Just behind Vólos rises Mount Pelion (Πήλιο; 1,624m), the ‘healing mountain’ named after Peleus, the father of Achilles and a botanist’s paradise covered with medicinal herbs, olives, vineyards, chestnut groves and orchards, standing at the head of a peninsula that resembles a sock with a ball stuck in the toe. In summer its gorgeous beaches are a delight; and in the winter, Pelion, which gets more rain than any place on the Greek mainland, goes all misty and romantic, with a mantle of snow on the higher points – enough to support a small ski resort. And the peninsula’s delightful hotels tend to stay open all year round.
The Pelion’s traditional houses are topped with slate slabs that sparkle like silver in the sun. Thick walls of grey stone support overhanging Ottoman-style wooden
floors, painted white. The second floor, with its fireplace, is designed to be snug in winter, the third lined with windows and wooden shutters designed to be fresh and airy in summer A frustrated longing for stained glass led to the custom of painting colourful geometric motifs over the real windows; lintels around thefront doors are oft en of carved stone or marble.
Flowerpots crowd every inch of space outside. Fountains splash, brooks gurgle, kalderími (cobbled paths) link the villages and enormous plane trees shade the squares. The old churches of the Pelion are diff erent, too: rectangular with small apses, sometimes covered with sculpted marble plaques and topped with wide overhanging roofs, their murals and carved iconostasis oft en full of rustic charm.