It’s turning out to be quite the year for winter lovers. This year’s ‘darkest winter’ is a blessing for all the snow aficionados. Across Europe, the snow has come in thick and fast, at times a little too thick. Even the northerners are overwhelmed (!). The 1%ers at Davos this year will have to wear an extra layer (Quel horror). So what does one do in the face of such bountiful largesse? Head for the mountains, obviously.
Mt. Helmos, situated near the historic town of Kalavryta on the Peloponesse, is spectacular as it is mysterious. Along with Mt. Parnassus, this is the Athenians’ top choice when it comes to winter getaways. And as is usually the case in Greece, when you see the locals congregate somewhere you sure as heck follow.
Kalavryta is the place where the Greeks mounted their offensive against the German occupation army. A memorial in the main square stands tall as testament to all those who fell. Apart from that singularity, Kalavryta is your typical Greek town. Oh, apart from a cray cray monastery built on the bare face of a mountain, a subterannean cave-lake complex and a cavernous canyon. And did we mention the food is great?
A weekend in Kalavryta does not do it justice. Despite its lack of size, Kalavryta packs a wallop. The things to do and see are spectacular. From nature to man made stuff, this place embodies all the great qualities of Greek outdoorsy-ness. If you can find more charm, you’re probably in Switzerland.
Obviously the skiing resort is the main draw. At 2,340m altitude you’d be forgiven for confusing it with the Pyrenees. The air is frosty. Its 12 ski slopes over 20 km are divided into difficult, intermediate, easy and very easy. Several amenities exist, such as the ubiquitous restaurant chalet, ski equipment shops as well as some kids designated areas as well as snowboard pipes and slaloms.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, then a trek along the old railway tracks to Vouraikos gorge (one of the most scenic walks in Europe, we’re told) will send fin de siècle shivers along your spine. There’s a distinct Wes Anderson sepia tinted feel here. One that every grammer out there will no doubt appreciate. The fact you can ride the ol’ train along the quaint scenery only adds to the picture perfect postcard you’ll be snapping.
Similarly, the Mega Spilaion Monastery will take you to another time. And you’ll probably want to fire up Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade after that. It’s something between Agia Soumela and Petra. Weird yet alluring.
And then there is the eerily mysterious Cave of Lakes. I mean, you have to get past something called ‘Chamber of Bats’ to get to it so yeah, eery and mysterious do it justice. 13 frozen underwater lakes with a cave system to go with it, replete with stalactites, stalagmites and even a fossilized hippo are inside it.
Kalavryta often goes unnoticed. With so much beauty around the country, its easy to overlook it. However, this obscurity won’t last for long. We suggest you get a head start. Those photographs won’t take themselves!