It was Saturday morning and once we packed the pecan pie which we had made the previous day, we started to explore the highlands of Peloponnisos, in Panahaiko Mountain. We took a day trip and we first stopped in Petroto village which is situated 7 km in the south west of the well-known winery “Achaia Claus” that is in the foothills of the mountain. Petroto was so close but the dirt road made it seem so far away.
From the very first meters the riding begins allowing us not to lose sight of the city of Patras. Glaykos River was a company to our trip as we kept watching it. However, we tried to have in mind not to get carried away watching the view and we drove carefully a few kilometres until Petroto village. Due to the recent rain, there were big stones on the dirt roads of the village and the access to it became even more difficult than it was before.
At the center of the village there is the church of Saint Apostoles, Peter and Paul which is the loyal guard for the two sole permanent residents of the village. In June, a lot of people gather at the churchyard and make the desolated but so beauteous village into a lively place. There are less than ten houses in Petroto and enough houses are in ruins. The sole and permanent residents are Mister Kostas and Miss Vassiliki who are two amazing people. It was not difficult for us to trace them. Τhey welcomed us immediately by treating us. We, in turn, left the pecan pie we had made. We sat in the yard of their house and we started conversing as if we had known each other for several years. We talked about the tasks that Mister Kostas has to do as a stockbreeder and also about the historical background of the village. A few decades before, fifty families lived there and the children of the village were attending the school. Like most villages of our country, Petroto village has been abandoned too and this is crying shame. We are so foolish to leave behind our villages where we can live qualitatively by the clear waters and breathe fresh air in order to move to the city and follow a chaotic style of life so that hypothetically we feel more comfortable.In our company there were also the family’s grandson and the bride (his mother) who come to the village two times a day with their father in order to milk the sheep and then to sell the milk in the city.
The time when we were in the yard went by pleasantly. We were asked to stay for lunch but we preferred to continue our day trip and drive ourselves to the dirt road until the village of Aghia Paraskevi. The road we followed was in the wild mountainous nature, that had low vegetation and mostly oaks, and many of its paths had been charted by the animals. Moreover, the condition of the road revealed that we were the only people who went by there lately.
As we were reaching Aghia Paraskevi there were 3 uphill hairpin turns that led to it. There were a few houses again but there seemed to be a laundry down the road. Also, there were some flower pots in the yards of the houses and there was a sound of a grass trimmer heard that gave us the impression that the village was livelier than the previous one. The truth is that during our brief stay there, we met a remarkable man, the president of the local community. He was a hospitable and cheerful person who was busy taking care of his house. He turned off the machine and welcomed us cordially. Here, people visit the place very often but there are only a few of them who are permanent residents. They come here to have some good time near nature and sit in front of the fireplace of their houses making thus a warm atmosphere.
The height of the mountainous village is 980 metres and it was built in order to enjoy the view from every spot you are. We noticed that the new houses are built in the ruins of the old houses creating in a way a beautiful relationship with the past. The road we had gone through so far was a dirt road and once we left from the village of Aghia Paraskevi the road became bituminous unexpectedly. There were goats and sheep which are considered to be the “natural grass trimmer.” They made the green scenery seem much more beautiful.
A few kilometres before we reach the next village called Miralis, we turned left in the first dirt road. It was difficult for us to pass the road as its ground and its inclination made the riding impossible. There were small, med-sized, enormous sharp stones and as a consequence our motorbike -now weighing more than 200kilos- got stuck.
Our next plan was to go on foot to the next village and ask for help. Going through the pathways we understood that the descending was, indeed, impossible from there. No car has passed for a long period of time and this was so obvious by the fact that the place was all green. Daisies, other colorful flowers, and scattered herbs created a dreamy landscape. The pathway was becoming narrower and this made the entrance unfeasible.We found Stavros in the square of the village down the road. He was holding a tong and was watching out the steaks he was broiling of not to get burnt. There are four members in his family and lunch was being prepared by all of them (the mother, the father and the two daughters). We asked Stavros to help us.
“Our president, Nikos, can help but it is afternoon now and it is time for lunch”, he replied. “You have to wait”, he then explained and proposes that we sit and drink some wine.
He also brought us some treats to eat and then we started to make toasts by saying “Cheers”. We drank so much wine and we felt so pleasant to be with these people. I could admit that we had made four new friends with whom we shared some common interests. The fact that for the next three hours we were eating, drinking and conversing made us to forget our problem. Time goes by differently in the village and everything is cool. Everybody is welcomed and happy away from the crowded city.
There came Nikos, the president of the village, who had always a beam on his face and spoke well of all. We said farewell to the women of the family and we promised that we will meet again. Afterwards, the whole team gathered for the “rescuing” of the motorbike. Four young boys got on the pickup truck and other adults got into the cab. I felt like we were going to a country fair. Nikos drove very carefully in the difficult part of the road and we arrived very fast as we were close enough at the place where the motorbike was. Following the instructions that Stavros was giving to us we pulled the motorbike from this difficult part.
We said farewell to all of them thinking back on all the beautiful things we had lived that Saturday. We arrived in Halandritsa where there is an amazing paving and taking a stroll to it is necessary. Its image sometimes gives the sensation that you are in a mountainous village and some other times gives the sensation that you are in an island. We returned to Patras once we drank our coffee and ate local sheep’s yogurt near the waters and the big plane tree during the sunset. The initial route was to go far away but when you meet friendly people who live in the village and they invite you to join them you cannot refuse. However, moments like these are the ones that count.
*Special Thanks to Nikos Aravantinos for sharing with λ3 his story.