Green Greece, 2014

An overwhelming majority of people, when thinking of Greece, conjure images of the sea and its rocky shores, of windy days beneath the intense sun.  Myself, I have known it this way, owing to my travels between the islands and my trips along the eastern and western coasts. I was largely unaware of the fact that the middle of the country was home to some of the greenest and most heavily wooded regions in all of Europe. From the Gulf of Corinth northward to the Albanian border, a span of hundreds of miles, runs a nearly uninterrupted forest, completely natural and home to many diversified and sundry species. It’s a mountainous region, covered with lush vegetation, full of valleys, rivers, and torrents. Almost without roads, with hardly any villages, few scattered homes rise between the gigantic trees that dominate this untamed, yet splendid and unknown region. I discovered it in 2014, during the month of June, while traveling with my eldest grandson Trigran and my friend Fivos, who knows intimately each corner of Greece, for the pure and simple fact that he loves his country.

 

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Quasi-impenetrable forests cover the high Agrafa mountains.

 

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Situated on an island in the Prespa lake, the Basilica of Agios Ahillios was built in the middle ages by the Bulgarian King Samuel, at the time when the island was his capital.

 

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The Valia Calda Forest, in the Pindus mountain range, is one of the most beautiful forests in all of Greece. An enormous cedar tree burned by lighting, of which only the charred white trunk remains. To the right, and also white, our small little rental car.

 

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During the times of the Byzantine Empire, the city of Kastoria in Northern Greece was the principle places of exile for disgraced princes. Hoping to hasten an end to their exile, or a much worse fate, each prince would build a small chapel as an offering. Such is the Church of Taxiarhi Tis Metropoleos, the exterior of which is adorned with many frescos, representing in particular the archangel Gabriel.

 

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Making our way through the Valia Calda Forest, we arrived at a prairie atop the summit, a few scattered Cedar trunks and even the remains of a few snow patches, and of course, the spectacular view from all sides.

 

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Metéora is one of the greatest tourist attractions in all of Greece. These enormous sandstone rock pillars, shooting up from the Plain of Thessaly, are often crowned with monasteries, forming a rather curious combination. They emerge suddenly, both mysterious and menacing.

 

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Between two stone pillars of the Metéora, we catch sight of the town of Kalambaka.

 

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A small monastery atop one of the stone pillars of the Metéora. Not long ago, both pilgrims and supplies alike were hoisted to the top in baskets drawn by ropes. A prudent English traveler once asked when the cords would be replaced. “When they break,” the monk answered.

 

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To the west of the small town of Karditsa lies one of the most wild and untamed regions of Greece. Lake Plastira is artificial, holding the water from a damn. It possesses, however, all the charm of a natural lake.

 

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A charming dirt pathway covered by great shady trees leading to the small village of Neraida, isolated deep within the forest.

 

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My Grandson Tigran crossing a river on foot. As there was no bridge, we were forced to take our car through the rumbling waters. Tigran was tasked with mesuaring the depth of the waters to determine whether or not such a manouvre was possible.

 

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Near the village of Neraida, the vegetation is partuclarly thick and alluring. Between the branches we see distant peaks and forests, which are a constant invitation for further exploration.


by  Prince Michael of Greece