Monday, 12 March 2012

An introduction to Dimitsana’s alpine pleasures

Located 60 kilometers from the town of Tripoli in the central Peloponnese at an altitude of 1,000 meters and with the Lousios River lapping at its feet, Dimitsana is the perfect spot for a weekend escape.

Surrounded by a pine forest and with views to Mount Taygetos and the Megalopoli Plain, Dimitsana reminds us what it’s like to live in the lap of nature, to take in the colors, and to pass the time of day taking long walks, playing backgammon at a cafe in the main square or leisurely enjoying a meal of local delicacies.

Other than its natural surroundings, Dimitsana is also renowned for its elegant stone houses, its picturesque streets and its history, which is evident everywhere. Dimitsana was listed for preservation as a site of historical and cultural heritage in 1969, and a stroll through the area will reveal parts of the ancient walls of the ancient city of Teuthis as well as those dating from the Middle Ages.

Dimitsana is the birthplace of the early 19th-century Metropolitan Bishop Germanos of Patra and statues of him can be spotted all around the village. The 19th-century building that used to house the renowned School of Dimitsana, meanwhile, today houses a library with 20,000 rare tomes, a historical archive and a folk art collection.

If you want to embellish your weekend in nature with a bit of history, visit the Folk Museum, where you will see the saddle of Papaflessas, a resistance fighter against Ottoman rule, and a relic of Germanos of Patra.

In the 18th century Dimitsana was an important commercial center in the region, rich and metropolitan. One of the features that attracted commerce to the area was the running water of the Lousios, along which flour mills, tanneries and gun powder factories were built, bringing more wealth to the then-city.

Dimitsana’s 14 gun powder mills, a number of which still work today, provided ammunition for the revolutionaries of the 1821 Greek War of Independence. To see how these and other mills worked, visit the open-air Museum of Water Power, which is located 1.5 kilometers from Dimitsana in an area called Kefalari Ai-Yiannis. There, visitors can see how the gunpowder was made in 1821, as well as watch the process of leather tanning, which used to be a major industry in the area.

There is a lovely path leading from the museum to the Philosophos Monastery and from there on to the ruins of Ancient Gortyna and the Temple of Asclepius.

Back in Dimitsana, don’t miss out on a visit to the old town clock, a true masterpiece of architecture that is 27 meters high and boasts four faces that can be seen from afar, and a 700-kilo bell.

The town’s Byzantine churches are among Dimitsana’s finest assets, the most notable being those of Aghios Georgios and Aghios Ioannis, while it also has a few impressive monasteries, such as the Monastery of Emyalon, built in a cave 4 kilometers southwest of Dimitsana. The Philosophos (Philosopher’s) Monastery, built in AD 963, is wonderfully located and it also served as a secret school for Greek during the Ottoman occupation. For a truly breathtaking experience, visit the Timios Prodromos Monastery, which was built in 1167 in a crack on the rockface overlooking the Lousios Gorge.

Dimitsana is a good base from which to explore surrounding attractions, like the lovely mountain village of Stemnitsa, 8 kilometers away, Zatouna and the hamlets of Iraia.

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