Responsible tourism: Wellness retreat in Greece by the sea
Our house, just above the water's edge, forms a natural break between the forest and the sea and so it is not uncommon to hear a nightingale in May and June, see a tortoise cross the footpath or find yourself surrounded by an array of colourful butterflies and camouflaged insects darting between wild flowers. This is an incredibly unspoilt corner of Greece and to preserve this we have planted only the minimal amount of cultivated plants in the vicinity of the house and left the surrounding slopes bare to encourage the colonisation of forest flora. We also have a responsibility in ensuring that the olives trees which dot our slopes, some of which are hundreds of years old, are preserved. With careful pruning and management we are gradually achieving this and through doing so expect our harvest to improve. We harvest our trees in January and February and take our olives to the local press in Argalasti to produce our own extra virgin organic olive oil which we serve to our customers.
At the beginning of the season there is always much work to do clearing up the beaches. Winter storms will bring debris onto the beach and although there is a huge amount of wood which is swept in by the tides, to a greater degree plastic in all shapes, forms, colours and sizes finds its way. This needs immediate removal and recycling. It is a big job and we take an active role in ensuring that the beach is left debris free for the summer months. During the peak season of July and August, when the Greek people take their holidays, there is greater pressure on the local community to keep the beaches and the villages clean and tidy and free from litter. Although most of the people using the beaches are local and our location is surprisingly unspoilt as far as tourism is concerned, there is little awareness about litter in Greece and we are helping to create awareness about this by setting an example in clearing the beach daily ourselves and also strategically placing bins and empyting them regularly.
To preserve the local design of the region we have constructed our house in the local Pelion style using the services and the expertise of local builders and craftsmen to achieve this. Our stone masons, carpenters, plumbers and electricians all come from a village within a few miles of the house. We have purchased from local suppliers all our materials, i.e. Pelion stone slates for flagstones, Pelion stone roof slates and Pelion stones for the stones walls. Some of the most basic of techniques have been employed in the construction from using an old fashioned band saw for making the window frames, ledges, doors and cupboards to the fashioning of individual stones on site for the flagstone terraces and stone walls. We have continued to use the services of the local builders and tradesmen in the ongoing maintenance of our property thus still creating a source of income for them. With regard to local tourism income we have four locally owned tavernas in the village which are guests frequent. We also recommend our guests hire cars and taxis through local firms.
We encourage our guests to use the ancient footpaths to explore the local area on foot. The opening up of the footpaths in Pelion has been backed by local walking groups and a local charity called the Friends of the Kalderimi who are actively involved in both preserving and improve the local walking tracks that once were the ancient mule tracks of Pelion. They have volunteer groups and working parties who meet regularly on footpaths to carry out work, relying on donations to achieve this. The footpaths exist in incredibly beautiful areas, criss crossing the mountains and stretching down into the seaside villages. Many of the footpaths are well known and well trodden by walkers but others are in danger of disappearing. As we are located just above a beautiful footpaths which is frequently in use and especially by our guests we invite them to contribute to this worthy cause.