Kozani: Saffron Dreams
With so much by way of history, sun and fun, it’s sometimes easy to forget how blessed the Greek earth can be. People visit to experience the culture and photosynthesize under the vitamin D rich rays, and occasionally maybe even get a little Dionysian. Greece has that and much more though. And especially come winter time new and unique destinations suddenly come into one’s line of vision. One of these dark horse places is the town of Kozani up in the north of Greece. Kozani’s many adjacent villages make up a vivid panorama of rural harmony and natural delight. Much like its many northern cousins, life around Kozani revolves around agricultural endeavors.
And for foodies, gourmands and the cognoscenti around the world, Kozani conjures up magical images of the most delectable and unique of food compliments in the world: saffron. The ‘crimson gold’ crop is nature’s gold and is world renowned for its superb quality. The red krokos is now big business and after centuries of obscurity, the demand from the East has helped transform a few fortunes around the area. Co-ops have emerged in the style of the masticha producers on the island of Chios, which in turn have injected a shot of energy into this hamlet.
Kozani’s history is a short one, compared to what Greece is. It was founded in the middle 15th century during ottoman occupation by Macedonian settlers and soon managed to extract a favorable executive order from the sultan granting the area a degree of autonomy that allowed it to prosper beyond reasonable ambition.
The town itself is constructed in humble row rise neo-classicals with a few notable stand outs being the clock tower, “Valtadoreio” gymnasium, the town hall and a several other merchant houses turned museums. What really pops though is the vast collection of books housed in the local municipal library, itself a brand spanking new state of the art marvel. With 150,000 books in its collection, spanning 400 years, the library is widely regarded as the standard repository for knowledge of and for the Balkans and Byzantine history. It’s the second biggest in Greece and ought to merit a thorough look if nothing for its one of a kind manuscripts. Kozani is a city of books and learning and its sizeable student population swells up during the winter months in cozy cafes and hip bars.
The natural habitat throws up a few curios, namely the Bouchari geo-park and several ravines and gorges from which to hurtle into the grand expanse.
Buy the ticket, take the ride. Start 2021 with a bang, not a whimper. And get some saffron on the way back. You’re certain to be greeted with enormous exaltation.