My visits to Glysteri Beach and other such niceties
I recently wrote an introductory post for the increasing number of Organised beaches of Skopelos.
What sparked this effort in our May Blog post, was the 'resurrection' of Glysteri Beach. This complete turn-around of Glysteri is a very exciting change for the whole area and of course, for Skopelos Country Villas.
It's not only that Glysteri Beach happens to be the nearest beach to our premises. We were also thrilled to see this massive change that would hopefully impact the beach and the environment in a very positive way.
So, without further ado, I set out on a couple of expeditions to this bay to find out what was all the commotion about.
Will merely describing the place do enough justice? Well, let's find out!
Approaching the end of the road that leads to Glysteri
The change is immediate.
It looks as though a wand worked its magic and gave this place a much-needed resurrection.
An all-natural look of the premises compliments the surrounding valley and the rugged cliffs on both sides. The inviting woodwork that can be seen all over this massive piece of land is not something that can easily be imitated. In fact, no other beach bar has given so much attention to detail on the materials used to create this place. We're all used to seeing either plastic or aluminium loungers in all beach bars.
But wait, Glysteri Beach is not just a beach bar, it's a powerful statement that protects and engulfs nature like a warm and very welcoming embrace!
The parking area is the first that is visible at the end of this road. A clearly marked, wide-open area with room for plenty of cars. You wouldn't expect any meticulous work to take place in a space dedicated to just cars. The owners have spared no aesthetics here. One would expect just a simple wired fence designating this area. Instead, beautiful natural wood has been placed to create a tall entrance gate into the bar and the beach area beyond.
The surrounding fence was made by wild asymmetrical wooden poles, foraged by the surrounding area, (gone to waste otherwise). The bases constructed for these fences are similar to the Roman Gabion cages used for all sorts of fortification purposes. The clever variation here is that they made them temporary and filled them with big pebbles.
It's a clever take on fencing and a very practical way to outline a big beach area like Glysteri.
Is immediately visible to the left, after a short walk from the parking area.
This used to be just an abandoned square building, left to the whims of the north-east winds for more than 15 years. It is now an open-spaced all-around bar, protected with a very spacious wooden canopy. The primary material that is prominent here is wood. From the bar tops to the bar stools to the old treasure chests decorating various corners and complimenting the Pelion stone used to cover the ground around the bar area.
It is not your usual, treated and painted wood, however. The owner went to great lengths to find different pieces of either driftwood or natural wood that was left there,(by previous owners). Treated by years of fierce NE winds and rough weather conditions. Decorated with generous doses of sea salt and sculpted in as an abstract way as only nature knows how to.
The lower parts of the beach bar walls have been decorated with a brick shaped pattern. As the owner, Tasos, told me, (in the 'interview-chat' we had), those bricks were hand-made using the surrounding soil there.
They're always pleasant and are well-mannered and trained. It is a team of happy youngsters, (mostly), ready to serve with fresh, summer smiles on their faces. I've observed this on all occasions, and they surprised me even though I'm a local.
Just to the left of the bar area, you can be served some food on beautiful table tops made out of sliced Plain tree wood.
Best loungers ever
They're simple, yet structured in an elegant and practical way, using untreated wood. The mattresses are thick and comfortable enough that one could easily have a pleasant nap on. You won't find any lounger mattresses in any other beach bar on the island.
They carefully placed them far enough from the sea, respecting those that prefer to just throw their towels on the pebbles instead. In fact, they've left such a wide front row area empty that one had to ask if this was a space to be filled in the near future?
As Tasos pointed out, Glysteri was predominantly a local's beach. He wanted to respect the locals and invite them to still enjoy 'their space' without feeling excluded and kicked aside.
Just to the far right of Glysteri Beach was another happy surprise. With the addition of only 2 lounge chairs and a table, it simply transformed into a place of pure joy and relaxation. What better idea than using it for boat docking and bringing hordes of tourists, (as it happens to other beaches). This is a plan not likely to materialise at all in any near future.
The chat with Tasos could never be a 'formal-interview'
Good - that's what we wanted anyway!
You'd really need to know Taso to understand that he's not the 'formal' type. I've known him for most of my adult life and these are the top 3 'keywords' I could describe him with: laid-back, friendly and focused.
His visions about this place took me by surprise in ways I didn't know or expect. He analysed the importance of this whole area far more than most people would've done in his place. The importance not only for the development in the area but the protection of the environment.
He informed me that this place belongs to the 'Natura 2000' network of protected areas. Stressed more than once throughout our chat how this fact became a 'building guide' and remained a top priority for him and his team throughout the development of Glysteri Beach bar. How most of the materials that are used here are natural. That this place is all about nature. Not geared towards mass-tourism but the more new-age, alternative and well-seasoned traveller.
Skopelos Country Villas: What made you choose Glysteri Beach over other beaches?
