Winter is here but on some days my thoughts embark on a direct flight to Zakynthos…its people and their traditions.
Many of you have asked me what did I left with from visiting Zakynthos. My heart melts when I realise these hardworking people never cease to care about their traditions and their culture. From olive mills, bees keepers, weaving and sewing rugs, wine makers and fishermen, they all continue to tell a story, which started centuries ago on this island.
Therefore, when you go to Zakynthos, try to get closer to know them and their occupations. The Zakynthians are wonderful people, friendly and with no issues in welcoming you in their everyday life.
Definitely pay a visit to:
Aristeon Olive Oil Factory
You do find them in Lithakia Zakynthos, Greece.
This family business dates back from the 18th century with the traditional animal movement press, part of which survives until today. You got to have a closer look and wonder again about the magic of making olive oil. Also you might like to know that’s one of the oldest tradition of the island.
You can also see the old tools and machines they used to harvest.
Years passed and the world has evolved. That’s why from 2008, they use a new technology eco-drive processing olives. I’m impressed while here to see an ancient olive tree, like 1500 years old. Just asking myself how many stories will this tree tell? Only if it could speak… and is not the only ancient olive tree you’ll find in Zakynthos.
The museum is quite small and the entrance is free. But it’s a good tour to make understand better the process of making olive oil. We arrive here on a very hot day at lunch time, you know, that part of the day when no matter how much you’ve missed the sun, you need to hide. It’s almost like playing hide and seek with a toddler, you being the toddler. As soon as we get close to the car park, we are welcomed and the host tell us a short story about the mill and what we find inside. We have wondered around and at the end we are offered a free tasting session of the local olive oils, which they’re producing it here in the mill, accompanied by their traditional bread.
We are delighted to taste some beautiful olive oil produced by grinding olives with garlic, with fresh oranges, fresh lemons or their organic olive oil.
They have a shop here, where they sell their olive oil, home made olive oil soap and body creams. I didn’t know what to pick first as I liked them all.
Olive oil shop
This is the place where I start again to realize how much do this people have. And how willing they are to use the island’s goods.
Even if Zante is not a big island, more than 110 different varieties of grapes do grow here. Therefore this winery produce different types of wine: Retsina, Verde, a very sweet dessert wine ( red and white) and many other that we’ve been offered to try them inside the winery. It’s great to find out they do free tasting sessions, everywhere else you pay enough for something similar. Also the entrance is free. So, it is a must visit while you are here.
Great Ionian Earthquake
While still at the winery, we’re welcomed by a beautiful girl, who happens to be the forth generation owning this traditional family business. This particularly winery is having a interesting history. They start producing wine here in 1918 but the family got their actual business after 1960. Because in 1953 Zakynthos has been hit by the Great Ionian Earthquake which was actually a series of hundreds of tremors, shocks and aftershocks, striking the region between the islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Many people fled the island after that: some people temporarily moved to the capital, however the majority emigrated out of Greece entirely to countries such as Canada, USA or the UK, leaving both the islands and their economy in ruins. The islands were reconstructed from the ground up over the following years under a strict building code.
A warm welcome at Callinico
I wonder, reflecting at this family…what kind of strong character takes you to want to stay here and to wish to rebuild such a wonderful business after a disaster like this?! Despite everything that happened to this people, they carried on with their traditions and with producing good quality wine.
fresh harvest grapes
Of course, if you are in full season of harvest you get the chance to see a lot of the wine making process and all the equipment they use today. Otherwise just get yourself dreaming in the cellars where the wine is aged and the bottles are stored. It’s small but it’s got history and also a story to tell.
Volimes, a Zakynthos signature
Volimes is located in the mountainous part of the island. I love this countryside area for representing so well what Zakynthos really is. A united comunity of hard working people, strong minded and nevertheless wonderful hearts.
The village`s economy is based on farming and agricultural products. There are many gift shops and souvenirs with a wide variety of artifacts, beautiful hand crafted carpets, leather goods, bags, miniature turtles, ceramics, and even desserts made with honey and almond nougat (pasteli and mantolato). Even you can find local products such as cheese (graviera, myzithra), bread, honey, oregano and many others. People here are making all of these over the winter and sell them to tourists in the summer.
The spirit of the Zakynthos comunity
We just arrived Volimes and we’re trying to find a car park, when this woman is waving at us like she would know us. She speaks English and she’s welcoming us in her village, offering us some honey roasted almonds, produced by her father.
While chatting she’s inviting us into her house, where one of the rooms it’s been kept as a shop. They have hanged all over the place all the wonderful handmade textiles, like some amazing carpets, tablecloths, runners, napkins and all sorts.
We meet her parents, beautiful people with great sense for hospitality. They couldn’t talk a word of English but their faces were taking us back in time. That time where it was considered normal to offer a glass of cold water to a stranger on a hot day. Volimes was the real occasion to get to know the authentic Zakynthians.
If you’re dreaming of summer like I do and start making plans for holiday, please consider this island as it’s a wonderful place ready to be explored.