My grandmother used to regale me with stories about her hometown, Siatista, situated on the slopes of Mount Siniatsiko in Northern Greece. She had emigrated to the U.S. in 1935 as a teenager in an arranged marriage. After she passed away, I decided to visit the town—population 6,000—myself.
I drove my rental car from Thessaloniki (Greece’s second-largest city) to Siatista via the Egnatia Odos highway in late April, when the temperature was in the 60s and the countryside’s wildflowers were in heavenly bloom. Two hours later, I saw the road sign for Siatista.
I exited onto Siatista’s winding main road, Meg. Alexandrou, and headed up the southwest foothills toward the Siatistino Archontariki, a small and affordably priced family-run hotel. The hotel’s husband and wife owners welcomed me warmly, offering me a bowl of homemade vegetable soup in the cozy dining room off the reception area. They also helped me track down a relative in town.
The next day, I met my grandmother’s niece, who is in her 70s. We drove to the nearby cemetery, a peaceful and well-cared for site on the northern edge of town to pay our respects to deceased relatives. Afterwards, we headed up a dusty white limestone road to a small new church at the top of a hill called Agios Eleftherios. The church stands adjacent to the battlefield where Siatistans won their independence from the Ottoman Turks on Nov. 4, 1912, during the First Balkan War. It’s a quiet and peaceful place with a view of the rounded, bare Grivas mountains.
Having built an appetite, we dined at Gravadika, a quaint restaurant that borders the two parts of the town: the older Gerania and the newer Hora. Our meal consisted of Greek salad, tzatziki, garlic bread, meatballs and sliced potatoes. Though we ate indoors, there also is a spacious patio.
I met a local English-speaking schoolteacher, who served as my translator for the remainder of my visit. That evening, we dined at the Tria Pigadia (Three Wells) in the central town square and enjoyed a fine Siatista-style meal with freshly grilled lamb, baked fries and horta (cooked dandelion) salad. Greek restaurants generally throw in a free…