Greece Stories and Tips

To Kalavrita at dusk

Approaching Kalavryta Photo, Greece, Europe

After the bridge the road south-west leads to Patra, the third largest city in Greece and a major ferry port for the boats travelling from Italy. We go the other way, on a coastal road towards Athens. There is an inexplicable toll to pay before driving on what seems to be a continuous roadwork for quite a few miles, to then change to a worn and weary, busy single-carriageway. Luckily, we are not going very far on this road and soon are turning off inland towards Kalavryta.

Kalavryta is a small town in the mountains of north Peloponesse, known for its historical significance. It is often considered the place where the Greek war of independence started while during the WW2 it was a site of an infamous massacre, where all male villagers older than 12 were machine-gunned in retribution for the Greek resistance's killing of German soldiers. 696 people were shot and only 13 survived. The famous monastery of Agia Lavra, a birthpalce of Greek War of Independence was burned to the ground as was the village of Kalavryta itslelf.

Modern Kalavryta is, however, known mostly as a holiday resort. Its high location makes it one of rare ski areas in Greece, while the (partially rack and pinion) railway that scales the cliffs of the Vouraikos gorge provides unique means of accessing the village and makes appearance on many lists of the best railway trips in Europe.

We drive, though, along a new road that in tight switchbacks scales the heights from the sea level to over 1,600 meters above sea level. There is something stark about this road, hacked from the mountainside, relentlessly climbing up into the red mountains.

We get good glimpses of the Vouraikos gorge which looks wild, dramatic and beautiful in the dying light. Before the road turns inland, it climbs high enough to give a vista above the mountains, towards the Corinth Gulf and beyond.

Closer to Kalavryta some buildings appear, including monastery growing out of the rock and individual farm houses. The crests and ridges, however, are defaced by wind-turbines, sinister and menacing at dusk. It seems a crime to put them here, which even by Greek standards, is a pretty spectacular landscape.

By the time we find our hotel in a village of Kleitoria, a few miles past Kalavryta, the darkness has fallen and we are very happy to leave the winding, mountain roads to the night.

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