This Area in Central Greece Is Dwelling to A few of the Nation’s Most Well-known Classical Myths — Plus Cozy Boutique Resorts and Backyard-fresh Eating

Writing a guide is an extended, lonely, indoor job. Whereas I used to be engaged on “Greek Myths: A New Retelling,” which weaves collectively classical tales from Homer to Apuleius, that sense of isolation was compounded by the pandemic. There was no probability of journey, no escape from the island of my London research. However the landscapes of Greece have been a vital reference level for my guide, so I spent extra time than was mandatory Googling sunlit mountains and tangled coastlines, island harbors and flower-dappled meadows — locations that, on the time, I may go to solely in my creativeness.

With the guide completed and out on the planet, and the pandemic kind of consigned to historical past, I wanted to go to the nation whose literature and visible tradition I’d been immersed in for thus lengthy. I made a decision on a late-summer go to to Pelion. Mates had raved about this unspoiled, mountainous peninsula in Greece, which curves like an apostrophe across the Pagasetic Gulf, north of Athens. Pelion is layered in classical fantasy: its namesake mountain was the land of the centaurs; and town of Vólos, which stands on the peninsula’s head, was historic Iolcos, from the place Jason launched the Argo and his quest to say the Golden Fleece.

When my associate, Matthew, recommended beginning the journey by flying to Thessaloniki and visiting Mount Olympus — the legendary house of the Greek gods, the place their gleaming palaces stood among the many clouds — I used to be bought. I ought to say proper now that we didn’t climb Olympus — which, at 9,570 toes, is the tallest peak in Greece. Not for me the epic scramble of certainly one of my favourite characters, Psyche, who went seeking her lacking husband, Eros, whereas closely pregnant, and scaled Olympus so as to sort out her terrifying mother-in-law, the goddess Aphrodite.

It was extra restful by far to think about this feat from the consolation of Ktima Bellou, a quietly luxurious resort with seven rooms and 5 stone guesthouses on the western aspect of the mountain. Afroditi Bellou is the managing director of the guesthouse — and, because it turned out, just isn’t solely named after a Greek goddess however can also be a mythology fanatic. She jogged my memory that, in line with legend, the 9 Muses have been born on the base of Olympus, within the area referred to as Pieria. 

Afroditi’s mom is in command of the kitchen at on the resort, and her father presides over the farm. Konstantinos, Afroditi’s associate, is the sommelier and in addition served us our scrumptious breakfasts: cheese pies, house-made bread and preserves, eggs from their very own chickens, honey from their hives, walnuts from their bushes. Earlier than that each day feast, we might swim just a few lengths within the wonderful, if bracing, resort pool, and look out over Olympus’s slopes, hoping for the Muses to strike with inspiration.

Afroditi really helpful walks on the mountain slopes and gave us maps, sending us out sooner or later to attempt the Phaethon Path, an 8.5-mile route that begins within the close by village of Kokkinopilós. The identify of the trail is barely ill-omened, since Zeus killed Phaethon with a thunderbolt after the boy failed to regulate a chariot belonging to his father, Helios, the solar god. 

No such destiny awaited us, nevertheless, as we adopted the well-marked path by a forest of oak, beech, and poplar bushes. Afterward, we drove as much as admire the distant chapel of the Prophet Elias, as Elijah is known as in Greece, which was constructed within the sixteenth century on the slopes of Mount Titaros. From there the nice peaks of Olympus unfold out in entrance us, glimmering and pale within the early night daylight, whereas an eagle, Zeus’s hen, floated languorously by.

After trying out of Ktima Bellou, we took Afroditi’s recommendation and drove south to the ruins of the traditional metropolis of Dion. The stays of its Hellenistic and Roman buildings lay amid rivulets and luxurious vegetation. We discovered the altar on which Alexander the Nice made his sacrifices earlier than heading off on his nice conquering spree by Asia within the fourth century B.C. It was a robust expertise: a sense of touching not fantasy, however historical past.

A few hours later, we got here to the sting of Volos. The grid-planned metropolis just isn’t precisely redolent of historic fantasy, besides by advantage of its location, because it was nearly fully rebuilt following a 1955 earthquake. However quickly, Matthew and I have been climbing larger and better up Mount Pelion, first by olive groves, then apple orchards on the decrease slopes, lastly reaching stands of richly fruiting chestnut bushes.

In my guide, I discover the story of Medea, Jason, and the Argonauts, through which the hero tells the princess about his homeland and its “beautiful, sheer cliffs that profession down into the foaming sea.” The portrait turned out to be correct. The comfy, nine-room Amanita Guesthouse is made up of a conventional stone home and a few residences, all set in a medicinal herb backyard that adheres to Pelion’s precipitous slopes.

As we speak, the villages dotting the mountain are linked by handy, if precipitously winding, roads. However the previous donkey paths that have been as soon as the one routes throughout the peninsula now function a community of strolling trails. From our guesthouse we walked to the village of Tsagarada, the place an amazing aircraft tree has been shading the village sq. for hundreds of years. From there we may climb immediately right down to the seaside of Damouchari, the place we swam within the turquoise water earlier than wandering to its absurdly fairly harbor, ignored by a few easy however beautiful fish tavernas. (It’s so fairly, actually, {that a} scene from the movie Mamma Mia was filmed there.) It took 80 minutes to stroll down and 90 minutes to battle again up however, after respiration lungfuls of the salty mountain air and recognizing wild autumn crocuses among the many scrub, Matthew and I agreed it was value it.