home: The Peloponnese and Pindos Way – Το Πἑρασμα της Πελοποννἡσου και της Πἱνδου

(Ἑνα ελληνικὁ κεἱμενο βρἱσκεται στο κἁτω μἑρος της σελἱδας.)

STOP PRESS:  On March 18th Cicerone published a new edition of the Mountains of Greece guide under the title Trekking in Greece: The Peloponnese and Píndos Way. It consists mainly of a description of this route, The Peloponnese and Pindos Way.

If you are contemplating doing part or all of the route, you will need to do three things. 1) Acquire this guidebook. 2) Check for updates either here (see the Contents list to the right of this page) or on the Cicerone website. 3) Arm yourself with a GPS and the relevant Anavasi maps.

SOS AGRAFA:   AN EMERGENCY

Nialla, proposed site of the first turbines.

SAVE THE AGRAFA SKYLINE FROM A PALISADE OF WIND TURBINES.

The Agrafa mountains in central Greece are one of the country’s great beauty spots and one of the most pollution-free regions in Europe. They are threatened by a Greek government plan to erect up to 650 wind turbines.

Three quarters of Greece is mountains. Why choose to desecrate one of the most naturally beautiful and historically and culturally important bits?

Agrafa’s landscapes and role in modern Greek history are unique

Agrafa’s landscapes are unique: a chaos of peaks and ridges cut by deep gorges thickly wooded with Greek fir. Ancient pack-horse bridges arch over its streams, linking the network of footpaths that until the 1980s were the only roads between the villages and tiny hamlets scattered among the forest. Medieval monasteries perch on its crags. In summer its high pastures are home still to flocks of transhuming Sarakatsan sheep.

Greek governments regard mountains as akhrista, useless places, almost literally a waste of space. True to form, they want to plant the first batch of turbines in the beautiful meadows of Nialla above the village of Vrangiana, Agrafa’s highest. From here they will stretch north and south along the eastern watershed of the Agrafiotis river, silhouetted against the skyline, in an act of environmental vandalism, the equivalent of covering Snowdonia or the peaks of the Lake District in Britain with them or the mountains around Chamonix in France: acts that would provoke universal outrage.

It is not just that Agrafa is one of the great beauty spots of the Pindos range. It is culturally and historically at the heart of the Greeks’ survival as a nation during the long centuries of the Turkish conquest, from the 1400s to the twentieth century.

In Greek the name Agrafa means the “unwritten” or “unrecorded” places, because the Turkish overlords were never able to establish permanent control. And this inaccessibility allowed the region to function as a bastion of freedom and Greekness. Its highest village, Vrangiana, was home to a proto-university in the 17th and 18th centuries. The great brigand freedom-fighter, Katsandonis, had his hideouts here. In more recent times ELAS, the biggest Greek WWII Resistance movement, proclaimed it the capital of Free Greece.

The physical cost to the landscape will be enormous

And the damage to the environment will not be just in the eye of beholder, but physical too. The geology of Agrafa is fragile, its strata vulnerable to landslides. It is enough to break the surface bonds of grass and tree root to bring about endless mud and rock slides, as has happened with the attempts at road building. When you consider that every one of the proposed 650 turbines will require its own access route, the potential for irreparable scarring is mind-boggling.

This is not simply a Luddite response to technological innovation.

There are already plenty of wind farms scattered about Greece, on both mainland and islands. There are plenty of remaining suitable sites, in regions of far less environmental and cultural importance.

Remember the diversion of the Akhelöos river and its  colossal environmental and financial cost

And we have been here before. In the 1980s the Greek government embarked on a scheme to dam and divert the waters of Greece’s most beautiful mountain river, the Akhelöos (see my article in The Guardian for December 6th 2000), the idea being to generate electricity and irrigate the ecologically unsustainable thirst of the cotton crops grown on the plain of Thessaly. The project went ahead in defiance of rulings by Greece’s own supreme court and in contravention of several international accords including Natura 2000 and the Ramsar Convention which it had itself signed. For twenty years the work of blowing up the mountains continued until finally in the early 2000s the scheme was abandoned, leaving nothing but unsightly damage and a 130-metre-high dam which serves no purpose:  hundreds of millions of euros in effect burnt on a pyre.

Who would bet on the Agrafa wind farm scheme not coming to a similarly sticky end?

