The old ticket house, the signs, the rails, they all stand out as timeless reminders of the analog era…carefree, yet with an appreciation, a deep respect even, for precious time in Pelion Milies.
Part One of Maria’s travel story can be read here.
Still August, still in Volos, Greece, still sharing a flat with my parents and my sister experiencing a post apocalyptic story from the pages of a book. Four adults, one pandemic and a social distancing kind of situation plus a Greek summer heat wave. So when my family and I left Horton (Part One) to return to the nest in Volos, although I didn’t have a particular plan for the rest of the month, I decided it was of impeccable importance to find refuge in nature. We all had a couple of weeks left in the vacation calendar and no specific wish list to fulfill. We were all just thrilled to have been away from the city…none of us had yet been exposed to the virus. The only sure thing was that my father had to get back to work for some days and my mother, my sister and I would be confined at the apartment for the time being, catching up on each other’s lives and discovering how it is to be living all together again.
But, to my surprise I was saved by the bell in the arrival of my good friend from Athens who decided to join the gang for a long weekend. And then we were five…in a city apartment sharing our breakfast and dinner time. My friend arrived on the bus, just like I did, late at night with just a bag of clothes and her white mask. Walking from the bus station to the bar took us less than 10 minutes and we repeated the arrival ritual at Filippou Café Clasique: two vodka cranberries, two souvlaki and some smooth jazz listening to get the Athenian tension out. The night was delightfully hot and moist but with a cool sea breeze to die for. Tension free ad relaxed, we drove my dad’s car home for some much needed rest and reprieve from the heat still thriving in the city.
The next morning we were ready to seize the day. As we ate mom’s homemade strawberry jam on just-baked croissants and drunk some fresh brewed espressos, the route for our day’s adventure was discussed and decided upon.
We started our Volos to Pelion road trip. Since my dearest companion hadn’t been to Pelion before, I had to make the executive decisions on the route so as for her to experience the embodiment of the mountain of the Centaurs. For that reason our first stop was Milies, a village built on an elevation of 400m in the southern part of the mountain. It’s only 28km eastern from the city of Volos and the ride there is mostly easy to drive. Taking the provincial route Volos-Neohori, we had the chance to go through Agria – Agria: Αγριά> άγρια = wild (as my father used to say, because before becoming a village it was a swamp). We drove by Kato Lechonia, Ano lechonia – so to pass by the tremendous neoclassical building by the road that bears the title of one of the most haunted places in Greece. Then through Malaki, Kato Gatzea, and finally turning towards the mountain on the provincial route of Kala Nera – Milies.
For the entire ride we could see, smell and feel the sea on our right, blue and calm calling for a dive. But arriving in the village of Milies it was obvious that we had made the right choice. As the temperature had started rising, we somehow rose above it. 400m away from the sea, the sun was shining but the breeze rising up through the forested mountains rinsed the remnants of the midsummer heat. We parked the car at the old railway station and walked up to the village center.
We were ready for some freddo espresso and something to eat, so the visit to Anna na ena milo was inevitable. We ordered our coffees and a Leak Pie each –Pelion pies are exceptional delicacies- and sat there, enjoying our afternoon indolence. After a couple of hours of listening to jazz music coming through the speakers – suitably climatized and strangely relaxed from our managed-caffeine-overdose – we decided it was time to explore.
We took the calderimi –stone road- down to the village towards the railway station. A mere a 10-minute walk from the main square, the stroll to the station is utterly picturesque, and it gave us the opportunity to marvel at the traditional architecture of the area.
During the eighties the Cultural Minister at the time, Melina Mercouri, passed a bill protecting the traditional architecture of the 25 villages of Mount Pelion, thereby rescuing the region from the rip offs of ruthless construction companies and the greedy housing market that stripped the country of its original architectonics.
As a child I remember riding the steam train from Milies to Kato Lechonia. My parents would take us on an adventure on a tiny, 19th century train, which burned coal and went through the deep forest of the mountain. Nowadays, it still runs on weekends and under reserved bookings. But even if you don’t get to board the train Moutzouris – “smudgy”- walking the tracks is taken straight out of a fairy tale.
The old ticket house, the signs, the rails stand out, reminders of an analog era, carefree and yet with an appreciation and deep respect for time. We followed the tracks, mesmerized by the midday summer light filtering through the deep shadows of the thick vegetation. Breeze rustled through the mountain trees above us. Rocks, reeds, brushes and an array of berries’ bushes provide succour and sustenance for all sorts of unseen small animals…the pitter-patter of tiny feet added to the music of the magic of the place. We walked for some time taking pictures and enjoying the view. Then we decided it was time to get home and maybe catch a late dinner.
A couple of hours later after our peaceful drive down the mountain, we were back in the city of Volos. Within an hour of arriving home – showered and all dressed up – we were sat at a table in the fabulous yard of La Marimba sipping margaritas and eating burritos. The feeling of complete relaxation and serenity that the mountain offered us so generously was accentuated by the lovely hacienda ambient of the restaurant, the soft Latin tunes and the exquisite frozen margaritas. The perfect setting for a relaxed Saturday night fun…like the days before the lore of pandemic.
As the night wore on, between bites of great food and sips of exotic drinks and long pauses to sway to the music, we made a detailed plan for our next excursion…we would take off right after our Sunday brunch with the family.
Read Part Three next…