I was surprised! Jazz bars in Greece can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and yet one of the best is to be found in a mountain village called Zarouchla, near Akrata, in north Peloponnese.
Admittedly, it’s one of the best in part because of its superb location, in a wood cabin next to a river, but it’s also great because behind the bar is a couple, Petros and Eva, who’ll teach you how to stay hip and happening forever.
Hip and happening is opening a jazz bar when your client base is ten non-jazzy seniors from the village.
“It was like opening a bar for extraterrestrials,” says Eva. “They were expecting music of a certain era, and we had to defend our choices.”
In the end, jazz prevailed and became the trademark not just of the bar, but of the whole village. It’s open in the morning for coffee and homemade sweets and until late at night for honest drinks, tsipouro, nibbles, and lots of conversation.
Places are made by people, and Petros and Eva are at the center of an ideal mountain universe. Built in the shadow of Mt Helmos, in a fairytale spruce forest with shaded paths, streams, waterfalls and lakes, beautiful Zarouchla is a summer destination for nature lovers seeking metaphoric and literal coolness.
The village – with its stone-built guesthouses and tavernas, the Nymfes center with horses and children’s activities, and the wonderful pool at the Styga Mountain Resort (also open to non-guests) – is a great base for short and longer trips.
Visit Lake Tsivlou for a swim and a meal at the taverna To Petrino. Other recommendations include the bucolic Spring of Golfo – famed in Greece as the setting for a play of the same name – hiking and swimming at waterfalls near the hamlet of Solos, and a stop in Solos at the best taverna in the area, run by Giorgos Zidropoulos.
Longer trips include Lake Doxa, reached via a decent dirt road, and Kalavryta, which involves a panoramic drive on the slopes of Mt Helmos.