The Blue Walk’s Virtual tour of Greece on Amorgos Island with FindinGreece and Travel+Leisure
A Virtual Walking Tour in Greece with Travel+Leisure
Recently Travel+Leisure asked The Blue Walk to create a virtual walking tour in Greece. They liked our small-group, big experience approach and wanted to work with us to create a video. Obviously, we were only too happy to oblige. We love to share our Greece walking vacations! Currently, we are all are nurturing a stay-at-home wanderlust during pandemic travel restrictions, and a virtual walking tour in Greece is just the thing to beat the wintertime blues.
Immediately, we knew we wanted to feature Amorgos Island in this Travel+Leisure video. There is so much to love about walking on Amorgos. For example, there are well-marked trails, authentic Greek culture, vibrant natural landscape, and a quiet island lifestyle. Not to mention the food! In otherwords, it’s a slice of heaven. Importantly, since it is only accessible by ferry, Amorgos has remained an off-the-beaten-path travel gem.
For this project we collaborated with our friend and guide Semeli Drymoniti of FindinGreece. Because she lives on Amorgos year-round she knows the people and places of the isle well. Significantly, she was there to guide the tour and make the video! Naturally, we wanted to highlight the area around the harbor town of Aegiali, where we stay during our tours. Semeli is a wealth of information and always fun to spend time with, and we knew she would provide a great virtual walking tour in Greece to share with all of you.
Capturing the wildflowers above Aegiali Bay
Virtual Walking Tour in Greece on Amorgos Island
(The following is a general narrative for the virtual tour video linked above)
On our virtual walking tour we will be discovering the area of Aegiali. Aegiali is on the northern part of the island of Amorgos. We will be visiting an old olive press, a distillery of essential oils from local herbs, and a Greek Orthodox church. All the while we will be enjoying amazing views from the surrounding mountains towards the sea, and people in their everyday lives.
Our guests visit with a friendly donkey while walking outside the village of Tholaria, Amorgos Island, Greece
Village Architecture to Protect from Island Invaders
Our virtual tour begins walking up into a small village and away from the Port of Aegiali far below. Traditionally, the houses are built closely together with narrow walkways and many, many steps. As you can see from above, the buildings look like a maze or labyrinth. It is worth noting these common features of ancient island villages.
Usually the villages are built up in the mountains and away from the coast. As a result there are many stairs in and between the villages. (You can’t be afraid of stairs when walking in Greece!) Importantly, the inland settlements created distance and a buffer zone between the sea and village houses. This is because in the past, invasions by sea were a serious issue.
Additionally, another element we see is that the buildings are very tightly built together. Houses are next to each other to protect from the wind, which is ever present on the islands, and, mainly, from invaders. The dense buildings and winding, narrow stairways prevented invaders from entering the villages in large numbers and all at once. Because of this the villages were easier to defend.
Typical island village architecture with many stairs and closely built homes
Greek Orthodox Church
Our first destination is the Greek Orthodox Agioi Anargyroi Church in Tholaria and it’s interior. This impressive, blue-domed building is the parish church of the village of Tholaria. Notably, it is a rare example because it is quite big for an island church.
What is also interesting is that the church has been very recently renovated. The interior has high, domed ceilings and is decorated with beautiful paintings and stained-glass windows. Uniquely, right below the sacristy there is a treasury. Important manuscripts and old books are located here are can be visited and very much appreciated.
The Greek Orthodox church of Agioi Anargyroi in Tholaria, Amorgos Island, Greece
Virtual Walking Tour in Greece at the Hill of the Ancient Villa
Continuing on, our tour reaches the edge of the village of Tholaria. Our guide Semeli stands in front of a low rustic building made of dry-stacked stonewalls in warm earthen tones. In the distance green terraced farmlands and a stony outcrop create a dramatic view. What can be seen from this viewpoint is the hill of what is called αρχαία βίλα, meaning ancient villa. This is the location of the ancient city state of Aegiali. Some ancient rural buildings can be seen here – stables, storage houses. All of this marks the long history of humans here on the islands.
Traditional Olive Mills
Grinding Olive Paste
Passing through an ancient door Semeli enters a small ingresso, and she is greeted by the owner of the property, Mr. Dimitris. We are visiting the old village olive mill. Semeli walks into a rustic stone-walled room with rough wooden beams. In the center of the room is a wide stone pedestal topped by two large stone cylinders connected by a wooden axle. Then Semeli proceeds to explain how the mill was used. Firstly, people would bring their olives and set the olives on the stone pedestal. Next, a mule tied to one side of the axle would go around moving the cylinders. Eventually the grinding of the stones made the olives into a paste.
