Stefanos Psimenos, Verona

Experience it
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1. Tell us a couple of things about yourself so we get to know you better: your name and surname, your age (date of birth), star sign, where you grew up, where you live now and what your profession is.  

I ‘landed’ in Athens at the “Alexandra” maternity home at noon on the 4th October 1963, the third child of the Psimenou family, after my two older sisters Mika (Erasmia) and Lilly (Crystallia). A few days later my parents George Psimenos and Venetsiana Psimenou took me home, the last house at the far end of a peaceful neigbourhood of the foot of Imittos, in Papagou. That’s the neigbourhood I grew up in. That’s where I went to primary and secondary school. After me another three girls arrived in the family, Marina, Pigi and Niki. I found myself alone amongst 5 sisters!

The mountain next to our house looked like a good getaway! So was the 1st Group of Papagou Boy Scouts, the “family” that taught me to be comfortable out there in the nature. I studied Political Science at Panteio University in Athens (1981-1984), I worked as a columnist at advertising companies for eight years (1986-1993), and in 1994 I created ROAD where as the writer of the travel guides series “Unexplored Greece” I advertised the beauty of my homeland and the joy of traveling with a motorbike.

The time I had ROAD I made the first reliable Greek maps, based on the exhausting on-the-spot research I did on my travel guides. Unfortunately, I had the company with a partner who, while I traveled to create maps and travel guides, he handled the treasury without control, ignoring his conscience, so in 2008 we parted ways. That’s when I created TERRAIN, without a partner this time, aiming to make the best hiking and tourist maps for Greece, from scratch. Ten years later and with more than a hundred titled maps and five hiking and climbing guides, the cartographic and publishing company TERRAIN is now a respected company in the minds of demanding hikers and travelers, Greeks and above all foreigners. TERRAIN’s other activity which is continuously gaining ground is the development of studies regarding the creation of a network of marked hiking routes and the technical work on signaling paths. 

2. What is the place you love visiting the most and how often do you go?  

My ‘hideout’ is Kythira. I go there every August to rest. Or actually, to tire myself the way I like to: with my bicycle, my hiking shoes, my diving suit. Kythira is a beautiful island with amazing trails, incredible seabeds, beautiful beaches, exceptional local cuisine. It feels me with energy and gives me great joy. Another favorite place is Tsagarada in Pelio, where we have the summer house of the Psimenos family. My family gathers there every easter, but we also meet there at every other given opportunity. I also frequently visit Samos, every spring and fall, for the magical hiking experience in the most beautiful trails that exist in our country.  

3. Describe yourself with 3 (or less) words.  

Persistent. Calm. Spellbound  

4. What makes you get out of bed every day?  

The sun that enters the open window. The corners of Greece that wait for me to put them on a map with precision. The people I love and who are close to me, but also all those who I haven’t met but have one of my maps or travel guides and are waiting for me the next map from me, the next guide, the next tool for new travel experiences.  

5. In your love of nature, you’ve helped bring out many parts of our country through trails, which trail – place, has captured your mind the most?  

The trail from the chapel of Saint Giannis, to the ruined settlement of Gera, in the southern edge of Tilos. The trail from the village towards the lone chapel of Saint Vassiliou and the beach of Lapathos in Symi. The deserted island of Saria, in the Northern edge of Karpathos, the trail begins from the beach of Palatia, passes through the medieval pirate settlement, pushes through the valley with the hawks and leads to the abandoned village of Argos. The marked trail No6 that goes around Profitis Ilias in Sifnos (the first trail to be marked by Terrain in 2012). All the trails in Samos (that will soon be marked down by Terrain). And of course. The trails of Imittos which are also marked by Terrain. 

6. You visited Verona recently. How did you choose her as a destination? What left a big impression on you and for what reasons does she stand out?  

One day my girl and I were checking out the map of Europe and she told me: “In 1988 we passed by this city in a rush with the motorbike on the national highway.. What do you say, want to go correct that mistake?” And we went. We were blown away by the beauty that emerges from the care and love of the people that inherited and ended up living in this city, and they’ve done everything there to be about music, dance and poetry. And love.  

7. Was there some scenery or image of the city that really impressed you?  

The image of the city from up high, from the belfry of the cathedral. The Roman arena that looks like it was just built yesterday and every summer it vibrates from the music festival. The river that covers the city. The streets with the cafes and the bars, away from the touristic shop windows, where the locals hang out.  

