Litochoro is a pretty mountain village on the slopes of Mount Olympus and serves as a starting point for the Ascent to the top of the mountain. To understand why there is a Maritime museum , you have to take a closer look at the history of the place:
The settlement in today's Litochoro began 380 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius. He sent people from Greek islands to Mount Olympus to settle here. Unfortunately the exact origin of most people is not known, only the island of Limnos is considered a safe place of origin. Since most of the islanders were seafarers, it was obvious that they would continue to work in the new home.
Litochoro did not have a port at that time, but curiously harbor police and a customs station. The owners of the ships lived in Thessaloniki, in the area around the church Agia Triada. This part of Thessaloniki is still today the home of the sailors from Litochoro. As there was no road connection to Thessaloniki until around 1930, a ferry service from Gritsa (here the small fishing port of the town) was set up for Thessaloniki. The ferries were operated according to a fixed timetable. The sailing vessels of Litochoro drove all over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Gibraltar was considered a natural border. To their best time, the inhabitants had 140 to 150 ships.
Twice a year, all these ships gathered in the road in front of the mountain village. In the evening lights were lit on the ships, and the inhabitants proudly called this magnificent sight "their fleet."
Reason for these meetings was the consecration of the water on 6 January
And to celebrate the
Prophet Elias on July 20th.
The liturgy for the consecration of the water was not held as usual at the sea, but on the river Enipeas. The procession from the church to the Enipeas led the priests, followed by the inhabitants of the village. All the families who owned ships or in which members worked as seafarers carried long rods with the coat of arms of the family. The ends of these bars were decorated by a cross. This was decorated as artfully as possible and thus a symbol of the wealth of the family. In a natural basin of the river the cross was then thrown to bless the water and to make God well disposed towards the sailors.
The festivities lasted until the 9th or 10th of January, and also served the shipowners to hire sailors. The offspring began service at the age of 15 to 16 years. Thus came the 65% of the population lived by the sea voyage.
Frequently, however, a ship was the property of a family with a predominance of family members.
The prosperity of the village and the worldliness of the inhabitants led to the founding of a school and grammar school, supported by some shipowner families. Until 1929 children were taught free of charge. It is noteworthy that this offer was not limited to the children of the village, but the institutions also taught free students from other regions free of charge. During the heyday, 300 students took advantage of this valuable offer. The great turning point came when the sail ships had to give way to the steam ships. The owners of the marina shied the bulk of investments and the old tradition of seafaring in this mountain village almost died out. Today there are only two shipowners. One of them lives in Thessaloniki and has three larger ships, the other one lives in the village and owns a smaller ship. Most of the sailors are now pensioners, only 40 to 50 people are still active at sea.
Today the villagers mainly feed on tourism and agriculture. Until recently, the construction industry played a certain role, but building activity has almost come to a standstill in the economic crisis since 2009. The retired seamen saw with concern how the historical inheritance threatened to fall into oblivion. They consulted themselves and decided in 1998 that a museum should be established. A club, which now has about 200 members, was founded. One problem was that the association did not have any significant exhibits. One of the last remaining shipowners, saying that he had plenty of exhibits and would make them available to the club. Furthermore, the households of the old seafaring families were searched, whereby many useful objects were brought to light. The municipality of Litochoro showed itself generously and provided the association with the museum rooms in the town hall free of charge for 25 years. The councilors also donated a start-up financing for the project and paid the bills for electricity and heating.