14-day trip to Greece
Visiting Ioannina, Meteora area, Kalambaka, Church of the Sleep of the Virgin , Monastery of the Transfiguration of Jesus (or Great Meteoron), Monastery of St. Stephen, Rousanou Monastery, San Nikolas Anapausas Monastery, Varlaam Monastery, Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity), Delphi, Peloponnese, Olympia, Kalamata, Mystras (Morea capital city) with Despot’s Palace, Afendikò Monastery and Pantanassa Convent , Neapolis, Elafonissi island, Monemvasia, Argolis, Nafplion, Fortresses of Palemede, Epidaurus, Argos, Tiryns cyclops’ city, Mycenae, Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, Akrocorinto.
We left Venice by ferry and we arrived to Igoumenitsa after a bit more than 24 hours of sailing.
Greece welcomed us with a torrential downpour and an unwelcoming surprise: the motorway to Ioannina was not yet completed. We had to travel the main road, full of bends and full of trucks, with such low clouds that created a thick fog. When we reached Ioannina, rain was still falling and clouds were very low, so we limited the visit to the Citadel. We went to the mosque of Aslan Aga which, for the tourists’ sake, had already closed at 15:00. It was 15.05! Quite disappointed and wet through we took the road to Kalambaka. Because of the bad weather conditions we could only imagine the beautiful view of the lake and the Citadel of Ioannina. We drove 130 km…even more terrifying than the first part. We climbed the Katara Pass (1700 m) where the thermometer reached 7 degrees! Finally we arrived to Kalambaka and the weather got better. The next morning, a bright sun allowed us to visit the area of Meteora in the best conditions.
Meteore: Kalambaka with he Church of the Sleep of the Virgin and primitive monasteries
The landscape in which the primitive settlements of Meteora monasteries are set is beautiful. The monasteries are almost unreachable and their architecture is very simple; the inner decorations suffer from the poor state of preservation and the lack of light.
In Kalambaka, the Church of the Sleep of the Virgin is very beautiful (the fog hides part of its view). The marble pulpit is in the centre of the nave and the frescoes (beautiful), dating back to the thirteenth, fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, represent the historical cycle of the Orthodox Church and would deserve urgent renovation.
Meteore: Monastery of the Transfiguration of Jesus (o Great Meteoron), Monastery of St. Stephen
The Monastery in honour of the Transfiguration of Jesus is known by the name of the Great Meteoron. Until 1923 it was accessible only with rope ladders, then it was built a very steep path followed by 115 very irregular steps. To visit the Monastery is an enterprise. It is worth for the beauty of the church decorated with wonderful iconographic compositions. Also the wide refectory, today turned into a museum, is noteworthy. The Monastery of St. Stephen, once almost inaccessible, now is reachable through an easy bridge only 8-meter long. There are two churches: San Caralambo is the central Church, but the old original church is the one dedicated to St. Stephen.
Meteore: Monastery Rousanou and Monastery of St, Nikolas Anapausas painted by monk Theofanis
Meteore: Monastery of Varlaam and Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity)
The Monastery Varlaam is “comfortably” accessible climbing “only” 195 steps. The oldest church is dedicated to the Three Bishops whereas the central one, called Katholikon, is the most significant and is finely painted. At the Monastery of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) you can arrive climbing 140 uncomfortable steps carved into the rock. The main church is dedicated to the Trinity and a chapel is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Quite complicated the complex of frescoes inspired by the historical cycle. The view is beautiful and ranges over many of the other monasteries.
Delfi: Ginnasio, Tholos, Sacred Way, Temple of Apollo and Museum
Delphi welcomed us with a bright sun which lighted the field of olive trees and beautified the plain below. The archaeological site is in a wonderful location on the slopes of the mountain, thus becoming even more spectacular. In ancient times, the site housed the important homonymous oracle. There are many significant monuments, I want to mention the Theatre and the Stadium. Not to be missed a visit to the museum.
