For about a month and a half, starting from London, and from a chubby cat I met there, I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve met amazing bipedal and quadrupedal creatures. The last trip was a few days ago by train, on the occasion of the 2nd vegan festival in Greece. On Friday night, 12th May , we boarded on the evening train leaving from Larissa Station and on Saturday at 6.30am we were walking through the streets of Thessaloniki.
“Well, tomorrow I will only eat sweets!” “Me too …” , I replied.
That was the last thing me and Elsa discussed, a few minutes before going to bed on Saturday night, in the cozy room of our lovely friend, Dimitra. During our first day in Thessaloniki we had the chance to walk around the city, meet friends, enjoy vegan food and some special cocktails on the beach.
Of course, central to our visit was thevsecond “Vegan Life Festival” that took place on Sunday 14th May, a festival dedicated to the vegan lifestyle that was recently launched in Greece. And as I mentioned before, during that day we would only eat sweets, VEGAN sweets! This may sound weird but how could we do otherwise while being in the heaven of vegan desserts such as vegan bougatsa (traditional custard pie), vegan ice creams, millefeuilles, triangles and profiteroles to mention just a few of the vegan delicacies one can find in Thessaloniki and of course in the festival exhibition!
Shortly after twelve o’clock, after having a morning coffee next to the historical walls of Ano Poli (Upper Town) and a vegan ice cream cone from “Pasalidis”, the famous pastry shop in Agiou Dimitriou street where one can find a great variety of vegan desserts and ice-creams, we headed to the harbor and specifically to Warehouse C, where the festival was going to take place, right next to the sea. The building chosen for the realization of the festival was easily accessible and very convenient, with enough space for the exhibitors, a separate room for the speeches and benches outside the building with an amazing view to Thermaikos.
For me, the greatest value of the festival was the trip, the beautiful people I met – some friendships just began – our conversations, the jokes and the feeling that something is going on, this peaceful way of life is spreading all over and love conquers the hearts of more and more people.
In case you find yourselves wondering, yes, everything went according to our plan and so we had desserts for breakfast and lunch (it was impossible to eat dinner after that), but we did not manage to eat as many as we would like to (there were many), having additional reasons to return to the beautiful city of Thessaloniki, who knows, perhaps on the occasion of the fourth Vegan Life Festival!
On July 27, while I was preparing our baggage to Amorgos, the temperature in Athens was unbearably high and I wished several times for some coolness. Bearing in mind the warm days and nights in many other camps around the Greek islands some years ago, I tried to suppress bad thoughts and instead I imagined of a cool and refreshing breeze scented with sea reaching my face.
On July 28, a few hours after our arrival in Amorgos, I found myself in Hora, wearing my colorful sweatshirt jacket plus my partner’s denim jacket that fell over my shoulders with the grace of a modern sack of potatoes, while the strong wind had messed up my hair so much that I started considering the possibility to do dreadlocks or shaving my head. I’ve started suspecting that I should have asked from the island gods less persistently cool breezes!So, the first tip I would give to the visitors of the island is to take into account that the evenings can be quite cool, depending on the area in which one can be found. And here I think I should stop commenting the weather, which, moreover, is so changeable and start writing some information for the future travelers.
1. Accommodation: In Amorgos there are apartments and hotels throughout the island and since we are talking about a mountainous island, they are not necessarily located next to the sea. In any case one can book online the room of preference on time and check where the room is located. On the other hand, if we choose to camp at a campsite it is advisable to have determined in advance what we want. In Amorgos there are three organized camping sites: a. The municipal campsite in Katapola -the one of the two ports of the island, which is located in a quiet area with copious shadow. The advantage is that it is close to restaurants, grocery stores, harbor and several beaches, so practically it can be convenient if you travel without your own car. Additionally this campsite is animal-friendly, provided of course that visitors are responsible and take care for and on behalf of their quadrupedal friends.Beyond basic services, there are also two shared fridges and a canteen, which is open all day and offers everything from coffees to traditional cooked food at reasonable prices. One minus we should mention is that there is no communal kitchen for those who wish to cook their own food. However we got in contact with a person from the staff who told us that it is possible to have akitchen area in the summer of ’17.
