How can one experience the fall when you live in a sunny and exotic city such as Athens? Many expat parents in Athens remember those September and October autumn days in their home countries with coloured leaves, chestnuts and walks in the forests. And the general idea is that this is something one can only find in Greece’s countryside but not near Athens. Yet, there are many places in and around the city that can give you that autumn feeling. One is the forest of Varnavas.
Varnavas forest was the destination of a recent Sunday morning September outing. My friend Sofia invited me and the girls to drink a coffee near Kapandriti, her home village. Kapandriti is situated in the green corner of North Attika, 37 km from Syntagma square. Sofia a ‘small paradise’, a picnic place where the children would be able to play in the forest and we would be able to watch them and relax. I could not agree more with my friend. The place that we found is indeed a small paradise.
It is located in the Varnavas forest and called Kioski. It is a small kiosk on the side of the mountain road in between the villages of Kapandriti and Varnava. The kiosk is surrounded by oak and chestnut trees and there are picnic tables and a hammock around. Behind the kiosk is a steep staircase carved in the mountain that leads to an exciting river. The river was almost dry in this period of the year but has lots of water in the winter time. A wooden bridge leads across the river and can be the start of a beautiful hike. The kiosk serves coffee, (alcoholic) drinks, small snacks like toast, crisps and ice cream and some freshly prepared ‘meze’. There is a mobile bathroom near the kiosk and there is a small parking area.
The children played in the sand near our table whilst we had our coffee. Later they climbed down to the river and played around the water. The water was only a few centimetres high and because all of our children can swim, I did not worry. A romantic wooden bridge took them to the other side of the river and they had fun throwing stones in the water. Later on, they relaxed in the Kioski hammock, climbed in trees and collected stones and leaves. We ordered lunch and the children had ice cream. We had a lovely morning.
If you visit Kioski with very young children, you do need to stay close to them. The place may not be so relaxing for parents with very young children. The reason is that the kiosk is right next to the road and there is no fence. Our children are old enough to not suddenly run towards that road but I would not be able to sit and drink coffee with an energetic pre-schooler.
If you do not want to spent all day at Kioski, there are several options in the Varnavas forest to have a fun day with your kids. One is hiking; a path starts from Kioski into the Varnavas forest.
Another idea is to visit the enchanting nearby traditional villages of Varnavas and Grammatikos. The central square of Grammatikos is excellent for a coffee break and there is a nice shady playground near the square too. In Varnavas is the Interactive Folk Museum. The museum permanently exposes decorations, tools, clothing and utensils in a traditional Varnavas house. They regularly organize temporary exhibitions and other family- and school activities such as book readings, musical events and events related ot the environment. The museum also hosts the collection of the Bread Museum, showing embroidered bread designs from all over Greece and Europe. The exhibition rooms are open daily and ideal for children to learn more about the culture and customs of the past. There is no entrance fee. The Interactive Folk Art Museum: www.ilmb.gr
My friend and I decided to visit the coast and go for a swim. We drove through the aforementioned villages towards the North East to the beach of Sesi.The mountain road was new and safe, the area green and full of cyprus trees and amazing views. The signing was easy to follow and it took us 20 minutes to drive from Kioski to Sesi beach. Right before the coast, the road splits in two: to the right is the small Sesi beach and to the left is the big Sesi beach. Choose the right, it is the nicest. With it’s pebbles and pine trees, this little beach reminded us of an island. The beach has no organized umbrellas or chairs but there is a taverna and a shower. Plenty of parking space too. The water is shallow in the beginning and very clear. The rocks next to the beach made a great climbing wall for the kids. We saw the local children jumping from the rocks in the sea! The bigger Sesi beach would be a good choice for lunch or dinner. There are 2 taverna’s on the big Sesi beach. We can recommend the ‘To Sesi’ fish tavern.
We had an absolutely wonderful day full of nature and play and we cannot wait to find more of these hidden paradises this winter!