24 hours in Naoussa, part b

Our 24 hours in Naoussa continue! The first day was rainy, but the second rewarded us with plenty of sun and an even better mood!

See how our first day in Naoussa was:

In the second part of our article about Naoussa we start the day with coffee with our friend, chef and culinary teacher Mr. Kostas Ioakimidis overlooking the plain of Imathia, we continue with wine tasting at the Kir-Yianni Winery in Yiannakochori Naoussa and end on a trip back to Antiquity at the School of Aristotle in the area of Isvoria, Naoussa.

The area near the Municipal Park of Naoussa has an incredible view of the plain of Imathia. Herodotus mentions that in these places were the famous Gardens of Midas. Endless acres with peaches, which bloom in spring and create a unique image, a pink painting… We must definitely come again at that time!

But even in autumn the view does not lag behind in anything… The green spreads as far as your eye can see. Either the first day when it was cloudy, or the next day with sun and a clear atmosphere, the landscape was unique!

The view of the plain on a cloudy day:

The plain in spring:

The plain of Imathia in spring with the blossoming peaches (source)
(source)

So it was a sunny morning and what a better way to start the day than with a coffee with a good friend. We met our friend, chef and culinary teacher Mr. Kostas Ioakimidis in his hometown, Naoussa, and sat down to talk at The Boston’s café or Vetlans Old Factory, the old Vetlans textile factory. It is a landmark building of the city, which was harmoniously renovated, with respect to its history and its importance for the past of the city.

(source)
Outside The Boston’s café

Of course the day was wonderful and so we chose to sit outside, against the backdrop of the beautiful plain. We ordered coffee and started the conversation… Mr. Ioakimidis spoke to us with great love about his city and told us that The Boston’s is one of his favorite hangouts.

From the outside tables of the cafeteria the view is magical!

Mr. Ioakimidis explained to us many things about the profession of a cook and the studies in the subject. Apart from the fact that he works in the restaurant To Kotopoulaki, he has been a teacher at the Public Vocational School of Veria for the past three years and is very satisfied with the quality of the Vocational School. He told us that it is a difficult job, which not everyone can do; for this reason many students will not pursue this profession in the end. In Public Vocational Schools the education program may be specific, but the teachers have the opportunity to share their own recipes. Thus, Mr. Ioakimidis often chooses traditional recipes, which he prefers, since he believes that students should first learn our Greek cuisine. Of course, he also teaches international cuisine – he specializes in Mexican and Italian cuisine.

Coffee and a nice chat with Mr. Kostas Ioakimidis

Mr. Ioakimidis shared with us one of his favorite pastimes: he cooks with children aged 5 to 8 years. The children, he told us, love cooking and look him in the eyes, they see it as a game. Also, Mr. Ioakimidis goes voluntarily to a center for the disabled, where he cooks with disabled children. It may have been difficult at first, but the love he got back was unlimited. Very sweet activities, we have to say!

Healthy cooking with children for the World Chefs Day on October 21 (school)

We asked our friend about the traditional cuisine of the area and he told us that Naoussa, like all of Macedonia, is famous for its pies, spinach pies, leek pies, meat pies and many more. One of the most famous local recipes is mantza, a kind of boiled vegetables dish. The lachanodolmades (cabbage rolls) of Naoussa are also famous. Of course, it was not possible to not mention the wines of the area, with the most famous being Xinomavro, which is aged for many years. Mr. Ioakimidis recommended that we definitely visit one of their wineries – and that is exactly what we would do right after!

Coffee with a view
How to get bored of this beauty?

The winery of the area that we chose to visit -although we would like to see everything of course- was the Kir-Yianni Winery of the Boutaris family in Yiannakochori, Naoussa, on the slopes of Vermio mountain. It is one of the most famous wineries in our country, with multiple distinctions in international competitions.

Arriving at the Kir-Yianni Winery
The new wine bar
The winery shop

At the winery we were welcomed by Mrs. Elpida Palamida, Agronomist Technologist, while Mrs. Valentina was our guide to the facilities and the vineyard. Our tour guide told us about their story, which begins in 1879 with Yiannis Boutaris, the grandfather of Kir-Yiannis, who left Nymfaio where he comes from and went to Thessaloniki, where he opened the first wine shop. The second generation is Stelios Boutaris, who came to Naoussa in the 1930s and built the first winery in the city. The third generation is Kir-Yiannis and his brother Konstantinos, who started working in the 1960s.

Until 1968, when they bought the estate we were on, the family made wines but had no vineyards. Kir-Yiannis took vines from Amyntaio and planted the first Xinomavro vines. In the 1980s he planted new foreign varieties, such as Merlot and Syrah, which thrive in the area. Today 50% is Xinomavro, 25% Merlot, 15% Syrah and the rest is experimental. In the estate we were on, only red varieties come out, while the white, rosé and two red varieties are produced in their other winery in Amyntaio, which operates with contracted vine growers.

The vineyards of the estate, at the time of the harvest we were going through
The vineyard and the artificial lake in the background

Mrs. Valentina explained to us that the first sorting takes place in the vineyard and what is unripe, rotten or will not mature, will not become wine, but tsipouro or vinegar. The good bunches are put in a refrigerator-chamber for 24 hours and the next day they are pressed.

The sorting machine of the winery

The sorting in the sorting machine is done in two phases, in clusters and in grapes. Also, there the stalk is separated from the grape. The grape continues its way to six women, who sort by hand. The grapes are pressed with a machine, with very little pressure, as if they had been pressed manually. In essence, the bark is torn, because they do not want to break the seed, so as not to produce bitter oils.

