January 1, 2012... The vigil of the previous night, kept me in bed until 11 am. Opening my eyes the first thought that came to my mind was, "Today I have to do what i really want to do all the year..." The next move was to call in Sakis. On the other side of the line I heard a voice which he tried with difficulty to articulate 2-3 words, because of the vigil of the previous night... After the traditional greetings, there was one question: "Let’s go a ride with our motorcycles? So to have a good year!!! "
Some family/social obligations-at first-"collapsed" any plan... But that was only briefly. In 5 minutes Sakis called me, asking the place and time of our meeting! At 12:30pm, we were at Dafni, starting with the direction for Tripoli...
The blue skies predispose us positive. Nevertheless, the temperature barely climbed to 10 degrees! Even after the city of Korinthos-we started approaching the tunnel of Artemisio-the temperature fell to 4-5 degrees. We are not interested at all! The fact that we were on the road and we ride our motorcycle, in places that we loved, made us forget everything! We enjoyed everything ... even the cold air entering at our helmets.
In a short stop at the toll, Sakis asked me about our destination. I did not care to make a trip... only to get the bike and go to a nice place to enjoy the first coffee of 2012... "Ano Doliana in "Oneirologio" coffeshop at our friends," I replied. Although it seemed to him a nice idea, he wanted more... he wanted to see something new! I did not like to spoil a favor... So I decided to show the area south-east of Tripoli, near the village of Vlachokerasia. An area that a friend had taken me, teacher and colleague, a few days ago.
Having traveled approximately 150km. we went outside Tripoli just before the newly built tunnel of Kalogeriko, we let the Highway Tripoli-Kalamata. Riding now in the Old National Road, we followed the path of Megalopolis. Approximately 10km. then, before the village of Kato Assea, we turned left, at the hub for Mannari. The route passed over the New National Road and riding east at about 2 km we found the Manari's stone bridge.
It is a stone arched viaduct with 8 arches, built in the 19th century from stones of the area. It is the largest in Greece, as the length 117m., and the height of the highest arch reaching 22m. Over the bearing rails of the railway line Athens - Tripoli - Kalamata. It is designed by the French engineer A. Gotteland and in accordance with findings dating back to the period from 1890 to 1891. The operation, however, began in 1898. The existence of the bridge, yet the railways played an important role in biotic and freight of the inhabitants of the region. The bridge is a monument of modern architecture.
Unfortunately these days the signs of neglect are obvious, particularly as regards the small railway station. If you happen to pass through this point ascend to the station and enjoy the view while-simultaneously-guess the times that was full of people. How many smiles and tears would "accommodate" the specific location? Those who came, those who left, those who stayed behind...?
Making a short stop, then, along the eastern path we drove east. The altitude reached 1000m. and for several miles the road stayed in so high altitude! The cold had become intense, but we were so engrossed by the beautiful way we did not realize! We passed through the small village of Mannari (4km) and Vlachokerasia (6km). There once we met the great church of the village, further along we found the sign for Kollines.
Following an upward climb, later we were outside the village. After 3-4km. we met the first pines. Basically we entered the reforested area of Skyritida. The area has always been residential. The men of the area, the Skyrites, in antiquity, were considered elite ancient soldiers. The park that exists in the region has a moving story, that it has followed its heroic people. Until the revolution it was composed of intact perennial oaks and deep shadowed valleys. During the Revolution fires hurt the eternal forest. It was resurrected by the care and concern of the people.
The residents of Vlachokerasia, Kerasia and other villages began in the early 20th century to reforest the wounded forest, with a staff of hard work and participation of schools. The Forester Anastasios Stephanou had tried scientifically and methodically to bring it in its first glory. With chestnut and pine trees created a model park, a monument to human cooperation with nature. Today is spread over 50,000 acres and gives life to a rich ecosystem.
In the bowels of the park is the source of the Eurotas that after 82 km flows into the sea. The dense forest is traversed by a path of 14 km, wisely made to highlight the beauty of nature. Images of unimaginable beauty waiting to whoever is visiting it: streams and glades, old mills, waterfalls and ampoles trees and pine trees. We made several stops for photos reaching a point at the dirt path leading to Agios Christoforos (=St.Christopher).
The sun had begun to fall. The shadows in the forest became more and more and the temperature did not longer exceed 2-3 degrees. The time had come to visit the wood stove of the cafe "Oneirologio." So we went back in Vlachokerasia and from there along the road to Tripoli we found the Highway Tripoli-Sparta. At the village of Kerasitsa, we turn right on the villages of Alea, Stadio, Rizes and then the familiar path to Ano Doliana.
The little pleasure-trip just before the village-in the wild chestnut, led us to our friends George & Vicky and "Oneirologio coffeshop", who welcomed us with joy. We sat near the stove to get warm. Over the time we got a call for greetings, George Z. from Nafplion. Once he learned where we were, the continuity of the day was known. At about 8.30pm. we were in a nice tavern in Nafplio to eat together. Later Sakis returned to Athens due his work, while I stayed in Nafplio.
Shortly before I sleep a thought and a prayer came to my mind: "As the present day to be the most in the New Year ...!"
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!