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Going to Mount Olympus

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 19 June 2017

Monday 19 June, going to Mount Olympus

View from the Olympus MountainsThe Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, but it is a whole mountain massif and the highest peak is called the Mytikas at 2,917 meters altitude. The mountain range is the oldest national park in Greece and lies on the border between the regions of Macedonia and Thessalia. At Limani Litochorou we drive inland, first through the plains but soon the road goes up and we encounter the first hairpin turns. What we especially notice from the road are the steep walls of the mountains and the deep gorges. Fortunately, the road is wide and there are almost everywhere barriers, I always find that pleasant.
Gorge in the Olympus Mountains Gorge in the Olympus mountain range at the Zilnia viewpointAt the Zilnia viewpoint we can easily park and walk to the edge of the gorge where we can see how deep it is here. There is a scarry low wall that we can look over. In total, the mountain has 52 peaks and there are a lot of mountain climbing opportunities. It would not be my hobby but I can imagine that people love it in such a beautiful environment (if you are not afraid of heights). But you can also make beautiful walks here, something we will not do because I still have too much trouble with my ribs.
So this is the area where the 12 Greek Olympian gods lived, on the Dios Thronous, the Throne of Zeus, which is not the highest peak. This was the area between heaven and earth from where the gods could keep an eye on mankind and the mountain plays an important role in the mythology of ancient Greece. The throne of Zeus, the supreme god, stood here and from here they left to mingle among the people to help or punish them, and the male gods were often tempted to seduce human women.
St. Dionysios monastery in the Olympus mountains Mosaic of Saint DionisiosFrom the village of Litochoro we enter the Olympus national park and follow the signs to the monastery of St. Dionysios, which was founded in 1542 by the saint. It lies at the edge of a ravine at an altitude of 850 meters and looks more like a fortress from the outside. During the many wars that Greece has known, partisans or guerrillas often fled into the mountains and fought here against the enemy, whether it was the Turks, the Germans or their own government. Not infrequently, monks were also involved in the struggle and quite a few monasteries were destroyed because they housed warriors or provided weapons.
St. Dionysios monastery in the Olympus mountains Church in the St. Dionysios monasteryThis monastery has also been destroyed twice. Once by the Turks in 1821, the year that the Greek war of independence began, and in 1943 by the German Wehrmacht because they thought there were resistance fighters. For almost 60 years the monastery has been a ruin, but now it has been partially restored. The church of the complex looks at least richly decorated from the inside, as you often see in all Orthodox but also Catholic churches. It certainly looks like art. Next to a table are paper and pens, to write a request to the saint and leave it here.
St. Dionysios monastery in the Olympus mountainsHowever, the restoration is not finished yet and one of the wishes is central heating, that is what it says on a sign. There is also a small museum with a number of treasures that would be hidden in secret vaults in difficult times. Part of these treasures are three silver skulls in which pieces of bone from saints have been processed. Also special are the black-and-white photographs that a soldier of the Wehrmacht made just before the destruction of the still intact monastery. This century he sent them to the monastery.
A forest path runs down below the monastery. We do not feel fit enough, but from here you can walk to the river where a chapel is built under an overhanging rock. It seems that St. Dionysius used this as a chapel when he was living here as a hermit. On the photos it looks very special.
View from the Olympos View from the flanks of the OlympusFrom the monastery we drive the paved roads that we can find in the national park and occasionally get out of the car for a short walk. The area is known for its fauna and flora: there are chamois, wolves and lynxes and also the flora is very diverse and there are species that only grow here. We especially enjoy the wide view and then go to Litochoro at the foot of the Olympus Mountains, the place where most walks start. We stick to just having a coffee in the sun on the village square.
Village square in Litochoro, Olympus mountains Litochoro in the Olympus MountainsOn the left photo you can see the highest point of the Olympus, the Mytikas which means nose. A wide gorge runs through the mountains and on the right picture you see, a little hidden behind the tree, the Throne of Zeus. The summit is slightly lower but is much less accessible due to the perpendicular cliffs. The first person (as far as is known) who reached the top of the Olympus came from this village. An attack on a police post in late March 1946 in Litochoro is generally seen as the beginning of the Greek civil war that lasted from 1946 to 1949. We will tell you a more about that another time.
Water source in the Olympus mountainsFrom Litochoro we go all the way around the mountains, via the south side. Along the road we see a water source called the source of the Muses of Leivithra. The nearby Leivithra was an ancient town where, according to some myths, Orpheus was buried by the Muses. Orfeus was a mythical musician and poet who could enchant everyone and everything with his music, he even almost got his dead wife back from Hades, the underworld, if he had not looked back at her too soon. As a gifted musician, Orfeus was a darling of the Muses, the goddesses of art, music and poetry.
Archaeological site Leivithra Grave at LeivithraNext to the source is a sign with 'archaeological site Leivithra' but there is only a shallow grave and there is no further information. Later on we find on the internet that there is an archaeological park only a few kilometers away that we apparently have completely missed. Or would there once again have been no good signposts? That is not so strange in Greece, we often notce it. This tomb is covered but also unprotected and vandals can destroy and take away everything whenver they want.
Monument for the Olympia PeaceFurther on, in Karia we see a striking monument, the statue of the 'Olympia Peace', a memorial for all mothers, orphans and widows of the world who have suffered the atrocities of wars and for all those who want to carry the flame of Olympic peace to keep humanity peacfull forever. That is the motto of the creator Demetrios Petrou Polygenis for the monument. It should have been revealed before the Olympic in 2004 that were held in Athens but due to lack of money it only was erected many years later.
Beehives along the road Landscape at FoteinaWe probably found the route along the west and north side of the mountain less interesting than the east and south side because we have made almost no photos. But we do see a lot of beehives along the road, because of the many varieties of flowers they must have very tasty honey here. However, the bee colonies in Greece are not doing so well, partly due to the use of pesticides. These were used after 2004 to exterminate insects that came into the country on African palms that were imported specifically for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Nevertheless, Greece is the largest exporter of honey in Europe after Spain.
The Olympus from the beach at Olympiaki Akti The beach at Olympiaki AktiAt the end of the afternoon we are back from our tour. Only to drive around the mountains is almost 100 kilometers. North of Olympiaki Akti we find a quiet part of the beach where we also have a beautiful view of the Olympus that is now covered in clouds. On the right picture you can see the mountain ridge called Kato Olympus (Lower Olympus), an offshoot of the Olympus massif. We will cross it tomorrow on our way to the south to the mountainous region of Pelion, another new area for us to discover.


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