Tag Archives: gastronomy

A short getaway to Mt Pelion

11 Feb
Milies Village, Pelion. Photo Source thepaper.gr

Milies Village, Pelion. Photo Source thepaper.gr

Pelion is a mountain in Thessalia, Greece that in Greek mythology was thought to be the homeland of  Centaurs. Today, the traditional villages of Pelion are an ideal destination for a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of Athens or Thessaloniki. Keep in mind though that as they are over 20, and the distance between some of them can be long, you either need to choose a couple of them for your weekend or decide to take a longer break to have a better taste of Pelion. Here are the best choices if you decide to stay in the Milies area. Enjoy! Continue reading

Top 10 guide to light your way to Nafplion

20 Jan

Check out my recommendations for Nafplion here

A friend once wisely said that if you want to form an objective opinion for a destination, you must visit it at least three times during different seasons. I totally agree, only I would add just one extra parameter; perception, that according to some psychologists changes every 7 years on average. So, 1 destination, 3 times, different season each time, with 7 years in between… I am already starting to feel tired by doing the math! So let’s go on to something much more intriguing than mere mathematical operations!

Continue reading

7 tips you need to know before heading to Elati

13 Jan
Elati village via http://www.xpatathens.com

Elati village via http://www.xpatathens.com

1. Go by car. If you want to really familiarize yourself with the area and take as much as you can back with you, you should really go by car which will give you the flexibility to explore this mountainous place even more. Elati is an amazing village itself but driving in the surrounding area will really take your breath away! On your way up from Trikala take a few minutes and stop to admire the traditional bridge in the village of Pili.

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2. Don’t miss (1): Plastiras lake. A few kilometres from Elati is the artificial Plastiras lake.

Plastiras Lake via Evangelos Vissariou, Flickr

Plastiras Lake via Evangelos Vissariou, Flickr

The surrounding area, which was radically developed after the creation of the lake, offers many activities for the visitors, apart from the unique landscapes! Many cafes and restaurants give you the opportunity to enjoy the view of the lake and the mountains in the background! Very close to Neochori you will find “To Manitari”, an excellent choice for lunch or dinner and a restaurant that many locals choose to visit! 😉

3. Don’t miss (2): Ski centre of Pertouli.

Ski Center of Pertouli, Photo Source  sdimitris via Flickr

Ski Center of Pertouli, Photo Source sdimitris via Flickr

Continuing on the road after Elati and before reaching the nearby village of Pertouli, you will find the ski centre. Although it is a very small one, it is worth visiting as the view from the top of it is just amazing; you will have the chance to see the surrounding mountains, standing gloriously usually full of snow!

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4. Continue even further down the road and visit Pertouli and Neraidochori! The magnificence of this area is not captured only in the villages of the area but also in the road connecting them! The views while driving are breathtaking!

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You will find many spots  to stop and enjoy the view! One of them is just after Neraidochori, where you will find a refurbished church and a great place to admire the nature!

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The back door of the church!

Close to Pertouli you will find a restaurant called “Niavis”; a traditional spacious Greek taverna, with amazing view of the mountains and the surrounding area and excellent food; again a choice of many locals from the area!

5. Explore the area! Don’t just admire the view from the car; let yourself explore on foot or bikes the area especially near the ski centre where you will find many off road roots and paths and enjoy the heavy forest!

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6. A restaurant that you should really visit when you are in this area is called “Ta Kanavia” and it is located in Elati.

Kanavia Restaurant via www.touristorama.com

Kanavia Restaurant via http://www.touristorama.com

Excellent spot overlooking the area and the mountain opposite to Elati, amazing food comprising of well prepared and served firsts and amazing main dishes with many choices on hunting and traditional dishes. The wine is also excellent!

7. Downtown Elati you will also find “To Kechri”, beautiful cafe where you can enjoy relax and enjoy a hot chocolate in a cold winter day!

Café “To Kechri” via elati-pertouli.gr

Café “To Kechri” via elati-pertouli.gr

You should really try the homemade cherry spoon sweet which is absolutely delicious!

Stavros Tsoukatos

Guilty Pleasures: Christmas treats from Greece (part 2)

23 Dec

1. New Year Cake (Vassilopita)

Vasilopita, traditional Greek New Year Cake. Photo source: cookoo.gr

Vasilopita, traditional Greek New Year Cake. Photo source: cookoo.gr

The New Year Cake, or Vasilopita for the locals, is a round cake or tsoureki (something similar to the French brioche) that is served after the New Year festive meal. What makes it different from a normal cake is a coin hidden inside. The cake is cut in equal pieces, one for each convive, and whoever finds it is considered to have good luck for the new calendar year.

