I arrived at Aristi Mountain Resort on a cold rainy night, with hazy expectations and no raincoat. I had braced myself for a slightly uncomfortable outdoorsy experience (I was there for a mushroom-picking expedition, after all!), but what I got instead was an avalanche of very good reasons not to set foot outside. Each room was an individual cocoon of heavenly comfort, a cozy, perfectly renovated miniature stone house with fluffy beds, a mini bar stocked with a hearty selection of artisanal Greek products, and the bathtub of my dreams! But the best – and the worst – thing was the views. All you had to do was lie in bed with the door open and you got an eyeful of so many different shades of forest green, it was almost impossible to tear yourself away.
But eventually I did —and a good thing too, because mushroom picking is a magical experience of Alice-in-Wonderland proportions! Early next morning we got whisked away to a nearby lake with a mushroom researcher, a mountain guide and a delightful heap of hand-weaved baskets, special foraging knifes, mushroom brushes and (thankfully) raincoats. The trip was very thoughtfully planned, eliminating the often uncomfortable competition between more experienced mushroom pickers and beginners, like me. The trick was simple: we were told all the mushrooms we’d pick would be used in a special feast we would all share, so our findings would end up equally divided amongst everyone’s stomachs. Problem solved! And boy, did we find mushrooms. Roaming around pockets of auburn fern, we discovered so many varieties, it felt like we had stumbled upon treasure. Just beholding the artistry of nature almost brought tears to your eyes.
But what really made me cry, was parting from the Aristi Mountain Resort’s young chef. Later that night at the Salvia restaurant we were treated to a 5-course mushroom dinner, paired with delicate salad greens from the chef’s parental greenhouse and divine local goat cheeses worth an expedition of their own. I heard the indoors swimming pool and spa are great too, but I was too busy relishing food. A very good excuse to come back very soon...
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