Tell us about your first steps.
My career started by studying tourism business in Rhodes island, from where I left and returned to Naoussa, believing that it has a great future and great potential of growth. After an adventurous situation, I finally joined the municipal Naoussa company, although at first it was considered that my qualifications were too high and I was rejected. But I eventually joined the municipality business. I started as a waiter, climbed to the position of chief and at one point was in charge of hosting the ski center of 3-5 Pigadia.
When did the creation of your hotel “Esperides” begin?
In 1999 my wife Rena and I decided that the Municipality could not offer us what we dreamed of for our lives. So we both announced our voluntary resignation and with the help of our parents, this hotel was built. We sold all our belongings, a house we had acquired together, a small estate, because there was no capital to support us. Taking the first Leader Program, the EEC program for agritourism, we built the first floor of the Esperides hotel in 2000. Rena’s degree in Engineering, helped to make this hotel the way we envisioned it: a central building within a 4,5 acres farm. It has several fruit trees helping us to make our own jams and desserts so that we are able to offer authentic products directly to our customers.
We built a tourist unit following the developments for agritourism at that time. However, this model in Greece did not go well and we changed the targeting. In 2007 we started making the second floor by adding 10 rooms. We raised to 20 rooms, creating a small family three-star classic hotel. Since then, the company has been operating well, with a relaxation center, a hydromassage hamam and a sauna and massage parlor.
Our customers can enjoy our garden, with their children in the playground and gastronomy lessons, the culinary immersion of customers in Mediterranean cuisine. We are already working on the successful project “Excursion to Taste”, in which many students take part, making from scratch Macedonian recipes, such as the classic makarounes, a very nice traditional salad and a compote.
Coming in direct contact with nature, they have the opportunity to search inside the farm and find thyme, oregano, rosemary, savory, to put in their salads. In the right period they can cut fresh vegetables from the vegetable garden. In general, the project “Excursion to taste” has achieved its goal, since many schools in the area have been visiting, our hotel, “Esperides”. At this time we are planning a new project.
The interstate program of Leader + MED EAT, motivated us for this program. Being a mentor in the program of 20 Imathias’ schools in and with the permission of the Ministry of Education we developed this project. We designed and made a flavor game based on Imathias’ products. This was approved by the Ministry of Education and I visited the Imathia villages, as a mentor that made it look like a game. I developed this program so that a visit to a hotel can take place and the children can come on a trip to our region.
We want to turn “Esperides” into a small cultural center. We have hosted art exhibitions many times in the hotel lobby, where customers had the opportunity, while enjoying coffee by the fireplace, to talk to the artists and be able to see something different, while the poetry evenings are one of the more successful ones.
Tell us about Naoussa as a destination.
The Heroic town of Naoussa is not just a destination, it is a magical place. It brings together uniqueness that can be a universal magnet. Unfortunately, in recent years, and especially in the last decade, tourism has not received much attention. Because on the one hand there was no ideal number of beds (about 600 beds) in the suburbs of Naoussa, to be able to develop this type of tourism that is required.
That is, a multidimensional tourism, which can have many things in it, while at the same time we did not take full advantage of the crisis that was coming. In general, the hoteliers rested on the fact that Greek tourists, from the golden age of 2005 to 2011, traveled a lot, but also spent. This was evident in the sales that took place in the hotels, but also from the fullness. When the crisis came and we did not invest in the alternative, we left it to the mercy of God and only to the Greek customers. We did not invest at all in the foreign market, the crisis came and defeated us. This forced us to look at things from a different perspective and put our minds to it, to see what’s wrong and how we need to redefine the tourism product and think why someone should and can come to Naoussa.
What does Naoussa offer tourists?
First of all, its geographical location which is at the foothills of the wonderful Vermio mountain, whose biodiversity reaches 80% of the flora and fauna of all of Greece. Here we can find unique plants that we did not know, but the customers came who were looking for the unique orchids peonies, amazing plants that exist in the school of Aristotle that grow only in this area. To admire the Kioski City Park, an oasis of 30 acres, in the heart of the city overlooking the entire Macedonian plain, but also at the Vermio’s foothills deep in the forest, where there is a guarded center of wildlife animals living free to the forest, to be able to admire also the award-winning park of Agios Nikolaos in front of the springs of the river Arapitsa, area included in the Natura 2000 network.