2. Melomakarono

 Melomakarono honey cookies. Photo source: k-mag.gr

Melomakarono honey cookies. Photo source: k-mag.gr

Melomakarono is a dark, egg-shaped cookie immersed in honey syrup and sprinkled with walnuts. This succulent cookie with delicate notes of cinnamon, clove and orange peel is totally worth the extra hour(s) at the gym after the end of the festive Christmas period! (We dare you to eat to just one.)

3. Kourabies

Kourabiedes sugar coated butter cookies. Photo source:  lifeanddecoration.blogspot.com

Kourabiedes sugar coated butter cookies. Photo source: lifeanddecoration.blogspot.com

Another quintessential Greek holiday cookie is kourabies. Kourabiedes (plural) are butter cookies with brandy and crispy roasted almonds hidden under a veil of powdered sugar. An ideal treat for every hour of the day, especially next to a hot cup of black coffee by the fire.

4. Diples

Typical Greek Diples sweets. Photo source: sidagi.gr

Typical Greek Diples sweets. Photo source: sidagi.gr

Diples are deep-fried thin sheets of dough usually given the shape of a roll or a bow. They are then drizzled with honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, clove and ground walnuts. Diples are a typical dessert in the Peloponnese and Crete (usually called xerotigana) and apart from the Christmas holiday season are also served at traditional weddings or special occasions.

5. Sesame Baklava

Sesame Baklava from Thrace, Greece. Photo by Funky Cook

Sesame Baklava from Thrace, Greece. Photo by Funky Cook

Traditionally, Baklava is made with nuts and butter. In this special Christmas dessert from Thrace, nuts are replaced with sesame and butter with olive oil, making it appropriate for the Greek Orthodox fasting period. A delightful alternative you must absolutely try if you visit Thrace!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and, if you decide to spend holidays in Greece (which we highly recommend), strength and courage for your post-holiday diet & workouts 🙂

Stella Printezi

Guilty Pleasures: Christmas treats from Greece (part 1)

19 Dec

1. Pork

 Pork casserole with quince and prunes. Photo source: tokouzinakitispareas.gr

Pork casserole with quince and prunes. Photo source: tokouzinakitispareas.gr

Pork is the Greek turkey; in most parts of Greece, pork is traditionally served on the Christmas table in various forms (most commonly roasted). My personal favourite is the slow-cooked pork casserole with quince and prunes. With the sour taste of the quince deliciously complementing the sweetness of the prunes, this sauce gives a whole new dimension to pork. An absolute must!

2. Pomegranate

 Pomegranate, goat cheese, greens and walnut salad. Photo source: sidagi.gr

Pomegranate, goat cheese, greens and walnut salad. Photo source: sidagi.gr

In the Greek tradition, pomegranates symbolize wealth, good luck and fertility. This is why Greeks crack a pomegranate in their house entrance every New Year’s Eve, and use it in various Christmas dishes. Our suggestion would be pomegranate, goat cheese, greens and walnut salad.

3. Cabbage Dolma (Lachanodolmas)

 Traditional Greek Christmas lachanodolma Photo source: k-mag.gr

Traditional Greek Christmas lachanodolma Photo source: k-mag.gr

This traditional dish is cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat (beef & pork) and rice, covered with a deliciously rich egg & lemon sauce. It is said that lachonodolmas symbolizes baby Jesus in swaddling clothes, this is why it is traditionally served during Christmas.

4. Msoura

Msoura is a traditional Christmas meat trilogy from Thessaloniki; small pieces of pork, beef and chicken are slowly cooked in the oven and served with rice and vegetables.

5. Christopsomo

 Christopsomo traditional Greek Christmas bread loaf. Photo source

Christopsomo traditional Greek Christmas bread loaf. Photo source : mwsaiko.blogspot.com

Christopsomo in Greek means “Christ’s Bread” and it is an ornate bread loaf traditionally made by women at Christmas Eve and served along with other treats on the Christmas table. Although its ingredients are identical to those of your usual loaf of plain bread, its appearance is indeed very different: the dough is given a round or bagel shape and it is then decorated. Every decoration has its own symbolization; a capital B, cow or plough symbolize the traditional agricultural works, a house symbolizes a wish for good luck for the whole family, and vine leaves and olive leaves stand for the wish for a mild winter and warm summer.

