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Peloponnese (April 2021)

Written by Thanasis Vavaroutas. Posted in Expeditions

The full map...

 

 

     Peloponnese is the playground of the motorcyclist who wants to enjoy his motorcycle on snake moto-routes in a unique natural environment!!! On the way on wooded slopes, you will meet countless attractions! Romantic medieval castles, villages of rare beauty, historical museums, ancient temples, old monasteries in incredible locations and nature!!!

 

     A sunny Saturday in the era of Covid 19 quarantine and deprivation, I started my route from Patras towards Derveni in Corinth, to visit Karma Buddhist Stupa located on the slopes of the Black Mountains…

 

     On the way after the city of Derveni I stopped at the historic building, Kordis Tower in the village of Pyrgos. During the Turkish occupation, the tower house was the legacy of Christodoulos Kordis, whose participation in the revolution of 1821 was decisive for the region. The tower was the headquarters of the national hero, Kolokotronis, and many times hosted fighters and residents who sought refuge. It was considered invincible because of the loopholes and the hole above the door, from where they poured hot oil on the besiegers. In addition, in the civil war it occasionally served as the headquarters of either the guerrillas or the army. After taking the necessary photos, I continued my way to Buddhist Stoupa meeting the villages of Kallithea and Lagadaeika and reached the slope where Stoupa is located, riding the last five kilometers on gravel.

 

      The Buddhist Stupa Karma Bertsen in mountainous Corinth is one of the three centers that exist in Greece. Overlooking the Corinthian Gulf and the slopes of the Black Mountain, the area with the typical Buddhist altars gives the feeling that you are in… Tibet! The construction of the Buddhist center began in May 2010. It has 8 altars and was completed in the summer of the same year. The area is dominated by the Kalachakra stupa, a rare stupa for Buddhists that dispels negative energy, according to the center's official website.

 

     It was the first time I was in this place and I spent a lot of time exploring the altars and the nature! The mountains that surround the area are quite impressive and make you feel the power of the landscape! So I took my breath away and left for the city of Levidi, in Arcadia prefecture and two kilometers before Levidi I turned to go to Agia Fotini Mantineia (church). I followed the provincial road Nemea - Levidi and after 14 km I met the church on my right.

 

I had seen photos of the church on the Web and I was impressed by its’ particular construction… Those of you who have visited it, they  understand what I am talking about and those of you who have not visited, you will understand checking out the photos I quote below the text!

 

Costas Papatheodorou (student of Pikionis) created a masterpiece of life that looks like nothing else. In the list of the strangest churches in the world, next to the Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime in Syracuse and Gaudί's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, ​​you can easily place the church of Agia Fotini in the plain of Ancient Mantineia! It is so impressive that even if you have not heard it, passing by the area by chance it is impossible not to stop admiring it.

 

The church of Agia Fotini is not located on a main road, it is built opposite of the archeological site of Ancient Mantineia, in the plain. For experts, such as the Spanish architect and town planner Alfonso Torribio, "Agia Fotini gives the impression of a living building. It moves trying to rotate around its axis. There is no right angle in the building. It breathes the Arcadian air and the acrokeramas take the direction of the wind that blows from the east. I was quite impressed by the building and after I took some photos I "took off" my drone taking some shots.

 

As I said, the Archaeological Site of Mantineia is located directly opposite the church, but due to Covid it was probably closed. Despite this, I “sent” my drone and took some shots and I "visited" the place… from home… from my computer screen…

 

It was already noon and my stomach was starting to complain… Back on the motorcycle and back to the city of Levidi. I stopped to the main square where I found a fellow rider who was also in search of his freedom from quarantine. He had the same issue with me about hunger and he was eating skewers… After a little chat, I went to the grill of Koumbouris Tavern and got a portion of grilled pork… What else ??? After I calmed the worries of my belly, I continued my way and through Klitoria I reached the city of Kalavrita. On the way I was thinking how many times I have crossed this road… many!

 

Arriving in Kalavrita I went straight to the Place of Sacrifice, in front of which I had passed many times but I had never stopped. So, since I had time, it was an opportunity to visit the place where my compatriots were martyred by the Germans during the German occupation in WW2. There, on the Back of Kapis, the men aged 14 and over were taken by the German occupiers on December 13, 1943, where they were executed. At this point there is a large Cross reminiscent of the heinous crime. In the columns surrounding the central space are written the names of the families of the Executed. In the catacomb are hung small candles equal to the families of the executed.