Yes, the whole region is depopulated and undeveloped. Villages are down to five or ten permanent inhabitants. But the solution is not wind farms which will not benefit anyone local. It is sustainable tourism: walking, climbing, canoeing, mountain-biking, birding, wild flower expeditions, children paddling in the streams, picnicking in the summer shade. Already The Pindos Wayhiking route crosses the region, soon to be joined by The Pindus Trail. These are the Greek Alps. Look at the Pyrenees and the French and Italian Alps, how much money sustainable summer tourism brings in. This is the way forward, not a disfiguring palisade of spikes all along the beautiful skylines.

Greek speakers might like to look at my article  Η ζειδωρη Πινδος in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini for August 12 2018. My book, The Unwritten Places (in English), is available from Lycabettus Press, (Athens 1995) and Blackbird Digital Books(2014).

Just like the disastrous Akhelöos scheme, this wind farm scheme also contravenes accords like Natura 2000 which Greece is signatory to. So, go online. Sign the Avaaz petition. Write to your MEP. Contact the Greek government Tourist Office and tell them how short-sighted and retrograde a step it is to  wreck such a beautiful natural landscape with enormous potential for sustainable eco-tourism: Greek National Tourism Organisation, 4 Great Portland Street, Portland House, London W1W 8QJ;tel. 020-7495-9300; email:info@gnto.co.uk. The directoris Mrs Christina Kalogera, tel. 020-7495-9303; the person in charge of Media and PR, Mr Alexandros Konstantinou, tel. 020-7495-9310.

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The Peloponnese and Pindos Way

The mountains of Greece are among the loveliest and least developed in Europe, a real  walker’s paradise. They cover most of the country. With my friend Michael Cullen, who grew up in Greece and founded its very first trekking company, we are in the process of creating a long-distance hiking route that bisects the country from north-west to south-east, the whole thing to be called The Peloponnese and Pindos Way. As you can see from the map below, the route is cut in two by the sea in the Gulf of Corinth, with the Peloponnese to the south and the Pindos to the north. The ferry that used to join the two ends no longer runs. So, on the presumption that Athens is the most convenient arrival point for most people, we have described The Peloponnese Way north to south and The Píndos Way south to north. We think there is a kind of logic to this solution!

The Pindos Way, the subject of this website, is the northern bit, traversing the central mountain backbone of the  Pindos range,  from Albania to the Gulf of Corinth. The southern part of the route, The Peloponnese Way  begins in the middle of the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth and cuts across the Peloponnese almost to Cape Tenaro, the most southerly point of the country and the second most southerly point in continental Europe. The northern part is more Balkan in landscape and climate, the southern more Mediterranean, which also means that the hiking season between snowmelt and first snowfall is a month or so longer.

The landscapes will be a surprise to people who know only the seaside  and islands of Greece: forests of beech, fir and pine, alpine meadows, numerous peaks above 2000m, rivers and waterfalls, remote and handsome stone-built villages, flocks of transhumant sheep, rich and varied populations of wildflowers and some big beasts, in the form of wolves and brown bears –  though you will be lucky to catch a glimpse of these.

If you need further convincing, take a look at the website of Jane and Alan Laurie, in which they describe their epic walk from the Prespa lakes in the far north-western corner of Greece to the south of the Peloponnese. Their route, though they did the Píndos part in reverse, north to south, is pretty much the same as ours. It is a wonderfully fresh and evocative account of the landscapes they passed through and their adventures and encounters. See also Jane’s article for Cicerone Press.

You might also find my book The Unwritten Places interesting (available on Amazon); it tells the story of my first explorations of the Píndos in the 1970s. There is also a TV documentary called Dhiáva – The Autumn Journey  that I made with David Hope about the Vlach shepherds of the northern Píndos and the autumn transhumant journey when they drive their flocks down to the lowlands for the winter (available on YouTube; the one uploaded by cyclingdave45 is the genuine whole thing), with an additional 30mins video footage under the title Summer in Samarína.There is also a Greek language version that was shown on Greek TV in 2001.

