNING COFFEE Located on pedestrianized Iktinou Street, Valenio is one of the best choices for quality coffee. At this gourmet coffee shop, you’ll find specialty coffees only, from countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia and Costa Rica. The owner, Valantis, a certified judge of the organization World Coffee Events and who has been training baristas for the past 12 years, will guide you through the different varieties and their characteristics. One of the most recent menu additions is the Romano Soda, a sort of soft drink/coffee hybrid made from the extracts of citrus fruits (pink grapefruit, lemon and orange) which, together with an exceptional variety of coffee and a slice of orange, are mixed with soda and ice. FROZEN DESSERTS He makes his ice cream exclusively from natural ingredients: no colorings and no ready mixes. He collaborates with a producer on Aegina who supplies him with pistachio nuts, which he roasts and crushes. He uses the finest vanilla beans from Madagascar, while any added fruit is always as seasonal as possible. With years


© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

The scene at Kokonat Bay is reminiscent of some Californian beach, though the bar lies only a few meters away from Thessaloniki’s city center.


© ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS

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Regardless of the season, Thessaloniki’s Kastra (Castles) – a complex of forts, towers and walls – offer the most beautiful views of the city and of the sky’s incredible colors in all their glory.

of experience making ice cream, and a background of studies at the Gelato University in Bologna, Louizos Symeonidis, the proprietor of Vanilla, undoubtedly makes the finest ice cream in the city. But if you’re looking for a more rustic – or back-to-basics approach, make your way up Kassandrou Street and enter the sweet world of “I Dorkada” (in operation since 1961). Here you’ll find ice cream made with fresh sheep’s milk for a firmer and denser product, imbued with the passion of this family’s third generation of patissiers.

transports you – albeit in mind only – to some tropical island, far from the city bustle. This outdoor bar is open May to October, some days offering yoga classes in collaboration with the Warehouse 7 gym. Serving breakfast in the morning, it continues into the wee hours with a menu of finger food for all tastes, as well as cocktails in tiki glasses. My favorite time is around noon, when I can relax on a comfortable chaise longue, shaded from the sun, sipping a refreshing fresh fruit juice in the company of a good book.

IN THE COURTYARD In the vibrant neighborhood of Ladadika, there is an inviting courtyard with coconut and kentia palms, bamboo and banana plants, ideal for those seeking a more exotic environment in the city center. Decorated in earth tones and with wood in abundance, Whope

SEAFOOD LUNCH Kafenes tou Mitsou in the Kapani Market is the place to go when it’s time for tsipouro, a grappa-like spirit, in the city center. A popular haunt among local foodies, nestled between fruit stalls and other small stands, this tiny eatery with metal tables and an amazing glass

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SIMPLY PUT, A VISIT TO THE WATERFRONT IS ONE OF THE CITY’S “MUST-DO” EXPERIENCES.

counter full of PDO cheeses serves grilled squid with sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies fried up like potato chips. Another great place for lunch near the White Tower is Marea Sea Spirit, which isn’t actually beside the sea; it’s down a narrow street just off the waterfront. The owners, true seafood connoisseurs, offer dishes notable for the quality of their ingredients and for how they successfully combine modern cooking techniques


© PERIKLES MERAKOS

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The stylish, ergonomically designed benches at Pier A of Thessaloniki’s port are ideal for hanging out.

with traditional flavors. Try the shi drum baked in parchment with nettle pesto, but reserve your applause for the end, when you taste the delicious custard pie with mastic ice cream. You’ll also find, courtesy of chef-owner Giannis Loukakis, excellent food at Mourga, which has become something of a gastronomic institution in the city, known for using strictly seasonal ingredients, all organic apart from the fish, which are, however, caught in the open sea. The culinary combinations are impressive – such as the vine leaves stuffed with cod – and the menu changes daily according to what is available in the market. The wine list features select Greek labels at very reasonable prices. A little further out, in the neighborhood of Nea Krini, Gialos offers tables beside the sea and a seafood menu with dishes that include salted gray mullet and scampi. The restaurant is a 15-minute drive from the center.

WINE TASTING Twenty-five kilometers to the southeast, on the slopes of Epanomi, lies the Ktima Gerovassiliou wine estate. Enjoying an incredible view of Mt Olympus and the Thermaic Gulf, surrounded by a vineyard stretching over 72 hectares, the shaded balcony of the elegantly designed winery provides an oasis of cool tranquility. Choose and taste PGI wines from their celebrated selection of labels or organize a special tasting that features some of the estate’s vintage offerings. I would recommend trying the Malagousia, a variety that was brought to prominence by Vangelis Gerovassiliou and is now the estate’s flagship white, but whatever you choose – Assyrtiko, Viognier or Chardonnay – it will leave you with a pleasant aftertaste and a pleasant memory. Put simply, a visit here is a wonderful summer experience. Alternatively, head for Florian, the family-run boutique winery at Trilofos.

In addition to producing award-winning wines, the German winemaker Florian Schneider frequently hosts special events in the winery’s roof garden.

