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Through the mountains of the Peloponnese

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 20 May 2014

Tuesday 20 May, through the mountains of the Peloponnese

Bridge over the Corinthian Gulf Bridge over the Corinthian GulfWe say goodbye to Nafpaktos, even though we had booked here for an entire week. But we do not feel comfortable here and have decided to take some rest (on the beach) after the many cultural trips we have made. So again we cross the imposing toll bridge to the Peloponnese, on our way to our new apartment in Xylokastro. Directly it is only a one and a half hours drive so we make a long detour through the mountains. We have been surprised to discover that Greece has so many mountains which we did not know before.
Cottage against the rock wall Monastery in the neighborhood of KalavritaToday the GPS function again doesn't seem to work or at least to falter a lot because most photos do not have any coordinates. In any case, we go through the Vouraikos gorge from Diakofto near the coast to Kalavitra. There is also a train in the summer through the gorge which according to our travel guide must be a really spectacular and sometimes chilling experience, especially when the train slows down and it seems somebody has to help pushing to get up the mountain. But with the car it is also a beautiful trip.
Sheep on the road Mountain landscape at KalivitisAs Scotland lovers we have seen a lot of similarities between Scotland and Greece the last weeks: both have beautiful coasts and beaches, rugged and inhospitable areas, nice inhabitants and of course animals on the road like here a flock of sheep that crosses the road. The sheep dogs are well trained and snatch at the car tires if you do not wait. The biggest difference between the two countries is mainly the temperature. And the prices: 3 weeks in Greece is cheaper than staying 10 days in Scotland!
Halfway down the gorge we can still see the Corinthian Gulf, 10 kilometers away.
Mega Spileo monastery near Kalavrita Little square in KalavritaJust before Zachlorou we see some buildings glued to a rocky slope. It is the Megalo Spileo monastery (Great Cave) that is built 8 storeys high in the hollow of a rock wall. It would be one of the oldest monasteries of Greece, founded in 362. A shepherdess seems to have found an icon of Mary here, which according to tradition would have been painted by the apostle Luke. The monastery has been regularly ravaged by fire but has been rebuilt over and over again and it looks fairly modern from afar. The last time it burned down in 1934 and the Germans ransacked it in 1943 but the icon was saved every time.
In Kalavitra we stop for a cup of coffee. The place is best known for the massacre by the Germans in December 1943: all male inhabitants aged 12 and up were executed, more than 500 in total. The women and children were locked up in a school that was then set on fire. Fortunately, the women and children could escape through the windows, but only 13 men survived. It was the German answer to the execution of nearly 80 German soldiers by the resistance. The clock in the left tower stands still at 2:34, the time when the massacre began. Outside the village there is a monument with all the names of the victims.
The Germans have committed quite a few atrocities and acts of vandalism in Greece, usually as retaliation after an act of the resistance.
Mountain landscape at Ano Zachlorou The valley to Diakopto on the Corinthian GulfNot only Kalavrita but several villages and monasteries in the neighborhood were set on fire and people shot at random. In total more than 1200 people died in this drama and it is one of the most brutal events in Greece history during the 2nd World War. Unimaginable that such a beautiful and imposing landscape was the place for such atrocities. We can not imagine that people are capable of such things, unbelievable, but it still happens.
Greeks and traffic signs Our apartment in XylokastroWhen we are back at the coast we encounter roadworks and we notice (again) that the Greeks love traffic signs. Where a single traffic sign would suffice, there are sometimes dozens. Or would all unnecessary road signs from the rest of the EU have been donated (or dumped) as a kind of gift to Greece?
In Xylokastro, on the east side of the Corinthian Gulf, is our next apartment, which is much better than the hotel in Nafpaktos: we have spacious rooms and it is quiet, located on a backstreet. We are glad we came here.
Beach at Xylokastro Healthy food in SykiaIt is only a 100 meters walk to the beach and so we go there for an hour since it is still nicely warm. It is a pebble beach but we are allowed to use beachbeds from the hotel. We should have gone to the beach more often this trip, but we were especially busy with visiting all the sights. To be honest, that is mainly my fault, I always want to see everything that can be seen. We'll take things a bit slower next time.
In the evening we walk a bit to the next village, Sykia, where we eat a Greek salad along the beach: large pieces of onion, cucumber, peppers, olives, a lot of tomatoes, a thick chunk of feta on top and everything soaked in a good amount of olive oil. What a healthy dinner!


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