Monday, 30 April 2012

Pelion (Part II: Scorpions & Psychadelic Bars)

It turned out to be a really long day when the storm blew in. Rain and more rain brought everyone that was staying at Iris Apartments into the reception area. Those that had children, including us, let them loose. What else could a parent do? After a few hours of this those that didn't have children sought shelter in the rooms. On that day the reception was a virtual playroom for a bunch of children who woke up with a lot of energy. It was nice that other families with children were staying at Iris. I think the last thing a parent wants is to be stuck in one of those hotels that don't take kindly to children's innocent playfulness. All the staff didn't seem to mind one bit and actually seemed to enjoy children running around.

There was one couple in particular, a family of four from Cyprus, that we exceptionally got along with. They had two children, both girls, one of which was 9 years old and the other was the same age as our son, 16 months. Even though our son is very shy I think he liked seeing other little people running around who in turn made their parents run around. But probably the most exciting thing that happened in the reception area was something I all together missed. Apparently when I was getting some baby stuff out of the car in the pouring rain, the gentleman from Cyprus was putting some logs on the fire in the reception area's fireplace when a large black scorpion ran out of the flames. When I returned the moment of excitement was gone. I asked him what happened and he said that it ran out of the fire, so he lifted it up with the fireplace shovel and let it go outside. Inquiring how big it was he said, "About the size of your finger." Yikes! I was really surprised he didn't destroy it. Later on in the day my wife asked one of the young girls working at the hotel (probably the owners daughter) if she was scarred of scorpions. The girl said, "no", and explained that they come out after it rains and usually hide under the bark of dead trees. I understood this to mean that they hide in unsuspecting tourist's firewood. She then explained that if you get bit by them you could get very sick. When my wife asked how they got rid of them she said there was a spray that would kill them, "its kind of like the spray for mosquitoes". I find it pretty amazing that we have invented a spray that can kill an animal that has learned how to survive and stick around for about 430 million years!  When my wife later suggested that we should get the fireplace going the only answer I could give her was, "Are you crazy?"  The ideas probably didn't bother her so much because my side of the bed was the closest to the fireplace in our room. If a heat seeking scorpion were to be out one night looking for fresh blood, or whatever it is that scorpions eat, my body would be the first line of defense. Sorry folks, being a human shield is not one of those activities I'm in to.

Eventually the storm had eased up enough for us to go out and try and find a bite to eat. After looking at the map, and since it was still quiet early, we figured we'd go a few villages over to Zagora. Although I hadn't heard much about the place I did know a Canadian fellow in the Greek Theater who had told me he had been once; good enough for me. So off we went. The baby had snacks, we were out of the room, I knew where we were going and even though the sun wasn't in full bloom it was nice to be in route to see something new.

Even though I knew where Zagora was, thanks to my map reading skills, I felt compelled to ask the receptionist how long it would take us to get there, unto which her response guessed it, "20 minutes". In all fairness the ride from Tsagarada to Zagora only took about 40 minutes. This was mainly due to the wet and winding mountain roads. It can be a nerve racking experience when you're on one of Pelion's narrow, wet mountain roads as a big truck is coming in the opposite direction flashing his lights for God knows what reason and when you look to your side to see if you have room to move over all you see is a rail-less plummet. Take it from me, it'll be OK. Just take it slow and you'll be fine.

Although Zagora is one of the biggest villages in Pelion, and has a history going back to the 8th century BCE, I really didn't see anything spectacular or particularly extraordinary about the place. The surrounding nature was excellent and the village square was quite nice (equipped with a playground and a church), but other than that I thought it would be more traditional with its architecture. Sadly we saw nothing of the sort. It appeared, at first glance, that Zagora was nothing more than a small village with a desire to become The Village of Pelion, but unfortunately for the locals it didn't appear that they had enough tourism or disposable income to support and expand on this idea. 

Probably one would wonder why they should even bother visiting Zagora if they are out that way. The answer to that question lies in the village square across from the church Ag. Kyriaki and it's a tavern called To Limeri ( Ag. Kyriaki Zagora Tel.:00302426023452). Dare I say it, especially after I gave Aleka so much praise, but hands down I believe To Limeri tavern had the best food in all of Pelion. Not only the best food in Pelion, but they had some of the best meat I've ever had in my life (sorry mom)! Because the goat was so good at Aleka's in Tsgarada I had to try the lemon peppered goat at To Limeri in Zagora. Wow! I just can't explain how good it was. We also ordered a special dish of wild greens you can only find in Pelion called tzitzilava. I've never tasted anything quite like this. Tzitzilava looks kind of like the little buds of a pine tree and have a somewhat dense texture to them. As far as I know tzitzilava grows from a tree, is harvested in the Spring, canned in vinegar (or pickled) with baby onions and served with a little olive oil. All the locals said it was best with tsipouro, a very strong pomace brandy, kind of like grappa. I had mine with a small glass of white wine and thought it was delicious.
The wild eatable greens Tzitzilava
After our hearty meal, and much talking about it while it was digesting we let the little guy run the square before a sprinkle of rain drove us back to the car.

It was still relatively early when we got back to the outskirts of Tsgarada. Just as we entered the village we saw a sign that read "Skala Bar" ("Skala" means "Steps" in Greek). We thought a coffee would be a good idea so we pulled over and up the skala we went. Skala Bar is probably the most hip/psychedelic place in all of Pelion. Once we entered the Skala Bar there were only two ladies sitting at the bar having coffee. The place was dimly lit with various colored lights illuminating the rustic and eclectic decor. The music is what first grabbed us, old, eccentric tunes I have never heard before in my life. I'm a music lover so this was really a treat for me as I sometimes feel like I've heard it all. For all the young party seekers, or those that enjoy a dash of nightlife on their holidays I would highly recommend the Skala Bar if not for the music but for the alter-state it seems to put you in.
Skala Bar

Skales at the Skala Bar

My wife thought the very bottom Greek was funny. "Βερυ γκουτ" if you say it sounds like "Very Good" in English.

 We may have stayed longer but the rain was really picking up again so we thought it would be best to get back to Iris.

We woke up the next morning to more rain. It looked like it would be another day indoors. Again we repeated the other days routine of letting our son run around in the reception area with the other children and by mid-day the rain let up considerably. What was there to do but go to a neighboring village and eat, something we seemed like we were doing a lot of lately. So off we went. Mouresi was the closest village so we decided to go there. We had passed through it a couple of times and didn't really see much so I was kind of wondering where we would eat. We ended up stopping at what appeared to be the only tavern in the village; Tavernaki (Ταβερνακι). Tavernaki means "Little Tavern". What looks to be like a little shack on the side of the road is actually a tavern that serves very fresh home-cooked Greek food at very reasonable prices. My wife and I ordered quite a few dishes, all of which were very big portions and a half litter of wine and were given a bill of only 35 Euros! If your going to Tavernaki I urge you to try the Veal in red sauce (Μοσχαπι Κοκκινιστο) it is absolute yumminess, and the best I've had in Greece so far (sorry again mom).

Tavernaki is a place in Mouresi worth going to!!!

Today the weather is clear. From our balcony I can see a calm sea in the distance and it looks as though it will be a sunny day. In a few hours we'll leave Tsagarada behind us and make our way to a village called Makrinitsa, but before we do we'll try and locate the Old Steam Train I've read so much about.

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