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Routes: Athikia – Hiliomodi – Agios Basileios – Nemea

Continuing along the old national road Corinth – Argos, 20 km south of Corinth, one encounters Hiliomodi. Before reaching Hiliomodi, a small diversion to the village of Athikia is worthwhile. Built at the hilly foot of mount Skaroumpalo, Athikia is surrounded by a fruitful valley, protected all around by forested mountains, which form part of the mountain range of ancient Tritos.

During the years of the Turkish occupation, an endless forest of trees, hundreds of years old, covered the entire valley of Athikia. Local history maintains that it was from this forest that Kiamil-beis of Corinth procured his timber.

Within the village there are plantations of cypress trees, mostly planted during the 19th century when they started to build the first houses, creating a picture of indescribable beauty.

The area is rich in folkloric evidence, offering sufficient material for those who occupy themselves with its documentation and conservation.

Today, a hall of the local school houses a collection of folkloric items which include, household utensils, farm tools, clothes, items of ironwork, Byzantine icons, relics, diplomas, documents and a rich collection of photographs.

Most of the houses in Athikia with their red roofs, from above, resemble poppies in a green pasture. All year round their gardens are filled with the sweet aroma of flowers. Between the new houses some old houses have been saved with their tiled roofs, wooden porches, whitewashed walls and yards with freshly painted flowerpots, displaying unusual, architectural beauty. Of special interest is the Kollias’ residence, which has been, declared a preserved building and two impressing buildings with eccentric architecture, the mill and the distillery of Manos. The mill has been characterized as an historical monument. It is a monument of fine and tasteful design presenting special artistic interest. The church of Evangelistria is renowned for the beautiful architecture of its bell tower, built in 1923 by the stonemason of Asia Minor G. Sideri and has been declared a preserved historical monument.

At Athikia there is a scattering of small churches encircled by aged, evergreen oaks that from a distance resemble white doves in silver-green olive groves.

From the village visitors can journey around encountering unusual natural beauty, unknown archaeological sites and noteworthy historical monuments.

A short distance from the village, 1,5 km. to the west, on the road to the monastery Phaneromenes, is the archaeological site Matraga. Above a torrent-bed with high poplars and many wells, at the foot of the hill Voukina, are the ruins of the church of The Ascension of Christ, built with the materials from an older church. In its place was a large, 14th century church of Osias Matronas constructed on the foundations of an early Christian basilica dedicated to The Holy Virgin. It’s possible that on the same site there once existed a temple to the God of Light, Apollo, as close by the well there is an abundance of laurel, one of Apollo’s’ favorite symbols and the Christians took over the temple and dedicated it to Christ, their God of Light.

There came to light during trial excavations, the courtyard of the temple, an underground aqueduct and not too far away, Byzantine tombs. The gorge of Voukina is an area of immense physical beauty, created by nature’s superb skill, formed between the mounts of Pirthi and Voukina and traversed by the torrent Xiria. The best season for a visit is the spring, with aromas and colours to enrapture the senses.

Continuing along the road to Phaneromeni, on the hills, we find the places that are called Kokliati and Mavrani at the start of a range of hills called Ai-Thanasis. Smooth hills full of olive trees, vines, cypress trees, poplars, plane trees and running water, all together constituting an enchanting landscape.

At an altitude of 800 mtrs. is the small, picturesque church of Aghios Dimitris, with excellent murals decorating its interior.

From Athikia the road takes one on a superb journey through pinewoods and multicolored shrubs to the monastery of Taxiarches.

In Athikia there are logically priced rooms to let, while at the monasteries of Ag. Taxiarches and Evangelistria there are guesthouses, which are used primarily by pilgrims. There are also many taverns offering spit-roast meat, sweet red wine and the speciality of the district, giosa (goat or sheep roasted in a traditional wood oven sealed with clay).

Continuing to the east towards Hiliomodi, we pass through the famous pine-forest of Hiliomodi, a wonderful, self-planted, forestry ecosystem, and the remains of a larger and older forest. It is an important pine-forest of environmental interest; in particular it is the densest, highland forest in Tenea. The wonderful forested environment together with the dry, healthy climate and also the road and rail communications with country and urban centers together with the hospitality of the people, make it a much sought after area.

The region is of valuable religious interest, 2,5 km. away from Hiliomodi is the new monastery of Panagia Phaneromeni, built in 1896, where one can marvel at the icon of The Holy Virgin, situated in a wood-carved temple of exceptional craftsmanship.

To the south 3km. away is the old monastery, Phaneromeni, founded in the 11th century, in the opening of a rock, where an icon of The Holy Virgin appeared. It is to be noted that of all the monasteries of Phaneromeni in Greece, the Corinthian Phaneromeni is the oldest and most important.

From Hiliomodi there is the possibility to take two different but equally interesting journeys, the first takes us via the plain of Tenea to Agios Basileios, with the castle of Agios Basileios at an altitude of 500 mtrs offering a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

After Agios Basileios we come to the historic settlement of Dervenakia, the site of the historic battle of 1823, where the Greek fighters were victorious under the leadership of Nikitaras and Kolokotronis beating the Turkish army of Dramalis.

The second journey from Hiliomodi is an attractive route south towards the village of Klenia. The road rises gently through the plain where the ancient city of Tenea was once situated. Here the king of the region, Polybus, raised Oedipus. What little remains of the ruins of the ancient city is to be found on a small rise to the south of the village of Klenia, to the left of the road from Hiliomodi.

After Klenia the road continues on the western side of the Kleisouras’ gorge arriving at the large village of Agionori, that was an important, large town during the Byzantine period. The village’s Byzantine fortress still stands.

Monks searching for a protected place from which to spread Christianity in the eastern Peloponnese founded the village. The Byzantine fortress is built on a conical hill and was the only fortress in the area and served as an intermediate station between the castles of Argos and Acrocorinth. The preserved fortress is small and polygonal and inside it there is the church of Aghios Anargyris.

The most glorious moment in the history of the castle was July the 28th 1822: the leaders of the Greek irregular soldiers, Nikitaras and Nikitas Phlessas, with their few but strong men, who occupied this defensive position, finished off the remaining army of Dramalis.

Descending from Agionori is the picturesque Stephani, with the second observatory of Corinthia on its outskirts, with Byzantine churches and monasteries: The old monastery of Taxiarches and the new monastery of Aghios Dimitrios, which was the monastery farm of Taxiarches, empty today of relics due to many thefts.

The road continues towards Argolida and ends after an enchanting journey at Mycenae. A unique moment of the journey is when from the slopes of mount Harvati the plain of Argolida appears with the walls of ancient Mycenae.

#mythicalpeloponnese

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