After such full days in Zagorochoria and two articles in which we tried to give a taste of what we had lived and learned, it was time for an urban wandering in Ioannina city. Ioannina is one of our favourite towns and we visit it a lot, as it combines urban activities and comforts with nerby destinations of amazing nature and tradition.
To do all that, we chose to stay in Anemolia resort & spa in Amfithea, Ioannina. The location is very convenient for trips to nearby villages in Zagori and Tzoumerka mountains -you will read about an awesome excursion of ours in our next article, the second part of our mini tribute to Ioannina.
Another reason we love Anemolia, and a very important one, is its breakfast. Its variety feeds the eye and opens the appetite… With so many sweet and savory treats Eat Dessert First Greece found itself in a very tough position, as we had to try everything. And make a refill of course!
The rich and delicious breakfast is prepared by chef Vasilis Tserikis and Lefteris Stefanou. Of course, we had to talk to them and learn the secrets of the breakfast we had enjoyed.
Τhe first thing they told us was how happy they are to be working in this hotel, as they are all a family. We asked them about the breakfast and they told us that almost everything is handmade, always fresh and prepared with local ingredients.
Cheese pie with feta cheese and white sauce (béchamel), cheese pie with mizithra cheese, pie with spinach, cabbage and mizithra cheese, fresh fried eggs, sausages or bacon to go with, those are only some of the savory choices of the day. As for the sweets, needless to say, as chef Tsilikis is a pastry chef too… Bugatsa (traditional cream pie), apple cake, orange cake, lemon cake, berries cake, chocolate cake, tartlets with various fillings, phyllo nests with caramel, apple tart and many more confections, so many you can’t try it all… Eat Dessert First Greece of course managed to do so! We would like to highlight that even if there are only two clients staying at the hotel, they will find the same variety and this is something that shows us the great respect and love the owners treat their clients with. Let’s take inspiration and do each one’s work with dedication!
We asked the chef about his handmade jams, as the strawberry one made an impression on us. He explained that when each fruit is at its season, he makes a big batch of jam and conserves it throughout the year. Imagine 150 kilos of jam… He cans them properly, warm jam in a warm container and closes it airtight, quite a tough procedure for such quantities!
Having eaten all that, we set out for an urban hike in the historic centre of Ioannina. As Ioannina is the city of silversmiths, our first cultural activity had to be a visit to the Silversmithing Museum.
So, we started walking the streets of the historic centre towards the museum, which is housed inside the Castle of Ioannina. While walking, we read about the history of the city on a map created by the Ioannina Municipality and the Association of the Historic Centre. We learned that the region outside the castle is inhabited since the 17th century. In the 19th century it became the core of the town’s commerce. The market used to be covered, a bedestan, that Rahim pasha burnt by the end of the century. Since then, the area got formed with narrow cobbled streets, small squares, workshops and commercial arcades. This is how we find it today too, with lots of preserved buildings, pedestrian streets and small shops.
Thankfully the weather did us a favour and we could have our walks, as Ioannina is truly a city to discover on foot. Not like yesterday, when the cold and the wind, especially by the lake, made it literally impossible to stand still!
Inside the castle’s walls there is a hidden community, with traditional houses, Ottoman buildings, squares and alleys. At the highest part of the castle, Its Kale acropolis, you will find a cultural park with museums housed in Ottoman monuments. A setting completed by openness, tranquility, nature and a beautiful view to the lake.
We were welcomed to the Silversmithing Museum of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation by a person in charge, who gave us some information about the exhibition. The museum’s purpose is to salvage and transmit knowledge about silversmithing in Epirus, which for the Foundation is part of the cultural heritage of the region and the whole country.
She explained that the exhibition’s first level is organised in five sections, which will guide us through our path of learning the silversmithing techniques. Historical documentation shows that those techniques start at the post-Byzantine period, although earlier indications exist. To accompany the artifacts and informational boards, there are videos and interactive boards to help comprehending.
