Last weekend a most lovely cs lady from Athens invited me to spend the weekend in the countryside, visiting her village Patheni and weekend getaway destination Navpilon in Peloponnese, Greece’s southern peninsula. Our weekend was cold and quiet, but full of stories, autumn leaves and the calmness that comes with walking among the trees.
We started out on our Saturday afternoon walk and had hardly ventured around the corner when we encountered the delicious smells of a smoky barbecue (or braai as us South Africans know it). And with traditional Greek hospitality we were called in to enjoy a steak and glass or two of Tsipouro, a spirit made from grapes. The smooth Tsipouro we tasted was last year’s batch, and the group we met had gathered in the village to distill the next stock.
In Greece it’s illegal to home distill spirits. You can make your own raki, but you need to do it through a licensed distillery. Our new friends were not fazed by the unlawful nature of their activity – they had a lawyer in their midst in any case – and spent the long night hours double distilling the 300kg of pressed grape skins. It was fun to join the generations of a family around the shiny contraption in a draughty stone shed, drinking and eating and eating and drinking.
And then someone had the bright idea to steal apples from an orchard down the way. Of course it was a good idea! So off we went, in the growing darkness, weaving our way after our courageous leader. We found the orchard and, by the light of a cellphone, we inspected and pocketed two bags of fallen apples. Not satisfied with our haul, our leader directed us to another orchard. Then got lost. And stopped looking for the apple orchard in order to find the path. And find he did. Along a path, under some trees, through spiky burs, over a wall and over it again, up a stony hill, past the windmill and finally we emerged above the village, twinkling lights welcoming us home.
Sunday was a more civilised day. Katerina took us on a drive past more orchards, vineyards and olive groves to a Ano Doliana, a village built on a mountain slope bursting with autumn colours.
And finally we stopped in Navpilon, a favourite seaside getaway for Athenian couples.
And here are some snaps I took of deliciousness in the supermarket before the security woman waggled her finger at me.