Mediterranean cruise: Volos, Greece

Our last excursion took us to Pelion, Greece from the port of Volos. Our bus drove up Mt. Pelion to the highest point that they were able (it was quite foggy that day). The drive up was incredible. There were sections that the bus had to back up in order to get around a corner. The tour guide suggested that we try the mountain tea at our first stop. We hiked up the the town square, whose only inhabitants seemed to be cats. It was definitely past season since only one restaurant was open and no one was walking around. The mountain air was so crisp and it was quiet and beautiful.

The next town that we visited had the coolest church I have ever seen. It was in the town of Milíes, called the Church of Taxiarches. They are not sure when the church was built, but it was renovated in 1741. It looks like a normal building. There is no bell tower and no windows inside. The murals are unreal. The tour guide explained to us that the murals inside the entryway are there to teach those who could not read.

The scene above the doorway shows how they weighed the soul of a person against a feather. This demonstrates a medieval belief that relates to the Egyptians in which they weighed your heart against a feather to decide your fate in the afterlife. One side of the door (the left) shows all the wonders of Heaven. The right side demonstrates Hell. There is a river of blood and it flows into the mouth of a monster. I love this depiction of Hell.

There was also an intricate painting of the signes of the zodiac in the entryway. Inside was quite small, but the painting were not any less impressive.

We wandered around the few shops that were open in this town. Several of our fellow passengers bought the dried mountain tea that we tasted. Personally I spent the time taking in the view and enjoying the cold.

We went to the bottom of the mountain to see the beginning of the sunset from one of the seaside towns. The tour guide told us that many people go to Mt. Pelion to hike the trails and they go all the way down to the sea. There is also a train that runs in the summer and will take you up to Milies.

Our last stop was at an olive oil press. I think it was added onto our itinerary because we could not visit the top of the mountain. I was very happy to learn about the olive oil making process. We saw a lot of olive trees from the bus and they were harvesting the olives. They put a big tarp under the trees and shake the trees for the olives to drop. Some people shake their trees by hand or an apparatus that helps them, but if they have a lot of trees there is a machine that shakes the tree. Our tour guide explained (because her family owns 60 trees) that you need to take those olives that have been collected in the tarps as soon as possible to be processed into oil. She said at the most three days later. They use both green and black olives to make the olive oil. If you want to eat the olives you have to pick them by hand. Then you cure them yourself with whatever recipe your family uses. She said that it takes about three weeks for her olives to be ready to eat. Never eat an olive off the tree. It is disgusting.

Each bin belonged to a certain family and the olive oil that they create goes directly to that family. First, they put it through a machine that discards all the branches and leaves. Then it goes through another machine and the olives are mushed.

Finally it goes through another machine to make the oil. They gave us a sample of the olive oil and the olives they cured. They were amazing. The smell of olive oil reminded me of freshly cut grass. This particular olive oil press was organic. It was extra virgin olive oil which the tour guide told us was the only type you should use. Her reasoning? When she moved into her house they found gallons of old olive oil in the basement. She brought it to an olive press and he gave her money for it because he could sell it as regular olive oil.

The color of the oil demonstrates how fresh it is. I had to buy a bottle and some olives in a vacuum sealed pouch. This olive press tour was a pleasant surprise. I love olives and olive oil and it was really neat to watch the process. I thought this was a lovely excursion. It was very different from our other tours. It was rather relaxing. It was a wonderful way to end our cruise.

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