Afterwards, we are shown what is in fact the older olive press. It is much different than the other press. It only has one cylinder and is human-powered rather than using a mule. In fact, tradition has it that a girl and a boy powered this kind of mill. The old story tells the girl goes in the front…and the boy behind chases her. For a bit of fun Semeli and Mr. Dimitris demonstrate how it was done. Leaning and walking into wooden braces connected to the cylinder, the two push the cylinder around the olive press pedestal. Semeli in front with Mr. Dimitris following.
Pressing Olive Oil
Finally Semeli shows the metal olive press. Here the olive paste was placed on circles of thick cloth. These were then layered on the press. Using a large wooden post as a lever, people would press the paste by turning the mechanism, like a turnscrew. Olive oil was produced from the paste by the weight and pressure. Before the metal press this process was done using weighted stones. It was a lot of work!
Walking toward the village of Langada, Amorgos Island, Greece
Church of the Virgin Mary of the Upper Side of the Village
After saying goodbye to Mr. Dimitrius, Semeli continues walking through the village and up ancient stone paths into the countryside. Our virtual tour of Greece arrives to the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Upper Side of the Village. This church is important to village life because of two main dates. The first is during Carnival. On Carnival Sunday, this is where the men of the village gather and choose their captains. The second great date here is August 15, the celebration of the Virgin Mary. The community has a festive banquet and all the pilgrims who walk up to the church are offered a meal. The pilgrims’ long communal tables are a permanent fixture on the church grounds.
Chapel of the Holy Trinity
Next, our virtual walking tour in Greece travels down though Langada, between more white-walled buildings and blue-domed churches. Then our path leads up to the Chapel of the Holy Trinity. Hewn into the steep hillside, a collection of winding steps, dry-stacked stone walls, and sun-bleached beams create the impressive holy hideaway. With spectacular views over the valley and Aegiali Bay below, it essentially played the role of a castle for Langada village. Historically, this is where villagers found refuge in times of danger. When they saw pirates or invaders coming from the sea, they escaped here for safety. It looks tiny, but it was able to fit the entire population of Langada.
Essential Oil Distillery
Finally, our walking tour arrives at the essential oil distillery. This destination is always a favorite of our small group experiences. Vangelis, the grand wizard behind the distillation magic, is a serene old soul with a wealth of knowledge and good humor. His laboratory is always awash in the soothing scents of island sage, hypericum, artemisia or whatever is in season and at the peak of harvest. Entering through the beautiful blue-green door, Semeli is welcomed by Vangelis and his intern Myrto.
The essential oils made in the distillery are created entirely from herbs harvested on the island. All harvesting is done by hand, and most of it is from the wild plants found in the surrounding hillsides. To begin, Vangelis shows how a batch of oregano is loaded into the distiller. Subsequently, Semeli explains how the oregano is then boiled and the steam is condensed to extract first flower water and finally essential oil. Notice how it takes an entire basket (about 10 kilos) of herbs to create about 100ml of essential oil. After experiencing this demonstration, it was no longer a mystery why essential oils are so potent – and expensive! It is a real treat to be able to sample and purchase Vangelis’ product from the source.
Our visit with Vangelis ends with a toast of “happy raki”. The beverage is a special blend of raki (an island liquor distilled from grape must) infused with island hypericum. Not only known for its healing properties, but also for its mood elevating properties, the special elixir is always a good way finish on a high note.
A short video of a one of our groups visiting Vangelis’ essential oil distillery
The Bay of Aegiali
Above the Bay of Aegiali, Semeli wraps up our virtual walking tour in Greece on the island of Amorgos. Semeli stands on another amazing cobblestone path next to a beautiful dry stacked stonewall. In the distance, across the bay, the village of Aegiali can be seen nestled against the steep hillside. Above Aegiali is the village of Potamos. A sandy beach frames the bay where the small Port of Aegiali welcomes ferries and fishing boats to its crystalline waters.
Thank you for walking with us today! If you would like to experience a vacation of little known and fabulous locations like those featured here, please explore Greece guided walking vacations and art workshops. We hope you enjoyed our walk on the Island of Amorgos and hope to travel with you soon.
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