Northen Greece, the land of Alexander the Great, is a vast territory in the north part of the county, a land with rich history and culture, a crossroad of civilizations, that contains all regions that share land borders with neighbouring countries. As shown in the map (at the right), these regions (from left to right):
- Epirus (in green) in the north-west part of the country, sharing bordes with Albania
- Macedonia (in shades of blue), composed of Western Maedonia (dark blue) next to Epirus, Central Maedonia (blue in the middle) and Eastern Macedonia (light blue)
- Thrace (in dark red), next to Eastern Macedonia, sharing borders with Turkey to the right
As nicely put by Lonely Planet “…Diversity should be northern Greece’s second name – the region stretches across more cultures and terrains than any other in the country. Mighty civilisations, including Macedonians, Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Turks, have left traces here and this is nowhere more apparent than in Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki – a magnetic place that breathes history and character, and has the best food in the country”.
Northern Greece is the largest and the most diversified part of the country, a country of its own.
Administratively, according to the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics of the European Union (NTUS), Northern Greece (or “Voreia Ellada”) is one of the NTUS-1 areas and contains four administrative NTUS-2 EU regions, namely Epirus, West Macedonia, Central Macedonia and the combined Eastern Macedonia & Thrace. Geographically, the four regions are quite different to each other, the first two being the most mountainous regions of the country and among the poorest regions in the whole of EU, while Central Macedonia is a developed area, with metropoitan cities, rich agricultural production and strong tourism infrastructure in certain parts.
Macedonia, is the largest and second-most-populous Greek geographic region, with a population of 2.36 million. It is highly mountainous, with major urban centres on its southern coastline, including Thessaloniki, the region’s capital and one of the most important and historical cities in the Balkans, with a poppulation of 1,1 million inhabitants. Greek Macedonia incorporates most of the territories of Ancient Macedonia, the Greek kingdom ruled by Alexander the Great ; ιt is also home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Halkidiki peninsula is Macedonia’s most popular beach destination, and one of the top in the Med area, combining 550 kilometres of sandy beaches with dense forests, , while Pieria combines extensive plains, high mountains and very long sandy beaches – the region’s beauty. Western and Eastern Macedonia are mountainous areas, with the exception of some fertile valleys, while the Thessaloniki-Giannitsa plain, the largest in Greece, is located in Central Macedonia. Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, is located in the south part, overlooking Pieria. Some other mountain ranges are Vermio, Pierian and Voras. The islands of Macedonia are Thasos, opposite the coasts of Eastern Macedonia and the port of Kavala, and Ammouliani, opposite the coasts of Central Macedonia, in Halkidiki. Haliacmon, which flows through the western part is the longest river in Greece, but other long rivers also exist (Axios, Strymonas, Loudias).
Epirus borders the regions of Western Macedonia and Thessaly to the east, West Greece to the south, the Ionian Sea and Ionian Islands to the west and Albania to the north. The region has an area of about 9,200 km2 and a population of 320.000. Τhe four regional units of Epirus are (north to south): Ioannina, Thesprotia, Preveza, Arta ; it’s capital is the City of Ioannina, built around the Lake Pamvotida, with a population of 115.000. Most of Epirus lies on the windward side of the Pindus Mountains, that separate Epirus from Macedonia and Thessaly to the east. The winds from the Ionian Sea offer the region more rainfall than any other part of Greece (40% of the country!).
The region’s highest spot is on Mount Smolikas, at an altitude of 2,637 metres above sea level. The Vikos-Aoos (with Vikos Gorge) and Pindus national Parks have a wide range of fauna and flora and the animal life is especially rich and includes, bears, wolves, foxes, deer and lynxes. Metsovo and Zagori Villages are the landmarks of the mountainous area, while Parga, Preveza and Syvota are the most well-known holiday places on the Ionian coast.
