It experienced moments of glory and wealth, as well as the dramatic changes brought about by the industrial revolution on the old, traditional way of life, in a most tragic way. Ampelakia, this historical village of Thessaly, counts today amongst the top mountainous destinations of Northern Greece.
Leaving the busy national highway behind, just a few kilometers uphill before the Tempe Straits, the scenery changes and time seems to go back by around 250 years! Here you will come across quaint pictures and listen to old stories that fade bit by bit into the tumult of our contemporary world, but are still valuable memories that are indissolubly connected to our national identity. The historical village of Ampelakia is not far from either Thessaloniki(120 km), or other big cities of Thessaly by car. As it nestles into the slopes of the green Kissavos Mountain, here, in the neighborhood of the divine Olympus, it constitutes today a popular destination for all those who look on the journey as a cognitive experience.
History at a glance
Ampelakia owes its name to wine production. Still, the prosperity of the past was due to the specialization of the local family labors in cotton filament spinning and dying using the natural root “rubia tinctorum” which gave fabric its indelible red color.
In 1797, operated here 24 filament dye-houses, where 2,000 persons were employed and Ampelakia transformed from a secluded village to a business town. The Turkish fezzes worn by the Ottomans were made of the red cotton filament of Ampelakia; even the Austro-Hungarian military uniforms were made of it.
Always pioneers, the Ampelakians established in 1778 the first Capital – Labor Co-operative globally! After 31 years of financial prosperity, the bankruptcy of the Bank of Vienna (1811) , where the co-op member had all their savings deposited, led to the collapse of this original idea and to the financial decline of the village.
Walks in the village
Planes, cypresses, chestnut trees surround the village, giving a cheerful touch to the scenery. The attention focuses on the impressive stone houses that look clawed on the slope at a height of 450 meters. Although the road reaches the center of the village, you might better stop at the parking area located at its entrance. Besides, wandering on foot in Ampelakia is a very pleasant experience.
It is not only the rich monumental buildings of the lords that outline the historic identity of this land but also the old, simple, popular houses of laborers, farmers and stock breeders that are worth your attention. Visit the Folklore Museum with exhibits from the rural and civil life of the residents.
The Swartz Mansion
The residence of the leader and inspirer of the pioneering –for that time- co-operative, George Mavros (Swartz in German), where the premises, treasury and accounts’ office of the co-op were located, dominates with its three floors, and today operates as museum. The building was constructed in 1798 by Macedonian technicians. In its interior, the marks of the central European influence on the decoration are evident (24950 93302).
Crossing 6 km of dirt road from the square of the village, you will reach the Frankish castle (13th century), of which little remains. Nevertheless, the view from here over the Tempe vale is indescribable.
The chapel of Prophet Elias
The chapel of Prophet Elias to the north-west of the village is accessed via 4 km of dirt road. There, at a height of 600 meters, you will have an overview of the area both toward the Tempe Straits, and the summits of lower Olympus.
COPYRIGHT PHOTO: Theo Athanasiadis / Views Of Greece
COPYRIGHT TEXT: Germaine Alexakis/ Views Of Greece
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