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.