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The northeast of the Pilion and Miliës

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Friday 23 June, the northeast of the Pilion and Miliës

Yesterday I was quite surprised on my birthday but in Greece a name day is more important for someone than his or her birthday. Every day of the year is dedicated to a saint, often even to several. The saint after whom you are named (which is almost always the case in Greece) determines your name day. For example, if you are John, Yannis or Johannis, you are named after St. Johannis, which is linked to 7 January. That date is more important than your own birthday. Suppose you can not associate your own name with any saint, then All Saints Day is your name day and that falls 8 weeks after Easter Sunday. Now Easter falls every year on a different date and in Greece also on a different date than in Western Europe so in that case your name day always falls on a different date. Greeks usually celebrate their name day more exuberantly than their birthday. The name day of Elisabeth falls on April 24, mine will fall on All Saints.
1000-year-old plane tree in Tsangarada Posing for the old plane tree in TsangaradaToday we drive first to the northeast, to the elongated village of Tsangarada where one of the oldest trees in Greece and perhaps of Europe should stand. We search for a while but a waiter at a restaurant where we drink a cup of coffee, explains it to me in Greek. I think I understand it reasonably well but on the way I still have to ask a second time. But everything in Greek! And on a hidden square we see the enormous plane tree which according to the stories is 1000 years old and has a diameter of 14 meters but maybe even more since 4 meters of the trunk is under the ground, under the pavement.
Hiking trail through TsangaradaThe waiter also told me that there is another, second old tree in the village and that we have to walk past the main road. The hiking trails are paved with thick flat boulders as were used in the past for all roads. With these boulders many hiking trails have been constructed throughout the Pelion, there are even Dutch walking clubs in this area who have repaired old walkways, by Dutch people who have moved here. Eventually we arrive at the next small square through the narrow alleys and through a schoolyard.
Another old plane tree in Tsangarada Small square in Tsangarada in the PilionAnd there is indeed an impressive tree with a trunk of 10 meters circumference. Almost all squares in Greece have at least one large tree, usually a plane tree that has to provide shade in the summer. The squares are often located on the higher parts of the village or city in order to ensure it is the most cool place in the village. Often there are terraces on such a square and on Sunday afternoons it is full of Greek families who then eat out and sit there all afternoon.
Piled stones along the east coast of the PilionWe drive around for a while through the mountainous area and you do not have to go here to drive fast, we drive no more than 30 kilometers per hour but the environment is very nice. In the course of the afternoon we look for a beach and find one at Agios Ioannis, a tourist village along the east coast. Although there are plenty of Dutch people living in the Pelion, the region is not very well known to holidaymakers from Western Europe and especially the Greeks themselves go on holiday here. According to Greek mythology, the Pelion was also the summer residence of the gods and the Centaurs would have lived there, the beings who were half horse, half man.
View of Makrirrachi in the Pilion Cow with calf on the road in the PilionVia another route, namely on the northern side of the Pelion towards Volos, we go back again. It takes us more than 2 hours to cover the 75 kilometers and along the way we even pass a ski area! We had no idea that you could go skiing here, but the Pilio mountain is more than 1,600 meters high and in winter there can be quite some snow. Not today, because it is hot and we are happy with the air conditioning in the car, even high in the mountains.
At the beginning of the evening we are back in Kalamos. In terms of mileage, we have not driven much, but we have spent many hours in the car. In this area you really have to take into account the fact that traveling goes slow here. After we have eaten something, it is time for the next Greek lesson. The more I learn, the more difficult I find the language, it seems.
And since we like the area very much and want to see more and I can also use some extra language lessons, we decide to stay for a few days extra which is fortunately no problem.

Saturday 24 June 2017, to the market of Argalasti and Milies

On Saturday we first drive to Argalasti where a market is held and it is busy and cozy with all kinds of goods for sale, especially many local products such as olive oil, wines, thyme honey, herbs, jam and lots of sweets. We see some nice bracelets for our granddaughters that we buy.
Walking through Milies in the Pilion Walking through Milies in the PilionThen we go to Milies where we came by yesterday. It is a typical mountain village with many differences in height and we are looking for a restaurant on a square for our morning coffee. Then we wander between the steep streets with boulders (kalderimi's these paved roads are called) and houses that are mainly made of natural stones. Fortunately it is already a lot better with the ribs of Elisabeth but to walk down the whole part where there is a station and then up is a little too much asked (300 height meters) and therefore we climb up again after a while.
Church in MiliesThere are a few beautiful churches in the village and, like almost always in Greece, the bell tower is separate from the church. In this Panmegiston Taxiarches church the revolt of Thessaly against the Ottomans was procalimed in 1821. As a counteraction, among other things, the library with more than 10,000 old books was set on fire by the Ottomans. A number of particularly beautiful frescoes can be seen in the church.
Then we take the car to drive to the foot of the village where the station is.
Train of the Pilio, the Moutzouris Station of the Milies trainPelion's current train is really a tourist attraction nowadays, although it was also a regular rail connection in the first half of the 20th century. Now the train rides over one of the narrowest tracks (60 centimeters) in Europe and goes from Milies to Lechonia. The train takes about one and a half hours to cover the distance of 15 kilometers and stops on the way for fifteen minutes in Ano Gatzea. It must be a fantastic route along green slopes, over deep gorges, arch bridges and through small tunnels, but we will save the ride for another time when there are less tourists.
The train of the Pilio Pivot point for the locomotive of the PilioThe steam locomotive is disengaged by hand and then turned on a turntable where it just fits. The train is called Moutzouris, which means 'dirty fellow'. Near the train station would be the cave of Chiron, the most famous and wise centaur who lived in Greek mythology. He did have the body of a horse but his front legs, or whatever you call them in horses, were human legs. Chiron was accidentally hit with a poisonous arrow by his friend Heracles, but since he was immortal, he did not die, but suffered unbearable pain. By giving up his immortality he could eventually die. The story is of course much more complicated and if you like mythology it is certainly worthwhile to look it up.
Monument for executed Greeks in WW2Next to the station there is a memorial monument for 26 Greeks who were executed here in 1943 by the Germans. There are, at least, 26 names on the monument although other sources speak of 33 victims. The village was also burnt down, perhaps more victims have fallen. We gradually find out that the Germans have done a lot of atracious things in the 2nd World War in Greece, there were a lot of villages and monasteries burned down, but there was also an active resistance and the Germans did not want to leave that unpunished. To make matters worse, the village was also largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1955.
When we continue driving, the oil indicator of the car suddenly starts burning, the car probably uses a lot of oil in the mountains. The navigation takes us to a sleepy village where there is a closed petrol station. When I walk around a woman comes out who asks me what I need in Greek and a little later we search for oil in the messy warehouse. I buy 2 liters because when thiswarning light burns there is usually very little oil left.
On the beach at PotistikaAnd now we do not feel like doing something more and drive to the beach at Potistika where we have been before. The sea is a bit rougher than usual but also wonderfully cool. On the way back home we stop in Xinovrysi in the mountains where we eat a large meal for very little money.
Tomorrow we leave the Pelion and tonight I have my last lesson from Yannis. He is very satisfied with me, but I myself am far from it, it is just a good start. I just have to keep practicing.


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