From the beautiful nature of Elatochori we said goodbye to you in the first part of our article and there we find you again! As we did not have enough of a hiking route, of course, we wanted to continue our walk to another point, Pigi Keramida!
Read the first part of our article about Elatochori;
In the second part of our article about Elatochori we hike to Pigi Keramida, enter the historic Agios Nikolaos church, drink coffee and eat sweets in Itamos cafeteria along with a very interesting discussion, enjoy rustic cuisine in Anoi and make a last stop in Panagia Agrotissa church, before our last destination, Veria.
The nature of Elatochori is truly blessed. How many colors, how many fruits, how much coolness, how much peace…
We started, then, from the village on foot to the forest location Pigi Keramida. Mrs. Zafiria of Alseides Boutique Hotel told us that it is a wonderful walk and we would not miss it! Fortunately, we found signs that showed us where to go, although in any case anywhere you go, nature is beautiful…
Green trees, cool streams and wooden, well-kept bridges compose a magical landscape, with colors as if they were taken from a fairy tale! We stayed for a long time on the trails, wanting to fill our eyes and lungs with all this beauty and coolness. See for yourself!
In Pigi Keramida we found a heart like the one near our hotel, next to Trani Vrisi. What could be more romantic than for a couple to lock their love in such a magical place…
Really, we did not feel like leaving… We filled our minds and our photographs with beautiful images, and with pain in our souls we started to take the road back. Of course, a very interesting exploration awaited us in the church of the village, the historic Agios Nikolaos. Mrs. Jenny and Mr. Dimitris, the owners of the folk art shop in Horostasi, had the kindness to arrange an appointment with Mr. Dimitris Hasiotis, the parish commissioner, since the church is not open to visitors. It makes sense, if one thinks of the old, wood-carved iconostasis that is kept in excellent condition inside the church.
On the way to the church we met beautiful horses, which complemented the idyllic image of the landscape. Of course, we became friends with them, as we do with all the animals we meet on our travels!
As we learned from Mr. Hasiotis, the church of Agios Nikolaos has a peculiarity: it has 11 domes. The construction of the temple may seem simple from the outside, but from the inside it is really impressive. According to tradition, the temple was built when one of the animals carrying money from the Turks escaped from its path, and ended up in the hands of the Greeks by chance.
Mr. Hasiotis told us that the church is all made with local materials, such as puri, that is, porphyry. He also told us that there used to be a cemetery next to the temple. He even showed us an old tomb, of the 18th century, which bears the name Tolios, which is the name of the man who found the animal with the money of the Turks, with which the church was built.
As we read in the inscription at the entrance of the church, it was built in 1779 and renovated in 1906; it was being built, in fact, for 27 years by craftsmen from Epirus. At that time the village was still called Skouterna. The church has archaeological significance and for this reason it has been taken over by the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. In fact, studies are currently being conducted to find ways to integrate temple care into related programs.
The jewel of the church is undoubtedly the wood-carved iconostasis of the end of the 18th century, made by two craftsmen, with the second continuing the work left by the first one in the middle. The difference can be seen from the fact that the first carpenter had made deeper carvings, while the second one’s were shallower. If one looks carefully at the details of the iconostasis, he will be really impressed by the art and the passion with which it has been created… The hagiographies that exist today in the iconostasis are more recent ones, as we noticed, of the 1970s.
The frescoes of the temple, unfortunately, are not well preserved. The church went through a lot, since, for example, during the Turkish occupation, there was a secret school and, according to a local song, it was painted black with fumo so that the Turks would not see it. Still, during the civil war, the guerrillas remained inside for six years. The old icons are no longer in the church, but those that are left are kept in the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen of the new Elatochori. Unfortunately, since they were of great value, many have been stolen.
We admired the beautiful, historic church, we said our prayers and after thanking Mr. Hasiotis, who opened the church and gave us a lot of valuable information, we returned to our hotel, the Alseides Boutique Hotel. We rested a bit and got ready, since the rest of the day had a visit to the new Elatochori!
The new Elatochori is a beautiful, more modern settlement. What impressed us as soon as we arrived in the village is the uniformity of its buildings -low houses placed next to each other create a harmonious image. The permanent population of the village is close to 600 people.
The village was very crowded when we arrived and we quickly understood why – in the village church, the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, a wedding was held and a lot of people had gathered around the church. This also explained the numerous cars we saw parked on the streets. This, of course, must be a conjunctural picture.
The day was wonderful and we really wanted to have a coffee in the beautiful village. We chose the most beautiful place, the Itamos cafe with the beautiful view and the delicious sweets. For coffee, dessert or drink, this place is truly a fantastic choice!
In Itamos we met the nicest owner, Mrs. Giota Drouga, who sat with us and told us many interesting stories about the village. She told us that the village has gone through a lot; the Germans executed 34 people, young and old. They burned the whole old village and the inhabitants were forced to leave and stay in Ritini and Katerini until the end of the wars. The village has a private forest, bought by the inhabitants from the Turkish bey. Thanks to this, the state helped the suffering residents to build on the side of the new Elatochori, when they returned to the village. This side was chosen because it did not have very tall trees and because the place had a lot of stone. The buildings in the old Elatochori have been built since the ski center was built. In fact, the two parts of Elatochori do not stand out, where the old buildings end, the new houses begin.
