Tag Archives: local

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

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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

6 reasons why driving along the main Greek highway is not boring

20 Oct

The highway connecting the two largest Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, is one of the most common routes in Greece. It is 500km (or 5 hours) long so you could probably use a pit stop or two.

Acropolis via www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

Acropolis via http://www.seemous.eu, Thessaloniki via http://www.gtp.gr/

This is why I have decided to write a post on the places where it is worth stopping on your way from Athens to Thessaloniki!

1. Kamena Vourla

Kamena Vurla via www.panoramio.com

Kamena Vourla via http://www.panoramio.com

The exact meaning in Greek may sound a bit funny, but this town is certainly worth paying a visit. 177 km from Athens and after a small diversion following the signs to Kamena Vurla, you will arrive to one of the most renowned Greek thermal bath sites. Here, the water is naturally high in Radon and other salts and minerals, making the thermal baths one of the most important in Europe. In the town centre you will find the Ippokrates and Asklipio health spas, while if you go a bit outside the centre towards the Knimi Mountain you will find a variety of thermal baths (Koniavati, Kallintika, Aphroditi). My personal suggestion would be the Aphroditi thermal baths: apart from the natural baths they also have a wonderful outdoor pool.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to stop at Thermopylae (just before Kamena Vourla) to see the famous battle site and the statue of Leonidas.

2. Karavomilos

This little village just next to the highway is famous for its tavernas and especially for the delicious, supersized burgers they serve! Choose the Gklatzounis taverna and make sure you order the beef liver apart from burger, they are both irresistible (and so are the prices!). If you are not a huge meat fan though, skip Gklatzounis and head towards the beach were you will find the Antonopoulos fish tavern, offering fresh and delicious fish and seafood.

3. Farsala

30 km from the highway, Farsala may be more a diversion than a pit-stop but it is worth making. Here they make a unique type of halva, named Halva Farsalon after the town’s name. Halva Farsalon can be found in different shapes and tastes in almost every dessert shop or bakery in the city center. Enjoy!

4. Ambelakia

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

Ambelakia village via http://www.lastoffertravel.gr

In order to reach Ambelakia village you just need to take the left exit at the Tembi junction and continue straight for 5 kilometers. This village is known for the luxurious traditional buildings constructed during a very wealthy era during which the main professional occupation was fabric production and dying with a red pigment derived from the processing of parts of a plant called rizari (Rubia tinctorum). It also worth mentioning that the first ever professional cooperative was formed here in Ambelakia. Stroll around the picturesque paved streets of the village, surrounded by mansions and head to towards the Georgios Mavros mansion that is open to the public. The Saint George church and Folklore Museum are also worth visiting.

5. Rapsani

The wine and a local spirit called tsipouro from Rapsani are famous all over Greece. Some of the wineries are open to the public and I would totally recommend visiting one! The route through the vineyards may be adventurous, going uphill through narrow dirt roads, but it is a unique experience: the sensation of freedom and inner strength you feel admiring the breathtaking view is one you will never forget. Inside the winery one can see the local architecture and the traditional oak barrels.

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway don’t forget to stop at the canteen right on the junction to try authentic souvlaki and traditional sausages.

6. Palaios Panteleimon (Old Panteleimon)

Palaios Panteleimon is my favourite traditional settlement in Greece. It is situated at the foothills of Mount Olympus, 5km away from the new settlement and the highway. A walk around its picturesque streets is totally worth it, as you can find small shops with traditional local goods, while the wonderful sea view and paved central square will surely seduce you! Choose your favourite traditional cafeteria on the square and sip on Greek coffee served with a traditional Greek dessert called “glyko tou koutaliou” or “spoon dessert”!

Extra tip: On your way back to the highway visit Platamonas Castle, and if the weather is nice, head towards the beach and enjoy the wonderful blue-green waters!

Have a nice trip!

Labros Psomodotis

Discover an island in the Cyclades different from the others

2 Oct
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Andros Island via androstours.com

Read about the island of Andros in our new website

Elina Kefala, guest blogger

Keeping in mind that Andros is one of the Cyclades Islands and having had already visited most of them when I made the decision to spend my summer vacation there, I was certainly not expecting to see something extremely different. However, my seven-day stay on Andros island proved me wrong and totally changed my mind; Andros is a noble, majestic island exuding a sense of culture and sophistication. Continue reading

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