The must is then transferred to the tanks. During the first 4 days pre-fermentation extraction takes place, ie the first extractions before fermentation. This process is also called cold extraction, and is done to get the soft tannin that the bark has – this makes the wine easier to drink, since Xinomavro is a very special variety with several “aggressive” (strongly astringent) tannins. In the following days the temperature rises to 16°C and the fermentation ends at 10-12°C.

The tanks of the winery
Oak tanks with the names of the grandchildren of Kir-Yiannis

Once the must is ready, it goes down to the cellar, 6 meters below the ground. The varieties are kept separately, Merlot and Syrah for 12 months and Xinomavro for 16-18 months. The barrels are all oak, with a capacity of 250 and 500 liters. As long as the must remain in the barrel, the evolution and the level are checked, so that no vacuum is created. Once it is ready, the wine goes up to the tanks again and goes for bottling. In total it stays in the winery for at least a year.

The wine cellar of the winery
The wine cellar with the old crops
The history of Kir-Yiannis

After the very interesting tour, for which we warmly thank Mrs. Valentina, it was the turn of the tasting of three of the wonderful Kir-Yianni wines. We sat outside the winery, at the tables where the guests are treated. The scenery was really awesome!

The tables where the tasting of the Kir-Yianni wines takes place

We tried three fantastic wines! First was the white wine “Samaropetra”, 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the winery of Amyntaio, from stony soils that give enough acidity; a wine that goes well with dishes with lemon, salads, soups with avgolemono. The second was the wine “Acacia”, a PDO rosé from Amyntaio, which stays 6-12 hours with the grape pomace in the tank and takes on the characteristic color, with aromas of strawberry, cherry, red forest fruits and fresh tomatoes. Lastly, the red “Ktima Kir-Yianni” from Yiannakochori, an anniversary label, in honor of a 200-year-old oak tree that fell from a strong wind, Xinomavro, Merlot and Syrah; goes great with Greek cuisine, chicken, meat, moussaka, pastitsio. The wines were accompanied by a plate with Graviera cheese from Amfilochia, nuts, breadsticks and tomato jam from a workshop in Naoussa.

We enjoyed our wine and the wonderful location for quite some time… As Mrs. Valentina told us during the tour, an attraction of the estate that we must see before leaving was “Kula”, a Turkish outpost, which is the sign of the company and is present in all bottles. During the Turkish occupation, the whole region belonged to a Turkish aga, who took a tax, the ⅒ of the harvest.

“Kula”, the Turkish outpost and brand of the Kir-Yianni company

We left the Kir-Yianni estate rich in images, flavors and aromas. Next stop, and last in Naoussa, the School of Aristotle – history and archeology to close a load of experiences. The School of Aristotle is a place of world importance; it is the place where one of the greatest philosophers of all time taught classical Greek thought and Platonic philosophy, among others, to Alexander the Great.

Aristotle, the great ancient philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great

In the area that surrounds the ancient School of Aristotle there is a Cultural Center, built of wood, metal and stone, with a modern architectural approach. We were very happy to find it open and of course we went in to see its functions and talk to its people.

Inside the Cultural Center of the School of Aristotle there is an exhibition space, a conference and projection room, a reception area and a restaurant. The person in charge of the center had the kindness to guide us and talk to us about this important monument of our ancient history. In fact, we had the pleasure of watching a very interesting video that described in detail the findings, hypotheses and deductions of archaeological research.

Watching with undiminished interest the video about the School of Aristotle

After all that interesting information that we watched in the video, we definitely wanted to see the archeological site up close!

The natural landscape in which we proceeded to reach the archeological site was idyllic: paths with dense vegetation, between gushing springs and flowing streams. The absolute natural harmony that complemented the high value of what the great philosopher taught. From written sources we learn, in fact, that in this place beautiful roses grew. Learning was framed by aesthetic pleasure…

The dense, green vegetation gives us a sense of what the landscape was like at that time…

According to what we learned from the video at the Cultural Center, archaeologists believe that the Nymphaeum of Mieza, as the sanctuary dedicated to the Nymphs is called, together with three natural caves are the main site of the School of Aristotle. Professor Fotis Petsas, who was in charge of the excavations between 1965-1969, was the man who discovered the ruins of the building, which is supposed to be the School of Aristotle. It is, after all, known that the ancient philosophers used to build their schools near Nymphaea. Another element that reinforces the conclusions of archaeologists is the construction of the building, with inoculated elements built into the ground, which is so luxurious that only Philip could build it for his son Alexander.

One of the three natural caves of the archeological site

Based on the findings of the excavations, archaeologists can say that the construction of the building was two-storey, with two galleries. The roof of the building was luxuriously decorated. The walls, that is, the vertically carved rock and the columns of the galleries, of Ionic and Doric style, bore mortar. The school building was created shortly before 342 BC, when the school operated. Aristotle must have been about 42 years old when Philip invited him to become the teacher of 13-year-old Alexander. What is certain is that Aristotle did not come to Macedonia to become Alexander’s home teacher. Based on Platonic teaching, he wanted young people to move away from the family environment and get used to group life. The young, sons of wealthy families, who studied with Alexander, then stood by his side as his generals.

The ancient ruins testify to the operation of the school in the area

These great things happened many, many years ago in the soils that we stepped on… With that in mind we had a shiver of emotion and pride for the great personalities that our homeland gave birth to!

[The Greek race] lives freely and is well governed and could dominate if it were politically united.

Aristotle

With a touch of the wisdom that the greatest philosopher taught we will say goodbye to Naoussa. We had a great time and we wish we could have stayed longer! Our next travel article will find us in Elatochori, Pieria, for three days full of new experiences, new friends, new landscapes, new flavors and much more… See you soon, dear friends!

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