Greek Travel Diary 4 – Athanasios Diakos

If you have missed the first 3 photo heavy blog posts, I’d suggest you go back to:

Diary 1 of Athens, Diary 2 of Santorini and Diary 3 of Amorgos

On Monday morning, we left Amorgos on the ferry at 5am, waving goodbye to our wonderful island week holiday…

We watched the sunrise and I got excited for the next part of my Greek journey.

Oh and I’ve clearly had a name change… I am now Bailey Snainter. Close enough. Hahaha.

After the 9 hour ferry ride, we freshened up in Athens and then left for a 2 hour trip to the mountains.

We arrived in the village, Athanasios Diakos, just after 23h00. It was dark and chilly, 15 degrees at night, up high in the mountains, but hot during the day.

When I woke up the following morning and looked out the window, I was absolutely blown away. When I think of Greece I think of olive trees, the typical island look of blue shutters and cobbled streets. So few tourists (myself included) know about these villages up in the mountains. I kept thinking I’d traveled to Switzerland overnight.

We were staying with Sox’s sister Sofi and her husband Kosta in the beautiful home they have here.

Everyone here knows each other. It’s a small, tight community of warmth and love and lots of the yummiest, freshest food you will ever taste. We took a walk through the village, greeting everyone and feeling this amazing sense of community. I had complete strangers giving me chocolates and hot, freshly baked spanakopita. I was welcomed so warmly, I almost felt like they knew me.  I definitely was the only person in the village who wasn’t Greek, but no one made me feel like an outsider.

There is something about being in nature, being surrounded by forest, hearing the river rush through, the cicada’s screeching and the birds tweeting. It makes my soul happy. I really felt like no matter what stress or worry there is in life, it all melted away each time I took a deep breath of that fresh mountain air.

I also had this strange urge to keep singing “The Hills Are Alive” … but in Greek or perhaps sung with ouzo and raki.

The water comes straight from the river, it trickles out of the various trees and water fountains the village has set up and it is sweet. It is amazing. No chemicals. It’s filtered through it’s own natural filtering system and you see restaurants filling up water jugs from the non stop flowing tree and placing the ice cold water on the table or people walking past and grabbing a quick drink. It’s incredible.

We literally ate, drank and slept – my goodness you sleep well in the village. Perhaps it’s the fresh air, or the soothing sound of the river or perhaps when your soul is so close to nature, you can’t help but sleep deeply.

Everything is so bright and colourful. The flowers, the leaves, the sky…

You often find these small models of churches along the road. They are everywhere in Greece and quite beautiful. This one was right on the road outside their home.

Here is another little church model in the forest…

 Here is the big church down the road. I got to go inside and it was really beautiful.

OK, let’s talk food. Everything in the village is fresh and home made, baked or picked. There isn’t a supermarket you can just walk into and get what you need. Farmers bring through fresh meat, milk, feta cheese, Greek yoghurt and butters.

We ate at home and also at the Taverna in the Village Square, the place where everyone meets to drink, eat, dance (sometimes) and catch up.

I tried this dish that is a delicacy. If you aren’t bothered by the idea of what you’re eating, give it a try. You either like it or you don’t. It’s called Kokoretsi.

OK… so it’s basically the lungs, heart, liver and fat wrapped in the intestines roasted with herbs.

It’s not for me, but I did try it. It honestly wasn’t as bad as my head had decided. I just really am not a fan of the liver taste.

I hope your stomach hasn’t turned… Back to the yummy food.

This is sheep milk yoghurt and it’s creamy and delicious. I also tried sheep milk ice cream and it tastes just like soft serve.

Fresh Greek yoghurt with honey… yes, even the honey is made in the village and you can see beehives dotted along in a section of the forest.

There was also a lot of laughing. Let me introduce you to Niko.

He is Sofi’s cousin and such a funny guy, with a heart of gold. Really, his sense of humour is second to none. He was crazy! In the good way. He kept joking around and teasing me about how I had “stolen his heart” and so he kept bringing me flowers. What made it so funny is that the flowers kept getting bigger and bigger and he would pop up out of nowhere. He kept picking flowers from people’s gardens (sorry neighbours) and one time he ran over to our table, having picked up the restaurants big pot plant and plopped it on the table.

He also would shout out: “Photo video!” waiting for us to take a photo and GoPro the romantic hilarious scenes. We would all roar with laughter. Perhaps it’s one of those moments where you had to be there, but it was super funny.

I love Sox’s expression in this photo…

 I have never seen such a huge Dahlia in all my life. I placed it next to my camera lens cap for size.

Niko even arrived with ice cream one night too and the “Photo video!” call.

Just when I thought the joke was over… The following day he arrived at the house with more freshly picked flowers and then showered me with petals, much to everyones surprise. My stomach hurt from laughing so much.

One morning, Kosta, Sox and I headed to another Taverna a little further down the hill for a hearty breakfast of tomato scrambled eggs, omelettes and raki. Wow. That drink will put hair on your chest, let me tell you and they don’t call it fire water for nothing. Sox and I got a little tipsy and it’s definitely a first for me to be tipsy before midday.

Don’t be fooled. That is NOT water. That is pure raki with ice cubes

You may be at your own table, but as everyone knows one another, conversations fly between tables. I generally sat listening to the animated Greek language and picked up a lot of the words I knew. There were men playing cards or Tavli (Backgammon), raki drinking, food eating and laughter. I love finding out about people and finding out their stories – I guess that’s why I interview people on radio for a living. These men were fascinating and I found out a lot through the broken English conversations we had. This man with the glasses, who looked like a Texas Oil Tycoon was a retired car salesman.

 This man is a retired pilot. He flew for Olympic Airways for over 30 years.

This man was the captain of a ship for years and has traveled to Cape Town. He also knew some mutual people in Cape Town. Small world.

After a boozy breakfast, we headed out into the mountains to explore.

 Kosta picked us fresh blackberries that were so sweet.

It really was a fantastic few days and I absolutely adored seeing a part of Greece I never imagined existed.

For my last week, we headed over to Akrata, a gorgeous seaside town where I got to meet Sox’s aunt Vicky and Yianni. The final travel diary is coming up tomorrow.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Dennis Theunissen

    I really enjoyed reading this part 4 of your trip Bailey – maybe because of the mountainside – the village atmosphere & all the fresh air. One of my favourite read about your journey so far – guess I could relate as I too live in countryside & enjoy the idea of fresh air & no city smog – now for part 5

    June 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm
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