|Τhe bridge of Leschiani|
Distance: 13,8 km
Time: 8 hours, with stops
Altitude: 709 m. (max) to 332 m. (minimum)
Total elevation gain/loss: 666 m.
Signing: red paint marks
Drinking water on walk: no
Start/end: Location ''Mavrolithari'', 5,5 km from Fitoko church (see further on)
Download GPS file: from Wikiloc
This is a fairly long circular walk, with which we pass by two stone bridges (Alevizou and Leschiani), from the monastery of Sourvia and the chapel of Agios Nikolaos. The time when we recorded it (31/5/2020) was 8 hours, but with a relaxed pace and long stops. The walk can be shortened by about 2.5-3 hours if we skip the monastery of Sourvia and Agios Nikolaos and climb up to Loutsa from the Leshiani bridge (see below).
The walk starts and ends at the location by the name ''Mavrolithari''. We go there by a dirt road that is passable by normal cars (not with lowered suspension). Just before the parking lot of the church in Fitoko, turn left onto a concrete road with a sign for "Moni Gorgoypikoou''. The road becomes asphalt for a while and then continues as a dirt road. We keep going straight, ignoring successive intersections on the right towards "Loumbarda", "Gioni" and "Gorgoypikoou monastery". After 5.5 kilometers from Fitoko (of which 3.5 on dirt road), we reach the location ''Mavrolithari'', where the dirt road turns right, starting to descend towards the ravine of Kaliakouda (also called Kserias). There we leave our car and start walking.
So we walk along the road, dense vegetation on our left. In a hundred meters, where the wild vegetation ends and we have an (abandoned) grove on our left, we leave the road and go down in the grove. The path is not readily visible at first, but we walk along the lower part of the estate smoothly, following the contours of the terrain. A little lower down the path is clearer. We cross the road at an angle to the right and find the path again below. We keep descending, come out on the road again and reach the bridge of Alevizou.
|The bridge of Alevizou|
Constructed in a year uknown, by unknown masons - possibly from Epirus - this is the second in a row of four bridges of the Kaliakouda gorge (the other three are of Louziniko, Leshiani and Karia). It got the name of the owner of a large estate in the area, who is believed to have paid for its construction. The span of its arch according to the book of Nikos Haratsis is 9.2 meters and the height is only 2.25 meters. The former president of the Makrinitsa community, Spyros Koikoumis, told Haratsis: ''I remember this bridge was very high, so much so that when we passed over it we were afraid to look down. The stream was very deep at this point and the rocks on the banks steep and high. But now it's been quite a few years that the water has brought down a lot of gravel and rocks, to an extent it is almost blocked from below.''
|Alevizou bridge at spring|
The bridge used to be for many years in bad condition, ready to collapse. It was repaired in 2009, however this repair has significantly altered its character and its current form is a far cry from the original. Also, the addition of low side walls increases the resistance to the flow of water, so that in the event of a heavy rain there is danger of it being swept away by the flooded stream.
After the bridge we continue up the dirt road. At the second sharp right turn above, a path branches off on the left going north towards Agios Athanasios chapel. Just next to this path`s entrance, we leave the road and follow another uphill path with red markings that heads east. On our way we cross the road twice. At the third time we walk for fifty meters on the road and find a path that continues climbing. Finally we come out on the upper side of a large meadow.
|In the meadow|
Here we join an earth road that continues climbing and further up ends, opening to another large meadow. We cross the meadow walking roughly in the middle of it, and at the other end we find a path that continues smoothly to the northeast.. Further on we cross a smaller clearing, where there is a plastic water tank and a watering can on our right. A dirt road ends here on the left. We walk through the clearing in the same direction and continue on a path going downhill, always following the red marks.
|The path in oak forest|
Eventually, we come out on a dirt road, on which we walk. We go down to a plateau and walk on a wider dirt road, going to the right. In a few meters there is a triple junction and we take the middle road, which soon brings us to the chapel of Panagia Leschiani. Next to it there is a stone water fountain, inscribed with the date 1888 (usually without water) opposite to it a large plane tree.