6. Lalaggia

 Lalagia dough strips. Photo source: ethnos.gr

Lalagia dough strips. Photo source: ethnos.gr

Lalaggia are crispy fried dough strips usually served in Messinia. Depending on the region, they can either be sweet (seasoned with cinnamon and cloves) or savoury (plain or seasoned with star anise). Although they were initially a Christmas tradition, you can now find them all-year long in almost every Messinian bakery. Make sure you buy the large bag, because despite their looks, they are absolutely irresistible! Tip: Ask for the soft ones rather than the hard type.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and, if you decide to spend holidays in Greece (which I highly recommend), strength and courage for your post-holiday diet & workouts 🙂

Stella Printezi

Discover the 4 seasons of Kastoria (part 2): Winter

15 Dec

The second part of the post is meant to guide you around beautiful Kastoria during the season the city is mainly famous for: winter.

The hardest time of the year gives Kastoria a unique charm making it a very popular winter destination in Greece. The average temperature in the winter is +5ºC while it can be as low as -15ºC and so you will definitely need to pack your warmest clothes.

 The most famous phenomenon of the area is the frozen surface of Lake Orestiada (aka Kastoria Lake). In olden days the lake used to freeze almost every winter and the ice was so thick and hard that a large cart could easily traverse it.

Frozen Lake via vavelhaber.blogspot.com

Frozen Lake via vavelhaber.blogspot.com

If, however, during your stay in Kastoria you are not lucky enough to find the lake frozen, don’t worry; there is much more for you to do than just stand there and wait for the water to freeze! Here are my 3 best suggestions:

Koutouki

Choose one of the beautiful traditional “koutouki” taverns and try to get warm by drinking the local tsipouro spirit and tasting local meze. Tsipouro is a quite strong spirit, so it will help you stay warm during your stay in Kastoria (or keep you good company if you lack one!). For those that are not really fond of strong spirits, the area is also known for its red wine that makes a good match with local products like graviera cheese or the well-known Kastoria beans. My personal favourite tavernas are “Ouzo Therapy”, a modern, minimal restaurant with a wonderful view over the lake and “Tsipouradiko tou Thoma”, a traditional tavern whose menu can sometimes contain more than 120 different dishes!

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Ragoutzaria

If you are looking for an authentic festival to party the Kastorian way, then you need to visit Kastoria a few days after New Year’s.

Source pavlosdim.blogspot.com

Source pavlosdim.blogspot.com

From the 6th to the 8th of January the locals dress as Dionysus’ (the ancient Greek god of  winemaking and wine, ritual madness and ecstasy) followers or as members of the opposite sex, and celebrate “Ragoutzaria” in order to forget the hardship of life and especially of the year that just passed. Every group of people has its own band of brass instruments and live music is played loudly in every corner of the town from the morning until the evening that all groups meet in the town centre and celebrate together until dawn!

Σοθρψε live-avles.blogspot.com

Source live-avles.blogspot.com

Vitsi Ski Resort

Vitsi, just 22km from Kastoria, is one of the smallest ski resorts in Greece and although it is mainly used for training purposes, it is also open to the general public.

Source history-pages.blogspot.com

Source history-pages.blogspot.com

It is not well known (yet), so with a waiting time for the lifts of about 3-4 minutes you can enjoy skiing uninterrupted. So if you want to train for your favourite sport or play in the snow surrounded by a calm and majestic natural environment, then Vitsi is just the place for you! If the weather is nice you can also visit the nearby traditional village of Nymfaio (the road might sometimes be closed if the weather conditions are bad).

Labros Psomodotis

7 traditional villages you should visit when travelling in the Greek mainland

2 Dec

1. Nymfaio, Florina

Nimfaio Village via www.ethnos.gr

Nimfaio Village via http://www.ethnos.gr

Nymfaio has been often included in “The ten most beautiful villages of Europe” lists, and has claimed the UNESCO “Melina Mercouri International Prize” for the excellent management of the area’s cultural heritage and the surrounding natural environment.

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Nimfaio via danezis.blogspot.com

Arcturos’s (NGO dedicated to the protection of brown bears and wolves) headquarters are situated just 1,5 km from Nymfaio and their sanctuary is open to visitors year round (depending on weather conditions).

