From the way Hercule opened
Get ready for a challenging train trip!
The best part of Greece, where I moved 3 years ago, it offers plenty of holiday options. It is a real holiday paradise in every season. When we talk about Greece most probably the first things come to mind are the islands surrounded by sandy beaches, scenic coastlines, white houses with blue shutters. That’s right, these things are always right there. But it offers more than that. Autumn and winter spots are fantastic as well. I would like to mention about one of those spots: Kalavrita.
Kalavrita is a small mountain town, located in Achaea region of Peloponnese. Above the town there is one of the biggest ski center’s of Greece. So far it sounds so ordinary. But what makes it extraordinary is the train ride linking Kalavryta to the sea side, which is assumably one of the most scenic routes in the world.
First, it is needed to reach Diakopto, a small town close to Patras to take the train. Diakopto is 3 hours away from Athens by car or by bus. When we reach there easily found the train station and purchased the tickets, one way costs 9 Euros. You can check the timetables and other details from http://www.odontotos.com/index-en.htm.
Just after the departure, train starts to move slowly on the rails to antecedent Vouraikos valley As much as it dives, the nature is getting enormously green and the view becoming more scenic in each second.
The train snakes through rocky hills, trees on the sideways. After some time the valley becoming narrower. Train passes from bridges and dark tunnels. It is even possible to touch the trees from the open windows of the train. Finding a seat from the first waggon is getting important at that moment cause front window provides more sight.
The walley named after Hercule’s beloved Boura. According to the legend, Hercule divided the rock with his sword which closes the valley to reach Boura. There is a tunnel called Portes in that legendary rock, which is the narrowest part of the valley. Before, there had been an iron door closing the tunnel and locals were paying tolls for each pass. Nowadays it is open all the time and the train passes through of it.
One hour journey ended up in Kalavrita train station as the whole passangers were captivated. We hadn’t booked book any hotel before so checked the boutique hotels while walking around. After asking to a few hotels we found a cozy room with fireplace. It was a duplex room and cost was 70 Euros for 4 people including the breakfast.
Kalavrita is settled in the side of Helmos mountain. There are two parallel main streets in town, souvenir shops and taverns on both sides. Local marmalades, liqueurs, home made noodles, dried herbs are exhibited in front of the stores.
Later we had another tour outside of the town, walking a bit to the hills to see the view around. We also encountered with the traces of the holocaust happened during WW2.
All the men were massacred
In 1943, during the Nazi invasion in Greece, guerilla fighters were resisting in mountainous areas all around Greece. 117th Jager Division (Wehrmacht) of German Army began Operation Kalavrita mission against the Greek guerillas hiding in mountains near Kalavrita. During the operation 78 German soldiers were captured and executed by the guerillas. In response, the commander of the German division ordered to the killing of all male population and severe damage. They burnt and vandalised all the villages and monastries, shot the civilians on their way until Kalavrita. When they reached, they locked all the women and children to the local school building and set it afire. Took all the males above 12 years old to the hill overlooking the town and machine gunned them.
More than 500 men died that day, only 13 was survived who had been covered by the dead. Women and children succeeded to escape from the school but all the village was burnt. Today, the local school building is holocaust museum and the hill kept as memorial site.
The other most exciting part of the trip is hiking back from the rails. Next morning we woke up early and had a tight breakfast at the hotel, prepared our cameras and hit the road!
The route is also fantastic for the hiking with its captivating nature. Reaching Diakopto takes almost 6 hours by hiking.
However you don’t have to go for all. At the 9th kilometer of the route there is a very small village named Kato Zachlorou and thankfully there is a train station.
When we arrived to village we had lunch on a terrace over the river. Later on we took the train and continued the rest. Honestly, I regret a bit cause the the narrow bridges and tunnels starts after Kato Zachlorou which are also worth to see so closely. So the next time I would definitely hike from Zachlorou to Diakopto.
Kato Zachlorou is also very romantic to stay a night. Especially the Romanzto Hotel was a setting for many old movies. The Mega Spileo Monastery located 2 kilometers above the town is also considered as one of the most important monasteries in Greece.
Ultimately, I heard and read about this train route before but it was amazingly impressive in reality. Definitely advised!