I am visiting Greece to check on some possible filming locations for my next movie. My trip brings me to the beautiful Mount Olympus Coast.
By Daria Trifu
Today, I am in Katerini, the capital city of Pieria, a regional unit of Greece located in the southern part of the Region of Central Macedonia. Its proximity to the Aegean Sea is 10km. I am headed there to meet and interview Konstadinos Karyotis, the president of Katerini’s Nautical Club, for Daria!.
A short ride takes me to Paralia (Greek for “beach”) Katerinis.
What was started as a fishing village around 1928 by Greek migrants from Kios, today is a fully fledged seaside resort. Close to Paralia there are several archaeological sites of great interest such as the ancient city of Dion (5th Century BC), the Venetian Castle of Platamon (built between 1204 and 1222) and the burial site of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.
Paralia Katerini stands 100km south of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and it is considered by many the metropolis’ beach.
One of the village’s oldest and most preeminent buildings, in size and architecture, houses the Nautical Club of Katerini and the Omilos Restaurant, Bar & Disco (omilos means “club” in the Greek language).
Konstadinos joins me for breakfast at the open bar and restaurant area that sits five meters from the shore. His posture is that of an athlete, his demeanor is that of an accomplished champion and his stature is imposing, as he stands two meters tall.
Today is an important day because the Olympus Sailing & Rowing Regatta takes place. This explains the dozens of boats ready to set sail from the club’s port. What impresses me is the age of the competitors, as young as twelve years old, who are prepping their own boats for the big sail.
I ask Konstadinos to tell me how his athletic journey started.
I am lucky, my father introduced me to sport. When I was twelve years old, in 1983, I started training here and the Club became my life.Konstadinos Karyotis
Konstadinos Karyotis is a twenty-time State Rowing champion and a three-time gold medalist at the Balkan Games. Some other achievements include finishing second in Single Scull at the Mediterranean Games in 1991 and in Single Scull New-Men at the World Championship in 1993. He finished third in Men’s 2+ Cox pair at the World Championship in 1997. At twenty-one years of age he participated in the Olympic Games in Barcelona where he finished eleventh in the 1x Men’s Single Scull (not his best performance but he still considers his participation in the Olympic Games a milestone). He ended his athletic career in 2007.
Between 2009 and 2011 he was a coach at the Nautical Club of Kastoria, one of Greece’s most revered nautical establishments and, on May 19, 2015, he was appointed President of the Nautical Club of Katerini, a title that he holds with great pride.
I know every corner of this building and, I know all the ins-and-outs.Konstadinos Karyotis
This Club is one of two hundred and forty nautical clubs in Greece. It is one of only forty that offer training in both rowing and sailing while they all train the athletes in sailing.
The Club was originated by a group of local fishermen who organized and founded the Association of Amateur Fishermen of Pieria Region on April 26, 1959.
Between 1966 and 1974 the Association changed its name to The Nautical Club of Katerini and it organized itself as an athletic club. During that time, investments were made in infrastructure and purchases of nautical equipment, while efforts were made to build permanent facilities and various other auxiliary areas. On March 9, 1967 the establishment became a member of the Royal Hellenic Sailing Federation and it received its first Optimist type boats. In September 1967, it became a member of The Hellenic Rowing Federation (Ellinikí Kopilatikí Omospondía Filáthlon Naftikón Somatíon). Throughout 1968, its athletes participated in competitions in various cities of Greece (Kastoria, Volos, Corfu, Ioannina) while the Club’s management organized races at the beach of Katerini, purchased new boats and continued the efforts to complete the construction of the facilities.
On March 24, 1969 it was decided to name the building after the General Secretary of Sport, Konstantinos Aslanidis, in recognition of his long-lasting support of the establishment and hence came the new name “Konstantinos Asla-nidis Nautical Sports Center”.
Shortly thereafter, in September 1970, the Board of Directors decided to name Army Officer Kolaros Eleftherios as the Honorary President of the Club and, on August 15, 1971 the opening inauguration of the newly built facilities took place.
Today, there are 60 athletes being trained in rowing and about 15 who train in sailing, some of them as young as six years old. There are also 120 children who take swimming classes and the Club is steadily expanding its function and services to also include private sailing classes for the general public.
“Greece is the ‘mother’ of competitive sport. We have the Olympic flame that passes by our most important cities every four years. There is a culture for sport here, and it is passed-on, generation after generation, to our children.
Growing up, coaches can sometimes become more important than parents because they represent an authority, without all the emotional involvement, that the young respect and look up to. Sport can give a structure to life.
