Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hospitality in Ano Trikala, Corinthias

We stayed at the Varnevo guest house while we were in Ano Trikala Corinthias.

 It's a small guest house, with three rooms in the main building

and two suites in the tower

each room having access to a  balcony.

It's a wonderful place. The two guys who run it are very welcoming and helpful, the whole place is immaculately clean and very comfortable.

Our room was cosy. The stone walls and the wooden ceiling provide character as does the fireplace which is in full use in the winter months, the busy season for this area. Lots of people come here in the winter to enjoy the snow and ski, and the village is packed with visitors.

The woodpiles all around the place bear witness to this

My sister and her husband stayed in one of the suites in the tower

which has the bedroom upstairs on the mezzanine.

The breakfasts are impressive, home-cooked and tasty. It was a pleasure having breakfast on the terrace, but we also had early evening ouzos here, and home made spoon sweets last thing at night before turning in.

We had most of our meals at Stou Dekleri. The owner, chef and waiter (they do have a lot of staff but when the place is not very busy Mr Dimitris also waits on the customers - how he manages to fit everything in, I do not know) is an inspired cook. The food is delicious, cooked with care and flair. They serve a lot of different kinds of pies and the one we favoured was horta pie: mountains greens, leeks and various herbs wrapped in homemade, crusty pastry. We loved this and had it lots of times. Another favourite was the local home made pasta, strifti, served either with meatballs and tomato sauce, or with butter and garlic, which was my favourite.

One lunchtime, when the horta pie had run out, Mr Dimitris insisted on making the local tiganopsomo for us: homemade pastry, stuffed with feta and fried in olive oil - it was delicious. He refused to accept payment for it. When we were leaving he gave us two large bags of the strifti pasta that he makes himself, and again, refused to acept payment. I was awed by his generosity, kindness and hospitality. I particularly liked talking to him about food preparation. This is a place that I would like to return to.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A view from the terrace

Our three-day stay in Ano Trikala Corinthias did not go as planned. The culprit? The weather. The plan was to visit lots of places in the surrounding area, to go for walks and most important of all, to sit on the wonderful terrace of our guest house and to enjoy the view

which includes parts of the village, the valley of the Zireia mountain range, going all the way down

to the sea, and the mountains of Roumeli across the water.

Instead, we got this, most of the time: a wall of cloud that would obliterate everything

There were times when it was clear, but within minutes we would see the cloud advancing, and everything would disappear.

At 1200 metres altitude it was not surprising given the weather we had. On our first night we had the mother of all storms with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. On our second full day, four fire engines climbed the mountain  - apparently lightning had struck a tree and a fire was raging further up from us - how could there be a fire, with all this rain, we wondered?

It rained the whole of our first full day, but the worst was the cold. We had left Athens with temperatures of 38oC and even though we were warned that it would be cold up in the mountains we were not prepared for a temperature drop of 26 degrees. We froze for our first day and a half. I have never been so cold, and for so long. We put on all the clothes we had, layer upon layer, but it was not enough. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that everyone smokes in Greece and it was impossible to sit indoors. So we sat on the terrace and just froze.

Fortunately, after 24 hours of sheer misery my sister's sister-in-law arrived with a thick jumper and thick fleece for me, and a bomber jacket for Ken and we finally, were warm enough.

The cloud would advance at alarming speeds - you can see it here, on the right of the picture, advancing,

and within seconds it was like this.

One minute we could see the village across the valley

and the next it was gone.

The weather improved for the second part of our stay and we were able to enjoy the view, but to also do some very pleasing walks.

I remember the moment when the mountain range across the water on the left side of this photograph appeared - for a day and a half we had not known it were there.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Athens visit

On Saturday, having left the Benaki Museum on Pireos Avenue where we had seen the Documenta 14 exhibition, we decided to walk to our next destination which was the Kappatos Gallery on Athinas Avenue. It was a hot day, and the walk along Pireos Avenue is not a pleasant one: it's a run down area, there's a lot of traffic, and the pavements are very narrow.

We passed the iNO mural

and soon we could see the chimneys of the Gazi complex.

The old gas factory has been converted into an art space

there's some interesting street art on the side of the building

The chimneys dominate

The old gas containers have been converted into gallery and performance spaces.

It was a relief to leave Pireos Avenue behind us and start the walk along Kerameikos

We soon arrived at the Kerameikos Archaeological site and Museum

The site covers the old potters' quarter, which was located here because of the abundance of clay mud carried over by the Eridanos River. The public graveyard was also located here, situated just outside the city walls. This is where Pericles delivered his funeral oration in 431 BC. The cemetery was also where the Hiera Odos (the Sacred Way, i.e.  the road to Eleusis) began, along which the procession moved for the Eleusinian Mysteries.

we could see Lycabettus Hill in the distance

we walked past the Holocaust Memorial, which is sadly neglected.

We chose to walk along the end of Ermou Street, another rather unpleasant walk, as it's very congested and in need of regeneration

but we wanted to have a look at the odd bits and pieces on sale of what's left of the old flea market

Some of the old buildings here have been restored.

You  can see the contrast here, one restored, the other in dire need of some love and attention

this one is a hotel now.

We reached Monastiraki square, the Byzantine little church on the left, then the old Mosque which is a folk museum now, and the Acropolis hill in the distance

and then we turned left into Athinas Avenue, a working class area, full of traditional shops, and where the main Athens market is situated.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Swimming again

We've been back in Greece for over a week now. It took us a few days to get settled, get the apartment in order, see the family, and now we've started going swimming again. This is the entrance to our local beach, which is a 5 minute walk from our apartment.

There's a whole lot of steps to get down to the beach - I haven't counted them, but believe me, there's a lot of them and it's an effort going up when we return. We always stop to get a good view of the sea before we start on our descent.

It all looks very green and lush

Half-way down the steps there's this passageway with this gorgeous bougainvillea which flowers throughout the summer

Between the entrance and the beach itself is this expanse of grass, bushes and trees - no-one uses this area during the week, but on Saturdays and Sundays when the beach gets unbearably busy people will sit here.

We finally reach the sea

it's been very busy this year, we're not sure why, it could be that because of the economic crisis people cannot afford to go away so they come to the beach instead. In the distance you can see the free beach which is even more crowded. We prefer to come here, especially since we don't have to pay to get in: people who live in the area have free access - we get our special cards from the Town Council and it lasts us for three years.

I almost always manage to position myself in such a way so that all I can see is the sea and I can (almost) pretend I am on a deserted beach on one of the islands

In the distance you can see the net which keeps boats out

boats like this one

the lifeguard's boat is the only one in this stretch of water.

We come here four or five times a week. We stay for about three hours

 then through the bougainvillea tunnel again, up the steps, and back home for some lunch.