Serres: Macedonian Royalty
The town of Serres and its history reads like an onion. So turbulent and tumultuous has its existence been that peeling back the tapestry only reveals further evidence of its incredibly rich past. Like so many of the northern towns and villages in Macedonia, Serres has a unique character that separates it from the mostly postcard images of white washed cube houses, sandy beaches and marble that characterizes the southern part of Greece. The wild nature and incredible hospitality are only surpassed by its delectable food and lively disposition. For Serres is yet another of those student towns with an appetite for action and misadventure. Its carnival celebrations are the stuff of legend.
The history of Serres starts sometime in the 5th century BC according to Herodotus. The city was originally named Siris and after 2,500 years of being passed around by Romans, Franks, Bulgarians, Byzantines, Ottomans, Niceans and Germans it was kindly returned to its rightful owners in the beginning of the 20th century. Which is just great. Because, getting to the awesome Lailias ski center would otherwise be a little difficult.
That’s correct. Skiing is absolutely one of the things that one can indulge in. The Lailias ski center sits at an altitude of 1,600 meters on top of the Vrontous Mountain range and is a mere 27 km from the city. Its 3 slopes may not be much but the adjacent forest more than makes up for that. If one tires of that, there’s always Lake Kerkini and its wetlands. Take a stroll along its banks, immerse yourself into its extensive forest network and maybe even drop by Alistrati cave for a peek into the past. The green valley of Agioi Anargiroi is fed by the river Strymonas and the teeming fauna one can see includes a staggering array of species of amphibians, fish, reptiles, several more birds and foxes, bears, wolves, boars and hedgehogs on top of the numerous avian types such as owls, cormorants, pelicans, shallows, herons and storks.
The food, then, is a reflection of the area’s past and that is immediately noticed when sat at the local tavern. Standard fare will include generous servings of legumes and beans with hearty sauces and warm stove baked cheese infused stews. They will be accompanied by the local grappa ouzo and the excellent wines. In fact, the wine industry is big business and a number of wineries cultivate local grapes such as Agoumastos, Athiri, Asprouda Serres, Assyrtiko, Zoumiatiko, Malagousia, Muscat of Alexandria, Batiki, Rhoditis as well as international ones like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano and Merlot.
The city of Serres is the perfect winter vacation. It combines all the tangibles and intangibles that constitute a great holiday.