One bakery, one century: A culinary landmark in Leonidio

Leonidio bakery

It is one of the oldest bakeries in Greece.

It's just after six in the morning, and we are walking in Leonidio to see the sunrise and the magical colours reflected in the emblematic rock that stands above the village.

Although Leonidio is alive with visitors who travel from all over the planet for climbing at this time of year, there is absolute calm in the morning, and we pass outside Andreas' wood-fired oven.

The smell of fresh bread

The smell of fresh bread spreads throughout the village. At that time, we see Andreas baking.

"This is the first batch. Many of these are orders for hotel breakfasts and for the homes of those who leave early," he said.

Andreas' assistant in the bakery will take the respective orders and transport them to the right places.

A large platform, paved with mosaic, is in front of the central window and directly opposite the wood oven.

Up there, Andreas takes out the sheets one by one without the temperature affecting him in the least.

"Now my hands have created an extra barrier of their own, which protects me," he tells me as I express my surprise at the ease with which he does all this.

From a small child in the oven

The baker is a smiling, kind man willing to talk to you about bread and techniques.

"I have been dealing with bread since I was a small child. I've been doing this for as long as I can remember. Now I'm about 55, and I can't think about my day without coming to the bakery," Andreas said.

One of the oldest bakeries in Greece

The bakery is one of the oldest in Greece. It is not known exactly when it started operating, but according to the records, it was already in operation in 1890.

The bakery is a landmark with over 130 years of uninterrupted operation. It continues to consistently bake delicious bread with high-quality standards.

Andreas is the current owner. He wakes every day at three a.m., turns on the oven, and starts kneading.

"The oven is starting to heat up. When it turns white inside, it is ready. Its temperature at this stage is 400 degrees. When it drops to 200, you bake the bread. During the baking process, you will need to turn the trays so that it cooks evenly," he said.

Andreas bakes two types of bread: the village one, which contains whole wheat flour, and the white one, which is made with soft wheat flour.

At the same time, he also makes paksimadia for coffee and two or three kinds of koulouria.

As we speak, the first customers arrive. They are having lunch, and Andreas is preparing the bread. He doesn't ask them what they want and they don't tell him what they want.

“They are everyday customers. They follow their routine, and so do I," he said.

This communication is a unique experience. It is what makes our everyday life special.

The bread of the day

At a time when several bakeries have been converted into grocery stores, we leave Andreas' bakery and keep that sweet memory of the smell of bread.

I think of the platform with the mosaic on which Andreas places the trays and the loaves of bread. I remember the grandmothers and grandfathers arriving one after the other to buy the day's bread.

Dimitri Stathopoulos is a columnist for Travel. Translated by Paul Antonopoulos.

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