Greek Journal Part
Greek Journal: 5/13/2005-6/8/2005
TownàCorfu TrailàIguominitsaàZorganian Villages, Vikos Gorge
and Mt. AstrakaàAthensàLondonàDenver
6/4/2005: Monodendri in the Pindos: The most northwest region of Greece is called Epiros and in the furthest
northern recess of this region are the Zagorian Villages
and the Vikos Gorge. This finger of Greece is bordered by Albania on the northwest and the
Former Yogoslavian Republic of Makedonia on the northeast. Most of the building in the original 46
villages were built during the 1700’s and 1800’s, but many of the monasteries
predated the villages by 500 to 600 years and some of the bridges were built as
early as 900 to 1000 AD.
The homes, called
archontikas, were build from lime stone blocks cut and quarried in the Pindos
and the ubiquitous slate roofs were collected from the local gorge and
mountains. There was a lot of new
construction and restoration taking place in the active villages we
visited. The majority of new building
is neo-concrete and rebar, generally unfinished, but in Zagoria all of the new
construction is being done in the same style and from the same materials as the
original buildings. The attention to
detail and technique was so good that it was difficult to tell the old
buildings from the new. Our lodging at
the Zarkada Manor House was one
of the newer structures, but not only was the outside done in the lime stone
block construction, but inside they had recreated the elaborate wood work
typical of the Zagorian homes.
The outside of the Zarkada Manor House
The ceiling in our room
was constructed of 105 separate pieces of wood, not counting the light fixture.
Our first night at the inn we met a young couple from
Australia, Dan and Julie, and set plans for hike the Vikos Gorge the following
day (today). Dan and Julie are young,
energetic, smart techies who had worked for Dell and AT&T respectively in London for the past two
years. They were now on their way back
via a two and half month trip around the world.
The Guinness Book of World Records awarded the Vikos Gorge
the title of “worlds deepest gorge” based on the depth to width ratio. In some sections of the gorge the lime stone walls rise straight up 3,000 ft and is
3,600 ft wide giving it a .82 depth to width ratio. A few other gorges around the world also
claim the title with various qualifications, but no one can touch the 0.82
ratio. Probably the hands down winner
for deepest gorge with no qualifying criteria is Tsangpo
Gorge which is located in Tibet and sits 15,000 feet below the Gyala Perli
mountain towering 23,901 feet high to the north and the Namcha Barwa at 25,446
feet high to the south. The Yarlung
runs 15,000 feet below the top of the gorge, but the mountains that form the high points of the
gorge are 13 miles apart.
We met up with Dan and Julie in
the morning and descended directly from our lodging in town down the wall of
the gorge to the Vaidomatis
River. Once again my preconceived notion of Greece
as a dry rocky landscape was altered as we passed through lush forests of
maples, beech, fig, and oak trees and a ground scape covered
with ferns and moss rock.
At the bottom of the Vikos Gorge
After a beautiful five and half hour hike through the gorge
we ended up climbing back up from the river to the Zagorian town of Vikos, 26 km away from
our starting point in Monodendri. We
found a small café and spent an hour sipping on Mythos and talking before
catching a taxi back to Monodendri.
Back in Monodendri
Mo and I took about a 1 km
afternoon walk to the abandoned Monastery of Agia Paraskevi. This 12th century monastery is
another tribute to the architects and builders of the past. A kalderimi (trail) winds through town to the
lower platia in Monodendri and then curves around a hillside until you enter
the monastery grounds. The monastery
itself is so well preserved it could still be functioning today, but I think it
serves the village better as a tourist attraction then a religious retreat for
Walking the kalderimi through Monodendri on our way to the
Monastery of Agia Paraskevi
Passing through the monastery proper you move on to a trail
that hugs a precipitous cliff side on its way to "Megali Spilia", a
cave that once served as a meditation site for the monks. This unprotected trail is not a place for
people with height issues. On the way to
the cave you pass through a small wooden gate and then do a little 3rd
class climbing (hands and feet) up a small rise to the continuation of the
trail. Our young Australian friends
refused to venture past the monastery.
Mo inching her way along the NFWD* trail to Megali Spilia. We decided there were no attorneys in Greece.
When we returned we all decided to spend an extra night at
the manor and enjoyed a Greek dinner at a local restaurant.
to Greek Journal Part XIV
Go to Greek Journal Index
* Norton Fricke wet dream