September, 2016 Peloponnesus, Greece
Here you can have it all! Starting at the seaside and ending up high in the mountains, at an area, which will be transformed into a ski resort in winter time.
A Greek friend of mine is taking me for a day tour into the backcountry, starting around Akrata and following the extremely quiet and curvy road higher up into the mountains. While driving, we pass the sign of a monastery and looking up, we see beside a new constructed building, also the remains of the old and very small monastery, tucked half into the rocks. Even my Greek friend has never seen this “not well-known” historic site! We decide to drive up and take a look.
The road goes like a snake up and down the mountains. No villages and barely any houses. No tourists with campers and not even a normal Greek car! We are driving towards lake Tsivlos and the river Krathis, on around an 800 meters altitude on the Helmos mountain slopes. The lake was formed in 1912 by a landslide. Its depth sometimes reaches 80 meters, depending on the annual rain rate. There are a few cabins around the lake and I could imagine me staying here for a couple of days, away from everything…….
There are apple and nut trees around the lake and even rodia trees or pomegranate; a very decorative fruit and a symbol for the New Year. It is one of the most ancient of fruits and it has many mythological and biblical meanings; good luck, fertility, love, beauty, a happy marriage and many more…….
From here, we go further up the mountain and reach the tiny village of Agridi, with gorgeous views over the Helmos mountains. You can not imagine that you are just a couple of hours away from Athens, the capital of Greece.
Higher up on the mountain, the leave trees change to needle trees and after, when we arrive to the entrance of the “ski slope”, it is a bare landscape with only grazing sheep. By now the temperature dropped to 10 degrees and we are shivering in our shorts!!!
We decide to visit the “Cave of the Lakes”, which is another 17 km. from Kalavrita. This is the only cave in the world where ponds are layered on three separate levels. Here you can not only see stalagmites and stalactites, but also immense boulders, small waterfalls and tiny lakes. The colours are amazing and it is like you enter a fairy tale. I have never seen such an amazing place and so worth to visit! Too bad they do not permit any pictures taken.
After, we return to the valley of Kalavrita, where the temperature is 16 degrees, also a bit colder than last Saturday. Seemingly, the people are prepared with their warm sweaters, coats and long trousers and you realize that winter is around the corner.
My friend explains that he now feels relaxed. I didn’t notice he was stressed, so I asked him why? He then tells me that going down, he could run the car easily into the petrol station, as he was driving on a (nearly) empty tank!!! So grateful he didn’t tell me that before, as it would have been a very long walk from up the mountains down to Kalavrita, in the cold and in shorts!
We go for lunch in the small village of Skepasto, where the owner of the only taverna welcomes us with a big smile. This is way better than one of the touristic restaurants in Kalavrita. Immediately, the fire is on and our paidakia (lamb chops), moshari (beef), xorta (greens), xoriatiki (Greek salad), tzatziki, patates and psomi (bread) are prepared. I forget to take first a picture of my favorite Greek food, as we didn’t eat the whole day and attack our food immediately!
Our last stop in between Kalavrita and Diakofto is close to Zachlorou, where a Greek investor built some very interesting and affordable rental apartments; http://www.montagesuites.gr
Not only the layout is very attractive, with views over the mountains, the bordering river and the monastery Mega Spileo, but also the way the apartments are built. They are all built according to a different movie theme; inside you will find decorations from famous films and you feel like you enter another world! Rocky, Braveheart, Out of Africa, Eyes Wide Shut, English Patient, you can find it all, complete with a cozy fire-place! I have never seen such a remarkable apartment hotel! It is called “Apartments Montage” and you can not miss it, driving up or down the main road.