b. The campsite ” Castanis ‘, located about 1 kilometer away from Katapola, and from the sea . There are many shadowy corners where one can put a tent; it is very quiet and clean. Here, there is a tavern which offers coffees, drinks and food at good prices, a mini market and also a common kitchen with common refrigerators, but in order to cook we need to have our own camp stove. Our four-legged friends can come with us, upon request. c. The camping in Aegiali is probably the most famous among the three, and particularly preferred by young people as it is situated next to a sandy beach, bars and a beautiful sea, in a tourist village which seems to be rather more “vivid” than Katapola. Tourists in Aegiali can enjoy both the sea and the other amenities of the village without any dependency on means of transport. Note also that many ships to Amorgos go also at the port of Aegiali. But before choosing Aegiali one should also take into consideration a couple of things. First, when we called to get information, they declared that pets are prohibited in the area, so we ruled out the possibility to stay there. Moreover, when we visited it, we found that the tents were overcrowded in a relatively small space, with any subsequent impact this might have, from the cleanness and hygiene of the place to the peace and quiet one may seek in order to sleep or relax.
2. Beaches: What each of us may consider “nice” beach is certainly subjective, although some basic parameters such as the cleanness of the beach and the water are not. Well, regarding the quality of the sea water and the cleanness of the coasts Amorgos gets ten out of ten. On the other hand, the fact that most of the beaches can be reached only after walking along shorter or longer paths, as they are in less accessible points, can excite some, but it can also be a major problem for others. By car one can reach easily beaches such as Paradisia and Kalotaritissa at the Kato Meria on the island, while in others, like Gramvousa , people are transported by small boats on a small fee. Agia-Anna beach is just five minutes walking from where the bus stops or parking site is, however, since it is small in size but great in beauty, it is usually crowded even in the morning. But the most beautiful beach is called Mouros and to get there you need to follow a path, 10 minutes walking. If you arrive before noon, you can protect yourselves from the scorching sun under the shadows of the cliffs that rise on the back side of the beach. Finally a less crowded and quite beautiful beach is Psili Ammos. To get there we walked about 20 minutes. In all these beaches you have to carry with you fresh water and an umbrella.
3. Food: As in most Greek islands, pulses, rice, salads and greens have a central role in the diet of the inhabitants. Therefore in Amorgos one can find delicious Amorgian fava (or more frequently fava from Schinousa as Amorgian is more expensive), stuffed vegetables (usually with rice), stews, greens, potatoes and salads of various kinds. Those who decide to stay or visit Aigiali will likely discover «Falafel» shop -which among other things offers falafels- as well as other restaurants with several vegan options.
4. Walks: For our afternoon-evening walks there are several options considering of course the size of the island. Most visitors enjoy visiting the windmills and the narrow stone streets of the Hora, which retain the traditional architecture and the Greek island aesthetics. The same aesthetic applies also to the mountain villages Tholaria and Lagada. In all these places there are many taverns and restaurants. An interesting route that gives the opportunity to calm down and enjoy the natural landscape is the hiking trail that starts from Katapola (there are signs on the road) and rises on an imposing hill, the Moudoulia on top of which lies the ancient Minoa. Although the place was not open to the public when we went, one can observe several of the remnants that belong to the distant past. Moreover, many choose to visit the monastery Chozoviotissa which is considered one of the main attractions of the island.
5. Vegan-shopping: In Amorgos we didn’t miss almost anything of our favorite products, but one may need to be a little bit careful with the prices. For example the central groceries at Katapola sell vegan milks and other products such as whole-wheat pasta and rice-cakes even 50% more expensive than a grocery store located less centrally- though only 50 meters from the coastal road- on the way to ancient Minoa. We bought vegan milk, tofu and zea-pasta and legumes for our camp cooking. Furthermore, we found an organic vegetable garden on the road to Ancient Minoa, named «Amorgos Organics». The garden is open for anyone who wants to buy fresh, seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables from late morning to sunset except Sunday.
6. Transport: On the island we can go by boat departing from the port of Piraeus. As mentioned above there are ships that go to both ports of the island, so depending on where you stay you can select the right port to disembark. It is possible to transfer our car or motorbike with an additional charge, but the island has a good bus service so one can use busses to go to the beaches or visit the villages. Additionally to Amorgos you can simply follow the old-fashioned way and try hitchhiking especially if nostalgic of the ’80s! Maps of the island can be obtained for free from various shops, hotels and campings, but if you are not going to stay for more than a couple of days, perhaps a good idea would be to buy a small guide of the island before going or look for information online.