As a coach, I am often contacted by parents whose children meet some difficulties at school. They ask if I can help their sons and daughters to get better results and I find it that, if they feel that something jeopardizes their sports training, they do everything possible to avoid it, including to remedy their school’s performance.”
The Club has produced a number of international champions to date. Rowing athlete Katerina Nikolaidou holds ten global titles. She represented Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (double sculls) and finished in forth place alongside Sofia Asoumanaki. Katerina also won a silver medal in the lightweight single sculls at the 2013 World Rowing Championship and she was the 2014 European Champion in the event. In 2018 she just placed second at the World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade, Serbia and her quest for medals continues. She famously said: “My favorite music is the sound at the finish line when I cross it first.”
The rowing pair Nikolaos Kakouris and Thomas Karamitros placed seventh, Junior Men’s Pair, at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games Regatta in Nanjing, China and they took forth place at the World Junior Championship that same year.”
In 1990 and 1991 respectively, Gabriel Tsiropoulos placed third in the Skif Lightweight Youths Championship and fifth in the Lightweight Double World Championship.
Today, the athletes compete nationally and internationally and the Club just opened its doors to offer seasonal sailing classes to tourists. “Our location [in the center of a seaside resort] makes us a very ‘interesting’ place for tourists. It’s normal, you lie on the beach and see our sails go out and you want to partake in the excitement. As a result, we are now providing classes for people who want to learn sailing. This is a natural addition to the function that a nautical club can have or services that it can provide.”
I keep thinking back to his first words, “… the Club became my life.” and I understand that it is his life’s passion. His family agrees.
The fact that I am a father gives me added responsibility in the choices we make as a sports’ club. We train youngsters and we do it with a very high sense of responsibility, not only for the sake of the sport, their success and the accolades but also for the sake of their education. Sport is discipline.Konstadinos Karyotis
Konstadinos with his wife Efi Savvaki and their three children, Stellina, Androniki and Hristos.
Kostas, as everyone calls him, is a family man. He met his wife, Efi Savvaki, in 1999, when he was a member of the national rowing team at the Nautical Club of Kastoria and she was a rowing athlete. They now have three young children. Hristos, his son and first born, is playing professional basketball, his daughter Androniki is a competitive rower and, his youngest daughter, Stellina, just started to train in swimming.
On this note, we rap our interview. It is time for Kostas to join his athletes at the Regatta that is about to start. Before he leaves, he introduces me to Thomas Magionas or “Makis”, as he is better known, who is the brother of one of the owners of the business that was born inside the Club’s premises, the Omilos Restaurant, Bar & Disco.
The Nautical Club’s management decided to rent-out part of its premises back in the 80’s and that is when the Omilos Restaurant, Bar & Disco was established there.
Makis tells me that, in order to become more self-sufficient from a financial point of view, the Club’s management decided to rent out part of its premises back in the 80’s and that is how his brother came to open his business there.
“So, how do you like our little establishment here?”, Makis asks me. I smile because it surely isn’t little. The premise includes a very large outside bar and sitting area right on the shore, a ground floor hosting the restaurant with sliding glass windows that open widely to the sea and two additional floors that host both an in-door and a roof-top out-door disco. In total, the whole establishment spreads over 1,500 square meters and it has three separate entrances. On top of that, there are two beach areas where guests can lounge on private beds and be served food and drinks from the rich menu.
In my time with Makis, I come to learn more about the establishment that was founded in April 1989 and it remains still under the same ownership. The two owners are Stelios Magionas and Antonios Belis. They have families and children in their twenties with some of them working there mostly in summer. They all take particular pride in their business since it is the only open-air club in Paralia which gives you the chance to enjoy the sky and sea views for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all night long.
Over the course of the years, many celebrities and famous athletes were hosted here such as Pyrros Dimas, the three-time Olympic Gold Medalist in weightlifting, Lazaros Papadopoulos, Greek professional basketball player and Igor Gogic, Serbian National football player, to name just a few.
The disco is extremely popular amongst Balkan Nations since it has served two generations of young travelers already. Every year, it hosts the Balkan Fun, a three-day rave party attended by thousands of youngsters from neighboring countries.
The restaurant was born a few years after the business was launched and it became popular among the locals very fast. It faces the sea and it is located on the ground floor which is slightly elevated in such a way that dining there makes you feel like being on a ship. The cuisine focuses on Mediterranean flavors and traditional Greek dishes prepared by head-chef Dimitrios Tsianakas.
Wherever you look, the views are mesmerizing. The presence of the sea is overpowering. I am sad to leave this place but I will remember it with great pleasure and I will always consider all who work here to be very lucky. D!