The Secret Lives of Greek Monks & 1,000 years of History 13 Comments


What a fun filled and hectic few days!  Our jaunt around Greece continues to fill our hearts with smiles and surprises as well as insight in to the secret lives and fascinating history of Greek monks.  But getting there was certainly eventful and memorable (except for a cat incident)…

Greeces largest olive plantation...and we got lost inside it

Greeces largest olive plantation…and we got lost inside it

As we bounced along a rutted dirt track, I gazed through swirling dust at an untamed landscape: stone terraces, parched bushes and thousand upon thousands of olive trees.  No matter which direction we travelled we seemed to be going deeper in to the planation and deeper in the valley. The upshot is that we got hopelessly lost on our little motorbike. Once we left the main road in Delphi, we continued along a narrow tarmac road which eventually broke up into a network of lanes and dirt tracks. We drove for ages, with that kind of insane resolve that you get when you are lost and become convinced that if you just keep moving you will eventually end up where you want to be.

Delphi is all the way up thereMonaster

Delphi is all the way up there

Our half an hour jaunt turned in to several hours of a bum numbing expedition through an olive tree maze infested with savage dogs. That will teach us to go tootling without Tom Tom! We got chased a few times but the last time was the worst. Amid all the confusion we heard an unwelcoming sound of charging dogs. These were the same dogs we had disturbed half an hour ago and they were well miffed with us disturbing their sleep. The faint yap some turned in to loud ‘lets eat them’ barks. Holy bloody Moly! Craig opened the throttle on little Eor and he shot off over the dirt track, bouncing over tree roots and sliding through puddles. The dogs snarled and barked, baring their teeth and slavering like crazy at the thought of my shin bone. As we picked up speed, so did the dogs and at one point Craig swore. “Fxxx me, the dogs are running 40 mph, keeping everything tucked in love!” At that point, one of the dogs managed to catch the edge of my trousers. I thought that was it but before it could rip them off, I swung my legs around Craig’s neck. In a last attempt to break free, Craig beeped the horn and floored the motorbike. We managed to escape but it was a close call and one we care not repeat.

We returned looking like we’d been dragged through a hedge backwards and dipped in dust. Mac n Tosh seemed over pleased to see us even if a little confused by our disheveled look.  After a quick shower and a bite to eat we set off towards the coast.

Mining off the coast of Itea

Mining off the coast of Itea

A nice, quiet and peaceful drive to Itea where we parked up on the marina. Not a soul around, so we strolled around the boats and pebbled beach admiring the views. Mac n Tosh were desperate to run wild on the beach but not today. There were quite a few strays around and after our early encounters we thought best not. To be honest, most of the strays are friendly and happy but like most strays they get quite territorial when other dogs invade their patch.

2016-10-16-at-17-35-18-iteaAfter today’s activities we were shattered, so an early night came in handy.

Wild Camping GPS position Itea N038.431661, E022.419940

 

 


In the middle of the night we were woken by the most horrific noise. Piercing screams followed by cries and thuds. We shot up and peered out the window just in time to see 3 fella’s walking towards our motorhome, staring at our habitation door. My heart jumped in to my mouth.  Then we saw the commotion. A wild dog savagely killing a cat right in front of our door. The dog frantically shaking and bashing the cat from side to side. I turned away, it was cruel and heart breaking. One of the 3 men tried to intervene but the wild dog was in no mood to be disturbed, so they backed away. Once the cat was dead the dog scarpered and the 3 fella’s moved the cat to the bin. It was disturbing to say the least.

Needless to say, it took a while to get back to sleep and therefore, we woke a little later than normal.

We could look at these views all day

We could look at these views all day

Our desire to hang around Itea was no more, so we headed in to the mountains.  The elevated road followed the unspoilt and jagged coastline all the way to Antikyra.  We found a parking spot right by the sea front and within a few minutes of arrival we took a walk in to the town. The town was quite nice with fishing boats, a few Greek tavernas and a small pebble beach. It felt quite authentic and very much a fishing village with little international tourists. We strolled right to the end of the bay to the military gates then turned around and walked back.  We umm’d and arrr’d about staying before deciding to move on.

Instead of driving along the main road, which seemed perfectly fine, Craig decided to take the smaller tarmac road. Choosing a rather chaotic ECG route between the shoreline and mountain peak. In a few minutes we were alone and in the middle of another tree enclosure. Fortunately, this time we had the Tom Tom. We felt like we had stepped back to another time, so quiet and unspoilt. It is hard to believe this is mainland Greece and within an hour of the capital, Athens.

Our Drive in to the mountains

Our Drive in to the mountains

As we turned off the beaten track we headed towards the village of Dimitros. Craig noticed a small brown sign leading to an ancient relic. We followed but the ancient site was no more than a fenced off area with a pile of stones in someone’s overgrown back yard. At this point, we should have turned around but nah, we carried on along the lane, swung a right, headed down the brew and you guessed it, got stuck.  Some idiot decided to park his car in the middle of a narrow alley. Well not a cat in hells chance of getting through. A local shop owner walked over, frowned, looked at the gap and waved us through. We shook our heads and indicated we were a tab wider than the gap. He looked again, a shrug of the shoulders indicated maybe your right and with that he was on his way.