8. What food place stood out for you and what made it so special?  

Verona is filled with dozens of restaurants that serve exceptional food. What’s responsible for this is the gastronomic culture of the Italians, but also fierce competition. You’ll also find the tourist restaurants here, they’re usually located in the central squares and commercial streets, but those are easy to figure out and avoid. If you walk about the back streets and the alleys, you’ll find the authentic and the good ones. “Bottega Della Gina” really left me impressed, at number 4 of Via Fama where Francesco, Nikoletta and Claudia create in front of you, they cook and serve the most delicious tortellini I’ve ever eaten in my life! (www.labottegadellagina.it). If you want pizza, the tastiest corner (literally a corner, it’s a little shop 3x5) is Pizza Sapore, number 5 of Via della Costa, next to the main square of the old town, right across the tallest belfry in Verona, the Torre Dei Lamberti that deserves a visit to enjoy the entire city, the river and the hills nearby from up high. At this tiny hole of a place, Renato Bosco makes and cooks pizza masterpieces. (www.boscorenato.it)  

9. What place for coffee/breakfast (as well as what should try out for sure no matter what)?  

The magical place for coffee and breakfast is “Café Carducci”, on number 12 of Via Giosue Carducci. It’s not in the old city, it won’t fill your eye on the outside, but inside it’s a temple of Italian aesthetic and gastronomy. From 7 in the morning it serves excellent espresso and cappuccino, with incredible sweets and savory snacks like sbrizolana (local traditional crunchy desert with crushed almonds). It serves food all day. In the kitchen, which is right behind the counter of the central hall, the old chef Ciro Esposito does his magic with his pots and pans and what he serves is indescribably delicious. They also have and exceptional wine cellar with local wines and serve platters with local cheeses and cold meats, made from true artisans. You want to sit and eat here all day! (www.cafecarducci.it)  

10. Did you meet people that made your trip even more beautiful and have they stayed in your memory?  

I met several Italians, at the bars, the cafes, the shops on the streets and all of them had the beauty of the cultivated and civilized European. Monica left a really good impression on me, a saleswoman in the store Stefanel which we entered to check out. Monica dedicated an entire hour of her time to give Letta (my woman) to try out clothes and accessories which she combined between them in beautiful total looks. “You don’t have to buy something, just look at how beautiful you become when you dress nice” she said and she took down the half the shop to dress her and they would laugh and enjoy themselves like they were besties. It was the first time Letta bough clothes she really wanted, without stress or pressure.  

11. What habit of the locals impressed you there?  

Their respect for public space: they park civilized, they drive civilized, they don’t throw their trash down, they don’t vandalize signs or walls of buildings, they respect the pedestrian crossings, they abide by the social contract they have signed.  

12. The Italians are famous for their good food, did you discover some local ingredient, product or recipe that left an impression on you?  

Their pizzas, they sell them by the piece at every corner. It’s street gastronomy.  

13. Your favorite habit in Athens?  

Cultivating my vegetable garden. Reading the columns of Stefanos Kasimatis and Takis Theodoropoulos in Kathimerini, at the Coupepe café in the square of my neighborhood (Nea Pendeli). Going to the movies and the theatre. Cooking for friends.  

14. What is the next destination you would like to visit and why?  

Kedrodasos, in the south coast region of Chania, in Liviko. In November when everyone has left, but the summer is still there. Cause the traces from her steps, barefooted on the sand, are still there..  

15. Words that you live your life by:  

Doesn’t matter. Go on. Don’t be scared.  

16. What kind of music do you listen to nowadays? Send us 10 songs and the titles you would place next to them.  

To Kohili, Maria Voumvaki: Lit candle

Kosme Chryse sung by Xilouris: Beautiful world

Oi Eleutheroi Poliorkimeni by Giannis Markopoulos: The musical culture of my homeland, the ticket that always sends me to the spring that waters my roots

Everybody hurts by REM: Made of clay

Wish you were here by Pink Floyd: If you only knew...

Help me lift you up by Mortal Coil: You’re my road

Love is a stranger by Eurythmics: Go get her

Why that comes out of Annie Lennox’s soul: You know why

Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen: Stand by me

Bohemian Rhapsody with the soul and voice of Freddie Mercury: Deep sea 

Text: λ3 team    

Photos: Stefanos Psimenos

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