The day trip with “Prometheus club” was organized somewhat hastily and the rainy morning of November was not ideal for an excursion in nature. Nevertheless, we set off by bus, 20 people in all, with our first destination Goumenissa. So close and yet unknown yet.
The town is situated in Central Macedonia (69 km. Northwest of Thessaloniki) at the foot of Mount Paiko (altitude 250 m.). The name “Goumenissa” had always automatically been bringing up images and sounds of the bands of bronze musical instruments. And the truth is that its name is synonymous to the bands and the wine making. The brass bands of Goumenissa are ever-present in the life of the city: from religious ceremonies to impromptu street parties, the brass band sound defines the town’s unique traditional lifestyle. There is always the chance to come upon some impromptu feast while walking in the district of St. George, where more than 200 folk musicians mainly live.
We were informed that the town has about 4,500 inhabitants and is famous, apart from the traditional brass instruments, for good wine (OPAP), “tsipouro” and its clear waters. The typical square with the big plane tree, as in many villages in the region, welcomes the guests, with a typical fountain in its center, built by the French soldiers and reminiscent of the times of the First World War, when the area was the centre of hard fighting. In the narrow streets of the old town where we walked, stand the buildings of pre-industrial era, the characteristic “koukoulospita” (houses where they grew silkworms) but also the impressive church and monastery of St. George. One hundred and eight (108) houses have been listed as preservable ,with few restoration samples, however. Fortunately, there have been some attempts, thanks to some of the inhabitants’ love for their land. Also known are the traditional workshops that manufacture barrels, folk instruments, saddles, and baskets, active preservants of handmade folk art and technique, rarely found in other parts of Greece! In our short stroll, we worship the church of “Virgin Mary” of Goumenissa and end up in a cafe in the square.
The appointment with the winemaker Mr. Aidarini an hour later, boosts our mood. Being an excellent tour guide himself, he explains everything about the tradition of viticulture in the region, the process until the bottling and aging of wine and leads us to the cellar with the big oak barrels. He treats us local wine in the beautiful building of the winery and informs us about the “roads of wine”: “In recent years, the old art of wine making, seems to have found its way. Thus, the known “xinomavro” wine, but also a local variety known as “Negoska” in proportion four to one, give the famous wine VQPRD “Goumenissa”. The vineyards of Goumenissa falls on “Wine Routes”, a civil company, non-profit organization created by the Wine Producers Association of the Vineyards of Macedonia. The integrated in the network wineries of the region are mostly in Goumenissa: “Domaine Aidarini”, tel. 23430-42939, “Boutari Winery”, tel. 23430-41989, “Tatsis Estate”, tel. 23430-41053, ‘Hatzivariti winery “tel . 23430-41236 and “Domaine Ligas” just before Giannitsa, tel. 23820-24421, as well as “Domain Eutychides Titos” tel / fax 2310-273620 Goumenissa ” .
The town, however, has another asset, as we said. It has kept alive through the years its own musical identity. Famous throughout Greece and abroad, by participating in various festivals in the world, its bands of brass instruments, with at least three hundred folk musicians are now widely known as “The Bronze of Goumenissa”. The price is a bit overwhelming for anyone who wants to enjoy them live. At least 150 euro an hour. Maybe if you’re in the mood after the wine / tsipouro the price will not seem high!
We were told that the Folk Museum is worth visiting. It has recently opened in the neighboring village of Europe, since the one of Goumenissa is underactive.
At the exit road of the city towards “Grivas” village you pass by a traditional water mill owned by Giapatzi family. It was built in the late 18th century and is a typical folkloric element in the region. The watermill has been working from 1860 to 1970 for the production of flour, was rebuilt in 2008 and is open to visitors every Wednesday from 9 am to 2 pm and weekends from 10 am to 7 pm.
We continued to the monastery of St. Raphael taking the road to Grivas- Kastaneri. We drove up a narrow winding road up to the monastery. In fact, while the monastery, in a nice location, with great views of the valley, it is still half-built. We lit our candles, bought a few chestnuts an drove downhill to the tavern. Or maybe we should say the hotel that would host us for lunch. Few options for large groups like ours. Hotel “Parifew” in Griva, tel. 2343042615, 6973881961 (Stathis) with nice lamb on the spit as the company assured.
