Pilgrimage to the sun #2-Spoon sweets and tips from the Aegean’s Balcony

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Our time in Pelion was full of flavours, changes in scenery and surprises around each corner of its winding roads- a village, a forest, the sea,  a character, some artwork. We saw Pelion’s Aegean waters tamed by heat and then turning familiarly choppy before we fled to Pagasitikos Gulf.

There is so much to tell you about Pelion. We spent nights on the beach bathed in the full moon after dining in the moonlight on the southern hill of Chorefto at Marabou – their homemade olive paste and salads are tasty and generous in portion. At the tavern Kima (Κύμα), Chorefto, we savoured the daily home cooked specials such as kanati and stuffed courgette flowers. We tasted an amazing wild green pie at Victoria’s café in Damouchari’s idyllic cove. We stayed as Foteini’s home in Damouchari who gave us herbs, courgettes from her garden to make a fresh tourlou.  There we dined in candlelight, facing the lights of Ai Giannis and listening soft waves crashing on the sharp rocks, protected from the elements and civilization a little cove of serenity- I feared if we stayed there longer the mermaids would steal our minds. We discovered a stylish and creative coffee shop and art space when we found Karpofora in MIlies on our way to Afissos.

Almost three weeks ago on our way to Elitsa cove from Parisaina beach in Horefto we walked alongside olive groves hanging off the side of the mountain in North Pelion, Greece. We picked sage, bay leaves and gigantic super-lemons nourished by the sun-all two meters of Dan pulling down a branch so that I can pick the fragrant fruit. We ate wild figs from trees that fruited early. We breathed in herbs and sea salt.

We reached Analipsi beach on foot from Chorefto, passing the church and the beautiful Plimari Tavern (Πλυμάρι). We swam to Tourkolimano (accessible through water and the coastal path from Parisaina and Analipsi) and snorkeled along the rocks in the company of sea creatures. Then we fell asleep in the naturally shaded side of the beach and woke ourselves up with a swim and a coffee at the tavern. And finally at dusk we walked back to our base at Orlys and used our foraging ingredients for another home cooked dinner in the outdoor kitchen.

At Pouri village we woke up everyone when the dogs detected our mid afternoon entry. We climbed to the Nikolaou square, one of the tallest spots of the upper village, and the view took our breath away- the coastline all the way to Horefto where we started out from lay beneath us. Just as we were about to leave what seemed to be a closed coffee shop/tavern the jammed door open ajar and out came its smiley owner, Babis Lagdos.

At Babi’s ‘Balcony of Pelion’ in Pouri we had locally made Greek spoon sweets, cherry and walnut flavours.  Greek spoon sweets are preserves made with local fruits (mostly whole), after their the seeds or stones are removed (e.g. cherries, apples but also baby aubergine). Otherwise citrus fruit with their peel and unripened nuts and seeds such as walnuts and figs are also used to make spoon sweets. Spoon sweet are called so because they are served and eaten with a teaspoon.  If you go to Pelion or other Greek countryside places and you do not try the locally produced spoon sweets you should be punished! Not only would you be testing a local delight but you would also be supporting women cooperatives and local producers in the area. A spoon sweet is delightful with dark bitter coffee, on yoghurt or on fresh buttered bread.

We met and saw people who survive the changes of seasons, governments and life- reaffirming the inevitability of joy if your heart is open to it. Poets, cooks, wild campers, yogis, entrepreneurs, chilled locals, young hippies. So I cannot close this blog entry without mentioning Popotech (Ποποτεχ) and Gemma and Gerry.

