Thursday , October 5 2017
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A little bit of history

Sigditsa was a small village on Giona mountain, the highest mountain south of Olympus (elevation of 2.510 m), also known as Aselinon Oros (“moonless mountain”) in classical antiquity.

The mountain of Giona as seen from Panourgia, the north face of the mountain.
Location of Mount Giona in Greece

The village was holding a great view of the valley beneath and Parnassos mountain, the place of Delphi, the great archaeological site with the temple of the Apollo, which has also been declared as Unesco World Heritage Site.

Georgios as a partisan (on the right)
Georgios as a partisan (on the right)

It was there where my grandfather Georgios was born and grown up. In his family they were mainly shepherds, keeping goats but also cultivating the non fertile grounds of the mountain with wheat, barley, beans, corn, and others. They were also specialists in cheese and yogurt production.

At the outbreak of the II world war, Georgios’ family made the wrong decision, unlike other villagers, to keep the goats and not to try and secure their little amount of money in land and housing. Very soon, due to the unstable situation of the country occupation they lost everything, and so, Georgios left the village to survive. He joined the partisans and soon became a sergeant.

During those difficult years, he met my grandmother Zoe, who was from another village in Giona mountain, Caroutes, in 1.040 m altitude, a beautiful place full of fir and cedars. She, together with other women, was helping the partisans, by cooking, carrying goods and knitting.

Zoe on her father’s knees (second from the left)
Zoe on her father’s knees (second from the left)

Her father had returned from USA in order to join the Greek army as a volunteer for the Balkans wars. Soon after, he made a family and they were living as farmers and he was the first in family, in the 1920’s to work as a beekeeper, keeping the hives in large “hampers”, in the old-fashioned way, before the modern hives were broadly introduced in the greek countryside.

At late 1940’s, Georgios and Zoe moved to Amfissa, the biggest city of the region, with more than 3.000 years of history. It lays on the northern edge of the olive forest of the Crissaean plain, between two mountains, Giona to the west and Parnassus to the east, and that maybe explains its name, since in ancient Greek the verb αμφιέννυμι (amfiennymi) meaning “surround”.

The castle of Amfissa
The castle of Amfissa

The olive trees forest that lies in front of Amfissa, is the oldest and biggest in Greece, with over 1.200.000 trees, that some reach at 10 meters height. The view from Delphi to this green and silver valley is really breathtaking.

As a young couple, they were trying to find ways to increase their family income, and so they started beekeeping, following the instructions and advices of an old villager, since Zoe’s father had passed away. They started with modern-style wooden hives, located at Giona mountain, at 51th km of the local road.

Summer vacations in the 1960’s on the mountain (one can see the honey extractor on the back)
Summer vacations in the 1960’s on the mountain (one can see the honey extractor on the back)

This place is still full of fir trees, at around 800m altitude. Every summer they moved the hives to other places, like Galaxidi for thyme and northern Evoia for pine trees. Sometimes, they made summer vacations at the mountains, staying in tents beneath the great summer sky, at the apiary, to be able to work daily there. They used also to keep some hives in the garden of their house.

Among the hives
Among the hives
Theodoros in spring
Theodoros in spring

They were moving with a red special truck, which could easily – but really slowly and with a lot of noise – climb the mountain full of load.

The red special truck from the back
The red special truck from the back

The stone-build basement of their house, with a very chilly temperature at the hot summer days, contained all necessary equipment for the honey harvest, the extraction of the wax and the restoration of the hives. It was there, where as a child participated at the harvest procedure, while my main task was to feed and circulate the manual radial honey extractor and fill the empty jars with fresh honey.

Georgios working at the home apiary
Georgios working at the home apiary
Zoe in action
Zoe in action

My father, Theodoros, continued the beekeeping family tradition, but tried also to learn more about modern practices to work on the apiary, and for that reason, he followed several seminars and trainings about green beekeeping and eco-friendly practices. Due to his job, as an engineer, and the distance from the apiary, because he is based in Athens, he could not change the location of the hives in order to have more than 1 harvest, and so, they are all the time located in Giona mountain. Also, because of the fact that he likes the hand-made constructions, he makes his own wooden hives, in a small garage-like room in Athens.

Theodoros at the harvest
Theodoros at the harvest
Theodoros with his bees
Theodoros with his bees

Having my grandfather’s name, I chose to continue this sweet family tradition, mainly by focusing on the power of internet and the new technology. I strongly believe that the marriage between science and traditional agriculture could show the way to produce healthy products without the exploitation of nature, but keeping in mind that we should handoff this world to our children as a gift and not as a clockwork bomb.