Showing posts with label Hotel Bizantinon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hotel Bizantinon. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Greece: A honey of a destination

Greece, quite literally, is a honey of a destination.

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Athens, Greece from our airplane 2013

As we prepare to return this spring to the Peloponnese, Crete and other yet-to-be-determined places we know the one common treasure we’ll find is their liquid gold. . . honey.

In Greece, honey is infused into soap and shampoo. You can find it in beauty products from face cream to foot lotions. We’ve even used wax balms on our lips – thanks to those industrious bees who produce the honey.

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Feta cheese bake in phyllo then smothered in honey, sesame seeds and onion

We’ve drizzled it by thick spoonful onto fresh-made Greek yogurt for breakfast. We finished our evening meals with complimentary servings of fresh fruit slices topped with it or pieces of cake soaked with it.
While honey is commonly found in every region of Greece, each region’s product has a slightly different taste and characteristics. 

Busy as Bees. . .

As we drove narrow roadways that curled and climbed through the rugged terrain of both the Peloponnese and Crete -- each is a honey producing area -- it became a contest of sorts to spots hives we passed along the way.
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Roadways aren't for the faint-hearted
By the numbers there are some 1.3 million hives and 25,000 beekeepers responsible for the 12,000 tons of honey produced annually in Greece.

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Orange groves/harvest in the Peloponnese

Luckily we will be returning to Greece, during the ‘honey season’ which generally begins in March and continues to the end of November in the southernmost areas of the country.

During this time hives are moved from field to field and slope to slope. The moves provide the seasonal flavors to the honey – orange blossoms in May, wild thyme in July, forests in September and Heather fields in both May and September.  Honey is harvested after the feeding periods to capture the best flavors.

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Wild thyme lines a Crete hiking path
We will be making our fifth trip to Crete – we can’t resist its charms.

Or is it the the thick, hearty thyme honey we’ve discovered in southern Crete that keeps us returning?

It’s a flavor unlike any honey we’ve had anywhere else. We’ve commonly referred to it as our ‘nectar of the Gods’.

Honey of the Gods. . .

However, it was in Poulithro, a coastal village in the Peloponnese – at the Hotel Byzantinon, where we were, last year, introduced to a honey blend so rich in flavor and beautifully colored (an almost pearl metallic highlight) that we understood completely why it is called, “Melithion” which means, ‘honey of the Gods’.

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Melitheon - Honey of the Gods

Christos Kritsidimas, son of the hotel owners, said his family had been buying the honey and serving it as part of the breakfast they provide with a room rental. “The guests kept asking where they could buy the honey. They wanted to take it home.”

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Christos and George Kritsidimas
Talks began with the honey suppliers and Christos, who formerly worked in the banking industry, began Vasiliki, his  new company that produces and markets, “Melithion” and soon other varieties of honey.

“Vasiliki,” he explained has a double meaning. It is both his mother’s name and synonymous with royalty. “We think of this product as the Rolls Royce of honey.”

Melithion is a blend of primarily black fir tree honey dew and Thyme nectar, with combinations of smaller amounts of herbs and local flowers contributing to its unique blend, including Arbutus, Maple, Heather and Tea.

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The Black Fir grows at the 1,500 meter (4,921 feet) elevation in the Mainalo mountain range that towers over the Peloponnese southwest of Tripoli. It’s a distinct species in the fir family and produces a honey known as Banilias (vanilla) – it is the only Greek honey to carry a Protected Designation of Origin. This honey is considered an excellent source of essential trace elements include potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron – as well as numerous vitamins.

“Our particular variety of honey provides a perfect balance in taste with the vanilla being less sweet and the thyme being sweeter,” he explains. “It is delicately smooth in flavor with a butterscotch taste at the end.”
The black fir tree honey dew is a resin produced by microorganisms in the tree trunk. Its production is easily affected by the high elevation’s cold and wet temperatures and the harvest is difficult and costly. For that reason, the production of Melithion honey was limited last year to 12,000 jars.

GreecePt12013 228Since Vasiliki’s inception four years ago, the marketing and distribution of honey has been the company’s focus. Christos has taken the brand to trade fairs throughout Europe and hopes to grow its presence in the United States as well.

Melithion can be purchased on-line at, a premium Mediterranian gastronomy shopping experience. For us, it’s another ‘honey’ of a reason to return to Greece this spring!

Linking up:
Foodie Tuesday at Inside Journeys

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

George’s Story: Our time at Byzantinon

GreecePt12013 193This is the story of George Kritsidimas, his family and their Hotel Byzantinon. The story is set amid an olive and orange grove overlooking the Myrtoan Sea, at the foot of the eastern Parnon Mountains in Greece’s Peloponnese.

Getting to know the family while staying at their hotel is one of those experiences – the kind so rich, that trying to wrap it up in words is difficult. 

Perhaps, it is because it is the story that happens when places become people.

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The Scout found Hotel Byzantinon, located in the small village called Poulithro, while web surfing prior to our trip to Greece. We knew nothing of the area; hotel reviews were positive. It was one of the few places we booked ahead of time.

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Little did we know then, what a goldmine of accommodation and experiences he’d found for us.  Our studio was spacious and luxurious. 

GreecePt12013 163The bed’s comfort and sheet quality appeared to rival that of a Marriott hotel, we remarked to each other, as we settled in. (Sometimes Greek mattresses can be firm-to-rock hard)

For that matter, pretty much everything in the unit was something of “Marriott quality”. The studio’s size, in fact, much larger than those of Marriott Vacation Clubs in which we’ve stayed.

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After so much Marriott talk, we were a bit surprised when we set out to explore the common areas of the hotel and found this - part of a framed display -- on a stairwell:

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That would be Bill Marriott, CEO of Marriott Corporation on the left and George next to him in the middle. That medal he’s holding in this photo is the one he’s wearing in the opening photo.

GreecePt12013 273It wasn’t until later in the day, when George returned from tending his vineyard high in the hills beyond the hotel, that we learned about the Marriott connection.

Turns out that in 2003 George was one of 12 out of Marriott’s some 4,000 employees world-wide to receive the corporation’s Award of Excellence.

He was the only employee so named outside the United States that year. The photo display highlights other moments that he and his wife shared during a whirlwind award trip to the ceremonies which were held in Washington DC.

You see, George, age 67, opened his Hotel Byzantinon after retiring from the Marriott Corporation. He’d ended a 30-plus-year career as the doorman at Athen’s Ledra Marriott Hotel. If you stayed there or even walked past it during his tenure, you might recognize the uniformed George in the photo below:

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Memories and stories. George has many from his years meeting and greeting travelers from all stations in life.
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Our incessant questions finally prompted him one morning to dig out a memory box filled with photos, the medal, and additional award certificates he’d received for outstanding service over the years. George took us on a trip down memory lane with him -- a most special moment in our Greek travels.

GreecePt12013 191Bill Marriott would continue to be proud of this Marriott-ambassador (pictured here with his son, Christos). George speaks  highly of the corporation and warmly about the Marriott family. 

Because in George’s heart, there is nothing more important than family. Maybe that’s why he made us feel so much a part of his.

That’s it for now.You'll hear more about George in future posts and I’ve got a ‘honey’ of a tale about his son, Christos – so hope to see you back here soon!  It is Travel Photo Thursday so head over to Nancie’s Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel. Then check out Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?

GreecePt12013 172Click the link for more information on Hotel Byzantinon. And, for those curious ones out there: we paid 60-euro a night, about $75US. Our rate included (a fabulous!) daily breakfast. 


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