Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tsagarada (Taxiarches square-Agia Paraskevi square)

Taxiarches square
Distance: 1,85 km
Duration: 35 minutes
Altitude: from 560 m. (Taxiarches square) to 460 m. (Agia Paraskevi square)
Total elevation gain: 30 m.  Total elevation loss: 104 m.
Signed with red paint marks, yellow signs with number ''4''
Start: Taxiarches square  End: Agia Paraskevi square
Drinking water on walk: yes
Download GPS track:  from Everytrail   from Wikiloc

         This is an easy and beautiful short walk through Tsagarada, connecting the two main squares of Taxiarches and Agia Paraskevi. It is also useful to hikers who, for example, have come to Tsagarada walking from Milies or Agios Georgios  or Hania and wish to continue down to the sea to Damouchari  and Agios Ioannis or even Fakistra.
          Starting off from Taxiarches square and the characteristic quadruple drinking water fountain, we walk on the downhill kalderimi heading east, on a course roughly parallel to the main asphalt which runs a little higher.
       We go past Serpentin Garden mansion and a small wooden bridge on the left. Reaching a junction, we take the wide uphill kalderimi to the left. After that,  there are two more junctions where we go straight ahead, ignoring the uphill kalderimi to the left (attention!). Here and there we notice small yellow metal signs inscripted with number ''4'', which also serve as a guide to our destination (they actually indicate a local circular walk).
         Eventually, we come to cross the asphalt road going to Milopotamos beach. We cross this diagonally to the left and a few meters higher up find the continuity of the kalderimi which enters a wild chestnut forest.
Kalderimi in chestnut forest      
           Reaching the small chapel of Agios Panteleimon, we walk uphill on a narrow asphalt road for a few meters. In front of us is the magnificent stone building of Nanopoulio school, built in 1909 on a donation of a wealthy local who made a fortune as a trader in Egypt. It currently functions as elementary school for the children of Tsagarada and Mouresi.
Nanopoulio school
             To the left is Xenia hotel, closed and deserted for a long time now.
          Heading to the right, we find the kalderimi again and follow it until we reach the square of Agia Paraskevi, where grows the magnificent and famous thousand-years-old plane tree.
Αgia Paraskevi square


View from Sourvia monastery
Distance: 26 km
Duration: 10,5-11 hours (walking time 9 hours)
Αltitude: from 620 m. (Makrinitsa) to 970 m. (max) to 170 m. (Veneto)
Total elevation gain: 1334 m.  Total elevation loss: 1720 m.
Signed with: red paint marks, several metal signs
Start: Makrinitsa square  End:Veneto square 
Drinking water on walk: Flamouri monastery
Download GPS track: from Everytrail    from Wikiloc

       This is a long trek in Pelion, absolutely the longest walk from one village to another. On our way, we pass from the monasteries of Sourvia and Flamouri and over the stone bridge of Leschiani. Vegetation is varied: kermes oak, maquis, oak, chestnut, beech and holm oak forest. The best part of the walk is undoubtedly in the beautiful beech forest between Sourvia and Flamouri monasteries.

       Because this is a long and strenuous walk, it should be undertaken by fit hikers between May and September (when the day is long) starting early, preferably at dawn. It can become shorter by 3 km (one hour), if we start from Kato Kerasia instead of Makrinitsa (the section from Kato Kerasia to Leschiani can be seen here).

