Thursday, November 5, 2009

Greece 's Hidden Treasures (1) - Velvento Kozani

A recent business trip to Thessaloniki became the reason for me writing this post. Of course, Thessoliniki is a beautiful city, with lots of things to see and do, but I must admit that the nicest part of my trip was a stopover at Velvento, a small village near Kozani.

Now, getting there is very simple indeed. It's about a 30 - 40 minute drive from the new Egnatia Highway, and hidden from all eyes, you will only grasp how beautiful it is once you get there. Velvento is a village with about 4000 residents. The main income is from the peaches, which are some of the best in the country, but as I was told when I was there, they are mainly grown to be exported. As you climb the southern side of the Pieria mountain, you are surrounded by the beautiful forests, and below you the view of the Polyfotos lake enchants and calms even the most tired of eyes.

Once you reach the village, you suddenly feel that history and mythology become one. The houses are distinct, having the shape of an eye on their external walls. The streets are narrow, reminding you that you are in a rural area, and along with the sound of running water and the wind rustling through the leaves, you feel that there could be no other place on earth quite as calm and as beautiful as this.

Along its long winding roads, you will see small churches scattered (there are about 80 in all) and something which seems unique to this place is that each church has a small outhouse next to it, fitted with a kitchen, hearth, spit, tables and chairs. I was informed that lots of families meet here on weekends or holidays, and cook and eat next to the churches, paying homage to the saint whose name the church holds. At one church we stopped at, the spit was actually turned by the running water coming from the stream running along the road. I had never seen this before. The family who had been having their Sunday picnic there, welcomed us with a glass of tsipouro and a piece of home cooked revani ... two great Greek delights.

As you ascend the mountain from the village you can actually walk up to the Katafygi waterfall. I must admit that we did not reach the observation post to see the waterfall, only because it was starting to get dark, and we did not know how long it would take. From photos, though it did look spectacular.

Velvento is one of those areas of Greece that has not been hit by commercial tourism. It is a walkers and hikers paradise, a paradise which can be enjoyed every season of the year. Its residents seem to be prepared to go the extra mile to make you enjoy your time there.

So, if you are ever near Kozani, make sure that you take time to visit one of the most scenic places in Greece, and find your peace near the home of the Gods.

My title links to the official site of Velvento.

(Special thanks to Sakis and Annie, who dedicated their time to show us this wonderful area)