PW/Stage 23

A little history to explain where we are coming from

This project started life in the seventies when I was teaching in Athens and looking for somewhere to go in my leisure time. Sun and sea tourism had already begun to overrun the seaside and island places that I had first known as a student in the sixties. I was looking for somewhere the “old” Greece still lived on. A look at the map showed that the brownest, most roadless and least populated part of the country was the Pindos mountains. And then I came across an article in the journal of the Royal Geographical Society for September 1964 (vol 130, part 3) written by Lord Hunt of Everest fame, in which he described an expedition he had undertaken to the Pindos in 1963 with a party of young Greeks and English. Just what I was looking for! And I set off to follow my own route up the Pindos. Over the years it turned into a walkers’ guide to the mountains in Greece published by Cicerone Press. And  for the last ten years it has been a joint effort with Michael Cullen.

For the latest edition, due out early in 2018, we decided to cut pretty much everything else and concentrate on creating this one long route traversing the whole country.

PW map

Calling it The Peloponnese and Pindos Way does, we realise, suggest there is a recognised, established route, like the Pennine Way or the GR20 or the Chemin de St-Jacques. Well… there is and there isn’t! The Peloponnese Way is pretty well established, much of it following the route of the E4 path, which has been resuscitated from years of neglect by Rolf Roost. The Pindos Way, while entirely followable, is a bit more problematic; the waymarking and maintenance is inconsistent or non-existent and the terrain both higher and more remote.

All these routes are based on what remains of the incredibly dense network of footpaths connecting villages and hamlets and high summer sheepfolds that were the only roads in these mountains until the Second World War. Unmapped and known only to the locals, they made these mountains more or less impenetrable to strangers. They became the natural resort and hideout of all manner of brigand, outlaw, and rebel,  both against the Turkish overlords who ruled the land for centuries after their conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and, in more modern times, against German and Italian invaders in the Second World War and, in the case of Communist insurgents, against their own government in the 1940s. What we call the  Pindos Way was known as the  πορεια των ανταρτων, the Rebels’ Route.

One of the great walks of Europe

Our great hope is that by naming the route and making it the title of the new edition of the Cicerone Press guide we can will it into existence, attracting attention to it and encouraging Greek walkers and Greek locals who live along its route to take it seriously and work towards establishing it as one of the great walks of Europe. In 1988 John Cleare, the great mountain photographer and climber, published a book called Trekking: Great Walks of the World, to which he asked me to contribute a chapter about the Pindos mountains, called The Rocky Spine of Greece: the Pindos Traverse, which described pretty much exactly the Pindos half of this route.

The Peloponnese and Pindos Way does indeed deserve to be ranked among the great walks of Europe. So, walkers of the world, let us get out there and make sure it is so ranked. Walk it, mark it, sing its praises, spend some money in the villages.

My friend Kate Clow’s Lycian Way in south-west Turkey has earned its substantial reputation in fifteen years. At first, the local peasantry scratched out the waymarks, riddled the signs with bullet holes…but that did not stop the crazy foreigners. They kept coming, bringing their much-needed money and, as we know,  money talks. Now the locals open guesthouses, stock the village shops with walkers’ necessities… In Greece it will be the same. Guesthouses will open. Villagers will take on the responsibility of keeping their sections of path open. Think of the Chemin de Saint Jacques in France and Spain with its 17-20,000 walkers every year, each leaving 50 euros a night in villages with little other source of income. One hundred, let alone 500, walkers a season would make a significant difference to the economy of remote Greek mountain villages and facilities would quickly improve.

How to use this website

The contents are listed under Pages in the top right corner of every bullet-pointed section. For the moment they consist principally of notes on each of the four main sections of the Pindos Way route.

Το Πἑρασμα της Πελοποννἡσου και της Πἱνδου

Ο ορειβατικὁς οδηγὁς, The Mountains of Greece, που πρωτοβγἡκε το 1986, θα κυκλοφορἡσει στις 15 Μαρτιου 2018 με το τἱτλο Trekking in Greece: The Peloponnese and Pindos Way (Tim Salmon and Michael Cullen, Cicerone, Oxenholme Rd, Kendal LA9 7RL, UK).

Πως ξεκνησε το ργο

Πρωτοπἡγα στην Ελλἁδα το Πἁσχα του 1958 μαθητἡς λυκεἱου. Γοητἑυτηκα και ορκἰστηκα να γυρἱζω ὁσο πιὁ σὐντομα μποροὐσα. Και ἑτσι ἐκανα. Κἁθε καλοκαἱρι που ἡμουνα φοιτητἡς πανεπιστημἱου κατἑβαινα με ωτοστὁπ. Γὑρισα και πἁλι μετἁ το πανεπιστἡμιο και βρἡκα θἑση σα καθηγητἡς στην Κρἡτη.