 

Respect emotion and trembling for the part of the supreme sacrifice.

 

 

 

After taking some photos, I "took off" my drone and took some shots and here, I went down to Kalavrita. Opposite of the train station there is a Café, where I enjoyed my coffee standing close to my motorcycle.

 

From the route I had planned for this long walk, I had only one visit left till my return to Patras, my home city; to the Monastery of Makellaria. I enjoyed my coffee and rode the motorcycle again in the direction of the Monastery. I took the road from Kalavrita to Vlasia and after the village of Flampoura (16 km away from Kalavrita) I turned right. I passed the villages of Lapathia and Neochori and continued to Makellaria. I did the last 10 kilometers on a fairly passable gravel terrain, crossing the beautiful forest of Kaniska that starts shortly after Neochori.

 

 I arrived at the Monastery but the time was not within the visiting hours set by the Monastery and so I admired it outside.

 

The Monastery of Makellaria is built like an eagle's nest on a bare and steep rock, near the village of Lapanagi, and at a distance of 30 km from the city of Kalavrita. The monastery is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was built by the Byzantine General Justinian Velissarios in 532 AD, as it is written by an inscription that survives to this day, to atone for the massacre during the famous "Nika riots" in Constantinople.

 

Initially, the monastery was called Panagia Lithariotissa and owes the name Makellaria to a tragic event: After Muhammad II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he marched to the Greek mainland, wreaking havoc, reached the Peloponnese and threatened the area of ​​the Monastery. The inhabitants of the surrounding area and the monks took refuge in the cells for protection and despite the efforts of the fighter Giannos to stop the momentum of the Turks, they conquered the monastery and slaughtered secular and monks. From the massacre or from the words blood and cell the Monastery has since become known as Makellaria.

 

The rock on which the Monastery is built reminded me of something of the Monasteries that are built on the formation rocks of Meteora. Besides, it is not accidental that it is also called Little Meteor…

 

After I took my photos and took wonderful shots from the Monastery using my drone, I thought to continue to the beautiful village of Lapanagi that I had never been to… Thirty meters from the monastery I took a very demanding gravel road that would lead me to Lapanagi which was only 5 kilometers. So the first meters on this narrow gravel road were quite downhill and in some places with U turns. The old cement in some U turns of the road, had been worn out and the steel skeleton of the road had emerged on the surface! The narrow road with a fairly downhill slope made me had a feeling that I’m "losing" the motorcycle under my feet as it crawled on that surface… The width of the road was quite narrow and the heavy braking was prohibitive until I reached low… When I descended that hill, the gravel road to the village of Lapanagi was much better! So beware of this part of the road whoever decides to use it!

 

Lapanagi is one of the most beautiful villages in the area that I highly recommend you to visit. In a beautiful natural environment, between the imposing Gerakovouni mt. to the west, the historic Kafkaria to the north and the rock of Makellaria with the Monastery of Panagia to the south, stand today almost deserted (with less than 20 permanent residents). Most of their stone houses are closed. The old school as well. Even the imposing church of the Assumption is slowly slipping down the cliff…

 

I continued the gravel road in the direction of the village Leontio which was 7 km away from Lapanagi. I believe that the route from the Monastery of Makellaria to Leontio was the most beautiful of all my ride!! I thought I was somewhere in Switzerland!

 

The road was quite passable and did not cause me any problems to get to Leontio.

 

Leontio village is definitely one of the most historic villages in the prefecture of Achaia. Since its existence is associated with all prehistoric and historical periods.

 

From the Mycenaean and classical eras, passing to the Byzantine period, to the years of the Turkish occupation and National Independence, reaching the Second World War and the struggle of the Greeks against the fascist axis.

 

In short, it is a place that has had life over the centuries. This can be easily perceived by someone who will visit the village. Built on the slopes of Panachaiko mt., at an altitude of 800 meters, among dozens of springs with crystal clear waters that descend from the peaks, next to a tributary of Selinounta river, Leontio captures the mountainous beauty of Greek nature associated with the hot sun, the shadow of trees and the coolness of springs and rivers.

 

After Leontio the road of my return was quite well known and… asphalt! Via the village of Chalandritsa I covered the last 42 kilometers to return to my base.

 

That was another wonderful day that I could only enjoy on the saddle of my motorcycle! The Peloponnese has so many incredible places to explore that you think you have never seen them all…!!! Waiting for the next adventure…

 

 

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