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. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hania-Zagora

Kalderimi in beech forest
Distance: 9,5 km
Duration: 3,5 h (walking time 2.50')
Altitude: from 1218 m.(Hania) to 477 m. (Zagora)
Total ascent: 108 m. Total descent: 818 m.
Signed with red paint marks and yellow metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (asphalt road near Zagora)
Download GPS track:   from Everytrail   from Wikiloc


           This used to be part of the main route connecting Zagora to Volos in the days before the construction of the asphalt road in the 1930`s, consisting entirely of kalderimi (cobblestone). The rest of the original kalderimi  from Hania to Volos can be found in the walk Alli Meria (Volos)-Hania.
           In the first section of this walk from Hania to Profitis Elias chapel, we walk in beautiful beech forest (1,5 h). In the second section from Profitis Elias down to the asphalt road bridge (1 h), the kalderimi passes mainly between apple orchards (with a small part in chestnut forest). In the final section from the bridge to Zagora, we have to walk on the asphalt road, because this has covered the old kalderimi.
            From Zagora, we can continue descending for 1 h 15' to get to the tourist beach of Horefto and have a swim in the crystal clear Aegean sea (see Zagora-Horefto route). We can return from Horefto to Zagora and from Zagora to Hania and Volos by KTEL regional bus (www.ktelvolou.gr). Another option, if we have a rented taxi or bus, is to arrange to collect us from the asphalt road bridge and take us to Zagora or Pouri (to walk on the excellent Pouri-Horefto route), in order to avoid walking on the asphalt, which (walking) anyway takes place into an overgrown and attractive scenery, to compensate for the inconvenience.
The old kalderimi remains in good condition near Hania, a joy to walk on
          Starting from Kokkinis hotel-restaurant (To Hani tou Kokkini) on the main road at Hania, we initially ascend on the asphalt for a few meters to reach Pileas hotel. From the other end of Pileas` parking lot, two dirt roads continue northeast and we take the narrow one on the right, which ends in fifty meters and continues as kalderimi. In a short while we reach a small plateau, used for making charcoals in the past, to which a dirt road also comes from the left. At the other end we find again the kalderimi, clear and in good condition, descending nicely into the beech forest. We can see Agriolefkes peak with the ski slopes at the distance on our right.
Agriolefkes peak (1470 m.) with the ski center
        On our way down we cross the asphalt ten times, finding the kalderimi directly on the opposite side or after walking a short distance to the left. On the final (tenth) time on the asphalt, we walk on to the left and notice the entrance to the peaceful chapel of Profitis Elias (ΠΡΟΦΗΤΗΣ ΗΛΙΑΣ), a suitable place for a stop.
Profitis Elias chapel
          After just another five meters on the asphalt, we find the kalderimi again. From now on, it winds down between apple orchards and we must apply high caution not to lose it at certain spots. After crossing a dirt road, further down we come out to another narrow road and follow it, noticing the sign. A little further on, as the road starts to go slightly uphill, we leave it to the left to the overgrown kalderimi, which is not readily noticeable (attention to the red marks).
Invisible kalderimi through orchards
         Further down, the kalderimi takes a left turn through an apple orchard, we cross another dirt road (attention to the marks) and enter into chestnut forest. Unfortunately, this beautiful stretch soon ends joining a concrete road, which has replaced the kalderimi.
The kalderimi in chestnut forest
           Walking steadily downhill on the concrete road, we meet two junctions and go right. Eventually, we reach the main asphalt road  and cross over the large Galanorema stream. According to Nikos Haratsis` book ''A hiker`s guide to mt.Pelion'', a few meters down below there used to be an arched stone bridge in the past, which was long ago destroyed. 
             From here on, we have to walk on the asphalt, because this has replaced the old cobblestone all the way to Zagora. Entering the village, we pass by the drinking water fountain Kamara on our left side, with a kalderimi-concrete road ascending to Agia Paraskevi church. Continuing on the main asphalt, we soon reach the Agia Kiriaki church square on the right, a good place for a refreshing stop.
Agia Kiriaki church square at Zagora
          The track of the recorded walk ends on  the main asphalt road of Zagora, shortly before Agios Georgios church square, exactly at the spot where we meet the kalderimi going down to Horefto (see Zagora-Horefto walk).