We heard good things about “Kastaneri”, a village at a higher altitude near by but unfortunately the road was difficult for the bus and we decided not to go. But we can share the information we have! It’s not long since they have ended with the harvesting of chestnuts. Moreover, they have been organizing for many years the festival “Chestnut, wine, cheese” in the region! So just 10 km. northwest of Goumenissa, at the slopes of Mount Paiko, Kastaneri, is a picturesque mountain village renowned for its chestnuts and its wonderful views across Amphaxitis and the plain of Thessaloniki. The village is built at an altitude of 750-800 meters. Its inhabitants are locals Macedonians and has a cultural club named “Paiko” The inhabitants of the village, and especially the Dogiama family, played a big role in the Macedonian Struggle, fighting the Bulgarians in the town of Goumenissa, which then acted in the region. As a token of gratitude, the Goumenissa residents gave the name of George (Gonou) Dogiama the old camp of Goumenissa. Most residents leave the village during the winter, while in summer it serves as a resort.
Also on the way to the village Karpi, at a short distance from Goumenissa, you will find the physical location “Two Rivers”, with running flowing waters and a dense forest.
Authentic villages, dense forests of chestnut, beech and oak trees, green meadows, emerald ponds and wonderful waterfalls await to be discovered by car or on foot in the untrodden mountain tracks. That we will return to certify in spring.
Information gathered for the region
(Source: http://www.tanea.gr) Leaving the village Kastaneri, towards the “Megala Livadia” after 5 km. distance you come to the Environmental Information Centre of Paiko (visits by prior arrangement with the Forestry Cervice of Goumenissas tel. 41 207 23430). Just 1.3 km. below, in Primatari point, you will find a wooden observatory with spectacular views of the gorge. At this point, a beautiful hiking trail next to the stream of Stravopotamou starts. Soon the landscape is transformed. The dense forests give way to a bare plateau surrounded by smooth tops. Here, on the highest plateau of Paiko at 1,200 m. , the “Megala Livadia ”lay before you, which although is a Vlach village it is not famous for its dairy products, rather than for the exceptional quality of the potatoes. The village was built in 1769, by Vlach-speaking Greeks from Moschopolis, after the destruction of their city. The settlement grew into one of the largest in Central Macedonia in the early 20th century and was one of the bastions of Hellenism in the Macedonian Struggle, until torched and completely destroyed in 1944 by the Germans. Starting from “Megala Livadia” and heading towards “Archangelos”, get ready to enjoy one of the best asphalt tracks in the area. Just 700 m. far from the village, you will be facing a beautiful sight: on the right of the road, surrounded by wooded hillsides and potato fields, a small lake emerges, while in front of you stands the impressive mountain of “Tzena”. You can leave your car in the small space provided adjacent the asphalt, to admire the landscape and then continue among the green fields, the gentle slopes and rugged peaks of the neighboring mountains.
What to eat?
In “Goumenissa” : tavern “To tzaki” on “Ethnikis Antistaseos” street, Tel .: 23430/41020 Open: All year round, daily, lunch and dinner (weekdays noon :call first), tavern “George” at the square .
In the village “Kastaneri”: “Argalios” (very good tavern)and “Platia” (tel. 2343023946/6946058280 Giannis Maris)) with local specialties: fried pork, local sausage, pork etc. (During the chestnuts harvesting the tavern is closed). The hotel’s restaurant “Moschopolis” at “Megala Livadia”. For coffee, drinks and “tsipouromezedes” go to the “Casa di lemnou.”
Shopping: In the village “Griva” there is a cottage industry “The Goumenissa” where you can buy jam, frumenty, noodles, and mountain herbs, tel. 23430-43455. Goumenissa – Kastaneri 12 km. (Asphalt)
The combination of landscape, wine, Macedonian cuisine and hospitality make Goumenissa a rising destination for alternative, naturalist getaways. We will, however, return here to enjoy the nuances of deciduous trees of Paiko in autumn and spring and also walk in the lush mountain forests.
Brass bands of Goumenissa: TEL. CONTACT 6979450334 & 6974986553 Asartzis Sakis 6976678255 (cornet)