During the Holy Week we decided to move on to relaxation and rest and let the spring revive our souls and bodies. As we stayed in Athens for Easter, we were about to fully enjoy the tranquil, spring, festive atmosphere, to walk, to spend time with our loved ones and dedicate more time to us and Petra. On Holy Thursday the weather was amazing and we thought it was the right time for the first picnic of the season!
Of course none of us had gone shopping during our “relaxation” week neither in the organic farmer’s market nor in the grocery shop–so it was a bit difficult to prepare our picnic and to be honest I longed to eat a pizza! Although I love cooking and baking, that day I just wanted to order a vegan pizza as everyone else does. Hmmm, bit difficult if you are vegan to find a vegan pizza that is not just a tasteless tomato sauce a few onions and a few green pepper slices. However I was determined to find the pizza I was craving for, made with fresh vegetables, fluffy and tasty dough, plenty of vegan cheese (without casein or whey protein), that would taste as real pizza and of course I was not about to pay a fortune for that.
After searching through the internet I found out the website of a pizzeria named «Pizza Bite», located in Kallithea. In their website I found a variety of vegan pizzas, pasta, burgers and salads and they gave me the impression that they know what vegan diet is about. I took a look at the vegan menu and found it quite interesting. Besides Kallithea was on our way to the picnic plus I wanted to go by myself, talk to the owners and ask a couple of questions (vegans throughout the world understand what I mean! The list of questions we always ask when we go to a restaurant: “are you sure it doesn’t contain milk or eggs?” or “Do you use butter or margarine for the crust?” etc).
So I went there where I met Anastasia a warm and friendly woman, who is also the owner and chef of «Pizza Bite». After we talked I mentioned my concerns and Anastasia answered all of my questions. The first thing I was concerned was the pizza crust! Nearly without even ask, she assured me that the crust does not contain milk, eggs or other animal products and it is prepared daily in their kitchen with a slow ripening process, using a flour suitable for pizza. Additionally, if one wants a healthier version he or she can choose the dough named «Brown Crust» which is made with whole wheat flour and flaxseed.
When we got to “cheese” Anastasia talked about how she imagined this business when they started, seven years ago. “When we started the business, I wanted to use only high quality organic products to prepare all the dishes, because I wanted to offer the best to my customers. Unfortunately crisis came and this was not possible. So we decided to offer the best quality at the best price. Every day we wash and cut fresh vegetables and we make our own dough“.
“A few years ago I wanted to create some dishes that would meet the needs of people who can be in fast or be vegan, but I found that most of the “lenten” cheeses contain animal derivatives. So I chose not to use them, as I would feel that I cheat my clients. However I added a pizza in the menu with natural, plant-based ingredients and I did my best to make it so delicious that cheese would not be necessary”. If you have eaten pizza in Italy you probably remember that many of these pizzas were not topped with cheese without lacking in flavor.
“A few months ago I was told by a customer about the company “Viotros” and their series of vegan cheese, I contacted them and I made sure that the cheese they sell is 100 % vegan. Thus I added in the menu also vegan pizzas with vegan mozzarella and vegan parmesan”.
Finally we discussed the use of margarine and she was clearly against its use in any case “Only virgin olive oil when needed“. It is worth mentioning that the vegetables they use are all fresh – the time I arrived Anastasia was chopping on a bench red tomatoes, onions and fresh mushrooms.
We got the pizza named “Tartufo”, topped with walnut pesto, fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, vegan mozzarella and vegan parmesan! Because Anastasia was relatively more relaxed that day and probably she noticed my enthusiasm, she invited me to watch the process of preparing our pizza and to take some pictures. It looked amazing: thin crust topped with a layer of walnut pesto, lots of fresh mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and finally, a generous amount of vegan cheese. After photographing, she put our pizza in the oven and its smell heightened my anticipation even more.
I barely held myself from grabbing a piece when we were on our way to the ancient Koili Street, a place we often visit for our picnic. After we settled our matting and relaxed, I ate my first bite and I felt that I found exactly what I wanted and what I was craving: a real pizza with fresh vegetables, delicious and light dough, plenty of vegan cheese and spicy, cheesy taste.
For information, their page on Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/Pizza.Bite.TheBestPizza/
and their website in which there are great pictures and all the information you’ll need: http://pizzabite.gr.
PS “Pizza bite” only delivers. Those who live beyond the areas they deliver (Kallithea, Neos Kosmos, Nea Smyrni, Koukaki, Petralona, Taurus, Thissio and Moshato), can go there to get their order. But if you want to make an order for an event, they can cater upon request in even more areas.