With Francisco and the children we dreamt of travelling in the mountains, of making discoveries, meeting people and taking pictures. This is our dream, our DRIM Project (Decouvertes, Rencontres, Images, Montagnes). The DRIM! Adventure began in Greece last autumn.
Follow us on our trip through this travel diary…
Last year we discovered, with some professional climbers, climbing in Greece, at Météores, on the island of Kalymnos and at Leonido. Greece, a wonderful country, nowhere flat: a heaven for mountain lovers. Warm people, exquisite local specialities, and a great climate during the fall. We had to get back to Greece!
This year we decided to go to the Peloponnese, the southern part of continental Greece, but not just to climb. We wanted to discover the wonders that we only caught a glimpse of last year. We didn’t want to rush from one place to another, but instead to follow a small country road, then another, then a roadsign, an arrow, any direction that tempted us. In a nutshell, we wanted to wander the Peloponnese Mountains with only our van and a couple of spare weeks. So we bought a return ticket for the ferry between Ancône, in Italy, and Patras in Greece. Our trip had begun!
Chestnuts and Climbing
For a couple of days we left the Peloponnese behind us and headed to Kalymnos, a Greek island off the Turkish coast. On our way back, we stopped near Athens, at Fili. We camped on the upper part of the city, next to the cliff. Early in the morning, we took time to enjoy a great site for novice climbers : no approach on foot, easy routes and even a bench at the bottom.
From here we went to the heart of the Peloponnese, in Arcadia. Then, one evening sitting around the campfire at the Loussios gorge : “ Anna, can you imagine that the other children are already in bed because tomorrow they will have to go to school ? ”. She smiles back at me, and I continue : “And we, we are eating chestnuts next to a campfire and a river, in Greece ”. She smiles again… But the rains interrupts us. We rush to gather our things and get back to the van to avoid getting soaked, and especially to finish off the chestnuts.
Normally we prefer nature to history, rocks to ruins, but the Acrocorinth, an old Corinthian citadel located between Athens and Arcadia, is definitely worth seeing.
The Acrocorinth site, on a hill, was continually occupied from the 6th century BC up to the 19th. Unbelievable is the only way to describe the site. Unbelievable to imagine the capacity of man to construct such sites, for thousands of years, and on top of a hill. Unbelievable too to see how nature eventually reclaims what’s hers. There are no shops for tourists, only a few information panels at the entrance, tall grass, bones, sheep’s droppings and uneven pathways that disappear and reappear as you go along. I felt great that afternoon as I walked along the ramparts. I could have sat down and stayed there all day, not doing a thing.
The day after, things were different. I was with the kids, Anna and Tomas. After looking at some old stones polished by horses’ hooves and discovering the ruins of an old mosque, suddenly they changed. We were no longer here, no longer now. Two soldiers, Anna and Tomas, were going to help me, their chief, watch out for the arrival of pirates and prevent them from entering the fortress. Time flew as we ran from tower to tower, hid behind the ramparts and gave the signal to attack! Thay day, my little soldiers loved their history lesson!
- Filí (climbing site). Coordinates: 38.103597, 23.668803. About 20 kilometres from Athena. Near the Mount Parnitha, the highest on the peninsula of Attica.
- Loussios gorge. Coordinates: 37.514350, 22.032700. Between the villages of Dimitsana and Stemnitsa, in Arcadia.
- Corinth. Coordinates: 37.895149, 22.870287. The fortress is being on a steep of a rocky hill 575 meters high at its highest peak.
Ski stations during in the fall
Following the advice of an acquintance we drove to Kalavrita, a charming town of around 2000 inhabitants. It’s the biggest ski station in the Peloponnese, and the second biggest in Greece. We discovered large open spaces, mountains all around us, and the only sounds to be heard were the wind and sheep’s bells. It was perfect, just what we had been looking for!
It was such a great experience that a couple of nights later we found ourselves at another ski station. This time, a very kind shepherdess, looking after her sheep, invited us in for a coffee.
- Kalavrita (city). Coordinates: 38.042004, 22.108951. About 200km from Athena. Region: Achaea.
- Kalavrita (ski station). Altitude : 1650m-2340m, on Mount Helmos. 14km from Kalavrita.
- Mainolo (ski station). Coordinates: 37.653237, 22.266577, 30km from Tripoli. Altitude: 1600 metres. Region: Arcadia.
Sea and River
Near Patras, we woke up by the sea. In a village we didn’t even know the name of. We had arrived there by chance, looking for a garage. Waking up on the beach, the place is dirty. Papers and dogs spread out across the sand. Amongst them pieces of driftwood, urchins. But we were fine here, happy. Alone. Swimming in October. But a little too much wind, and so we set off for the mountains.
Coordinates: 38.282890, 22.027624
We stopped at Zachlourou. It is a charming village of around a hundred people, on the side of a mountain. Below Zachlourou you can find the Vouraïkos canyons and a train station on the Diakofto-Kalavrita line. Since 1896 a train has been passing through several times a day. We walk along, jumping from sleeper to the next, the rails serving as slacklines.
Coordinates: 38.092655, 22.151373.
Lagada in Laconia
Lagada is a small village towards Sparta. There you can find canyons, beautiful cliffs, dozens of caves, stalamictes, stalactites. Only the sun is missing. The clouds hide the Mount Taygetos. Too bad ! We wouldn’t see it even once – but not for lack of trying, circling around the summit of the Peloponnese! The site is perfect for climbing with your family. It’s not very often you find a cabin at the foot of the cliffs !
Life is beautiful
We find ourselves in the small town of Dimitsana, in the heart of Arcadia. As soon as we arrived we fell under the spell of the village. Old stones, lively restaurants, donkeys, old people dressed all in black. In the evening, as we took a walk, Anna wanted to follow every street she sees. We could smell laundry, fire and food. You would think it was winter, it was so pleasant.
We headed back to Patras. The plan being to make a last climbing stop in Alpochori. We’re not sure which route to take. And we end up choosing the wrong one. We arrive at a large parking lot. It’s 4pm, and the weather is still fine for a small walk, whereas if we tried to get to Alpochori, it would be too dark to visit. So we decided to stay … Good choice !
We ended up spending two days. Then we drove towards Alpochori. We climbed, we enjoyed ourselves. When it was time to go the goats that we had heard all day long came to meet us. It was a nice moment.
We’re rushing to Patras, as we can’t find anywhere to buy food. It’s gray here, and it smells, and it’s ugly. Once we’re done with the shopping, we hurry back to our mountains. The road seems endless, dirty, and runs parallel to the motorway. Then, after a zigzag, we found a much more welcoming road with a sign indicating a village 7 or 8 kilometers away. We head for it, the road is narrow, and keeps rising, rising, rising. It’s impossible to park anywhere, the only possibility is to keep going, to keep climbing. Night has fallen, Patras is nothing but lights. We can see boats, ferrys and we count the bends in the road. We give up on trying to reach the village, and of trying to make it to the top. Or maybe we were already there, I didn’t know. The route is now unsurfaced, and Patras seems very far away from , even though it’s just below us. The hustle and bustle down there, and us, by the side of the road, with a beautiful view…
In 10 weeks I only learnt a couple of words,
Meta, Yasou, kalimera, Kalinicta, Se paracolo.
Vuno, Lycos, Ephrahisto too.
Vuno. The mountain. A word that sounds so pretty.
Lycos. The wolf. Because even if there are no wolves in the Peloponnese, it’s always good to have one in the stories for the children. If we can’t have a Greek myth, we can at least have a Greek word…
Ephrahisto. Thank you. To nature, and to the Greeks!