Who Discovered Pelion

Author: Faris Nejad

Who discovered Pelion, the Greek Gods, the Persian warriors, the German officers or the Dutch campers?

The lush Pelion peninsular in central eastern Greece is a mountainous region seeming to have gained popularity only in recent years. The region, providing an alternative to the known and tried sun, sand and beach bar scenes associated with Creek islands is in fact a charming forested land with breathtaking views, traditional stone villages towering over green cliffs overlooking the Aegean sea and the Pagasitikos gulf. The quaint port city of Volos at the heart of the gulf is a fantastic base for exploring Pelion's various charms, including the winter sport resort of Hania, the ancient ruins of Dimini and Anchialos, the cliff top villages of Makrinitsa and Portaria, the chestnut forests of Mouresi and Tsagarada, the acclaimed best beaches of Greece, Agios Saranda and Melopotamos and also the calm crystal clear pond like waters of Milina and the gulf island of Trikeri. Numerous articles are being published in the British Press recently about the beauty of this ravished land, some of them calling it the new, ‘Tuscany” in fact the region was not just discovered. Although there is no eye witness account mythology has it that after its creation the Greek gods themselves used Pelion as their summer holiday resort, leaving their permanent residence in Mount Olympus. Ancient Creeks must have followed the gods in establishing several Neolithic settlements in the area, the remains of which are preserved. The Greek City Estates considered the region a green gem that spread into the Aegean Sea. Their rivals. the Persian Empire's fleet, who controlled most of the Aegean islands paid several visits to the peninsular, mainly to fill up with fresh spring water at the southern tip of Pelion home of the secret beaches of Kanoni and Hondri Amo. The Persian commanders must have found the dramatic hays of this area irresistible but they never dared to step further inland, into the unknown green forests. Fillipos of Macedonia the father of Alexander the Great was more daring and conquered Pelion in 353 BC. Hundreds of years later. Pelion's popularity amongst the Creeks flourished during the Turkish occupation of Greece. During this period many of the settlements in Pelion where built hidden behind the green hills and therefore not visible from the sea. This to some extent protected the local population from frequent pirate attacks. Also the rough terrain and dark forests of Pelion proved too dangerous and remote for the Turkish armies and the peninsular became a natural sanctuary for freedom fighters, Orthodox monks as well as ordinary citizens who experienced relative autonomy at the time. The trend continued after the Turkish rule and many wealthy Creek merchants who had fled Greece returned home after the independence to build magnificent mansions amongst the impressive chestnut forests of Pelion. During this period many traditional Pelion style mansions called Archondiko were built. A traditional Archondilto is a two-storey or three-storey tower with extended upper floors. The ground floor was usually used for keeping cattle and farm birds and the upper floors where used as living quarters and had several small windows. The rich Creek merchants returning home from Egypt also used Pelion as their summer residence building French style Nea-Classical mansions with their typical narrow corridor and four large rooms at each corner of the house.

In modern times, the region maintained its popularity amongst the Greek population who kept the beauty of the mountainous forests a family secret. The first modem foreign visitors who discovered the secret were German tourists who used the area as their summer retreat in the 1970's. The Germans are well known for their talent to be the first to discover the best and the most unique spots in Europe. As modem tourists, the Germans in Pelion found a land incomparable to any other holiday resort. Some visitors fell in love with the region to the extent that they sold all their belongings in Germany and bought large farms and groves in Pclion at very affordable prices. ln time, the new landlords of Pelion built their summer homes and Found enough interest from other German compatriots to split their land and sell them build-able pieces. Athenian Aristocracy too looked at Pelion as a perfect spot to have their holiday homes both for summer and winter. Seeing and touching snow in a family owned villa or a stone house in a mountainous region of Greece became an additional bonus to boast about for these families. Of course the snow ski enthusiasts where not disappointed either after the ski resort of Hania welcomed visitors from around the country.

All these factors contributed to the rise in property prices in Pclion and for the first time the gods began to appreciate the value of their creation as they watched in amazement the arrival of their new neighbours from the larger Greek cities and distant nations. It was not until the late 90's that the British and the Dutch discovered the wonders of Pelion. A couple of holiday companies specializing in alternative holidays and. “undiscovered” resorts brought the new tourists to the area. These tourists represented a new trend. Similar to their German predecessors, they were nature lovers, bird watchers, tree and forest enthusiasts. explorers, walkers, photographers, etc. all together fitting and appreciating the Pelion region and its people. Of course, the new love affair of the newcomers in Pelion did not stop there. Soon tourists began llirting with the idea of owning a holiday home in this piece of paradise. Some started dreaming about finding a permanent home in Pelion or have their own holiday business in Pelion or even retire here. The trend continues today and the property market in Pelion is on the rise. But what is unique about this mountainous region is that it is too rich, too vast and too diverse to have the same fate as Costa Del Sol or Tuscany. Pelion's villages are not resorts. The farm houses, the villagers, the cobbled paths. the apple orchids and olive groves, the forests and the fishing hamlets are all reminders of real Greece, the preserved Greece. Pelion will continue to develop but at a more natural pace and only for those who appreciate its natural beauty and respect its way of life. lt is a natural process set up by the Gods from ancient times.