Makrynitsa – The Balcony of the Pelion

makrynitsa panoramaHigh above the city of Volos is the mountain village of Makrynista. Founded in the thirteenth century by refugees from the Fourth Crusade, Makrynitsa developed in a time when the coast was prone to pirate raids.

makrynisa_archonitko_hotelThe people of Thessaly built these mountain villages as mini citadels away from the dangers of the coast and the fortified mansions, many of them now small hotels, reflect the region’s turbulent past.

Huge wooden doors that can be barricaded shut; gun emplacements covering the entrances; barred first floor windows, positioned so that occupants could pour something nasty down on the heads of intruders – these people were taking no chances!

Makrynista boasts several large, old monasteries, with beautiful marble colonnades and Byzantine carvings. Much of the stone for these churches was plundered from other buildings, and you can spend happy hours spotting column tops, ancient inscription (sometimes upside down!) and the front end of animals, mystical creatures and ancient gods, sometimes minus critical parts.

carvings_church_makrynitsaOne of the pleasures of a visit to Makrynitsa is getting lost in winding cobbled back streets but you are never far from an iced coffee or something stronger. For the serious foodie, Makrynitsa is a great place to buy spoon sweets and dried herbs collected from the high slopes of the mountain.

 

 

fountain_makrynitsa

 

With its spectacular views over Volos, cool mountain air in the height of summer, and the sound of mountain spring water bubbling from marble fountains, Makrynitsa is one of the not-to-be-missed gems of the Pelion.

 

 

 

 

 

Make your fortune – buy a mule

Pack horses taking a breakMakrynitsa, with its cobbled paths and narrow alleyways, is a car free zone but people still have to build houses (and bring in building materials), have their rubbish collected, move washing machines around, and so on. In fact, all the normal activities of every day life. This is when a phone call is needed to one of the two men, Georgos or Kostas, who run the local mule trains.

The mules or pack horses have specialised saddles, according to what they are carrying. The standard riding position is side-saddle, with the rider and both his legs on one side, counterbalanced by a load on the other. Saddles for carrying long items, such as firewood or metal rebar for riding_pack-horsereinforcing concrete, have a shelf onto which the load can be stacked. Loose building materials, such as sand, are loaded into metal panniers, one on each side of the saddle. These have a little trap door in the bottom which is opened when you want to unload, allowing the sand to pour out freely.

Nothing in Makrynitsa moves without Georgos's or Kostas's say-so. The richest men in the village, with designer jeans, state-of-the-art mobiles and swagger to match, they control everything.

Cobbled street Makrynitsa

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