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The traditions of Zakynthos

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 I got 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, bee-keepers, weaving and sewing rugs, winemakers and fishermen, they all continue to tell a story, which started centuries ago on this island.

Poseidon’s profile

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 from the 18th century with the traditional animal movement press, part of which survives until today. You have to get a closer look and wonder at the magic of making olive oil. Also, you might like to know that’s one of the island’s oldest tradition.

Aristeon olive oil factory

You can also see the old tools and machines they used to harvest.

Times are changing and so do traditions

Years passed and the world has evolved. That’s why since 2008, they use a new eco-drive technology to process olives. It’s impressive 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 this is not the only ancient olive tree you’ll find on Zakynthos.

Traditional clothing

The museum is quite small and it’s free entry. But it’s a good tour to help better understand the process of making olive oil. We arrive here on a very hot day at lunchtime, 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 tells us a short story about the mill and what we can find inside. We have wandered around and at the end we are offered a free tasting session of the local olive oils, which they’re producing here in the mill, accompanied by their traditional bread. Yum!

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.

Tasting session

They have a shop here where they sell their olive oil, homemade olive oil soap and body creams. I didn’t know what to pick first as I liked them all.

Olive oil shop

Callinico winery

This is the place where I start again to realize how much do these people have. And how willing they are to use the island’s resources.

Callinico winery

Even if Zante is not a big island, more than 110 different varieties of grapes do grow here. Therefore this winery produces different types of wine: Retsina, Verde, a very sweet dessert wine ( red and white) and many others that we’ve been offered to try inside the winery.  It’s great to know they do free wine-tasting sessions, anywhere else you pay for it. It’s free entry.

So, it’s a must while you are here.

Wine cellar

Great Ionian Earthquake

While still at the winery, we’re welcomed by a beautiful girl, who happens to be the fourth generation owning this traditional family business. This particularly winery has a very interesting history. They started producing wine 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 traditional welcome at Callinico!

I wonder, reflecting at this family…what kind of strong character does it take to want to stay here and to rebuild such a wonderful business after a disaster like that?! Despite everything that happened to these people, they carried on with their traditions and to this day, they make good quality wine.

Fresh grape harvest

Of course, if you are in full harvest season, you get the chance to see a lot of the winemaking process and all the equipment they use today.  Otherwise, just get yourself to the wine-cellar where the wine is aged and 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 community 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 artefacts, beautifully handcrafted 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 community

We have just arrived in Volimes and we’re trying to find a car park when this woman is waving at us as if she knows us. She speaks English and she’s welcoming us in her village, offering us some traditional honey roasted almonds, made by her father.

Volimes village

While chatting she’s inviting us into her house, where one of the rooms is kept as a shop. They hung up all over the place all these wonderful handmade textiles, like some amazing carpets, tablecloths, runners, napkins, and all sorts.

We got to meet her parents, beautiful people with a great sense of hospitality. They couldn’t speak 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 a real occasion to get to know the authentic Zakynthians.

If you’re dreaming of summer like I do and start making plans for your holiday, please consider this island as it’s a wonderful place, ready to be explored.

Until next time!