Τη διἀρκεια της Χοὐντας ἡμουν στο Λονδἱνο στη γειτονιἁ του Camden Town, ὁπου εἱχαν εγκαταστηθεἱ οι περισσὁτεροι Κὑπριοι πρὁσφυγες και βρἡκα στη δημὁσια βιβλιοθἡκη ἑνα βιβλἱο, Τα Ελληνικ Βουν, που διηγιὁταν τις ορειβατικἑς εκδρομἑς κἀποιου ορειβἁτη. Λἱγο μετἁ διἁβασα σ᾽ἑνα τεὑχος του περιοδικοὑ Journal of the Royal Geographical Society ἑνα ἁρθρο του Lord Hunt, αρχηγοὑ της πρὡτης Βρεττανικἡς αποστολἡς που κατἑκτησε την κορυφἠ του Ἑβερεστ, ὁπου περιἑγραφε μἱα εκδρομἡ που εἱχε κἁνει τον Απρἱλιο του 1963, με μἱα ομἁδα νεαροὑς, οι μισοἱ Ἑλληνες, οι μισοἱ Ἁγγλοι, που ξεκἱνησε απὁ την Ἁμφισσα και διἁσχισε ὁλη την Πἱνδο μἑχρι την Καστοριἁ. Με ενἑμπνευσε και πἠρα την απὀφαση να ξεκινἡσω και εγὡ με την πρὠτη ευκαιρἱα. Και αυτὀ ἑγινε το ῾76-77.

Χρτες δεν υπρχαν

Χἁρτες μεγἁλου κλἱμακος δεν κυκλοφοροὑσαν τὁτε. Ἑπρεπε να ρωτἁω απὁ χωριὁ σε χωριὀ. Στην επαρχἱα ο ἁσφαλτος ἑλειπε τελεἱως σε πολλἑς περιοχἑς. Παρ᾽ὁλο που ο κὁσμος εἱχε ἡδη λιγοστἑψει στα χωριἁ και αυτοἱ που ἑμειναν δεν κυκλοφοροὑσαν πιἁ με τα πὁδια, θυμὁντουσαν με ακρἱβεια που πἑρναγαν τα μονοπἁτια και μου το εξηγοὑσαν με μεγἁλη υπομονἡ. Υπἡρχαν ακὁμα τα τελευταἱια στοιχεἱα της παραδοσιακἡς ζωἡς – λἱγες καλλιἑργιες με αυλἁκια που κατἑβαζαν νερὁ για πὁτισμα απὁ ψηλἁ, νερὁμυλοι, ταχυδρὁμοι που τριγὑριζαν στα χωριἁ με ζὡα, καρβουνἁριδες και ξυλοκὁποι που δοὑλευαν στο δἁσος, χορτἁρια για τα ζὡα θερισμἑνα με δρεπἁνι…. Ζωἡ δὑσκολη για τους ντὁπιους. Για μἑνα σκἑτη μαγεἱα.

Ὁσο προχωροὑσα μἑσα στα βουνἁ και ανακἁλυπτα τις ομορφιἑς τους – τα ατελεἱωτα δἁση με ἑλατα και οξιἑς, ποτἁμια και φαρἁγγια, μἑρη απἁτητα απὁ κἁθε μορφἡς ὁχημα, ξὑλινα γεφὑρια, πετρὁκτιστα χωριἁ, μεσαιωνικἁ μοναστἡρια κρεμασμἑνα σε απἱστευτους γρεμνοὑς, καλντερἱμια, λιβἁδια γεμἁτα αγριολοὑλουδα την Ἁνοιξη – διαμορφὡθηκε μἑσα μου η ιδἑα να γρἁψω κἁτι και εγὡ για τα ελληνικἁ βουνἁ, ἑναν ορειβατικὁ οδηγὁ που θα τραβοὑσε ορδἑς ορειβατὡν!