FINE STREET FOOD Walking around the city center can be hunger-inducing, so you’ll need something to eat if you want to continue your wanderings into the evening. On pedestrianized Kalapothaki, the enticing smell of fresh bread wafting from a small street food outlet will likely draw your attention. In actual fact, ThessBao is redefining the concept of street food in a city that traditionally loves souvlaki and pizza. Tucked inside their steamed buns you’ll find some very imaginative fillings, mostly of Greek origin: Smyrna meatballs with pickled onion and tomato purée with Aridaia paprika; vegetarian mushroom souvlaki with avocado and ketchup; and even fried bao buns filled with cream for dessert. MAINL AND 2020

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RED SKY The Nea Paralia (meaning New Waterfront) promenade of Thessaloniki, which extends uninterrupted for approximately five kilometers by the sea from the port warehouses to the Concert Hall, is ideal for getting out and about, whether you’re on foot, on a bicycle, using an electric scooter or in one of the four-seater pedal cars that can be rented at various points along the stretch. There are many places to stop for a breather and over a dozen themed gardens offering fun activities for all ages, from tennis to a traffic safety education park for kids; simply put, a visit to the waterfront is one of the city’s “must-do” experiences. The new waterfront is one of the city’s “must” experiences. Since it can get quite hot and muggy in the summer, the best time to visit is towards the end of the day. My favorite time is at sunset, when the sky above the harbor turns crimson. 138

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OUTDOOR CINEMAS At Aretsou Beach, surrounded by trees and with the sea in the background, Cine Avra is a delightful open-air summer cinema with an enchanting atmosphere. Often while you’re watching a film, you can hear the sea, and when the sky is clear, the stars provide an otherworldly backdrop. Back in the city center, dwarfed by apartment buildings, the Apollon shows a clear preference for less commercial films and is the venue for screenings of the Cinema Study & Research Center. For the sixth consecutive year, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall and Thessaloniki Film Festival are presenting the screening program “Cinema with a View”. On the roof of the M2 building, you can watch movies for just €5 and take in the wonderful view across the Thermaic Gulf, too. EVENTS Although Covid-19 has wreaked havoc with the cultural program this summer,

Thessaloniki still has an interesting schedule of events. For starters, at the former military camp Kodra and other outdoor venues around the city, the events organization Parenthesis is coordinating the first “Drive-in Festival,” a potpourri of movies, theatrical performances, concerts, stand-up comedy and DJ sets, in collaboration with the inventive “Street Outdoors” team. As the name indicates, access to these events is by car only. Building on the success of last year, excellent music will be filling our nights at the Eptapyrgio Festival, organized by the Cultural Center of the Central Macedonia Region. Due to the public health measures, the festival is temporarily moving to the Lazaristes Monastery. Meanwhile, the National Theater of Northern Greece, one of the city’s strongest cultural pillars, will be putting on several major productions, including “The Birds” by Aristophanes, directed by Giannis Rigas.

THE AEGEAN ON A PLATE For that special meal to celebrate an anniversary, birthday, or just the company of the people you love, the Salonica Restaurant & Bar in the hotel Makedonia Palace is always a good choice. The amazing Aegean version of bouillabaisse, courtesy of executive chef Sotiris Evangelou, is reason enough to book a table. The celebrated champion of Greek cuisine offers

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lessons in authenticity by preparing an outstanding seafood stew with rockfish, served with prawns and the catch of the day. Equally delicious is the chef’s take on pastitsada, a traditional pasta dish, which he makes with fresh lobster, tomato and the Corfiot spetseriko spice mix. But it’s not just the menu, it’s also the attentive service, the ambience and the view of the Thermaic Gulf which will make this an evening to remember.

AWARD-WINNING COCKTAILS For the past six years, Yannis Kedes has been making (and shaking) cocktail magic at his bar, Vogatsikou 3. With a laid-back atmosphere, good music, a friendly clientele and a well-curated list of spirits, this modern watering hole has done much to change the drinking culture in Thessaloniki. This summer, be sure to try the Double Punch, which has a pleasant bittersweet taste due to the interesting combination of mastic liqueur and Campari. Also available for takeaway – make your way down to Nikis Avenue and enjoy it by the sea. THE ROOF IS… NOT ON FIRE Because Thessaloniki is a densely built-up city, the streets can become baking hot even at night. The solution? Make your way to a higher spot to cool off. 140

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The bar Fragile, which began the rooftop bar trend in Thessaloniki, continues to play eclectic music and serve drinks at tables made from wooden crates. A few meters further along, at Matute, you will find a more cosmopolitan atmosphere in the company of revelers with signature cocktails in hand. Another cool escape is provided by the bar Urania, which in summer moves from ground level up to the roof, where lush vegetation hides the gray urban landscape.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ Kokonat Bay is the city’s newest arrival in the Sfageia district. Here, you would be forgiven for thinking you had been magically teleported to California: surfboards for decor, wooden chaises longues and two small retro vans painted blue and white give it an unmistakable West Coast vibe. One van is the bar, where the expert team from Gorilla serve signature and classic cocktails. The other is the food truck which, at midnight, serves treats to accompany the drinks, including hot dogs and burgers. If you go earlier to eat, chef Savvas Smalis will take you on a journey from his open kitchen to different parts of the world via a comfort food menu that pairs perfectly with the ice-cold beverages on the drinks list.

