Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flamouri monastery-Kato Koromilia (Alfons memorial)

View to Flamouri monastery from Stavros
Distance: 12,5 km
Duration: 5,5 hours (walking time 4.30')
Altitude: from 780 m. (start) to 430 m. (min) to 965 m. (max)
Total ascent: 587 m. Total descent: 644 m.
Signing: red paint marks, a few metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Flamouri monastery)
Download GPS track:   from Everytrail     from Wikiloc

         This is an excellent circular walk in North Pelion to visit Flamouri monastery and Alfons Hochhauser`s memorial, which is located at the site of his death near Kato Koromilia peak. To reach the start of the walk, we need preferably a 4x4 car, but a normal car can also do the job. From the National Resistance monument on the asphalt road just before Ano Kerasia we take the earth road to the left heading northeast to Flamouri monastery. We reach a junction and go right, past the chapel of Agia Paraskevi. This section is suitable for normal cars too, but later, after a junction with an uphill road to the right that leads to Ovrios beach, our road gets rougher, so if we have a normal car we`d better leave it there and walk on the road for half an hour. On our way we meet a V- junction and go right uphill.
      The road eventually ends at the location called Stavros. Here is the proper start of our walk. We take the wide downhill path-kalderimi to reach the impressive monastery of Flamouri after half an hour. Built in the second half of 16th century, it still follows the athonite rules, so entrance is not allowed for women. Male visitors, however, are welcome inside and can also eat and stay overnight. Restauration works are underway. It currently has four monks and celebrates on the 6th of August (Transfiguration of Christ the Saviour).
Flamouri monastery
        We continue descending on the main path, ignoring two minor uphill paths. We come to a junction with a yellow signpost and take the narrow path on the right that crosses the stream of Vathoulomeni and then starts to wind uphill on the opposite slope.
Down on the path to cross Vathoulomeni stream
          We keep following the red marks going uphill, ignoring a downhill path with blue marks that leads to Paliokastro of Veneto and Spilies. Looking around, as we ascend on the ridge to a southerly direction, we can see the monastery from above as a reassuring sign of human presence in an otherwise wild and unyielding landscape.
View to the north from Koromilia ridge
            After reaching the concrete pole marking the peak of Kato Koromilia (827 m.), we find nearby Alfons` memorial fixed onto a rock, an engraved bronze piece of his boat ''Thetis'' prepared in advance by himself. Alfons Hochhauser (1906-1981) was born in Styria, Austria but spent most of his life in Pelion. He left home at the age of 16 and began wandering around the Mediterranean sea. After coming to Pelion in 1926, he lived as a shepherd and a fisherman and was involved in numerous sea diving expeditions. Returning back after the war, he created with his wife Chariklia a hostel for tourists wishing to spend their vacations close to nature, initially based at Trikeri island and then at Koulouri beach near Veneto. Being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 75, he decided to climb to Koromilia peak on a snowy winter day and stay there, deliberately freezing to death. He was discovered two months later, when the snow started to melt. The story of this extraordinary man can be found in Kostas Akrivos` book ''Ποιος θυμάται τον Αλφόνς'' (''Who remembers of Alfons'', in Greek) and at the website www.alfons-hochhauser.de (in German).
Alfons Hochhauser's  memorial
           Leaving Alfons` memorial, we continue in the same direction slightly uphill (watch for the red marks) and find the path entering the beech forest. This after a while joins an earth road that zigzags down a slope (some bits of the original path remain in between) and then continues on flat terrain heading south-southwest. After about 1,5 kilometer on the road, watching on our right we find a path marked with red paint and a walker sign heading north and follow it into the beech forest.
Walking on the return path 
          This eventually opens to the path-kalderimi that leads to Flamouri monastery, next to a drinking water fountain, a little below the end of the road at Stavros, from where our walk had started. 

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