This park can provide a variety of family activities, sports, relaxation and many essential activities for someone who wants to do in relation to nature. It also has the unique prosperity of the ancient Greek treatise. The first University of the Universe, the famous Aristotle School, is in its infancy. While we have throughout Greece Aristotle and Alexander the Great, their only meeting and the dependence or rather the teaching of each other took place in this place, in Ancient Mieza. Aristotle’s refusal to go as a house teacher to the kingdom of Aigai prompted Philip to create for his child, along with other well-known princesses of the region, a large school to teach him all that the Great Philosopher Aristotle would teach him.
The excavations continue after the restoration of the theater in Mieza in adjacent areas for the Lyceum of Aristotle and have been placed under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic under the guidance of the head of our archeological service, Mrs. Angeliki Kottaridis.
Let’s talk now about the uniqueness of gastronomy.
The gastronomy in Naoussa has unique flavors and has been developed based on fertile hunting and rich livestock. Several books have been written on the style of Naoussa gastronomy. As a Municipal Councilor, we are collaborating in the Municipality, in order to make a study of the promotion of gastronomy and its identification as a gastronomic destination that is an extension of the study of Branding that is already being prepared.
The results have been implemented by the pan-European Municipality, highlighting the tagline “Naoussa, sorry no beaches”. This action has already been approved by the marketing department of EOT and Naoussa comes forward with this tagline. The question rightly arises “so what do you have”? We have and promote unparalleled nature, rich primary production, unique gastronomy, our glorious culture and a wonderful hospitality.
So wine is a piece that connects gastronomy and Naoussa with culture. The name of the famous PDO – xinomavro – comes from sour and black. The traveler Charles Pukeville in 1826 states “Naoussa wine is one of the best of Macedonia, the grapes from which this wine is produced have an acidic and astringent taste, which is why they do not drink it before the fourth or fifth year after it is harvested”. There is also a popular saying that “Naoussa wine is brought by the handkerchief”, meaning it has such a rich body that it could travel to the other side of the ocean, retaining all its organoleptic characteristics. It can be preserved and aged, constantly giving rich aromas and taste. The 19 winemakers of Naoussa have highlighted this, their production reaches 2,500,000 liters per year. Each winery, with its actions, makes it known all over the universe, through wine events, but also from the main event that takes place in our town, every December with the title “Naoussa, City of Wine” by the Association of Viticulture and Winemakers of Naoussa.
In Naoussa, the art of wine was transferred and the culmination has been made on good quality wine. I’m not an expert at talking about it, but I’m one of those people who can pair it with food. It is the wine that combines perfectly with the local gastronomy, with our amazing pies, the food with the heavy and strong sauces that have been cooked for a long time, in contrast of the cold winter but also perfectly matched with the cheeses and our savory batzio.
A wine that, as it ages, gives even better aromas, tannins and a complete taste. Experts tell us that it is one of the top wines in the Greek vineyard. The wine that conquers friends all over the world, that with its limited production competes worthily with large vineyards and stands very seriously in the world of oenology.
What else does Naoussa need?
Naoussa has and should be recognized as a monument of intangible cultural heritage, it is the customary of “Boules” and according to others it is “Boules & Genitsari”. After a 2000-page scientific study by folklorist Mrs. Skouteri, which I had the pleasure and honor to present to the public of Naoussa, and which looking at the human geography of the area and checking many of all the sources, proved at the end that and the two terms are testable.She said, say it the way you want: “What you can keep as a conclusion is not to spoil what this custom or this event really has.” We cannot call it a complete event, as we do not know if it is a remnant of some other ancient situation. And what has more to do with what is happening is its preservation and its transmission to the new generations.
This event brings more than 15,000 visitors to Naoussa in a very short period of three days. We must all sit together to see the management of the world, so that this world can leave happy, taking with it the experience of Naoussa so that it can attract the visitor even in dead tourist periods.
The beds in Naoussa are around 600 and this needs to be increased, although already the hotel “VERMIO” which has been inactive for a few years after the search for an institutional investor, has the ability to bring another 150 beds. We believe that the approach of investors in the area with the utilization of many attractions that exist such as: the hot springs in the area of Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicolas).
From the comparative advantages of the mountain, with the “3-5 Pigadia” ski resort and after the application for its exploitation as a summer resort, it will also enable too many people to develop many activities throughout the year. The announcement of the international tender for the 35-year lease of the ski resort, has already been published. Naoussa always wears its’ well and is waiting for you all, don’t miss the opportunity to visit it.