I clearly remember the first time I was in Kato Pedina. A friend had told me about a brand-new guesthouse that “will bring something new to Zagori.” As I reach the gate, I stand for a few minutes to look at the mansion. A heavy wooden door, nicely restored, maintaining the history it carries, opens and through a spacious corridor, preserved to its original, leads me to the main entrance.
I’m full of curiosity to meet the people who, as I’ve been told, left their life in Athens behind, and came here to repair the house and turn it into a guesthouse.
8th generation and fragrant cakes
Athina welcomes us, smiling, and before very long, we’re already feeling comfortable and familiar. She shows us around and each time she opens another door we come across a new story that links the present to the past.
“This house belongs to my husband’s, George’s, family for centuries now. Now it belongs to our son Xenofontas, who is the 8th generation.” The kitchen functions as a sort of meeting point. Here, everyone has, or gets assigned, a role. The grand table is almost always set, while every morning it holds the fragrant cakes and cookies that Athina makes using the family’s grandmother’s recipe. A breakfast – tribute to local ingredients and family traditions is set daily, to start the day in a nice way and prepare for a day filled with beautiful images and experiences.
In the mansion’s winter living room
Coming back to Zagori, Athina’s and George’s guesthouse is one of my first stops. It’s the feeling of coming back home. The coffee they make fills the space with its aroma. “The right temperature, the quality ingredients and the right preparation will create a delicious result.”
Enjoying a cup of coffee in the mansion’s winter living room, the one that is connected to the kitchen by a little door, next to the fireplace, we ask Athina about her experience with the project “Apeiros Chora”, her life away from Athens, and the hospitality she offers.
You left your life back in Athens and came to Kato Pedina. What made you make this decision?
My love for my husband and his life dream. The love and respect for his family home that needed to be saved and needed our care. We turned my husband’s family home, a mansion in Kato Pedina, into a hospitality unit.
How is your daily life?
Intense, pleasant, social. Taking care of our guests is our first priority. This communication has given us many friends to this day.
Was there a time when you may have thought that your decision was a mistake?
No, never. The time was wrong; we opened during the crisis and just when things were improving the COVID-19 pandemic came. But I feel certain for the future of our endeavour.
The guesthouse is ready, and the first visitors are already here. How did you feel?
Anxious! But I very quickly realised that I can’t function as a hotelier. That’s why I host people as if they were house guests.
How is hospitality in Apeiros Chora defined?
Welcome to your home in the mountain!
Sitting at the guesthouse’s garden, drinking your coffee and looking at the valley of Soudena is a moment of pleasure. What other such moments does everyday life in Zagori have?
The calmness here in Zagori is priceless. Each season can offer you different moments of pleasure and creativity. Creativity motivates me and creates pleasure. From preparing the year’s jams, to decorating the guesthouse according to season, to trying to bring new things every once in a while – as many of our guests, now our friends, keep returning here, having found, as they say, their home in the mountain. All of the above are moments of pleasure and enjoyment for me.
Do you miss anything from your life in Athens?
I could say my family and friends. But with the passing of time and with the recent communication methods, I too have adjusted, and communicate with everyone this way. What I miss is holding my loved ones. I’m waiting patiently for it to pass. I don’t miss Athens. What I miss is the sea, to look at and to be in it.