Kalavryta is a ski town in the central Peloponnese, with a lovely square, nice bakeries and restaurants and cute houses and buildings. It was under Turkish rule from the mid 1400s on, with the exception of a 30 year Venetian occupation. Kalavryta, specifically the Agia Lavra monastery just outside the town, is where the Greek Revolution launched in 1821.
It’s also the site of a horrific Nazi massacre of the second world war. In December 1943, 80 German soldiers were captured and held prisoner by Greek resistance fighters. Most were executed; the few who survived got word to the Nazis, who sent troops to this quiet little town for retribution. On December 13, the Nazis separated males 12 and older from women and children. More than 600 men were taken to a field and executed by machine gun. Fewer than 15 survived. The Nazis placed the women and children in the school house and set it on fire. They managed to escape, though much of the city caught fire after that, and the Nazis burned what was left the following day. Two victims of the massacre were named Fefes — they were cousins and great uncles of Papou’s. The memorials to this tragedy are unbearably sad, especially a sculpture of a woman and her two children dragging her husband out of the field. Names of the dead are inscribed on the memorial that sits above the town; every year on 13 December, the city reads the names of the victims.
About 15 kilometers outside of Kalavryta is the very cool “Cave of the Lakes.” Several different fossils — including a hippopotamus — have been found in these caves that were discovered in 1964. 50 different bat species make their home here. The path through the caves is on a metal suspension bridge, as from November to March, the caves fill with water and have a bunch of natural waterfalls. At one point at the far end of the caves, there is a stalagmite (ground up) that connects to a stalactite (ceiling down), which is very rare. One centimeter of rock takes 100 years to form. Cameras aren’t allowed.
We ate well (again!) in these pretty mountain villages. At one point, Peter finished a bite and sighed, “boy I love lamb.’ It’s especially good cooked for hours in the oven with lemon and oregano. Kokoras (rooster) with tomato sauce and red wine is fantastic & served with a huge side of spaghetti, much to Michael’s delight. One taverna’s specialty was a hortapitaki — sauteed or boiled greens with dill and some local cheese baked into a phyllo.
In other news, there is a suicidal bird that keeps flying into our apartment. Demetri and Papou are out of town for a few days so I’ll be camped out in the bathroom.