Kyria Eleni is an amazing woman. She is from the Ipeiros mountain area. Papingo. She and her husband Kyrie Taki are Sarakatsani, an ancient and dwindling group of nomads, and she has come to stay with us for a few days. Their lives up in the mountains is quite different than ours here on the island. Taki spends the summers on top of the Pindos mountains in a small laminated iron shack just big enough for two sleeping cots and a few supplies. Sticky fly traps, always full, hang from the roof. The green mountain valleys are perfect food for their flock of sheep they tend to daily.
Taki makes the best cheese I have ever tasted.
Two or thee times a week Taki sends one of his sheep herders down the mountain to bring the fresh cheese to Eleni in Papingo. She packs up the horses with food and other supplies and sends them back up the mountain. In September, when the top of the mountain is getting too cold, they herd the sheep down the mountain and into the lower pastures. In the older days they would walk them to the valleys near Igoumenitsa (about 2 hours by car) but nowadays they load the sheep and horses up on a truck and drive them down.
Up in the village of Megalo (big) Papingo we stay at their most excellent Inn. Highly recommended for those wanting to see a different side of Greece (and a side I believe every traveler needs to experience). They are located at the end of the village on the road going to Mikro (little) Papingo. The views of Astraka and the Vikos Gorge take my breath away, even after all these years.
Everything you will find there is of the highest quality and with class and finesse. The food you’ll find at their restaurant is outstanding. One of our favorite things to eat there is pita. Any kind of pita will do because everything they put into their pitas is either pulled fresh that morning from their gardens or made with the cheese Ky. Taki sends down from the mountain tops. Unbeatable, fresh Sarakastaniki pita.
Kyria Eleni came here this past week to see us. She taught us how to make pitas…. the “real” thing… with the most basic ingredients. Flour and water. Everything she does is measured by experience…. take some flour and add water until you get a good consistency dough. You can also add a few dribbles of olive oil if you want. Then you roll out small amounts of dough into paper thin rounds….. add your filling and roll up (like a jelly roll type thing) and there you have it. It’s super easy, doesn’t shatter apart when you bite into it and is fresh for the next day too…..