Thrace (Westerm Thrace), is a geographic and historicalregion of Greece, between the Nestos and Evros rivers in the northeast end of the country. It is divided into the three regional units (former prefectures): Xanthi, Rhodope and Evros. Alexandroupolis is the largest city and main port, with a municipal population of 73.000, while other cities include Komotini and Xanthi.
Thrace alternates between mountain-enclosed basins of varying size and deeply cut river valleys. With relatively few (but exceptional) beaches and no blockbuster archaeological sites, Thrace draws few foreign tourists, and not many Greeks, either. What Thrace does have is dramatic natural scenery: from the lush delta of the Evros River and the famous Dadia Forest (one of the most important areas in Europe for birds of prey, and the only forest in Europe where all four European species of vulture can be seen) in the East part, to the deeply forested Rhodopi Mountains and Nestos River (which expands as a deltaic system with freshwater lakes and ponds forming the Nestos delta) to the west – and a unique mix of cultures, religions and languages, forged by centuries of various empires and migration flows.
Destinations & Areas of NORTHERN GREECE
Halkidiki is not a usual place; as the local say,”It a place like no other”…….
Ioannina County is a surprise as an unspoilt but yet cosmopolitan destination, full of traditions and gastronomy treasures …..
Gastronomy of Nothern Greece
Due to the large area and the diversity of its land, Northern Greece enjoys a huge range of products and tastes. In fact, Northern Greee, is a wider region in which we distinguish sub-regions with unique “cooking standards”. Despite the administrative distinction, cullinary traditions follow a diffirent route. If we try to divide the area is “culinary subsets” we could say that one is a) Central Macedonia with Eastern Macedonia, b) the mountainous areas, Epirus and Western Macedonia c) Thrace.
Cuisine of Macedonia is a colourful bounty of culinary traditions brought by all the people who found home in this vast area of Greece’s north. Tradition and history together with marvellous local products created a wonderful amalgam of diverse and authentic Macedonian recipes. The Macedonian cuisine is sometimes rich, wherever affluent inhabitants resided, and at other times more frugal, linked with the difficult life of the refugees, but also depending on the landscape: from the plains of Thessaloniki and Serres (second and third-largest, of the entire country) to the mountains in the west and north parts of this vast region. In fact, the food culture has been influenced by all the groups that made their way into the region; Vlachs, Sarakatsani, Bulgarians, Turks, Jews (who once formed the largest population in Thessaloniki and Greek Asia Minor), Thracians and, of course, Pontians (Black Sea Greeks refugees ) and others from Asia Minor, left their mark in its cuisine.
For example, the last’s famous sousamopita (sesame pie) was called sousamniak, they referred to eggs as occia, which they prepared in dozens of ways – among them poached in water and flour, and pan-fried with spring onions. The Pontians made Macedonian cuisine more interesting, bringing with them, as part of their culinary culture, Russian dishes such as borscht, and putting new varieties of pies, pastries, pastas and pickled foods on local tables. Leeks, eggplants and red peppers play a prominent role in many Macedonian recipes. Many of the spices used in the dishes of all these groups demonstrate the strong influence of the Near East.
Macedonian cuisine, because of the cold climate of the area, has the reputation of being “heavy,” dominated by pork, winter vegetables such as cabbage, mushrooms, pies and spices. However, the region features a wide range of environments which in turn have shaped culinary habits. For example, in coastal areas, such as Halkidiki and Kavala, fish and other seafood are to be found in abundance.
Epirus is undoubtedly one of Greece’s hidden gems for nature lovers, combining breathtaking mountain views and crystal clear sea waters. This rugged natural landscape shaped Epirote cuisine and made Epirotes get creative with the limited resources available, developing a fresh, rustic cuisine. With a handful of trachanas (a fermented cracked wheat or flour product) or a little bit of home-produced cheese, they would make a pie that the entire family would eat. Savoury and sweet pies are the most famous meal to show how they managed to make good use of the scarce ingredients they have at hand. Epirotes can turn anything into a pie: home raised lamb, handpicked wild greens, mushrooms from Pindos mountains, leeks and cabbage from their orchards, leftover milk and yogurt.