Nothing for it, a slow and very difficult reverse back up the steep, narrow alley. Looking not just for obstacles low down but overhanging balconies and drainpipes. About half way up the hill a sour faced Greek walks over and starts talking to us in Greek.

We pleasantly smile and say “Sorry, no Greek, only English”.

He paused, thought for a moment and then repeated the same sentence in Greek but this time with hand gestures.

Once again, we repeat “Sorry, no Greek, only English”.

His eyes glare and he repeats one of the Greek sentence very slowly but sharp.

We shake our heads “sorry”.

He raised his eye brows and slowly shouts the Greek word this time pressing the repeat button.

“Jeez man, no bloody Greek. Shout all you like with as many hand gestures but we still ain’t gonna understand you. Just like you don’t understand me. Now either help us get up this bloody hill or do one…comprehay!”

With that he smiles, walks to the rear of Vin and starts to help guide us around the corner.

Chuffed to bits with our Greek attempt we were off on our travels in a jiffy.

Driving around the hills, we weren’t quite sure on the location of the church of Ossios Loukas. The information provided is vague, at best. So when we stumbled upon it a few kilometres on the outskirts of Stiris we were happy bunnies. The one thing for sure, these solitude monks certainly know how to pick the most beautiful views. Perched on the side of Mount Elikonas, with amazing views over a valley packed with olive and almonds trees.  It is still untouched and very remote.

The Secret Lives of Greek Monks, a 1000 years of History

Monastery & clouds starting to descend

It all began with a dream heading in to the hills and spreading the word of God. Hoslos Loukas born in the small village of Kastorian before moving to Athens to become a monk. Then in 946 he moved to Stiris became a bit of a hermit monk but his great healing powers earned him a bit of a reputation. Its wasn’t long before he had followers, so he set up the monastery.  As his popularity grew so did the donations for surrounding landscape, which allowed the monks to become self sufficient. Later, Emperor Romanos extended the church and now, Osios Loukas monastery is architecturally one of medieval Greece’s most important buildings.

The monastery was buried in time for many years and it was discovered by chance when they were building the nearby Aluminium factory.  They found the ruins of a two storey church and the rest…is history.

From the car park you decent down the stone steps and enter through the tower gate in to the courtyard. To the right the once dining room now ticket office and museum (€4 pp)

The monastery of Hosios Loukas followed the Byzantine monasteries imposed by the communal life and their fortress like character. The complex consists of a number buildings arranged closely together surrounding a courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard, two churches, a crypt and a number of archways (click to enlarge).

The monastery is a miniature of a Byzantine city with a number of the outer buildings storage for crops and cattle.

The monks quarters (referred to as cells) are housed in 3 way wings surrounding the courtyard and church. A large underground cistern served the water needs of the monastery.

Today, the holy grounds of Ossios Loukas attract many a pilgrim who sleep next to his tomb. They stay for several nights until Loukas appears in their dreams to heal them.

Talking of dreams, time for us to head back, have a bite to eat and catch up on some lost sleep. We have a few more exciting days ahead and need plenty energy. Nite Nite folks!

Our Bumble Verdict: Stunning architecture and wonderful views a must for anyone visiting the area.

Ossios Loukas parking spot

Ossios Loukas parking spot

Our sleepy spot: Tucked in behind the monastery car park wall sheltering from the blustery autumn winds.

Wild Camping GPS position Stiris  N038.395414, E022.745890


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13 thoughts on “The Secret Lives of Greek Monks & 1,000 years of History

  • Lin

    Don’t like the cat bit 😥 or the bit about the car parked with no room to get by.. I do however have a very funny picture in my head, of you on a motorbike with your legs wrapped round Craig’s neck 😂 x

  • Joke bijl

    IT is a wonderfull journy! Lovely things, scary things, bad, but also very good things, love to read your story’s. Don’t understand all, but the most is clear. That is because my knowledge of English isn’t enough. Doesn’t matter, love to see your pictures!!

  • Robert Ellis

    Yes it gets quite rugged more you move into mainland Greece ,you wouldn’t think you were in the same Country ,Well you can say you’ve seen Europe after this trip ,but I don’t think for one minute you will regret it ,it’s been a Good Experiance ,It will seem days away from the sand& sea ,but you will enjoy it more when you eventually encounter it again ,Well it’s getting rather chilly here ,I think we are in for a bad Winter ,Keep on enjoying & keep in touch ,Loads of Luv DADxxx Mac n Tosh woof woof & don’t chase those Cats xxx

  • Barrie Clarke

    All photo’s are great just shows where the money is all public housing in ruins but Churches all very elaborately decorated.
    Good job you weren’t on the pushbikes, all that trauma warrants another meal out don’t you think.

  • heidihymer

    Another! excellent blog. So you’ve done the scary Greek dog experience. Unfortunately rather common. We did the ‘can we outrun them’ thing on push-bikes. Not fun!! Shame your Itea experience was less than ideal. We rather liked the place and stayed in the same closed down marina for several days. A genuine place with ordinary people doing their thing (unlike so many of the coastal tourist places).
    Oh, and the reversing up narrow tracks with mm to spare – another Greek memory for us 😀
    Best wishes,
    Peter and Elaine

    • Bumble Crew Post author

      Thanks guys. Yeah, Itea was real nice but the cat experience sort of has us feeling a bit down on the place. The whole area is great and like you, it is great to be part of a local rather than tourist town.