In the summer of 2019, we were invited to participate in our friends’ wedding: A&M. They knew each other for many years and loved to travel. So it wasn’t a surprise when they said: “We’ll do it in Damouchari, it will be great!”
We had no idea where Damouchari was.
But when we found out they were talking about Greece, we decided to plan our vacation around their wedding, as Greece means sun, beach and holiday! So we bought plane tickets to Nea Anchialos National Airport a few days before the wedding, rented a car and confirmed accommodation.
Our little ones were almost two years old back then. Few days before the departure, our son had a fever. The doctor was optimistic about his health and advised not to cancel our trip.
Off we go!
Nervous but confident, we went to Gatwick Airport, London.
After a long journey of 3h 20mins by plane and another 1h 45mins by car on a road with frequent serpentines, we finally got to our final location: Damouchari. There it was: a small village situated on the eastern side of the Pelion peninsula, at 48km away from Volos.
As we drove down to the village on a steep road, we found our friends at one of the five taverns in the village. It was already night when we got there. We couldn’t join them as our twin toddlers were already sleeping in the car seats. It was so quiet and we were exhausted too. So we called it a day.
Later we found out that it’s forbidden to drive the car down in the village.
We went up the hill by foot, holding our children in our arms, through the olive grove, to get to Damouchari apartments. The next day, spacious and comfortable, our accommodation offered a great view of the crystal clear water of the Aegean Sea.
Soon we found out that Damouchari hosted the crew of Mamma Mia!, the musical released back in 2008. Although only a few scenes were filmed in Damouchari, the inhabitants of the island remember with pleasure those glorious times when they meet Meryl Streep and other famous people from Hollywood. That part of the past is still alive in everyone’s hearts.
In the olive grove, when the sun shone, the male cicadas sang in their attempt to attract love. I never heard that noise before. So strong and powerful. They sang at unison and were suddenly silent when the rain started.Cicadas sound.
First day in Damouchari:
In our first morning in Dammouchari, we went to the Tavern “Karagatsi” (i.e. “black tree”) for breakfast and coffee. We’ve met the owner here, Apostolos Vainopoulos and his beautiful and kind daughter, Erifili.
The rest of the day caught us bathing in the warm and intimate pool of the Damouchari Hotel, protected by the shade of the olive trees. This came with a cost as our son already had a rash which was aggravated by chlorinated water in the pool.
The next morning, Erifili offered to help us find a paediatrician and she even went with us to Tsagkarada, 9km away from Damouchari, to see the doctor.
On the way, Erifili told us a beautiful love story that happened at the beginning of the twentieth century and marks the beginnings of Damouchari.
Damouchari’s first love story:
The only resident of Damouchari at that time, Apostle Vainopoulou, travelled a lot to trade and so he ended up to Bucharest (funny fact here: before moving to the U.K. we lived in Bucharest for nearly 7 years).
Here he falls deeply in love with a very rich and beautiful Cleopatra and brings her to Damouchari. As a gift of love, he builds a mansion for her and calls her Miramare.
But Miramare, even she is completely in love with Apostle, she misses deeply her family so she falls into depression.
She becomes pregnant and dies soon after birthing their son.
Their son also dies at age of 10, ripping his father’s heart whom, in consolation, falls in love with the nanny Victoria. (yes, you spot correctly my sarcasm!)
Victoria and Apostle have had 5 children together and their descendants still live in Damouchari. Erifili is the great-niece of Apostle.
Back to reality:
After the consultation, we went to Volos for blood tests and, at the end of the day, we were all exhausted but happy the tests came back normal.
We felt the support of the villagers when everyone cheered for Vlad, our son, when we got back. And he enjoyed the attention! Even Delia, his twin sister, had a great time with all these wonderful and kind people.
The wedding day was full of emotion and love. The ceremony took place under an old Platanus tree. The party was at “Karagatsi” Tavern, a mixture of Greek party with modern influences, good food and pure happiness.
Next day, the newlyweds and some of the guests went on a boat tour. We had to refuse because the boats had a capacity of 4 persons and one of the four had to drive the boat. The tour was up to six hours long so we went, instead, on a small trip by foot to the Damouchari Castle.
Climbing the narrow path we found the castle sitting proudly on the rock between the two coves of Damouchari. On one side, the relief collapsed abruptly in the arms of one of the bays.
On our way back to the airport, we left Damouchari with one hour in advance as we didn’t want to be late for the flight. When you travel with toddlers, you never know what might happen on the way. If the children need a break, or they have carsickness, you never know.
In short, we got lost as the road indicators for the Nea Anchialos National Airport were different from what google maps shown. We ended up in front of a very angry Greek farmer who, after screaming at us badly, calmed down when he saw the children in the back seat chairs. We could scarcely refrain from laughing as he was so passionate in his speech but we couldn’t understand anything he said. But he was very mad!
The farmer pointed the way to the airport.
We finally found the airport and returned the car to Auto-Union full of mud and with the gas tank almost empty. We were supposed to return it washed and with the tank full. The hire company employees laugh when they saw us. They even joked about us making a detour through Romania before we got to the airport. They didn’t charge us.
We still keep in touch with Erifili and hope to get back to Damouchari someday.