Since the beginning of the exhibition, the hammer noises and the evocative atmosphere create the feeling of a plunge into the past. The surrounding images and artifacts bring the people of the times to life and create a real experience of tradition and history. Following the sections, from Where and when we moved to Out of what? and How? and learned For whom? and By whom? the exhibits were made. An exhibition organised with meaning, that looks at silversmithing from various points of view to give the visitor a picture of the sociocultural context and its continuation in time.
At the second level lies the basic exhibition part, with the collection of artifacts from the 18th to the 20th century. There we saw with our own eyes the techniques imprinted on the objects. There are also contemporary exhibits, because as the museum manager told us “art goes on”.
We read the exhibition’s texts and learned that in 18th century Ioannina it was an indication of prestige for warriors to have richly decorated weapons. In the 19th century wealthy houses showed off silver candlesticks, tableware and dowry items. In the course of history, at the beginning of the 20th century when Epirus got integrated into the newly established Greek state, a demand occured for useful -instead of war- items, silver cutlery and trays. Also, old objects, such as costume’s jewellery or traditional utensils changed use or got transformed into decorative items in Epirus houses.
In the exhibition we also saw that the Orthodox Church was the basic source of orders for silver items and that a big part of the ceremonial equipment of the churches was donated by faithful people. Reliquaries for saints’ relics, covers for miraculous icons, holy utensils and much more were made of silver and other valuable materials. Then we remembered some elaborate silver utensils that nun Evfimia had shown us in the Holy Monastery of Evaggelistria in Ano Pedina…
Something else we learned in the exhibition is that Bulgari jewellery house was founded by Sotiris Voulgaris, originating from the mountainous village Kalarrites of Ioannina Municipality.
We left the museum feeling that we know Ioannina even better. We continued our walk in the streets of the historic centre and decided to visit Telis store, selling handmade knives and tools, to learn some things about the history and contemporary production of handmade useful items.
In Telis store we met Rania Piteni, who discussed the production of handmade knives and tools, in the past and today. She told us that the workshop opened in 1933 by grandfather Aristotelis, who started as a cutler and produced also other agricultural and livestock tools. His son Adamantios continued the art and focused on the crafting of tools, as then the imports of knives had started and there was little demand for handmade knives. Today, the business is run by the third generation, daughter Rania Piteni and her husband Evangelos Gogos. Rania is in charge of the management, in the new era of communication, and Evangelos of crafting.
Rania told us that four years ago with her husband they restarted the crafting of handmade knives, as they considered that there was a void in the Greek market. Their knives are useful, something that differentiates them from the famous Cretan knife. As far as we know, at is point there isn’t another place in Greece to produce its own knives, except for Crete and Ioannina.
For the knives’ crafting they use very old metals that were left in the workshop, as they had been stored unused when the production of knives stopped. Today, as Rania mentioned, there is an issue in Greece as there are no metals produced in the country. Telis’ knives are crafted in the traditional way, totally handmade and decorated by hand too.
The workshop produces handmade knives upon request only, so there are no knives in the store to buy. They ship items to European countries also upon order and recently have launched a series of knives for chefs and restaurants, with important cooperations in the hotels’ and restaurants’ sector. The knives can also be ordered in customised designs. At the same time, they continue the production of useful tools for livestock, hunting and agriculture.
Silversmithing and cutlery crafting in Ioannina… Lots of new knowledge that got us hungry… Time for an afternoon cup of coffee and a bite! The usual evening chill had already started, so we headed towards the lake to find a place to sit.
We came across “Spitaki me thea“, a place known for its pancakes and we couldn’t resist! We ordered our coffee and spoke with the manager, as we always like to do.
