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VIDEO

Mission…To Nymfaio – A TNH Documentary by Clelia Charissis

This week’s Mission takes us to Nymfaio. The traditional settlement of Nymfaio, with an altitude of 1350m on Mount Verno in Western Makedonia, is considered the Alpine jewel of the Florina region in the municipality of Amyntaio.

This mountain paradise is famous for its artisans of silver and gold, with a long tradition of centuries in the trade. It is unique village, different from the others… a sculpture of time, colors, and stone.

The great poet of Hellas George Seferis praises it in his poem Flowers of Stone:

 

Flowers of stone in front of the green sea

with veins that reminded me of other loves

glistening in the slow drizzle,

the blossoms of stone figures

 

who came when no one spoke and spoke to me

who let me touch them beyond the silence

in pines, oleanders and plane trees.

Travel guides present it as one of the ten most beautiful villages in Europe, while in the UNESCO world competition it was awarded with the International Melina Mercouri Award for the excellent management of its cultural heritage and natural environment. Its name has three possible derivations: from ‘Nifi’ (Greek: bride; ‘Nivesta’ in Slavic languages) because of the beauty of the village; from its location, ‘ni vista’, because it was located in a place where it was not clearly visible, and from ‘chionati’ (Greek: snowy) or ‘where the snow stays’ (‘nives sta’).

We had the honor to be guided along the paved paths of the great history of Nymfaio by the man who brought the area to the forefront of tourism by contributing in many ways to this beautiful place, Yannis Boutaris, known to all of us as Mr. Yannis!

Mr. Yiannis, former mayor of Thessaloniki, is considered today as one of the most important Greek oenologists and winemakers. He is remarkably active in business, politics, and ecological issues, and he is the founder of Arkturos, a nonprofit, non-governmental, environmental organization (NGO) for the protection of bears.

“Yannis Boutaris is one of the ‘last of the Mohicans’” – this quote is from Nikolaos Mertzos, one of the prominent figures of Greek journalism and literature who has made the village from which he comes one of the most popular tourist attractions in Greece. Mertzos represents the unity and vision of the residents of the region for a better Greece.

Down to earth, smiling, and with a special sense of humor, Mr. Yannis welcomed us at Dadalina’s Wine Shop, offering us his delicious and excellent quality wine. Then he guided us to the Museum of Gold and Silversmithing, Folklore and History, which is housed in an old, renovated mansion reviving the memories that express the multifaceted personality of Nymfaio.

Impressive mansions, cobbled streets, traditional guesthouses that radiate nobility, special local delicacies, tsipouro and local wine, lit fireplaces and handmade carpets with decorative antiques… transport you to another time.

We were very excited to become acquainted through Yannis Boutaris with the Nikios School, which now hosts the Arkturos Information Center, as well as the Conference Center of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

In the historic building of the Nikios School in Nymfaio, one can learn about the evolution of the brown bear, its geographical distribution, its biology and ecology, the dangers it faces as a species – and how to deal with them. It is aimed at people of all ages and is a very entertaining as well as an informative experience for children.

Right next to the Nikios School, a beautiful stone-built mansion stole the spotlight, with the inscription: Boutaris – the house of our friend’s grandfather Kyr-Yannis. Just a little further on, his father’s house… and in the heart of Nymfaio, the house of Mr. Yannis!

He was kind enough to greet us with the memories of his experiences, transporting us to the past as if not a day had passed…

After sharing some interesting stories and offering us traditional delicacies… he said goodbye by gifting us his book 60 Years of Harvesting.

In this publication, with his characteristic straightforwardness, Yannis Boutaris describes his predestined – due to family tradition – involvement with wines, the collective action he has initiated, the innovations, as well as the conflicts that marked the sector in Greece from the post-war period to the present day.

He also describes his personal ‘monster’ of alcoholism that he managed to conquer and the help he gives to others who suffer from that addiction.

His political views and some controversial elements of his behavior – which divide public opinion – emerge in his narrative alongside glimpses of intense family moments that capture the memories and wisdom, charisma and contradictions, and finally the reflections of the winemaker, Mr. Yannis.

Sixty years of harvesting and producing is not enough for him. His narrative ends with utterances about his so-far-unfulfilled dreams.

Saying goodbye to this great personality, we headed to the ‘Arkturos’ organization for the protection of bears, wild animals, and the Greek forest environment. There the experienced guide George Mostakis welcomed us at the refuge with lots of energy and information!

Lucky for us… the bears had awakened from their hibernation and we exchanged glances with our little friends in their familiar natural environment.

On our travel route back from Nymfaio, between the beautiful trees, you could see fields dominated by the captivating Zachari and Chimaditida lakes.

Just a few minutes from Nymfaio and the Bear Protection Center is found the Wolf and Lynx Protection Center in Agrapidia, which was created to put an end to the illegal possession of wolves. A specially-fenced section of natural oak forest comprising 70 acres is home for the wolves and lynxes that have managed to survive. The guide, Vasso Papachristou, informs us about the great importance of the protected wild animals that are in danger of disappearing due to human intervention.

Nearby, in Sklithro, we encounter a wonderful family that has been in business since 1960 with Thomas’ tavern, right across the street from their traditional guesthouse, the Agonari.

You would never expect that by crossing a deserted road just after the junction of Agrapidia you would find this excellent restaurant with its own wine cellar, combining local cuisine with a gourmet twist on the regional products (meat, cheese, Florina pepper, wine)… and an unpredictable fusion with poetry!

Respect for the natural environment, combined with high quality viticulture and winemaking practices based on the latest international scientific standards, the soul of the people of Amyntaio and the new generation, the loyalty to tradition and development, the combination of these ideas…. created in the heart of the Amyntaio the wines that bear the world-famous label Ktima Alpha.

 The winery was founded in 1997 by the experienced viticulturist Makis Mavridis and the chemist-winemaker Angelos Iatridis, who, after being active in many parts of Greece, chose Amyntaio as the place where they would create their own wine. Today, they have their daughters by their side, bringing a great sense of responsibility and professionalism – “the new generation of business graduates.”

The winery of Ktima Alpha is located in the privately owned vineyard of the estate which makes the transfer of the harvest the shortest possible trip.

The 1,800 hectares of the Vines of Vegora at an altitude of up to 710m have the following varieties: Xinomavro, Mavrodaphne, Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tannat, Montepulciano, Negro Amaro, Barbera, Malagouzia, Sauvigon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer.

These varieties make it one of the most important centers of wine production and marketing, with strong international recognition of their ancient practices while always following their rule: “Absolute respect for the ecosystem, the vine farmer and the… wine lover!”

Special thanks to the Municipality of Amyntaio and its mayor Bitakis Anthimos, Xino Nero and its president Christos Thomaidis, Deputy Mayor of Amyntaio Pavlos Sergianidis, Ateron Suites & Spa and Michael Parlanis, the travel agency Travel Bizz, SEAJETS, RentPhotoVideo, Carnmotion, Mikelina Boutique, Shop&Trade, and Saucony.

 

 

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