Then, Mrs. Giota told us the story of the creation of the church of Agios Nikolaos with the pounds of the Turks, which we described above. She added that when Tolios found the mule with the money, he buried it so that the Turks who would look for it would not find it. The Turks had him under surveillance for many years, but he was a very smart man and he used a few pounds at a time and grew his herds and fields. As the years passed, he said that since the money came as a gift, he would build the village church.
The village, in the past, had many children, and in the place where the tavern To Palio Scholio is located today, there was a beautiful, three-storey school, which was also burned down by the Germans. The only thing that survived was the church of Agios Nikolaos, because the priest then fell to his knees in front of the German captain and begged him to kill him instead of burning the church. He told him about what was held inside, the icons and the wood carving, and so he convinced him.
Mrs. Giota also told us her personal story. She was born in the village, but stayed in Katerini for 20 years. With the development that the village saw due to the ski center, the cars lined up, she remembers, but they opened the shop in the crisis. They have owned the store for 15 years now, and initially they lived in Katerini and went up and down; recently they moved permanently to Elatochori.
She also told us that itamos is a tree, a cousin of the fir tree. It has very strong wood and rubber. They say that the Ancient Macedonians made their bows from this, since it also has a little poison. The villagers used itamos when they wanted to make something solid in the ground, such as in their huts. This tree grows very slowly, close to water and therefore has very dense circles at its intersection. The Pieria Mountains generally have a very large variety of trees and plants, very high – we found out ourselves on our hikes. The village, of course, can be called Elatochori, but the area does not have so many fir trees (elata in Greek)… It has more beeches and oaks.
Mrs. Giota told us that she and her husband organize walking trips in the forest. It may be relatively easy to reach, for example, Sotiri Rema, but along with the locals they make other, lesser known routes.
The beautiful conversation was accompanied by a sweet accompaniment: handmade desserts by Mrs. Giota, ravani and Napoleon, the traditional sweet of the village. Napoleon, made with the old recipe, was the official dessert when they were children.
The sweet owner of Itamos also spoke to us about the Folklore Museum of the village. The museum can be visited by appointment, as it operates with volunteers. The past of the place is kept inside it. It was made after many years, with volunteer work, and keeps old objects of the villagers, and also friends from neighboring villages. The result is very nice, organized in sections that tell the story of the place. The museum is managed by the Cultural Folklore Association of Elatochori, and its president was Mrs. Giota’s father, but also herself. The association since its creation has not stopped operating and has a constant presence with cultural events.
Another place we wanted to visit in the new Elatochori, but unfortunately it was closed, is the tea and packaging workshop Olympus Tea – Althea Estate. The workshop was created in 2015 with the aim of selling tea in our country and abroad. Its products are organic, BIO Hellas certified and are produced with respect to historical memory and the consumer. The workshop is visitable and has an exhibition space with original material and photos of Pieria plants.
In the new Elatochori we had a fantastic time and learned a lot about its history. So, the time has passed without us realizing it. We returned to the old Elatochori, since a warm, homemade meal was waiting for us in the Anoi tavern!
Anoi has a beautiful outdoor area, in the green, but the night was quite cold, so we chose to sit inside. The tavern is beautifully decorated, with wood and stone, materials that create a warm atmosphere, especially when the big fireplace on the upper floor is lit!
The home feeling created by the space alone was enough to make you feel at home… But with the food you really felt like a king! Grilled meat, stews, skewers, salads of the season, appetizers, and whatever drink our appetite craved… What more could we ask for! You will see and understand!
In Anoi we ate delicious dishes and had a great time! And the sweet night continued in our hotel, the Alseides Boutique Hotel, in its awesome living room. This time Mrs. Zafiria offered us another drink that she made herself, rose geranium liqueur with red wine. It was fantastic! We accompanied it, as the previous night, with our favorite wild grapes that Mr. Christos collects.
An evening drink in front of the Alseides Boutique Hotel’s fireplace is a delight. For this reason the hotel cooperates with the local Kourti, Chrysostomou, Papagiannouli and Xiromeritou wineries, so that guests can taste their wonderful wines!
We slept like a log, after such a full day! The next morning we woke up full of joy and liveliness, and once again enjoyed the handmade, homemade breakfast of our hotel. Handmade pies, homemade jams, croissants, cold cuts, cheeses, omelets, yogurt with honey, tomato of their own, local honey, fresh bread, butter, filter coffee and orange juice… Everything was perfect!
The day was sunny, and we had another trip to make… We said goodbye to the wonderful people of Alseides Boutique Hotel and set off for our last destination, Veria!
On the way to Veria we will complete this article, in a small stop we made in a small church with a very original name, Panagia Agrotissa. This is a chapel dedicated to Our Lady, that protects farmers and takes care of agricultural production. Built in the center of agricultural crops, the chapel has been for centuries the refuge of farmers in the area. It celebrates the 8th of September, the birthday of the Virgin Mary and a date when the agricultural activity used to end formally.
As we have read, the chapel was built in the 13th or 14th century, by a few people who lived in the settlement of Panaia. Later, it was completely destroyed by conquerors. It was probably rebuilt in the 14th century, together with the church of Agios Nikolaos in old Elatochori. It is said to have acquired its current form in 1978.
In the old days, the farmers left the village with all their belongings and lived in the “huts” for their agricultural work, since they did not have the opportunity to come and go in the village. They revered the Virgin Mary very much and for this reason they dedicated this small church to her.
May the Virgin Mary bless us all, our dear friends! Stay with us until the last destination of our long journey, Veria… It will be fantastic there too!
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