He told us that “Spitaki me thea” opened in May 2016 by two friends. It is very much loved in Ioannina, by both locals and tourists. The shop is open all year long. As the manager told us, Egnatia motorway and the recent Ionia motorway connect Ioannina to the south and the north of the country and so the city has visitors throughout the year. Of course, on holiday season there is an increase in touristic traffic. In the summer, “Spitaki me thea” has a roof garden and tables on the square, with an amazing view to the lake.
The shop serves coffee, a wide variety of tea, omelettes and eggs for brunch, burgers, pizza, confections and waffles, in the evening beer, wine and drinks, among which some special whiskey, but its number one hit are pancakes. As the manager told us, it is the first shop who brought pancakes to the city. As we have researched pancakes in a previous article of ours, we definitely had to try them!
After our relaxing coffee and “little” treats, we thought we had filled our stomachs… But no! The cold burns calories, we had walked a lot and there wasn’t a chance that we’d miss a night out for dinner. But before that, another short hike in town was necessary…
After digesting and feeling freezing cold one more time, we were ready to eat again. We chose to go to Presveia Restaurant for two reasons: because we knew it had good quality food and because we read that the restaurant’s chefs and owners, George Tsolis and Yianna Tefa are involved in philanthropic actions… at Eat Dessert First Greece we support that first of all!
In June, the chefs participated in the UN Refugee Agency events for World Refugee Day with the action “In the Kitchen with Refugees” in their restaurant. Chef Yianna Tefa told us that it was really the most emotional cooking experience of her life. Also, in November Presveia Restaurant supported the Epirus Union for Youth Diabetes, during the 13th Ioannina Lake Run. The action “The Lake Plates” concerned a plate from the restaurant’s menu, 20% of whose price was donated to the Epirus Union for Youth Diabetes. Two sweet initiatives we truly admired!
As for Presveia Restaurant’s cuisine it is really good! We expected that, since we believe that people with social sensitivities will surely care for everything they do… Greek and Mediterranean cuisine with a fresh and creative view, original salads, appetizers ranging from Greek cheeses to carpaccio and tartar, pasta and risotto, mostly meat plates but also fresh fish of the day, and of course desserts for the end of a flavourful meal.
We didn’t know what to chose first so we asked for the most representative plates to try. They were as we expected, with deep flavor, delicate texture and high quality of ingredients and techniques that shows at first look of the plate -and is confirmed on first bite!
We returned to the hotel full of flavors and knowledge. There, we rested in the living room and spoke with the person in charge, George Yiotopoulos, as Eat Dessert First Greece always seeks to learn the stories of the people it meets.
Anemolia is a four star hotel, that opened in 2010, in the crisis period. In spite of the times’ difficulties, its evolution is really good, as in 2019, according to George, it didn’t fall below 80% room occupancy. Steps are being done to upgrade the building to the next level and we wish all the best.
What sets Anemolia apart from other hotels of the same category is that it combines the amenities of a boutique hotel with the homely atmosphere of a family business – we experienced that ourselves. This is due to the owners Matoula and Andreas Tsoumanis, who take care for such an atmosphere in the hotel for both the clients and the employees. We like such management choices, as we believe that a family atmosphere in a business makes the clients feel cozy and intimate.
It is also important for the employees to feel respected and valued in their workspace. As George, who has worked for fifteen years in the food industry and has been employed in Anemolia for one and a half year, said, it is the first time he feels happy in his work, despite the fact that he can’t wait to get home to his wife and newly born daughter… We congratulate them once again!
Time to sleep now… Tomorrow will be a another day with new sweet adventures! Our second article from Ioannina is coming soon, with handmade creations, authentic Italian flavors, local herbs and secrets for their brewing, lots of sweet stories and a beautiful art hike… Stay tuned!
We warmly thank Anemolia resort and spa for the stay and breakfast, the Silversmithing Museum that was created and operates with the support of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation for the permit to photograph and the information they gave us, Telis store for the discussion and the gifts they gave us, “Spitaki me thea” for the pancakes and Presveia Restaurant for the dinner they offered us.
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