Siatista – Orange County Register

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…

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