72 hrs in Pelion, greece
A fascinating, time-locked part of the world where the mountains meet the sea, Greek Gods come to holiday and the mythological centaur originates.
Huge thanks to Stathis Kataropoulos and Christianna Stefanaki who invited me to shoot this story in Pelion. You were the perfect hosts & production crew! If my images inspire you to visit the area I can wholeheartedly recommend staying with them at Pelion Homes.
Pelion is a mountain at the southeastern part of Thessaly in central Greece, forming a hook-like peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea. Thickly forested, with both deciduous and perennial forests, mainly of beech, oak, maple and chestnut trees, with olive, apple, pear trees and plane tree groves surrounding places with water.
Walking through the cobblestone streets of Agios Georgios on our first evening we met Eleni outside her small farm surrounded by baby goats. A subsistence farmer growing enough to feed herself and her family, we chatted for a while before buying eggs laid by her hens for breakfast the following morning. A warm welcome.
An afternoon with Thomas. A bee keeper responsible for 250,000 bees; who in return are responsible for the pollination and therefore survival, of much of the flowers and plants on the mountain; which in return are responsible for the survival of the goats that graze them; which ultimately supply Thomas with meat and milk! Thomas is a sturdy fella, hands tattooed with stings... he didn’t flinch once.
Situated on a steep slope overlooking the Pagasitikos Bay, Ano Gatzea is a village well off-the-beaten-track. The houses are testimony to a prosperous past and an agropastoral economy where each household had to be self-sufficient to survive.
Dimitris Papadopoulos’ hardware store, once at the bustling centre of Ano Gatzea, has remained largely undisturbed since the doors closed for the last time following his death over 40 years ago. His grandson Giorgos (pictured) showed us around. Fascinating place. Time-locked, memory-stacked. No plastic.
Hiking to a windswept chapel, to ring the bell over the forest canopy below followed by the highly decorated Church of Taxiarches in the town of Milies.
This incredible Greek Orthodox Church has survived wars and conflict for centuries because it looks so humble on the outside. Inside is another story. The wall paintings are typical of the Orthodox Church, but unusually it has the signs of the zodiac and depictions of hell running along the bottom of the walls. To improve acoustics for religious chants there are 5 water reservoirs under the floor to absorb bass notes and 48 giant terracotta pots in the roof to absorb the treble. Amazing!
14th century monasteries cling to precipitous columns of rock, high above the valley floor in Meteora around 2 hours north of Pelion. The name translated means "lofty" or"elevated" and although peaceful in their isolation, I’m not sure how long I’d last! Fully deserved of UNESCO world heritage status though. Breathtaking.
Horses make this one the happiest.
An afternoon with Kostas the shepherd, his herd of goats and Fedra the dog. Mimicking the way a wild herd would graze, Kostas walks his herd across different parts of the mountain every day, conscious that overgrazing would have a detrimental effect on the vegetation that sustains his animals. Time consuming, yet sustainable,
Beach days at Fakistra and Milopotamos.
Stormy skies approach Makrinitsa village.
Vaios the night fisherman, photographed just after sunset. Known as ‘pirofani’, from the words fire (πυρ) and light (φανός), the large lantern at the bow serves to attract specific species to his boat and also allows him to select the catch according to size. How nice to witness an approach that contrasts so starkly with commercial trawling methods.
Back to our villa and a lesson in perfecting the art of wood fired pizza.
I really loved working on this project. The area is beautiful, but it was meeting and photographing the people, who produce food in a way that is in balance with the soil and wildlife on their mountain, that was most inspiring. The techniques they use are age old and similar methods were once well practiced right around the world, yet I fear we have forgotten them. Instead we squeeze everything we can out of the land and sea, to the detriment of both and therefore ourselves. I know we can only live in the times we live in, but life is about balance and I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from the mountains of Pelion.