Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Lake Doxa

Lake Doxa is the only mountain lake in Greece, 900 metres above sea level. It's near the ancient town of Feneos and it's an artificial lake, fed and drained by the small river Doxa which empties into the plain of Feneos.

Our route from The Madonna of the Rocks to the lake was over the mountains, with the plateau of Feneos, a valley, at our feet. It's a beautiful plateau like a vast mosaic of colours - we did not stop the car so I did not take any pictures, and I could not find any satisfactory ones on the web. The plateau is the remains of an old lake which disappeared in one night. The cause was the creation of a sink hole, an impressive opening of a diameter of 10 metres.  Legend has it that the sink hole is the work of Hercules who decided to drain the swamp in order to provide the villagers with fertile soil.

Even today, the rain water which ends up on the plateau from the surrounding mountains falls into the sink hole and after traveling a subterranean route the water springs near the village Lykouri, forming the river Ladonas.


The lake is surrounded by pine, Cephalonica fir and oak forests.

The coexistence of wetlands and an alpine landscape make the region a unique place for wild flora and fauna. Otters are to be found here, but we were not fortunate to see any.


We did see lots of fish and tadpoles though.

The lake is surrounded by three of the highest mountains in the Peloponnese,  Ziria, Helmos,  and Dourdouvana.


In the heart of the lake is a small peninsula and at the end of it, the small church of Agios Fanourios.


There is a small platform on the edge of the lake near the church and quite a few people were swimming around there

I don't know what this old arch was part of, but I would have loved to have swum under it.

In the distance we could see the damn that regulates the flow of water keeping the valley dry


It's an enchanted place

My sister who had visited lake Doxa before remembered having seen horses grazing at a different part of the lake, so we went to investigate

We found them at the exact same spot, some tethered, some not.

A group of people were having a picnic

and from this spot we could see the peninsula and the little church.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

An evening by a lacuna

I have written about the lake in Vouliagmeni, near Athens, before, particularly about the time when I realised that it was a lacuna, which you can see here but also when we saw a play in one of the smaller lakes that's adjacent to the main one which you can see here .

I have swum here lots of times, but on this occasion we came to have an evening meal. We wanted to come early before it got dark so that we could see the changes in the lake and the surrounding rocks as the light diminished but when I booked us a table I was told that the restaurant did not open until 9:00 after all the bathers had left. We nevertheless arrived a bit early, when there was still some light left.

This is the restaurant area, empty in this photograph, as we were the first to arrive. It's a perfect place to sit as it provides the views that are shown below

The rocks were lit beautifully and the whole ambience was enchanting.

It is all very atmospheric but in order to appreciate what the whole area really looks like during the day, it's necessary to look at the first link I provided above .

The small light on the right is a LED display showing the air temperature which was 26oC and the water temperature which was 27oC. As I pointed out in my previous post the temperature of the water is constant, 22oC-27oC which means that the lake functions as an all-year round spa.


We had a delicious meal which was greatly enhanced by the surroundings.

We asked our waiter what the little boat was for and he said it was for the bride. Apparently there was a wedding reception in another part of the grounds and the bride was going to get there by boat.


She did arrive half an hour later - as romantic weddings go, you can't beat this.


The groom or the best man, not sure which, rowed the boat across the lake

to this area of the grounds where the reception was being held.


As we were leaving, I walked up to the entrance and had a last look at one of my favourite spots for swimming.

I used to regularly swim through the narrow passage that is between these two rocks. I must go there soon again.

Finally, this is a poem by Kay Ryan sent to me a few days ago by a friend who knows how much I love the lake.


Lacunae aren't
what was going to be
empty anyway.
They aren't spaces
with uses, such
margins or highway edges.
Lacunae are losses
in the middle of places -
drops where something
documented happened
but the document is
gone - pond shaped
or jagged.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Madonna of the Rock

On our first full day in Upper Korinthia, we left the village of Trikala  where we were staying, and drove up the mountains - our destination, the Virgin of the Rock which is located near the town of Kato Tarsos near Feneos.
The mountains are covered with pines. Snow is abundant here in the winter and I presume the roads must become impassable at times.
But, in August, the sun was shining and the scenery was something we do not associate with Greece
at least, not the Greece of picture postcards.

We got our first glimpse of the so-called Meteora of the Peloponnese soon enough, bare jutting rock that rose above us


we then turned a corner and more pines all around us

we then got a better view of the Meteora, which was our destination.

At every turn the views would change


and teasingly, the rocks of the Meteora would reappear.

It was all spectacularly beautiful.

We abandoned the main road and turned into a dirt track which was really hard on the car. Stathis, my brother-in-law, pointed at the rock ahead of us, and asked 'can you see the cross?'

We could hardly see it, but it's clear in the photograph above, when I zoomed in with my camera

We continued driving


We eventually arrived, parked the car and started walking


In the middle of the crag, behind the cross is a two-level cave. The lower level is now a church, while the upper level was used by the locals as a refuge from the Turks during the 400-year Ottoman occupation of Greece.

It is believed that the upper level was also used as a krifo scholio, a secret school. The Ottoman authorities prohibited education in Greek obliging the Greek people to organise small, secret schools in monasteries and churches. These schools are often credited with having played a decisive role in keeping Greek language and literacy alive through the period of Turkish rule in Greece between the 15th and 19th centuries.


Legend has it that the church was created by a woman from Tarsos during the time when Mohammed the Second's army besieged and attacked the town of Tarsos in 1458. All the women of the town were killed, taken hostage or committed suicide by throwing themselves off the rock in order to avoid capture. One woman threw herself off the rock while holding her child and as she was falling, she cried out: 'Virgin, Mother of God, save me'. She survived the fall and in gratitude placed a few icons in the cave. This was the beginning, more people brought icons and the church was born.

Wonderful views when we reached the top of the steps

we stopped at the entrance, looked at the icon,

and took some time to admire the view.

The lower cave consists of at least five chambers - difficult to remember as it progressively got darker

icons, incense burners, candles. The passage leading to the next chamber was very low: Ken had to stoop to get in

and then it got so dark that we had to walk very carefully, sometimes in total darkness. In one of the chambers of the cave we managed to discern a coffin where the bones of those who had lived as Christian hermits in the cave were kept. There are frescos on the walls which date from the middle of the 19th century, painted by Asimakis Skaltzas.  We could not see those as we were totally unprepared and had no torch with us.

A ladder led up to an upper storey

and to a platform 

which afforded views of the cross and the landscape beyond
We could see the Ziria mountain range, our car and the little shrine at the bottom of the steps that lead up to the cave 

This square hole in the rock, this window, led us to think that this might be the second level where the locals used to hide from the Turks, but we're not sure

one more photograph of the bell,

and as my brother-in-law and I tried to capture (unsuccessfully) the feeling of the rock looming over us, we noticed that

Ken was busy. He had found a broom and was sweeping up all the debris inside the shrine

and all along the path. Bless!