11 Apr Epitome
APEIROS CHORA: Blue-blooded Gentility
Let your crackling fireplace lull you to sleep and indulge in hand-made pastries for breakfast at Apeiros Chora, a historic family mansion where every nook and picture frame has a story to tell.
You know how medieval movies always seem to feature castles adorned with wall-to-wall ancestral portraits of their high-born owners? Apeiros Chora (Greek for Endless Country) is the closest Greece will ever come to blue-blooded gentility, being a flawlessly renovated mansion that has housed eight generations of the Kontouris clan. Blood and tears, harvests, deaths and births, riches, love and loss are all embedded in every single room, respectfully brought to life by the owner’s wife.
Yorgos Kontouris, a masterful storyteller in his own right, can easily dazzle you with his impressive command of the region’s oral and written history, best digested with strong spirits and a roaring fire burning in the background. But what really got me was his wife Athina’s subtle touch, affectionately embracing the passage of time with preciously preserved details, like bombshell fragments from turbulent times, a paper-thin wedding crown signaling a happy union or a cracked window mapping out the passage of a lone bullet. Dented with family tradition, I was deeply moved by Apeiros Chora’s soulful hospitality and purity of spirit. It was as if Yorgos’ grandfather himself – the last man to call this majestic house a home – had invited me in from the cold.
It goes without saying that Zagorochoria, this fairy-tale cluster of 46 villages, is best suited to winter months, otherwise you’ll run the risk of being unable to put your individual fireplace to good use. But I’ve got an inkling that summers would be equally enchanting here, sheltered from the blistering heat of the Greek islands and subject to an endless string of surprises, like Zagoriwood for example (Hollywood in the Greek mountains anyone?), a film festival complete with rural movie workshops in the open air. But the real Oscar goes to the Apeiros Chora breakfast. It really highlights the essence of the entire experience, which is all about communion.
Breakfast isn’t so much served, as it is shared with the owners, who lounge around the kitchen chatting away as they bake everything from scratch to go with their incredible homemade marmalades and locally sourced eggs, cheeses and charcuterie. In other words, if your idea of a relaxing holiday is to be left alone, avoiding eye contact with anyone but your mirror, then you’d better stay away. For everyone else, this place is your most heartfelt wishes come true.