Finding the real Greece in August: Part 2
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After collecting our hire-car in Thessaloniki we drove south
for three hours to Volos and onto our next stop, Pinakates, a mountain village
on the Mount Pelion peninsula, a lush, verdant, wooded area with stunning sea
views and amazing architecture: stone built merchant mansions nestling into the
steep hillside, many restored to their former splendour, untypically Greek in
style. We stayed at a beautifully restored B&B guest-house, LittleSwallows, (in reality more akin to a small boutique hotel), complete with
swimming pool. Set down from the main road access is by steep steps so
unsuitable for anyone with walking difficulties. The owners, Maria-Louisa and
Edouard a Belgian couple who moved to the village 25 years ago, were excellent
hosts and their knowledge of the area was superb.
With two lovely traditional tavernas in the Pinakates, as
well as others in nearby villages and on the coast, the food was good with
local Pelion dishes. Roads in the mountainous villages did not exist until the
‘70s and the extensive network of old cobbled mule-paths connecting the
villages now provides wonderful walking and hiking. Pinakates is also a good
base from which to explore the fantastic beaches on the northern Aegean side of
the peninsula – including Damouchari where Mamma Mia was filmed. In nearby Milies an original 1903 steam train
operates a daily service on a single track that winds its way through the
mountains at 20kph with fabulous sea views over Pagasitikos Gulf – as featured
on Michael Portillo’s Continental Railway Journeys and not to be missed.
From Pinakates we drove through beautiful villages down to
the coast and the tip of the Pelion Peninsula to our next destination Paleo
Trikeri, a small island with two tavernas, a monastery, around 100 inhabitants
and no cars! We parked on the mainland and caught a water taxi the short
distance to Aghia Sofia, one of two hamlets about 10 minutes apart on either
side of a fairly steep path across the island. Through Airbnb I booked Villa Alkesamos, one of a handful of houses a few
minutes walk uphill from the jetty. The house was comfortable and well equipped
with two bedrooms, a lounge/kitchenette and a balcony overlooking an olive
grove and out to sea with stunning nightly sunsets.
Apart from walking on the many tracks around the island and
kayaking to small deserted coves the only daily decision was whether to eat at
one of the two tavernas or at the villa – bliss! We caught up on our reading, I retained my
Scrabble crown - in spite of numerous challenges – and that was it!
The island is idyllic though not blessed with sandy beaches
and access to the sea quite stony so suitable footwear recommended. There was
no shop on the island so we had stocked up beforehand in Argalasti, the largest
village on the peninsula about 90 minutes drive away and also the nearest cash
machine in the area! Provisions to the island come by boat once a week so I
joined the locals to buy fruit and vegetables and stocked up with bread, milk,
water and, importantly, local wine from the tavernas.
We ventured off the island only twice to explore fabulous
beaches on the northern side of the peninsula at Potistika and Melani and, at
the tip of the peninsula, visited Aghia Kiriaki, a harbour village where
fishing and traditional boat building are the main source of employment. The harbour, with its brightly coloured
caiques and surrounded by excellent fish tavernas, is a working village with
hardly a nod to tourism. It was here that I stumbled into a ‘shop’ in the back
streets run by a sweet elderly couple where things were little changed from my
memories of those early visits in the seventies. A few random items for sale, no English
spoken but where I was offered a seat to sit and talk to them despite the fact
I didn’t buy anything! Before returning
to the island we passed through the sleepy mainland village of Trikeri, an old
hilltop village of cobbled alleys, churches and a large square surrounded by
tavernas, with the feel and architecture of the nearby Sporades islands of
Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos and well worth a visit.
We enjoyed our week of peace and tranquility on Trikeri
Island so much we changed our plans and stayed for another three nights and for
our last night chose to return to the Electra Palace in Thessaloniki. The city
was bustling and, surrounded by Greeks with hardly a tourist to be heard, we
enjoyed a fantastic meal at Taverna Marathos on Katouni Street.
A great end to a wonderful trip where we truly re-discovered
the real Greece, even in August!
Xelidonakia/Little Swallows Guest House, Pinakates, Pelion
Trikeri Island – Villa Alkesamos (Airbnb), Trikeri Villas
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