The 23rd of May 2016, Mega Spileo, Greece
One of my last outings in Diakofto is a visit to the Monastery Mega Spileo, tucked away in the rocks on the way to Kalavrita. For a visit you can take the car or a bus, but I decide the take once more the train towards Kalavrita and getting off earlier, in Zachlorou. It is an early Tuesday morning and this time no screaming school children, but just a handful of tourists, all going to Kalavrita. One more time I can enjoy the great scenery and I even leave my camera in my bag and relax. In Zachlorou only some locals and two German tourists are leaving the train. The two Germans are immediately starting to walk back to Diakofto along the railway and I start looking for the path, which will bring me finally to the Monastery. The entrance of the path is just beside one of the tavernas, where I will end up on the way back.
This is not a hike for people, who are not very mobile! Also, you better have your walking shoes on! The first part is like a goat trail. That is also the only thing you hear; goat bells! Nothing else. Oh….and the sound of water running. Always……
The path is not marked very well. You have to look for a red arrow or a blue/green triangle. At a certain point there is a choice between three trails. Nowhere a coloured arrow or other mark! I choose to follow the goatshit and that turned out to be the right choice. Being just on my own in the mountains felt amazing. I only realized that if I would fall and break a leg, nobody could hear my screams.
Once up on the main road, I walk to the entrance of the Monastery, but before climbing up the next hill, I treat myself on a frappe and a tiropitakia (well, tiropita, so huge) in the only restaurant/cafeteria there is. Very touristic, as all the buses park here, but with an amazing view over the mountains.
Mega Spileo is built against the rocks, with a stunning view. The original building has been destroyed many times before by fires (in 1400, 1640 and 1934) and later by the Germans, during the second WW, who killed all the monks and visitors and threw them of the cliffs. Only a few escaped and could hide with some of the valuable treasures of the church.
Mega Spileo is supposed to be the oldest Monastery of Greece, originally from 362 AD. It is built at a height of 924 mt and it is told that the Icon of the Virgin Mary was found in a hole in the rocks by a shepherdess. Therefore, Mega Spileo is known as a pilgrimage for not only the Greek people, as well as many foreigners. The museum, where a very old monk is supervising today, contains many valuable icons, manuscripts and other treasures. In the 17th century church you will see frescoes and a mosaic floor and a bronze door.
After my visit to the inside of the Monastery, I stroll around the gardens and discover a small graveyard at the far end of the rocks. There is nobody here and I don’t even know if I am allowed at this part of the grounds of Mega Spileo. Here the view is amazing and I sit for a while taking it all in.
Around 12.30 I return back, down the mountain to Kato Zachlorou, but first visit the little chapel at the side of the road.
Going down is even more difficult, as at times the pebbles make the trail slippery. Once back in Zachlorou, I stroll around in this small mountain village and just enjoy the scenery and the smell of the herbs. On one of the back streets, I encounter a very big snake, but although my camera is hanging around my neck, I am too slow or the snake too fast, to take a picture.
It was time to have lunch. There are a few tavernas in front of the train station and I choose to sit at taverne “Zachlorou” right above the small waterfall and overseeing the bridge. The sound of the water is relaxing and the raki, the owner gives me as a welcome drink, even more! I am glad I took the early train, as now I have time enough to enjoy a late lunch. I am the only guest at this time, but the barbecue is started and soon the home-made “loukaniko” (Greek sausage) is filling the air with a delicious smell. I never had such a tasty Xoriatiki (Greek salad) in all the 10 years I lived in Greece. A few more customers are arriving and the children of the owner of the taverna are brought home from school by taxi, as there is no school bus which goes to this tiny village.
I sit here for two hours and just loving it. Dogs and cats around me and later the German tourists arrive back for a quick-lunch. Adonis and Pollie Triantafillo, the owners of the taverna, let us have a peek in a box…….so cute……..one day old kittens!
The train to Kalavrita is passing by and it is the same train which will pick us up on the way back. So we relax a little bit more, while sipping some more tasty Greek wine. What a gorgeous day!