Most Epirotes have traditionally been stockbreeders; the area produces milk of exceptional quality, delicious meat and some wonderful cheese products from goat’s and sheep’s milk. Feta in Epirus is legendary and it’s no wonder the area produces and exports the largest amount of the national cheese of the Greek cuisine.
Although Epirus’s cuisine in the mountain villages is mainly a shepherd’s cuisine, near its coasts, lakes and rivers, you will taste some of Greece’s best fish and seafood.
The multicultural coexistence of people hailing from different backgrounds came to sculpt the cuisine of Thrace as well, in which eastern influences are also apparent. Due to the cold climate of the north, Thracian recipes are quite filling with meat, winter vegetables and spices playing a significant role in the kitchen; notable items include cold cuts and pickled foods, as well as spicy kebabs that help inhabitants withstand the cold winds that sweep down from the Rodopi mountains. During the summer the vegetable produce was the basis of the kitchen and in winter and after Christmas, when the pigs were slaughtered, the treated meat was a large portion of the cuisine.
The towns of Xanthi and Komotini are famous for their syropiasta (syrupy pastries), while in Alexandroupoli, dishes made with seafood supplied by local fishermen.; Alexandroupolis is a point of reference for fish not only as the capital of Thrace, but in all of Greece. .
Products & dishes of Norhtern Greece
Products & Dishes of Macedonia
- Famus local products include Red Florina peppers, Naoussa peaches, Edessa cherries, Kiwi from Pieria, Krokos (saffron) from Krokos village of Kozani (PDO), wild mushrooms from Grevena, giant beans from Prespes, mussels from Halkidiki. Peppers, fresh or dried, are used in every possibleway; sweet or spicy, pickled or smoked -like the famous Aridea variety – they appear in multiple local dishes. PDO products include many olive-oil varieties, the famous Green Olives of Halkidiki, many great wines and various cheeses, like Anevato, Kasseri, Manouri, Batzos, Kefalograviera and Tirokafteri (a spicy cheese spread or dip made of whipped feta cheese with hot peppers and olive oil)
- Many recipes use pork in combination with vegetables and fruits: leeks, cabbage, apples, quinces, grapes and cherry plums. One of them is the famous yiaprakia, ie cabbage rolls with minced pork (or mixed), eaten as a Christmas dish. From various kinds of meats, Macedonians make kavourma, a slow-simmered product in its fat like confit. Water buffalo meat is used as well, a local delicacy traced back in ancient times, known for its exquisite taste and low fat. Drama is considered now the capital of cold cuts, producing superb pastourma, cured and air dried meat like prosciutto, and soutzouki, a Greek beef sausage flavoured with cumin.
- Some current specialties are trahanas with crackling, phyllo-based pies (cheese, leek, spinach) and meat plates (such as pork, wild boar and buffalo).
- For fish and seafood, the coastal areas of Halkidiki and Kavala, are suggested; enjoy mussels made as mydopilafo (mussel risotto), otherwise, go for the cuttlefish with spinach, sundried octopus or the fishermen’s catch of the day.
- Regarding sweets, there are many choices: bougatsa (phyllo pastry with custard cream) is omnipresent in Thessaloniki, while syrupy desserts like trigona (pastries filled with custard cream), ravani (semolina cake), kourkoubinia (sweet phyllo rolls) and roxakia (cocoa and cinnamon cookies).
- Macedonia is first and foremost a Xinomavro territory, which excels in three different Macedonian appellations: Amyntaio yields a lighter Xinomavro, fresh and elegant, while Naoussa to the east delivers robust, structured wines with great ageing potential and lesser-known Goumenissa, northeast of Naoussa, blends Xinomavro with the local Negoska for a softer and riper result
Products & Dishes of Epirus
- When it comes to pies, must to try in Epirus are dozens of different tyropites (cheese pies), recorded in old recipe books, using ingredients such as cheese that has been freshly curdled (chloro), as well as salty feta or hard goat cheeses, kothropita (an delicious lamb and rice pie served also instead of the typical Greek New Year’s cake), kasiopita (a quick and easy flour-butter-cheese pie), blatsaria (corn flour pie with feta and wild greens) and kolokythopita (sweet pumpkin pie with cinnamon and nuts).
