The Magic of Maroneia

About Maroneia

Maroneia is a sleepy little village 3 hours drive (or 7 hours on the single-track train) east of Thessalonki where, if you stumble into the right guesthouse, you might later end up crying as you leave your new adoptive Greek family. This is an article dedicated to someone who turned our week upside down, and what had been a huge disappointment (read what happened here) into a wonderful experience.

Shelterless and a little bewildered, we came across Debbie’s home (Guesthouse Petran) and were eagerly welcomed in by her family. As soon as we arrived, we immediately fell in love with the view from the balcony which stretches out over the patchwork cotton fields to the glittering sea and silhouettes of mountains and islands far beyond. It’s a view to make you forget all your problems.

Debbie's guesthouse offers a landscape view of Maroneia village, the surrounding cotton fields and ocean.
Views for days

Debbie’s father built the house himself in the traditional style of the area; deep foundations and thick columns inside keep the house safe from earthquakes. The outside is timber framed with iconic terracotta tiles for the roof. Outside in the gardens, decades-old grapevines twisted into characterful shapes. There are olive trees and figs, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables of all shapes and sizes (include this enormous cabbage). The family use these for making wine, oil and cooking delicious meals. Inside is thoughtfully decorated with memorabilia from ages past. Each room has a balcony with a different view of mountains or woods. Downstairs is an entire apartment for rent, complete with kitchen.

All this is wonderful in itself but what stands out is the hospitality of the family. Debbie and her husband made every effort to make sure we were comfortable and felt at home. Each day she prepared us a beautiful breakfast; something different each time. We drank tea together watching the sun go down from the terrace and traded stories. One night Debbie prepared the most excellent meal (Greek Moussaka, a new favourite).  The homemade wine was not only delicious but was very light, leaving you with a feeling of well-being and a pleasant sleepiness. In busier summer months they welcome far more guests, hosting barbeques outside on an evening. Many guests come back every year, and I completely understand why.

Maroneia: a village immersed in legend…

The village itself, situated at the foot of mount Ismaros, is steeped in ancient history. With roots reaching back as far as 450 BC, legends abound as to Maroneia’s origins. It is said that the village was founded by the son of Dionysus who was named Maron. Whether or not the stories are true, Maroneia has an ancient feel about it. Wandering through the maze of tiny streets, you get the impression not much has changed with time.

Maroneia is very beautiful and there are a lot of flowers. A mass of pink roses cover an archway.

Eating and Drinking

In terms of facilities, the town has a couple of restaurants, and a coffee/beer place. We were very much there in the off season. There is one hotel which said it was open online but when we walked past, the gates were closed. We had several delicious meals at restaurant Lola which serves local fare under the branches of an enormous plane tree. On Sundays, people sit outside with their families enjoying a long meal and the local wine. It has very wholesome feel. The other place which was recommended to us but we didn’t get to try was the Fish Tavern down on the port, a short drive away. There’s a small store in town for snacks, vegetables, milk and cheese. The owner didn’t speak a word of English but winked at us and slipped some chocolate into our bag. The people of this village are really wonderful.

The nearest bigger town is Komotini which has a broader range of restaurants, shops and a few museums. We went there a couple of times but just to eat and to buy SIM cards.

Things to do in Maroneia

There aren’t a huge amount of things to do in the area but then I feel Maroneia is more about taking some time out of the madness that is life and allowing the goodness of the food, the people and the countryside to soak in. It’s not a place you can rush around and feel stressed, it simply isn’t possible. However, when you do feel up to exploring, here are the local highlights:

The Mountain

For an even more spectacular view, there is a path leading up Mount Ismaros which you can turn into a circular walk. If you look on AllTrails or another hiking app, it can be a bit misleading as it seems like there are several paths. Unfortunately, most of them are overgrown. However, if you walk along the main road just past where the hotel is, you will find the proper path. This leads on a circular walk which will take you to the other side of the village, with the option to reach the summit if you wish. Watch out for snakes! We saw three snakes and seven tortoises!

The Cave

There is a rather nice cave which has sadly been a victim of humanity’s idiocy. It’s now closed with bars on the door and you need to obtain permission to enter it (details on a sign). Unfortunately, it was very badly damaged by people who literally took machinery down there in order to take away some of the structures. You can see where the formations have been damaged and kids have been down there with spray paint. Apparently, for years there have been plans to open it to the public but thus far, nothing has been done which is shame considering it’s cultural significance in the area. Legends claim that the cave was the home of the Cylops Polyphimos, whom Odysseus blinded. Archeological investigations have identified material as far back as the Neolithic period. In more recent times, the cave was a shelter for the people of the village from Byzantine wars and Catalan raids.

The Beach

The closest beach to the village is the Marmaritsa beach. It’s a lovely, quiet stretch of sandy pebbles which you can walk along for a couple of kilometers. It’s also an archeological site, the Roman ruins slowly washing into the sea. Whilst we were there, we had a chat to a young local guy who warned us that there are stray dogs which may be dangerous. Tragically, a young British tourist was killed down there one year whilst walking alone. He armed us with a large stick and advised us to be careful. The dogs, like most of the strays in Greece, were absolutely none-threatening (having said that, we did have a close call elsewhere, so taking a stick is not a bad idea).

Olivia and Steffen enjoy a meal with Debbie and her husband.

We really believe that everything happens for a reason, and this time, we were so grateful to have landed under Debbie’s roof. A recovery week in Maroneia is exactly what we needed to collect ourselves and begin to make plans once more. Spending time here, enjoying a slower pace of life, can only do you good. Thank you!

If you’re planning a trip to mainland Greece, don’t forgot to check out my post on the South Pindus Mountains!

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