Pelion: The City Of Wonders Essay, Research Paper
Pelion: The city of wonders
Josh Hambrook Jan 23 1997
Pelion, land of the legendary Centaurs, the site chosen by the ancient gods for their weddings and celebrations, rises in lush magnificence to the northeast of Volos.
It was here that the centaur Cheiron, the wise teacher of demigods and heroes, gave his pupils daily instruction in the proper care of body and soul. Here, too, the first beauty contest took place between Thetis and Eris.
“Many leaved” Pelion was an inspiration to Homer, Pindar and Euripides but also to the more modern popular muse who sung of the unquenchable desire of the Greek people for freedom.
The highest peaks of Pelion (Pliasidi, 1.548 m., Pourianos Stavros, 1.610 m.) are in the northern part of the range. Its inaccessible eastern flank, with the Aegean stretching out into the distance like a vast mirror, comes to an abrupt end in the sea, creating wildly beautiful rocky shores.
Conversely, the tranquil, calm coast of the western flank on the Pagasitic gulf is much easier to reach and encourages shipping activity.
Pelion’s picturesque villages, sometimes clinging to wooded slopes or perched on steep bluffs, sometimes hidden away in verdant ravines, are so much a part of the scenery that, seen from a distance they create the impression of having “sprouted up” along with the trees.
The distinctive traditional architecture of the old houses with their narrow windows and decorated walls, stone stairways and roofs of grey or greeny slate; the Byzantine churches with wonderful wall paintings and icon screens; the winding cobbled paths, sculpted fountains, courtyards redolent of basil and gardenia; squares paved with huge flag stones where the cheerful bubbling of a little brook is never absent – are all typical features of a Pelion village.
Climbing northeast of Volos, the road bisects the charming suburb of Ano Volos (5 km.), with the steep hill of Episkopi demarcating its eastern side.
At the nearby villages of Anakasia and Alli Meria, where there are some wall paintings by Theophilos, it is worth stopping to admire the panoramic view of the Pagasitic Gulf and the plain of Thessaly while seated in one of the district’s picturesque restaurants.
Continuing the ascent up the slope of the mountain, after Anakasia the road leads to Portaria (13 km., alt. 600 m.), a lovely summer resort with abundant crystalline water and a number of hotels.
The village’s delightful main square and the chapel of the Panagia of Portaria with 16th century frescoes are sure to make their impression.
From Portaria west a fork in the road winds up at a flat area filled with shady plane trees through which the beautiful traditional village of Makrinitsa (17 km., alt. 750 m.) can be seen.
Built amphitheatrically up the side of the mountain, it offers a splendid view of the gulf below.
The flag stone lanes link its unique buildings, which because of the steep slope are three storeys on one side and only one on the other.
The higher facade is adorned with the wooden balconies so typical of Pelion.
Some of these old houses have been restored by the G.N.T.O. and are operated as guest houses under its supervision.
Try the tasty local delicacies, bean soup and “spetzofai” – a spicy concoction of sausages and peppers — served in the “tavernakia” in the square.
And if you visit the area on May Day, you may see some wild revels very reminiscent of ancient Dionysian rites.
Zigzagging up the mountainside past a series of stunning ridges, the main road climbs up to Hania (26 km., alt. 1.200 m.), which has become a winter sports centre thanks to the development of “Agriolefkes”, where there is a refuge, ski lifts, a big slope for experienced skiers and a separate area for beginners, along with all the comforts of a modern ski resort.
After Hania, the road starts to descend, weaving in and out of forests of oak and chestnut trees to arrive at Zagora (47 km.from Volos, alt. 480 m.), Pelion’s largest village. If you can take your eyes off the fantastic view of the Aegean, pay a visit to the famous school where many of the spiritual fathers of the Greek Revolution studied, the historic library with rare books and manuscripts, and the Byzantine churches of Agios Georgios and Agia Kiriaki which contain richly carved icon screens.
You would be fortunate indeed if you happened upon a traditional Pelion wedding celebrated in one of them. Don’t forget to refresh yourself with the succulent apples of the region.
Horefto (55 km. from Volos), the port of Zagora, lies 8 km. further east, an irresistible spot with shining sea and a lovely beach, while 6 km. to the north the road ends in Pouri (63 km. from Volos, alt. 400 m.).
Known as the “Balcony of the Aegean “, its three-tiered, tree-filled square has an extraordinary view; on a clear day you can see as far as Halkidiki.
Heading south from Zagora, you come to the village of Makrirahi (46 km. from Volos, alt. 300 m.). A deep dramatic ravine separates it from its neighbor Anilio (”without sun”), a typical Pelion hamlet.
Continuing south it is worth taking the secondary road off to the right to climb up to Kisso (52 km. from Volos, alt. 550 m.), one of the most mountainous villages on the eastern flank of Pelion, drenched in a riot of greenery.
Or you might prefer to take the left hand fork and descend to the summer seaside resort of Agios Ioannis (57 km. from Volos), where the green of the mountain blends with the blue of the Aegean.
You can swim for miles along its enormous coarse – sandy beach and feast on fish at the taverns by the shore. Returning to the main road, you next come to Mouressi (59 km. from Volos, alt. 370 m.), built amphitheatrically amidst apple orchards and chestnut woods. Of interest here is the wooden icon screen in the church of the Dormition of the Virgin. From Mouressi, it’s a simple matter to get down to the pebbled beach at Damouhari.
Five kilometres after Mouressi, still driving through thick forest, you arrive at Tsangarada, on the spine of Pelion (54 km. from Volos, alt. 450 m.).
One of the most enchanting summer resorts in Greece, it has ample hotels hidden among its plane and chestnut trees. The village houses, which are divided into four levels, are strung out along the mountainside and covered with lush vegetation. Characteristic features of the village are its many old mansions, flag stoned piazzas, picturesque cobbled alleys and a superb view of the Aegean, not to mention its emblem – the thousand year old plane tree in the main square whose diameter measures 14 metres.
Here, too, don’t miss the chance to taste the local specialities, “spetzofai” and “fasolada” (bean soup). An asphalted road takes you down to Milopotamos, the port of Tsangarada, 8 kilometres away.
After following a series of steps cut out of the rocky coast, you come to its sheltered beach composed of lovely smooth round stones. Not far from Milopotamos there is another beach in a bewitching setting – Fakistra.