A friend and I wanted to take a trip outside Athens but since we had separately been to so many nearby mainland Greece destinations, where we would head exactly was a rather difficult choice to make. After giving it (too) much thought and hearing a little advice from some friends, we decided on Pelion. Pelion is a mountain in Central Greece, in close proximity to the port of Volos.
In Greek Mythology, the mountain, named after Achilles’s father King Peleus, is said to have been inhabited by the half-man half-horse creatures called centaurs. The most famous of these mysterious beasts is Chiron the Centaur who coached and mentored great heroes like Hercules, Jason, Achilles, and Theseus.
For those longing for a bit of adventure, (we went for some snow but it had pretty much melted into an icy slush) Pelion is covered in rich forest, scattered with traditional villages and filled with stone paths and trails that lead to fresh-water springs. In the wintertime, it’s host to a ski resort that was not open when we visited, sadly, as the prospect of skiing in Greece sounded rather exciting to me.
Anyway…we decided to head to the traditional village of Makrinitsa. Zooming through mountainous terrain and countless trees, we arrived at the foot of the village where we were greeted by a closed-for-the-season café. Having been to that café before (but in the summertime), I was much looking forward to visiting again as it is situated among trees, vines, and running stream water.
In any case, we moved on to stone-paved paths into Makrinitsa. Left and right were little shops all selling pretty much the same things: classic souvenirs (the donkeys, magnets, and kompologia), traditional pottery for home cooking, locally-grown herbs, tsipouro (the area’s trademark liquor) and an array of colorful translucent spoon sweets, marmalades, and preserves in shiny glass jars.
Soon enough, we reached the village center where we found a unique bazaar, the 18th century church of St. John the Baptist, and a very old tree whose history I don’t know, but you can walk through it. Imagine a large tree trunk about 2.5 meters wide at the base completely empty to its core. It actually feels like you’re entering a cave when you walk inside. I’m not sure how this tree has survived in that form, but it is surely one of nature’s more unique miracles!
I also noticed that Makrinitsa is filled with scattered fountains with fresh running water. I don’t know about you, but every time I see one of these I simply must touch the crisp ice-cold liquid (especially in the summertime), if not drink it as well. So I did!
Moving on, we were greeted by some friendly long-fur felines. Their coat was perfect for the weather, which was just chilly that day, nothing too cold to bear. After flipping a coin to decide which of the two nearby restaurants with a view we would dine at, we decided to go to the one that the coin suggested we skip, and it was indeed a great choice.
I am not one to suggest restaurants unless the experience is a worthy one, and at traditional tavern “Apolausi,” we had a mix of cozy atmosphere (we chose to dine inside), with home-style and well-prepared delicious dishes, and super clean washrooms (a must). I had the lamb with lemon-flavored potatoes and my friend had the kokora (rooster) with tomato sauce and hilopites. Combined a colorful season salad, drinks, and a wonderful view, our dining experience was one of our trip’s highlights.
We decided to do just a little more sightseeing in Makrinitsa, which is famed for its traditional homes built with a grey slate roof. Further down the road was a bench situated before a commemorative statue of a woman. If you’re visiting Makrinitsa, take at least a moment to sit down and enjoy the truly remarkable panoramic view from here. It is now clear to me why Makrinitsa is known as the “Balcony of Pelion.”
We didn’t know any locals, so when we finished eating and taking a few photos, we hit the road for some more exploring. Though we did not see these close up, there is a famous café called Theofilos which features artwork by renowned Greek fine artist Theofilos Hatzimichail, as well as the Pelion Museum of Folklore and History where you can see over 1,500 artifacts from everyday Makrinitsian life including weapons, jewelry, artwork, and more.