Ηaving got here, we must definitely visit the bridge of Leshiani. So, from the fountain we walk on the path to the south, and in five minutes find ourselves in front of the only three-arched bridge in Pelion. The span of the middle arch is 9.20 m and the height is 5.85 m.
Nikos Haratsis writes in his book "Stone arched bridges in Pelion": "This bridge is a work of art, a real monument that anyone seeing it will stop to admire and wonder... I was amazed by its shapely line and carefully looked at its three arches. What symmetry, my God, and what a beautiful rhythm it has! As if it is ready to move with you, the medial arch, which dominates the whole body, presses lightly but firmly on the two pedestals, gently weighs on the two smaller arches that are right-sided, and finally fades to the banks and merges with these. The sycamores, the heathers, the holly trees, the cedars that are on the banks and embrace it, as if they are the extension of the bridge, bound in the same rhythm of perfect nature... Its pedestals and bases are rooted in rocky, stable ground. One pedestal, the northern one, on the side where the water comes, is wedge-shaped to withstand the pressure of the water. The stones that form the arches are long and narrow, with narrow joints between them, giving the impression that the masons have not used a hammer. The stones that are low in the bases are larger and harder. Its walkway is cobblestone, which is in good condition and traces a slightly curved path, thus following the entire line of the bridge. Its side walls had been washed out at some point when the stream flooded down a lot of water, and they have been rebuilt. However, the difference in construction style is easily discernible. In that same year the south base, high near the arch, was also damaged and has been repaired. Here too, the difference in the construction style and the quality of stone can be seen.''
Here we have the option, if we wish, to shorten our walk by approximately 2.5 hours, skipping the Monastery of Sourvia and Agios Nikolaos, and continue climbing on the kalderimi from the bridge of Leshiani straight up to the clearing of Loutsa. But for the full walk, we return back to Panagia Leshiani. Here we enter a dirt road going uphill slightly. To our right, an uphill road leads to the monastery of Sourvia. We do not take this, instead we go straight ahead and in a few meters at the corner of the fence we turn left and walk on a wide path that begins to climb entering an oak forest. We follow the red marks and finally arrive at the (usually locked) entrance to the monastery of Sourvia.
Dedicated to the Holy Trinity and celebrating on the day of Pentecost, it was built in the 16th century by Saint Dionysios in Olympus and later had Saint Gerasimos the Younger as abbot. In 1878 the monastery was burnet down in the aftermath of a battle between Greek revolutionaries and Turks. In 1943, a Resistance printing press operated inside the catholicon (the main church). Today Sourvia, without monks anymore, belongs to Flamouri monastery. Restoration works are ongoing.
|Church interior at Sourvia mon.|
After the necessary stop to rest but also to enjoy the wonderful view to the south and west, we take the dirt road and continue downhill. After about 2 kilometers, paying attention to our left, we see the red signs marking the path to Agios Nikolaos. At first we move towards the east and then south, we cross a stream and finally we reach the chapel of Agios Nikolaos. Τhe dirt road we cross here comes from Leschiani.
We continue through the south side of the church going down the path and reach the bed of the stream of Kaliakouda. There is no bridge here. On the other bank, the path climbs uphill and we reach the large clearing-meadow of Loutsa with the characteristic tree, which stands out in the whole area. Here we intersect with the Makrinitsa-Kato Kerasia route. Near the tree there is a trigonometric pole (altitude 692 m.) next to an old shredding floor.
Leaving back the pole, we take a southwesterly direction and descend straight on a path that is now (in 2022) clear. A black water pipe also descends alongside us. Further down we come out into a long narrow clearing-meadow and walk to its right edge. Here we find a dirt road, which we follow. Further on, we enter a large meadow and pass by a pen on our right. Finally, the road takes us to the location of Mavrolithari, from where our walk began.