About five minutes after leaving Pouri we drove past a big red sign and a man with a cap looking like a modern Sheppard in front of a red vehicle in what seemed a movie still or a scene that dropped out of the page of a book. In the backdrop I saw sunflowers, artefacts and colorful metallic structures dancing in the soft wind. We turned the car around and stopped on the road side. And so we met Gemma and Gerry and Popotech their art space, workshop and gallery. They live and work there summer and winter. In the past year they moved from Pouri and built their home on their own land on a hillside. They grow some of their food on the land and their inventiveness in structuring their workshops and house on a hillside is inspiring. The place is serene and beautifully wonderful, like an art playground for grown up children. Their company is a delight. And now that I think of it they must have lived in Greece longer than I have as I have been gone for sixteen years.  I have no more words to describe Popotech and its two curators. This is their life, not just a transient show, and I would love to spend more time with them soon again. Take the road to Pouri from Zagora and keep your eyes wide open so that you don’t miss Popotech’s red signs on your left hand side. You won’t regret it.

Lia’s random facts  and tips

  • Kanati is a slow cooked dish with cubed beef and pork with some tomato sauce, lemon and herbs
  • Make sure you try kreetama (coastal wild green) but also tsitsiravla (hill wild green) for a meze and a glass of cold tsipouro
  • At every tavern or restaurant you visit always ask for μαγειρευτά (mageirefta), the daily home-cooked specials, to make sure you try the fresh local specialties and what is in season.
  • If you drive to Elitsa or Analipsi  it’s best to use the main road past Zagora. The ‘coastal’ road just about fits one car if there is oncoming traffic and it’s not a local you may be stuck for a bit.
  • If you walk to Elitsa or Analipsi  (Tourkolimano) go to Parisaina beach from Horefto (at the end of the Horefto beach to your left as you are facing the sea there is a small footpath). Then at the far left side of Parisaina beach look up to one of the beautiful house hanging of the cliff and you will see a cobbled road winding up the hill.  I suggest you wear steady foot wear or at least shoes that cover your toes for a better grip.
  • Parisaina is a wild camping beach that gets busy with people who still respect nature and their surroundings. There is a beach bar , Kripti, on the hill that offers water and drinks, but this is not a beach resort or lido. Please do not visit of you expect that. And also be prepared to through away your swimsuit. No-one will judge you if you don’t but I hope you feel comfortable to take it off and enjoy a nice swim in the crystal waters.
  • You can also access Elitsa or Analipsi  (Tourkolimano) through the local (dirt) road at the end of Horefto beach. It is also a beautiful route and perhaps longer but more shaded.
  • Visit Pelion’s east side at full moon and watch the moonrise either from Parisaina beach or enjoy at Pouri, at Babi’s Balconi of Pelion tavern. If you are carnivorous he does a mean goat slow roast.
  • Damouchari feels like an island and it’s definitely worth a visit but be warned it is on the more touristic side, in a tasteful way albeit.
  • Damouchari is a good place to explore the many footpaths in the area, e.g. to Fakistra beach but also to the beautiful and large village of Tsagkarada. Be warned it is steep but worth every drop of sweat. You can hire a guide at Vistoria’s guesthouse and café.
  • Horefto is the seaport of Zagora, Damouchari is the seaport of Tsagkarada so if you head for these destinations you will see sharp turns towards the sea.
  • Originally we went to Pouri in search of locally produced cheese after locals told me there were some sheep owners and cheese producers there.  Don’t expect little Deli’s and stalls in Pouri. My advice is to go to Babi, the owner of the Balcony of Pelion, when you arrive as he can source the cheese for you and a couple of days before you leave you can pick it up from the tavern.
  • If you would like to stay at Foteini’s place in Ntamouchari get in touch with me. It is a unique experience sleeping at the wave at an old house with an interesting hostess.

Photo Galleries

Spoon sweets and Pouri

Popotech

Analipsi

Damouchari and Milies

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One thought on “Pilgrimage to the sun #2-Spoon sweets and tips from the Aegean’s Balcony

    Mel said:
    July 15, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Your wonderful words describing your trip almost make it unnecessary to visit yet at the same time give me a longing to visit! Spoon sweets remind me of baby figs in syrup with a cup of coffee ( plus a dollop of marscapone!) Greece is as inviting as ever.

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