Olympia: Stadium, Hippodrome, Leonidaion, Temple of Olympia (or of Zeus), Temple of Heraion and Sacred Altar
Olympia: the Museum with several remains, as the important gables of the Sanctuary of Zeus
The museum contains remains of great beauty (and importance) with numerous marble statues, Assyrian bronzes and more. The most interesting room is the one in which the gables of the Sanctuary of Zeus have been reassembled.
Mystra (capital of Morea): Villehardouin castle, Despot’s palace and Saint Sophia church, Metropolis, Saint-Theodores church
We proceeded downwards crossing the Peloponnese region until we reached Kalamata, renowned throughout the world for the homonymous olives. To get to Mystras, just before Sparta, we drove a scenically beautiful road, but very difficult to drive. Mystras, a collapsed town, was the capital of the Morea under the Byzantine, Turkish and Venetian dominations. The town is dominated by the ruins of the franc fortress and further down, there are the ruins of military quarters and the Despot’s Palace (under restoration). I show the most significant churches of Mystras (Saint Sophia church, Metropolis, Saint-Theodores church). Some of them are well preserved whereas the frescoes suffer very much from the site’s state of utter neglect despite it has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mystra (capital of Morea): Monastery Afendikò, Convent Pantanassa and Monastery Peribleptos
The Monastery Afendikò has maintained its external structure whereas the interior seems to have been emptied. The Convent Pantanassa is still in use whereas the Monastery Peribleptos, even if in a state of neglect, shows all its original beauty.
Monemvasia: entrance, Hotel Malvasia, Levante gate, Panagia Chrysafitissa
We completed the crossing of the Peloponnese region going to see again locations visited more than 25 years ago (Neapolis and the island Elafonissi), and finally we reached the wonderful and amazing town of Monemvasia. This fortified town is located on an island and is not visible from the mainland. The downtown is inhabited by turists.
Monemvasia: Agia Sophia
The upper town is completely destroyed. The only existing monument, in a very panoramic place, is the church of Ayia Sophia.
Nauplia: Bourtzi island, Palamede Fortress
Another difficult road transfer , with numerous bends and a very irregular route, is the one made to reach the Argolic Gulf where, in a wonderful position, there is Nafplio. This beautiful town was literally swamped, by an infinite number of tourists. Bars are son numerous as well, and each of them has a big number of outdoor tables. The countless small restaurants spread out into more than half of the roadway…which is not pedestrian! Nafplio is dominated by the Fortress of Palamidi, built by the Venetians only in three years (from 1711 to 1714), which is formed by seven bastions.
Epidaurus: the theatre dates back to 4th century BC and is known for its exceptional acoustics
Epidaurus is famous throughout the world for its amazing theater, celebrated as “the wonder of Epidaurus”, dating back to the fourth century BC. It is still in use, seats up to 14.000 spectators and has an exceptional acoustics.
Argo, with its beautiful museum and Tiryns, the cyclopic city
In the chaotic city of Argos, dominated by the “Kastro”, beautifully located on the hill of Larissa, it is important the archaeological museum. Nearby there is the cyclopic city of Tiryns, whose origins date back to 2.000 BC; it is surrounded by walls built with blocks weighing up to 13 tons.
Mycenae: Lion Gate, Palace of Atreus , Treasure of Atreus, Tomb of Clytemnestra and Agamennone’s mask
Another amazing city is Mycenae. It dates back to 1700 BC and was destroyed in 1100 BC. Its emblem is the Lion Gate which leads into the palace of Atreus whose remains largely give you the idea of its magnificence. As much great are also the Treasury of Atreus and the Tomb of Clytemnestra.
Ancient Corinth: Temple of Apollo, Way of Lechaion, Pirene spring and Akrocorinto
We arrived on the eastern side of the Corinth Canal where, besides a beautiful and quaint church, we crossed a bridge over the canal which, at the passage of ships, lays on the bottom of the channel itself. The Ancient Corinth is important since the Neolithic age due to its strategic location. Historically it is remembered for the Apostle Paul’s speech in defense of Christianity. It is interesting the museum and also Akrocorinto is worth a visit; Akrocorinto is a huge fortress that witnessed all the invasions occurred during the centuries.