Tips on where to eat and sleep.
In the beautiful village of Kalaryttes you can do no better than trust yourself to Napoleon Zaglis, the owner of the homonymous guesthouse (as well as Akanthos, a kafeneio). Napoleon has grew up here and he is passionate about “his” mountains. Not only does he speak the local dialect, but also he can give insider’s knowledge on what to see and do.
Kalarrytes, North Tzoumerka, (+30) 26590 61518
In a province where most of the coffee shops and taverns are inexplicably closed very early, Napoleon’s place stays open till late in the night (sometimes even with a spontaneous celebration going on). During winter, a handful of people – some of the 12 inhabitants of Kalarrytes, gather around the stove, watching television, while outside the Athamanian mountain ranges begin to wrap in the veil of the winter. Akanthos coffee shop is the landmark of the village, a kind of staple for the habitants; more than a jolt of caffeine or a traditional tavern, it’s a meeting place for card games, backgammon, coffee, tsipouro and impromptu feasts. In other words, honesty, authentic moments and unique atmosphere! Mr Napoleon, a former advertiser in Athens, came back to Kalarrytes to run the fifth-generation kafeneio (greek coffee shop) of his ancestors that has been in operation since 1840. You can also buy your groceries from its old selves. Many visitors come back each year, while serious enthusiasts even plan their holiday to join the locals for Christman or Easter. Stepping through the door of the coffee shop you feel as if you have strayed on to a film set. The atmosphere is an authentic reminiscent of 60s and whoever visits it, will have the opportunity to the travel back in time. A further travel indoors will lead you to the bucolic-sounding “bimsa”, an old raised cellar which was used from the habitants of the village in the past to tuck away their valuable belongings. Here you can taste slow food with an emphasis on old regional recipes, aka grandma’s food, made with fresh ingredients from the market in Ioannina. When the place is filled up with people, you notice how unreservedly customers serve themselves from the kitchen or help themselves to get some extra bread. The specialty here is fragrant and tender chunks of pork that is slowly cooked with leek and peppers, elephant beans with wild greens, as is the simple, crunchy homemade bread and fiery tsipouro (local liquer). The menu changes often and according to season. Though rammed with tourists and their selfie sticks during high season (Christmas) this is a prime rustic spot with local camaraderie and one of the most authentic and traditional experiences in Tzoumerka. When the weather is warm you can also seat outside in the little terrace.
Napoleon Zaglis Guesthouse
Kalarrytes, North Tzoumerka, (+30) 26590 61518, (+30) 6972265961, http://www.xenonasnapoleon.com
In the beautiful village of Kalaryttes you can’t do better than trust yourself to Napoleon Zaglis, the owner of the homonymous guesthouse (as well as the anchored in the history of the region, “Akanthos”). Napoleon has grew up here and he is passionate about “his” mountains. Not only does he speak the local dialect, but also he can give insider knowledge on what to see and also narrate the longstanding history of the place. Located at the heart of Kalaryttes, a sleepy and beguiling village of the eagle-view Tzoumerka region, the shelter’s fascinating, historic origins have been sympathetically preserved through a sensitive, lovingly crafted restoration. Little balconies dominate the front side of the stone premise providing great panoramic views to the mountainscapes. Dressed in vintage items, the two-storey building has a nice lounge with a fireplace and overlooks the family-owned café. If you like to feel the village from within, to be acquainted with its smells, its sounds, its people, its language, then Napoleon and his wife, Labrini, will offer more than a shelter and breakfast of local produce is just a tiny detail of their warm welcome.
Pramanta, Ioannina, 2659300645, http://tzoumerkarefuge.com/
At 1200 meters, perched on Strogoula peak – the king of Athamanian Mounts, Pramanta refuge, is laying amidst a landscape of unparalleled beauty and being itself a balcony overlooking Tzoumerka, is the perfect choice of accommodation for those who want to avoid the crowds, renounce standard hotel comforts and immerse in exciting and rewarding new experiences in an alpine zone. An overall warm stay, offering hearty homemade food, and the right company for mountainous activities – aka Babis Triantafyllou, who along with his wife, Pola, and two young children left city life to become wildlife experts and reside here throughout the year. Well known to locals for its terrace breakfasts/lunches, the refuge also makes a great place to shelter in, but also from which to explore the area - being the starting base for numerous climbing and hiking paths. In case you don’t choose to stay overnight, before you go try Pola’s soothing lentil dish or at least grab a cup of coffee to take in the views. There's nothing to beat the great feeling as your head is almost getting lost above the serenity of the clouds.
Finally, this cosy mountain refuge, can be also booked by groups of friends who want a whole place to themselves.
In case your lofty goal is “living like a local”—seeking out experiences that if not residing in the region its unlikely to get to know, head to Tzoumerka Activities Center, where both parents and kids can try hiking, orienteering, play various skill games or football.
If visiting Pramanta, take a seat and enjoy a cup of coffee along with a sugary treat at Hagiati cafe or get your hungry self at Arletos’s tavern/butcher-shop for humongous dishes of large lamb or pork ribs.