Friday, 26 August 2016

The Madonna of the Rock

 
 
On our first full day in Upper Korinthia, we left the village of Trikala  where we were staying, and drove up the mountains - our destination, the Virgin of the Rock which is located near the town of Kato Tarsos near Feneos.
 
 
 
 
The mountains are covered with pines. Snow is abundant here in the winter and I presume the roads must become impassable at times.
 
 
 
 
 
But, in August, the sun was shining and the scenery was something we do not associate with Greece
 
 
 
 
at least, not the Greece of picture postcards.
 
 
 
 


We got our first glimpse of the so-called Meteora of the Peloponnese soon enough, bare jutting rock that rose above us


 


we then turned a corner and more pines all around us



 
 
we then got a better view of the Meteora, which was our destination.
 




At every turn the views would change
 
 


 


and teasingly, the rocks of the Meteora would reappear.




It was all spectacularly beautiful.




We abandoned the main road and turned into a dirt track which was really hard on the car. Stathis, my brother-in-law, pointed at the rock ahead of us, and asked 'can you see the cross?'




We could hardly see it, but it's clear in the photograph above, when I zoomed in with my camera




We continued driving



 
 
 

We eventually arrived, parked the car and started walking

 


In the middle of the crag, behind the cross is a two-level cave. The lower level is now a church, while the upper level was used by the locals as a refuge from the Turks during the 400-year Ottoman occupation of Greece.




It is believed that the upper level was also used as a krifo scholio, a secret school. The Ottoman authorities prohibited education in Greek obliging the Greek people to organise small, secret schools in monasteries and churches. These schools are often credited with having played a decisive role in keeping Greek language and literacy alive through the period of Turkish rule in Greece between the 15th and 19th centuries.

  
 


Legend has it that the church was created by a woman from Tarsos during the time when Mohammed the Second's army besieged and attacked the town of Tarsos in 1458. All the women of the town were killed, taken hostage or committed suicide by throwing themselves off the rock in order to avoid capture. One woman threw herself off the rock while holding her child and as she was falling, she cried out: 'Virgin, Mother of God, save me'. She survived the fall and in gratitude placed a few icons in the cave. This was the beginning, more people brought icons and the church was born.




Wonderful views when we reached the top of the steps




we stopped at the entrance, looked at the icon,




and took some time to admire the view.




The lower cave consists of at least five chambers - difficult to remember as it progressively got darker




icons, incense burners, candles. The passage leading to the next chamber was very low: Ken had to stoop to get in
 
 


and then it got so dark that we had to walk very carefully, sometimes in total darkness. In one of the chambers of the cave we managed to discern a coffin where the bones of those who had lived as Christian hermits in the cave were kept. There are frescos on the walls which date from the middle of the 19th century, painted by Asimakis Skaltzas.  We could not see those as we were totally unprepared and had no torch with us.




A ladder led up to an upper storey



 
and to a platform 
 
 
 


which afforded views of the cross and the landscape beyond
 
 
 
 
We could see the Ziria mountain range, our car and the little shrine at the bottom of the steps that lead up to the cave 
 
 


This square hole in the rock, this window, led us to think that this might be the second level where the locals used to hide from the Turks, but we're not sure





one more photograph of the bell,






and as my brother-in-law and I tried to capture (unsuccessfully) the feeling of the rock looming over us, we noticed that




Ken was busy. He had found a broom and was sweeping up all the debris inside the shrine







and all along the path. Bless!
 
 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Ano Trikala Korinthias

 
We spent four delightful days in Ano Trikala in Korinthia in the Peloponnese. Trikala is the main village of the Ziria mountain range and consists of three different villages, Lower, Middle and Upper Trikala. We stayed in Ano (Upper) Trikala, which is 1,100 metres above sea level.
 
 


Varnevo, the guesthouse where we stayed is small and cute - its architecture is typical of the area.




The tower consists of two suites. My sister and her husband had the suite on the ground floor, with a sitting room and bathroom downstairs, and steps that lead up to a platform which is the bedroom
 
 
 

We stayed in the main building and had one of the three rooms
 
 


that can be accessed from this balcony



 
This was our room 
 
 

 
and the orange table and chairs were our outside sitting area, 
 
 
 
 
 
but we preferred to use the bar/restaurant terrace where we had their fantastic breakfast and at 7:00 pre-dinner ouzos
 



the views were awesome





which consisted of  parts of the Ziria mountains, the bay of Corinth and in the distance, the mainland



 
Looking at the views was hypnotic and I could have stayed there all day.
 
 


It's a small village - we liked this round house with the interesting roof.
 
 
 

The village church is large and imposing, but services are rare - apparently there is only one district priest whose responsibilities include 17 churches.




A typical stone house




views of the mountains abound





This is one of the local tavernas that became our favourite: we ate here the best cheese and spinach pies I've ever had, and their lamb chops were exceptional.




This abandoned building used to be a five-star hotel - abandoned buildings are unfortunately very common in Greece.




We also visited Middle Trikala, very picturesque and the biggest of the three districts


 

 
wooden chalets
 
 


and stone buildings.




We had lunch here, at the Tzini


 

another stone building


 

with a terrace that has the most amazing views of the valley and the mountains








and we certainly enjoyed the views while we had a delicious meze and ouzo lunch
 
 
 
 

it was packed when we arrived, but was completely empty by the time we left.






We parked the car near this house
 
 


which gave us the opportunity to admire its wonderful garden, a green oasis





with a back terrace that provided excellent views.