Destinations, Peloponnese

Kalavrita

Panagia Plataniotissa (All Holy Virgin of the Plane Tree), Kalavrita, Greece

Kalavrita

Kalavrita is a small town in Peloponnese, built on the slope of Mount Helmos at 735m.

The city of Kalavrita is known for its history and the natural beauty of its surroundings.

For the Greeks, Kalavrita is a symbolic city of freedom because from Kalavrita and the Monastery of Agia Lavra, the Bishop Germanos of Patra declared in 1821 the War of Independence against the Turkish domination with the motto “Freedom or Death.”

In Kalavrita took place the most serious massacre of the Nazi war committed in Greece. On December 13, 1943 German troops, as revenge for the death of 80 German soldiers, separated all men over the age of 14. All women, the elderly and the children were captured and held in the city school.

The men were taken on Kapi Hill just outside the city. The Germans burned the village after looting. From the hill the men could see their houses burning. Suddenly, a green flash shot up into the sky, signaling the Germans to take positions and the gunners opened fire. The massacre lasted 2 hours and killed 696 men, only 13 survived covered by fallen bodies.

The school where women and children were trapped was burned down. An Austrian soldier in charge of guarding them felt pity for them and opened the door to save them. His act cost him his life, he was executed for disobedience.

 

What to see in Kalavrita

The Monastery of Agia Lavra was built in the year 961 and came to have up to 1000 monks. It was burned by the Turks in 1585, 1600 and 1826. It was rebuilt in 1828 and in 1943 the Germans have again burned it. After World War II it has been rebuilt in the way we find it today. In the Monastery you can see very important relics and historical treasures.

The Monastery of Mega Spileo is 10km from the city of Kalavrita. It was founded in 362 AC. It is built in the opening of a natural cave on a cliff of 120 meters high perfectly harmonized with the wild landscape that surrounds it. In the Monastery are kept national and religious relics of great value although most of its library was destroyed by the Germans in 1943. The most important relic is the icon of the Virgin, work of the apostle Luke made of wax and masticha. It represents the Virgin sitting with her head slightly tilted to the right where she has Jesus in her arms. The Monastery of Mega Spileo can be visited by car or on foot from the train station in the village of Zachlorou.

The Odontotos rack railway, starts from the seaside town of Diakopto to the northeast of Peloponnese and ends in the city of Kalavrita at 730m altitude. During the 60 minutes of the route (22km) it crosses the Vouraikos canyon. Its speed is between 12km and 40km per hour.

At the beginning of the trip the route is straight until you reach 5 km from Diakopto, from there until Zachlorou the road is totally impressive, the road changes from side to side when passing through the canyon continuously. The train passes through a tunnel in curve and when it leaves it grabs to a narrow protrusion that seems to be suspended over the river. The road follows a leafy canopy of fields and finally arrives in Kalavrita. The Kalavrita train was built between 1889 and 1896. Since then the trains have run uninterrupted 365 days a year without any incident. It was designed by French engineers and hired Italian workers with experience in the construction of railways in the Alps. To climb the slopes the train uses the system of rack, since the slopes are superior to 3.5% of inclination. During the rest of the trip it moves like regular trains do.

The Cave of Lakes (Spileo ton Limnon) is located near the village of Kastria 17km from Kalavrita. The cave is an old subterranean river of three levels. During the winter, when the snow melts, it becomes a flowing river with waterfalls. During the summer, it dries up and the 13 lakes appear. In the lower level of the cave fossilized human bones and various animals were found, including hippopotamus.

The Kalavrita Ski Resort located on Mount Helmos, at an altitude of 2,340m in an impressive alpine landscape, is the most important ski resort of Peloponnese. Being the second largest ski resort in Greece.

Due to its proximity to Athens and its first class facilities many skiers visit Kalavrita throughout the ski season.

The ski resort of Kalavrita has 12 ski slopes (2 difficult, 2 intermediate, 6 easy and 2 very easy) of 20 kilometers in length. During the ski season one can practice snowboard and other extreme sports. Those who visit Mount Helmos can enjoy their day in various cafes, restaurants and bars.

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