         Starting from the square in Makrinitsa, we ascend the kalderimi behind the church, in an easterly direction initially, and at a junction with a sign to the Koilia mansion we go up to the left (the other kalderimi straight ahead leads to the church of the Panagia). At the next junction we turn right onto a narrower kalderimi next to an old drinking water fountain with no water and continue uphill (if we were to go straight on, we would come out to the graveyard and then, following a cement road, would reach the road junction-see further on). We pass a second drinking water fountain, again without water, and continue on the kalderimi, taking the more steeply ascending branch at any junctions. We eventually come out onto a cement road at the top of the village where we turn left and then immediately up to the right at the junction (this is where the cement road from the cemetery comes out). We continue uphill and in a few metres we find ourselves next to a tree with a red mark that indicates the path section. It zigzags upwards and comes out at a fork in the road where there is a shrine and an unrestricted view of the horizon.
View to Volos
             We continue ahead on the road again to the north, leaving a tank of the water system on our right (from which the path to Prophitis Elias chapel-Trano Isoma begins). After a hut (attention left!), we follow the red marks and find the path on the left, cross the stream of Patosia and then immediately turn right to the north. The path, on which bits of kalderimi are discernable from time to time, climbs through kermes oak vegetation and further on emerges diagonally onto an earth road, which we follow northwards.
            At a crossroads, we cross another earth road and climb in a northwest direction to the hill in front of us. The path here is not very clear, but the red marks help to find our way. We don`t climb to the top of the hill, but rather walk around it from the left side. At the distance in front of us to the north, we can make out two large kermes oak trees. This place is known as Panayias Pournari and we head towards it. We emerge at an angle onto an earth road, which we follow until we reach a water trough next to a water ditch. From there we ascend a rocky slope on an unclear path. We soon reach the ridge and, leaving on our right side one of the oaks which is a distance of about 20 metres away, we begin to descend, passing next to another big kermes oak on our left. Here the path is better defined.
           Finally, we emerge onto a road, which immediately comes to a junction with a water trough at location called Nifis mnima (“bride`s grave”). In front of the trough runs the earth road that leads from Agios Onoufrios towards the springs Kaliakouda and Xirakia. We cross this  and climb on the other bank on a path that initially isn’t clear, following the red marks. We soon find a clearly defined path and head northwest, between kernes oak vegetation. At some point, we pass very close to the edge of the large ravine of Kaliakouda which is on our right. Further down, walking in an almost westerly direction, we eventually come out into the large clearing of Loutsa, next to a deserted pen. To our right is a water pond and to our left is a characteristic lone tree, the only one in that area, next to a threshing floor with a cement pole (altitude 692 m.). In the distance, lake Karla can be seen. Here we cross with the route Fitoko-Lagonika-Pouri, which goes to the northeast.
The ravine of Kaliakouda
         We cross the clearing heading northwest, passing by an old well, and on the other side find the path, which appears eroded by water at its start. Descending with zigzags, we meet sections of kalderimi and eventually come to the three-arched bridge of Leschiani, one of the four stone bridges over the ravine of Kaliakouda. This is a proud work of art and craftmanship, a monument to the place where it stands. Constructed at time unknown (possibly during the second half of the 19th century), based firmly on the rocks of the river banks, expertly made to withstand the erosion of time and the flooding torrent. And indeed, it still survives in very good condition.
The stone bridge of Leschiani
         Five minutes after the bridge, we reach the small settlement of Leschiani and the church of Panagia (Virgin Mary). The water fountain next to the large plane tree dates from 1888 according to the inscription, but there usually is no running water (we may take water from one of the cottages if necessary). Here we join an earth road, ascending slightly. To our right an uphill earth road branches heading to the Sourvia monastery. We don`t take this, but go straight ahead (attention) and in a few metres, at the corner of the fence, turn left and walk on a wide path initially, that narrows and starts climbing as it enters into oak forest.
Oak forest above Leschiani

       Following the red marks, we eventually reach the monastery of Sourvia. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, this was built in the 16th century by Saint Dionysius of Olympus. In 1878 the monastery was burnt after a battle between Greek revolutionaries and Turks, and in 1943, during the German occupation, a press was operating by Greek Resistance forces into the church. Today, half ruined and without monks, it is administered by the monks of Flamouri monastery. Restoration work is undergoing.
Sourvia monastery
        After a necessary break for rest and to enjoy the wonderful view, we climb up from the eastern side of the monastery and find a path heading north into mixed oak and beech forest. Further on we come to a clearing and continue in the same direction in beech forest, following the frequent red marks. After walking a fair distance on a beautiful path, we join a road that was opened for logging. Where it turns to the right, the path continues straight ahead for a short distance and comes out onto a wider road that comes from Ano Kerasia and goes towards Kokinogia, Ovrios beach and Pouri. We cross the road, continue on the path and soon reach the road again. In a few metres there is a junction where we turn right to the northeast. After fifty metres, looking to our left (attention!), we see the path entrance at the side of the road with red marks and a small metal sign.
Walking in beech forest
           Following the red marks, we eventually come out at a water spring and a wide path-kalderimi. Descending on this through chestnut forest, we reach the Monastery of Flamouri in a few minutes. Built at the end of the 16th century by Saint Simeon, it is one of the few remaining monasteries in Greece with no direct road access or electricity, yet still functioning normally (it has four monks). It follows the athonite rules and therefore excludes women from entering inside. Male visitors however are welcome inside and will also be offered hospitality for the night upon request. Restoration work is in progress here too. It celebrates on 6th of August (Transfiguration of Christ the Saviour).
Flamouri monastery

        From the entrance to the monastery we continue on the wide path which soon begins to descend (we ignore uphill paths off to the right), incorporating sections of kalderimi. We pass a yellow sign on our right showing the way to Koromilia peak and the monument of Alfons. Further down we reach another junction with a small sign in Greek (attention!). Straight ahead, a path continues towards the old ruined monastery dock of Agios Nikolaos by the sea. We take the left branch, descending to cross the river bed and walk along the other bank to reach Petrialo, an open rocky area with a view over the sea.
         Continuing on the path, always marked with red dots, we descend to cross a large river bed, Kakorema, and ascend on kalderimi at the other bank. The path continues in a thick forest with holm oak trees (a virtual tunnel of vegetation), until we finally come out onto an earth road, on which we walk to the left, entering Veneto. The village square, where we will normally find a restaurant open (tel. 6974907595 or 6989612016), is to the right of the road down some steps. Recently, accomodation in Veneto is also available (Apartments Veneto).