Naoussa: Winter Shangri-La
It’s one of the strange things in life when a town or city name has a more famous doppelganger. Like Athens, Georgia, or Paris, Texas. Things get even weirder when both of those towns or cities are equally renowned for far different reasons. Such is the case for the town of Naoussa in the north of Greece and Naoussa on the island of Paros. Admittedly, it’s a coin toss as to which one is more known, but that is neither here nor there. With winter fast approaching we’re going to go ahead and tell you why a visit to Naoussa on Imathia County up in the north of Greece is a sure bet.
The history of the city stretches back all the way to Aristotelian times and along the way changed several names before the Romans eventually christened it Nova Augusta, which then slowly turned into Naoussa. There are numerous signs that point to its past as a significant Roman outpost, while according to Herodotus this was where the Macedonian/Hellenistic Empire first began taking shape. Further proof of its credentials lies in Herodotus’s account of King Midas’s fertile Gardens being situated precisely in the valley underneath the shadow of Mount Vermios.
Mount Vermios itself affords one a stupendous opportunity to explore the wild, rugged terrain that surrounds Naoussa, with numerous outstanding hiking trails on offer as well as limitless sporting activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, canoeing and kayaking on the nearby Aliakmonas river and skiing on the 3-5 Pigadia resort. How’s that for choice?
Naoussa is also somewhat of a wine country destination per se. The town’s fortune’s may’ve been tied to the textile industry once, but wine making has been its bread and butter and it has paid dividends, as the local ‘xinomavro’ grape variety has earned it plaudits around the world for its unique and solid palette. The wineries themselves are charming, inviting and more than happy to receive people and show them around. Napa has nothing on them.
What really stands out about Naoussa however, is the singularly beguiling spectacle of the Boules festival, celebrated every year during spring time as part of an ancient Dionysian carnival called the ‘Anthestiria’. The roots and practices of this particular get together are as convoluted as they are inspiring, for it was during Ottoman occupation that certain parts of this ritual were conceived as a way of tricking and mocking the enemy.
Naoussa, Paros will never have the same ring to it once one gets to know its sister up in the north.