We don’t want manicured lawns and hedges. We’re not after a picture-perfect landscape
I always wanted to be involved with businesses that I could shape into being unique. Places that I knew could evolve with their own character. Glysteri Beach has a significant advantage of not being surrounded by any other place.
People who come here visit because of what this place represents. They wouldn't just drive here to lounge around yet another beach bar and move on to the next competitor.
I love the fact that I don't have any neighbours. I don't need to deal with other businesses that would try to imitate what we do and get glorified from our hard work and our principles.
Another reason is the open space and the masses of room we have. This will most definitely help our future plans. Ideas that will 'mould' the surrounding land into a habitat that respects nature and attracts a specific niche of tourism.
Skopelos Country Villas: What were the non-negotiable principles for you when you started with this project?
My first non-negotiable principle was and will be to only use earthly, natural materials. One can simply not ignore the fact that this is part of the 'Natura 2000' network of protected areas. Although it came to a much higher cost, I could not imagine using anything else but untreated wood and other natural materials.
Despite the size of the place, and the challenges we faced, everything you see here was done within 5 months. We could have finished it earlier, had we used plastic, aluminium or other readily made materials. We could never sacrifice what we stand for and go with the easier and cheaper options, though.
One other fundamental aspect is that we don't plan on making this a highly commercial enterprise. We're not heading towards that route.
I didn't want to negotiate the type of visitor Glysteri Beach would attract. We want people who love to be in touch with nature. We don't want manicured lawns and hedges. We're not after a picture-perfect landscape. I love seeing people who are not afraid to walk bare-footed or not worried about driving on a perfect road to get here.
This is the type of traveller we want to attract. In fact, we're not even planning on using the jetty for any incoming boats as was the case years ago.
Skopelos Country Villas: What time do you start and finish the day here?
At the moment we get this place going at 9 am and finish at about 10pm. It is a chill-out lounge bar, and we invite people to come and relax with our drinks early evening as well as during the daytime. We're not going to be into the clubbing scene and the early hours of the morning that go along with it.
I had this comical scenario in my head when we started to build this place. An allegory that encouraged me to move on.
Skopelos Country Villas: What kind of food do you serve here?
Apart from snacks and finger food, we also do pasta and some grilled meats. In addition, our Chef will do a 'Dish of the day' where he will mainly concentrate on promoting authentic, home-made recipes. The kind we don't have the luxury to enjoy during the busy summer months in our homes.
Skopelos Country Villas: Did you have any difficulties or challenges while working on the 'Glysteri project'? What were they?
The only main difficulty we faced was the north orientation of Glysteri Beach. The cold weather during the winter months and the north gale we had pounding us relentlessly made it impossible to do any work. There were some instances where we seriously thought about tying our selves from poles drilled firmly on the ground so we couldn't fly off!!!
Skopelos Country Villas: What would be the ideal visitor for you and your team as well as Glysteri Beach?
I believe it's evident that we do not appeal to mass tourism. There are more than a few beach bars and local businesses in Skopelos that attract a larger crowd with a wider spectrum of interests.
We want to see visitors that are attracted more towards an alternative kind of tourism. People that want to be in tune with nature more. That will not be checking their mobiles and tablets every 20 seconds. We want them checking the surrounding nature instead and relaxing while gazing to this beautiful deep blue sea.
We'd love to see people doing some snorkelling since the sea here is perfect for this kind of activity. This place is also very pet-friendly, and we'd love to see our four-legged friends roaming about. We'll even come up with an alternative space for them when this place gets busier.
We are preparing Glysteri Beach towards a different and non-commercial direction and we still have ways to go. We're at a good stage considering that we've only been operating for almost one month.
Skopelos Country Villas: Did you face any criticism or discouragement during this process?
I had this comical scenario in my head when we started to build this place. An allegory that encouraged me to move on. It helped me to accept only constructive criticism and not deviate from my original plans.
I imagined Glysteri being a poor old donkey that was up against the best horses in a race track. The Thoroughbreds looked at him with contempt and laughed at him for even thinking about racing along on 'their' track. As the donkey was fed more and more 'superfoods', (the project starting to materialise), he begun to not only catch up but to stare at the competition right in the eyes.
I believe that one day soon, he may even be a winner in this trendsetting course. But it certainly won't be an easy race!
Concluding our chat but not the exciting future of Glysteri Bay
I could go on writing about all the future plans that Tasos and his team have in mind.
We're joined by Dimitris, who's also one of the 3 partners in Glysteri Beach Bar. We clink our glasses of beer, (a local brew of course), while some excellent chill-out music compliments the late afternoon.
Dimitris and Tasos give me another tease of their future plans for an open-space cinema area and alternative music lives that will take place with specialty musical instruments. The kinds you only hear in New-Age, World music concerts. There are more plans for this place that will gradually materialise within the next 5-10 years.
This is one of the most exciting 'Terra-Forming' projects we've seen in a while. It's not even happening in Mars, but right here in Skopelos and Glysteri Beach.