Project Bodhi with Julia Kramer: Part 4 - A visit to Eumelia, Greece

The water is boiling for the Greek coffee as I take another bite of the organic lavender cookie, a slight sweetness lingering as it crumbles in my mouth. Marilena Karadima baked these with lavender picked from the garden. I lean back on the soft, cushioned couch, framed against the burnt Siena walls in my Eco-house here at Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm & Guesthouse.

Located 13 km from the iconic Lakonikos Gulf in the Peloponnese region of Greece, Eumelia is an organic farm with luxury, eco-friendly lodging that embodies both agrotourism and ecotourism. Every furnishing and design was created with intention, style, and most importantly, a sustainable focus, offering guests an opportunity to relax and take in the peacefulness of the property. From practicing yoga outdoors to taking a walk through the vineyards and olive groves to partaking in a gastronomy cooking class or wine and olive oil tasting, there is something for everyone here.  

Owner Frangiskos Karelas had a vision to bring together a variety of sustainable living techniques into his farm - a labor of love that he first envisioned in 2003. With great efforts, a positive attitude, and endless patience and humility, Frangiskos and his wife, Marilena, have created exactly this. Eumelia’s intention is to spread awareness and lead by example in eco- and agro-tourism, broadly defined as any agriculturally based activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. Frangiskos built a place that invites others to learn about environmental technology, organic farming principles, alternative health, and, of course, sustainable living.

As I enter the main house, I am welcomed with the warmth of Marilena’s smile and the rich aroma of food wafting from her kitchen. It's so inviting, as if I happened upon a family’s living room - plush, neutral couches surrounding a crackling hand built fireplace with floor to ceiling windows that overlook the farm - olive trees to my right, the sustainable Eco-houses to my left. The warm, muted tones in the high-ceiling communal room, where guests dine together, converts into a workshop area as well as a perfect place to taste Eumelia’s hand-pressed olive oil or wine.  

The house is built from a combination of natural minerals and volcanic ash, a mixture passed down for centuries that resists the rain and sun’s heat while providing warmth with its inviting color and texture, the same color you will find on the beautifully designed olive oil and wine bottles created here on the farm.  

No detail goes unnoticed in the refined and mindful way Frangiskos created Eumelia. Move the mobile tables and benches aside, and it’s the perfect setting for a meditation circle or yoga class. The back doors open into the field, and I feel the fresh, sea breeze on my face.

Walking in the garden, I reach the yoga deck - a uniquely designed platform with individual and mobile hexagons designed in the shape of honeycomb. Frangiskos wanted the farm’s design to move away from traditional box-like structures and take on more organic elements. These honeycombs pull apart, and offer guests an individual mat for meditation in their house.

When asked what inspires Frangiskos, he replied, “It’s expression. It’s courage. I've lived very intensely for a big part of my life - traveled a lot, lived in seven different countries. Creating Eumelia is a very natural outcome.”

What makes this place so unique? Every element is built and produced with sustainability and community in mind.

To build, to create here, to press the grapes with your feet, then drink the wine you make … It’s an amazing feeling.
— Frangiskos Karelas, Owner

The opportunity to witness those living in an organic way is so inspiring to me as both a traveler and yogi. Eumelia embodies innovation and preservation. The restored ancient aqueduct on the property dating back to the 15th century is being converted into a wine cellar. The olive trees date back for centuries, conveying the rich history of farming on this land. As I lay in bed, with the soft cotton against my cheek late that afternoon, I watch a 2,000 year old olive tree’s leaves dance in the wind just outside my window.  

Creating Eumelia has made Frangiskos more of a whole person, and I can see and feel what he means just being here. I felt at ease, like I could surrender to my travels and my time away from family and loved ones simply to embrace the beautiful surroundings. I notice time slows down and feels more purposeful.

Before dinner, I partake in an olive oil tasting with Frangiskos. We learn about how the olives are harvested at Eumelia then immediately pressed for freshness. I learn you must pour the oil directly on the bread to help it saturate and bring out the richness in flavor. In our case, it's homemade organic sourdough with a light dusting of the farm’s dried oregano and coarse sea salt. I’ve never tasted anything like it… fragments of tomato, banana, and fresh cut grass explode on my pallet. Frangiskos and Marilena, amongst many talents, are olive oil and wine sommeliers. They guide us as I reach for a second piece of bread and more oil.

Afterwards, we sit down to a delicious shared meal of gemista - a traditional Greek dish made of stuffed organic vegetables filled with rice and meat along with baked feta drizzled with local honey and poppy seeds, fried zucchini and dip, accompanied by the farm’s own red wine - rich and earthy to taste. Compliments to the creative and innovative chef, Marilena who regularly designs recipes with ingredients from the farm. Afterwards, Frangiskos and the volunteers feed the chickens and pigs. There are seven Greek Black piglets - a rare rescued breed that Frangiskos is helping raise.

Later we sit around the hearth with Frangisko’s family and a lovely German couple who are volunteers traversing Europe in their caravan.  Eumelia regularly invites volunteers to partake in the sustainable farm. They are excited to spend a month helping the Eumelia family.  

“Yamas!”  We toast with distilled prickly pear cactus liquor, fresh from the garden - sweet with a slight essence of thick honey.  

I walk back to my house feeling so fulfilled, warmed by this beautiful community and this magical place. I sleep richly and awake to a fresh, delicious, locally sourced breakfast.

Satiated, I roll up my sleeves and pitch in to help plant the new vineyard in the crimson mineral rich field. I busy myself trimming the roots on the vines, then helping dig holes and, finally, mindfully planting each stalk in a straight line. What a thrilling experience to be part of!

How did you learn how to do all of this? From building with sustainable material to growing grapes and harvesting olives, I ask them. Frangiskos smiles and says we just learn as we go.  It’s as if he was given a blank canvas and permission to start drawing. He guided his vision and engaged experts to help him along the way.  

Frangiskos wanted Eumelia to reflect an infusion of ideas of those who wanted to participate in its creation and lend a hand. "I wanted to be in the dialogue of things. It’s important for these sustainable concepts to be lighthouses in this complicated world," he says.

The light he speaks of is casting a strong yet soft glow here at Eumelia - the quintessential place for a solo traveler, family, volunteer, visionary, artist, anyone who is open minded to co-exist amongst nature and comfort in this Peloponnesian oasis.

“Humans have hundreds of possible doors they can open,” Frangiskos says, “but for some reason we cling to very few doors.” There is so much variety though, if we are daring. When we diversify the way we live, build community, and create family amongst that with intention, we are magnifying our potential.  

Eumelia exonerates this compilation so perfectly. What an honor to be part of it during my travels. I look forward to future retreats here and returning this fall to help with the olive harvest.

Even if you are just stopping by for the day, be sure to come say hello and pick up homemade olive pate, dried herbs, orange preserves, olive oil, wine, or other incredible goods all cultivated with love from the farm.

Thank you, Frangiskos and Marilena, for sharing your vision.  As I said to you that night, Frangiskos, you truly have so much to be proud of.

- Julia, Director of Outreach | Travel Writer | Yoga Teacher