Don’t miss the chance to visit the “Goldsmith, Folklore and History Museum”, with exhibits including authentic local furniture, traditional tools for jewellery making, and, of course, jewels. Before leaving the area dine at Thoma’s, a 5-star tavern in Amyntaio, a few kilometres away from Nymfaio.

2. Palaios Panteleimon, Pieria

Located at the foothills of the most famous and mysterious mountain of antiquity, Mount Olympus, the village of Palaios Panteleimon is renowned for its hospitable people. The village, also named “the balcony of Olympus” is an ideal destination for every season. Nature lovers and adrenaline enthusiasts will have the opportunity to choose between hiking, mountain biking, climbing, paragliding and off-road driving. After a day full of exhausting activities, relax in one of the traditional cafes (or kafenia in Greek!) on the main square and enjoy authentic Greek coffee prepared on the coals and served in a copper pot, always accompanied by a locally produced spoon sweet!

3. Palaios Agios Athanasios, Pella

Situated within short distance from the border between Greece and FYROM, Palaios Agios Athanasios has become a trending destination in the last couple of years due to its proximity to the ski centre of Kaimaktsalan. For travellers seeking relaxation, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Palaios Agios Athanasios during the winter season, but if you are in pursuit of cosmopolitan ski holidays rush to book one of the charming guest houses; from traditional cafes and taverns to luxury restaurants and nightclubs, you will find everything you need in this small village.

4. Zagorochoria, Ioannina

I would need more than 20 pages if I wanted to fully describe this corner of Greece. Zagorochoria is a set of 46 villages that meet the needs of every kind of traveller. Here you can find cosmopolitan villages, quiet villages, or even secluded villages, only accessible on foot! Either on the peaks of Pindos mountain range or hidden in the woods, each and every one of them will take you back to older times.

The hiking trail of Vikos gorge, part of the E4 European path, and Drakolimni (or “Dragon Lake”) are two places of incomparable natural beauty totally worth your time.

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

Beautiful spot in Vikos gorge via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/186829084515616237/

The local cuisine is amazing, its cornerstones being the pies (or “pita” in Greek), several traditional recipes with meat and spoon sweets. Pair your meal with a nice red wine made in the area, and spend your evenings drinking tsipouro, a strong spirit made by local producers.

5. Pelion

There are 24 villages on Mount Pelion, some of them hidden in forests of beech and chestnut trees and other on the coastline. During your visit in Portaria village, which is probably the most picturesque one, and after you walk its cobbled alleys, follow the “trail of the Centaurs”, a circular path of 2,7 km (approximately 1 hour), to get inspired by the ancient Greek mythology.

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Portaria via pilionterra, Flickr

Before leaving Portaria, have some coffee and cake at the Cafe “Aeriko” while enjoying the magnificent vista over Pagassitikos bay. The cosmopolitan village of Makrynitsa, known also as the “balcony of Pelion” is located just 4km away from Portaria. Once you get tired by strolling through its picturesque streets with the small shops, head to the restaurant “Gefsokratoras” to treat your sense of taste with a delicious meal.

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

Makrynitsa; the balcony of Pelion via http://www.pinterest.com/pin/336995984586522246/

What is more, from horse riding in the woods and skiing to scuba diving in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, the area of Pelion can offer you numerous dreaming experiences!

6. Monemvasia

Perched on a rock thrown in the sea, Monemvasia gives the impression that the rock and the settlement were created together at once. Surrounded by walls and almost cut off from the mainland, the scenery will make you think that you just discovered a time travel machine! The entire old town looks like a museum, with narrow alleys and small squares while some buildings still retain their marble coats of arms, remnants of an era of wealth and glory.

At sunset, relax on the balcony of your hotel room, empty your mind and lose yourself among shades of red you’ve never imagined.

7. Vatheia, Laconia

Resembling an open-air museum of architecture in the heart of Mani, Vatheia remains untouched by time. A settlement positioned on a hilltop, Vatheia looks like an abandoned village since the permanent habitants are no more than a few dozen, living in tower-like mansions. The fairytale 2-3 -floor chateaus made of stone have very small windows, once used as ramparts during the war against the Turks or pirate invasions.

Many mansions have been renovated and are now charming guest houses. Don’t miss the chance to swim in the turquoise waters at the nearby beaches of Kapi and Exo Kapi.

Labros Psomodotis

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