H καινουγια κδοση

Το 1986 βγἡκε στο φως η πρὡτη ἑκδοση του The Mountains of Greece. Οι ορδἑς ορειβατὡν που περἱμενα δεν παρουσιἁστηκαν! Ἑτσι, με την πἑμπτη ἑκδοση που βγαἱνει τὡρα, ἁλλαξαμε κἁπως πλὡρη. Τὡρα εἱμαστε δὑο, εγὡ και ο φἱλος, Michael Cullen, o οποἱος γεννἡθηκε και μεγαλὡσε στην Ελλἁδα και ἡταν ἑνας απ᾽αυτοὑς που ιδρὑσαν την εταιρἱα Trekking Hellas. Με παρἁδειγμα το δἱκτυο GR στη Γαλλἱα, αποφασἱσαμε να συγκεντρωθοὑμε στην χἁραξη μἱας μεγἁλης πεζοπορικἡς διαδρομἡς που θἁ διἁσχιζε ὁλη την ορεινἡ ραχοκοκκαλιἁ της Ελλἁδας απὁ την κορυφἡ του Γρἁμου πἁνω στα Αλβανικἁ σὑνορα μἑχρι τις ἑσχατες παραλἱες της Μἁνης κἁτω στην Πελοπὁννησο. Στα αγγλικἁ την ονομἁσαμε The Peloponnese and Pindos Way. Στα ελληνικἁ μπορεἱ να αποδοθεἱ ως Η Δισχιση της Πελοποννσου και της Πνδου. Δεν μου φαἱνεται ὁμως και πολὑ πιασἁρικο σαν ὁνομα. Το πρὁβλημα στα ελληνικἁ εἱναι ὁτι οι λἑξεις ἑχουν πἁρα πολλἑς συλλἁβἑς! Για το τμἡμα της Πἱνδου σκεφτὁμουνα να το αποκαλἑσω Το Πρασμα της Πνδου. Για την Πελοπὁννησο ὁμως δεν μου ἑρχεται ἑμπνευση. Εἱμαστε ανοικτοἱ για προτἁσεις…

Σε πἁνω απὁ τριἁντα χρὁνια ο Michael και εγὡ ἑχομε περπατἡσει σε βουνἁ πολλὡν ἁλλων χωρὡν, μἑχρι στο Νεπἁλ και στο Τατζικιστἁν. Πιστἑυομε ὁτι η διαδρομἡ αυτἡ αξἱζει να καταταχθεἱ ανἁμεσα τις ομορφὁτερες πεζοδρομικἑς διαδρομἑς της Ευρὡπης. Πἑρα απ᾽αυτὁ οι περιοχἑς που περνἁει η διαδρομἡ εἱναι βαθιἁ δεμἑνες με τις πιὁ σημαντικες παραδὁσεις και αξἱες και γεγονὁτα που ἑδιναν στην Ελλἁδα το χαρακτἡρα της. Αποτελοὑν ἑνα σημαντικὁ μἑρος της κληρονομιἁς της πατρἱδος.

Για να γἱνει ὁμως γνωστἡ στους κὑκλους των διεθνὡν ορειβατὡν πρἑπει να βγοὑμε να τη πατἡσομε! Σκἑφτομαι το Lycian Way η Likya Yolu στην ΝΔ Τουρκἱα, που την δημιοὑργησε μἱα φἱλη μου αγγλἱδα, η Kate Clow, το 2001. Στην αρχἡ οι ντὁπιοι, καχὑποπτοι, πυροβὁλησαν και ἑριξαν κἁτω τις ταμπἑλες. Τὡρα, που κατἁλαβαν ὁτι το περπἁτημα αρἑσει σε ξἑνους με λεφτἁ, προσἑχουν τα μονοπἁτια και δεν προλαβαἱνουν να ανοἱγουν ξενὡνες. Για να πἁρει τη σωστἡ θἑση της στην πανοπλἱα των Ευρωπαἱïκων ορειβατὡν The Peloponnese and Pindos Way χρειἁζεται βἁση ελληνικἡ, κυκλοφορἱα αρκετἡ για να πεἱσει τους ντὁπιους και τους τοπικοὑς ορειβατικοὑς συλλὁγους ὁτι αξἱζει ο κὁπος να συντηρἡσουν τα μονοπἁτια τους.

Ορειβἁτες και φυσιολἁτρες της Ελλἁδας ενωθεἱτε και ξεκινἡσετε!