• Fragile: 29 Valaoritou / Tel. (+30) 2310.547.443 • Marea: 13 Lori Margariti / Tel. (+30) 2310.257.696 • Matute: 1 Agiou Mina / Tel. (+30) 699.933.8282 • Salonica: Makedonia Palace, 2 M. Alexandrou / Tel. (+30) 2310.897.197 • ThessBao: 3 Kalapothaki / Tel. (+30) 2310.235.225 • Urania: 4 Paikou / Tel. (+30) 2315.527.999 • Valenio: 6 Iktinou / Tel. (+30) 2311.291.518 • Vanilla: 129 Mitropoleos / Tel. (+30) 2310.225.566 • Vogatsikou3: 3 Vogatsikou / Tel. (+30) 2310.222.899 • Whope: 4 Loudia / Tel. (+30) 694.572.0808 • Apollon: 4 Sarantaporou / Tel. (+30) 2310.828.642 • Avra: 3 Nikolaou Plastira / Tel. (+30) 2310.454.525 • Ktima Gerovassiliou: Epanomi / Tel. (+30) 2392.044.567 • Gialos: Nikolaou Plastira (Kalamaria Nautical Club) / Tel. (+30) 2310.442.121 • I Dorkada: 91 Kassandrou / Tel. (+30) 2310.234.675 • Kokonat Bay: 1 Litous / Tel. (+30) 694.406.2045 • Concert Hall: 25th Martiou & Paralia / Tel. (+30) 2310.895.800 • Mourga: 12 Christopoulou / Tel. (+30) 2310.268.826 • Kafenes tou Mitsou: 11 Vlali / Tel. (+30) 2315.515.504 • Florian: Trilofos / Tel. (+30) 698.630.9594

WHOPE

© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

© KONSTANTINOS TSAKALIDIS

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MARCHOC Got a sudden craving for a frosty refreshing summer beverage? Dive into the incredible flavor selection from Marchoc, the Greek chocolate drink company, here to take us on a journey through a world of sheer indulgence. Whether your favorite is milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate, you’ve got plenty of exciting and delicious options. Both loyal fans of classic tastes and those in search of novelty will find what they love, as will those seeking to avoid sugar, since there’s a 0% sugar option as well. For more information: gialousis.gr

CALZEDONIA Calzedonia has opted for a narrative of spontaneity and thrills for this summer’s beachwear collection, inviting us to live life to the full. Pieces exuding a vintage feel or featuring Inca prints, timeless stripes and micro floral prints are all inspired by the latest fashion trends, and have been immortalized by the internationally renowned photographer Ben Watts in a recent photo campaign. The collection also includes “Mini Me” designs, so young fashionistas can have outfits that match their mothers’. Pictured here is Iliana Papageorgiou, wearing the Charlotte bikini from Calzedonia’s beachwear collection.

CHRISTODOULOU FAMILY NATURAL JUICES The Christodoulou Family, makers of top-quality 100 percent Natural Orange Juice, which comes in a 2-liter plastic container, have added Natural Orange, Apple and Carrot Juice, also in a convenient 2-liter plastic container now featuring a handle, to their product range. To produce this delicious, naturally sweet juice, the choicest Greek fruit is squeezed within 24 hours after harvest. With no added sugar or preservatives, this new Natural Juice is rich in Vitamin A.

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MYKONOS CHILLBOX Tasty temptations await you at the new Chillbox outlet, which opened recently in Little Venice, Mykonos’ most famous spot. For all its small size, it is unlikely to remain unnoticed. Choose the yogurt flavor of your preference and let your imagination run wild, creating in one of their cardboard chill boxes the most incredible combinations, using as many of the 20 available toppings as you want. The 46th outlet of Greece’s only frozen yogurt chain, the Mykonos venue is the first to open since the business was bought by the ice cream company Kayak.

DODONI Always boasting the same outstanding quality and taste, but now available in a newly redesigned multipack of three, our beloved yogurts from the Epirus dairy firm DODONI, made with sheep’s or cow’s milk, are already on the shelves of supermarket fridges. DODONI Sheep’s milk yogurt is produced using 100% Greek sheep’s milk and natural yogurt cultures, whereas DODONI’s cow’s milk yogurt, which comes in two versions, full-fat and 2% fat, is produced using 100% Greek cow’s milk and natural yogurt starter. Both constitute highly nutritious and delicious options for every moment of the day. dodoni.eu

NIKKI BEACH RESORT AND SPA PORTO HELI The Nikki Beach Resort and Spa in picturesque Porto Heli, only a 2.5-hour drive from Athens, is the ultimate travel destination! Having adapted its services to ensure safety, relaxation and privacy, the Nikki Beach Resort and Spa points the way towards a really enjoyable summer. For more information and reservations: porto-heli.nikkibeach.com

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