- Cheese products include thick and tangy sheep’s yogurt, hard and salty sheep’s and goat’s milk kefalotyri and metsovone, a praised smoked cheese made from a mix of cow’s and sheep’s milk, inspired by the cheesemaking technique of Italian provolone- and feta, as said earlier.
- Epirote mountains are full of wild greens, nuts and other edible products: chestnuts and mushrooms to fruits of the forest and grapes; its vineyards are primarily concentrated in the Zagori and Metsovo areas. Epirus is also famous for its tsipouro (strong pomace brandy),
- Products from sea, rivers or lakes include acclaimed trout (from Acheron or Louros rivers), native shrimps from Ambracian Gulf, fine eel and even frog’s legs, a local delicacy from the Lake of Epirus capital, Ioannina.
Products & Dishes of Thrace
- Recipes with basis of meat, vegetables and spices include: Tzigerosarmas (served at Easter, meatballs with lamb, rice, pine nuts and raisins, wrapped in lamb membrane), Bambo (for the Christmas table – pork intestines are filled with its meat, liver, bulgur, leeks and spices- cooked in clay pots or wide casseroles), Lachania (lamb or veal cooked with lettuce, tomatoes and red hot chilli pepper), Tas kebab (veal stew in rich tomato sauce flavoured with spices served on top of rice), Shish kebab (minced meat, usually lamb or a mutton, grilled on a skewer), Kavourmas (a typical winter delicacy is masde by mincing lean pork meat and then put in large pots covered with lard)
- Toasted and ground sesame seeds, give tahini, a flavourful rich sesame paste that can be eaten for breakfast or used as a sauce or dressing. From tahini and sugar Thracians make halva, very popular especially during the feast leading to Easter.
- Suggested sea-flavors would be scrawny “Vatos”, roasted “Gofari” (bluefish), fried or boiled “Fanaro-oura” (angler tail), “psires” (small crayfish – not like langoustines), and the aegean calamari of Samothraki.
- In the main cities of Thrace, Xanthi and Komotini, you find numerous pastry shops selling delightful desserts, like soutzouk-loukoum (turkish delights), saragli, cariocas (chocolate bites filled with nuts), kazan dipi (oven-baked, caramelised cream) and seker pare (round semolina biscuits, soaked in syrup), tavuk giosu (the only sweet in the world with chicken!).
- “Barbara’s Sweet” is a classic tradition Thracian food, typically made on the 4th december on Santa Barbara’s day. It is quicked in an archaic way, using wheat, almonds, raisins and walnuts.
Sightseeing & exploring of NORTHEN GREECE
Places on interest in Northern Greece include …..
Places of Interest
Ο Τόπος: Η Βόρεια Ελλάδα
Η Βόρεια Ελλάδα είναι η περιοχή που καλύπτει όλο το χώρο των βόρειων συνόρων της χώρας, από την Ήπειρο στα δυτικά και την Μακεδονία στο κέντρο, έως την Θράκη στα ανατολικά.
Προϊόντα & Γεύσεις της Βόρειας Ελλάδας – Μακεδονική & Ηπειρώτικη Κουζίνα
Λόγω της μεγάλης έκτασης και της ποικιλομορφίας του εδάφους της, η Βόρεια Ελλάδα έχει να προσφέρει ένα τεράστιο πλούτο προϊόντων και γεύσεων. Στην πραγματικότητα, αποτελεί μια ευρύτερη περιοχή στην οποία διακρίνουμε υποπεριοχές με σημαντικές διαφορές μεταξύ τους.
προϊόντα, γεύσεις & πιάτα της Βόρειας Ελλάδας