In Dervenochoria!

Another excursion close to Athens begins! This time son, mom, daughter-in-law and niece will visit Dervenochoria, in another day trip full of experiences.

In our new travel article about Dervenochoria we visit beautiful, historic monasteries, breathe fresh air, eat delicious, country food, enjoy the landscape and fantastic views and take beautiful photos to remember, but also to share with you!

Before we started we wanted to know a few things about Dervenochoria. We read that it is a group of five villages, west of Parnitha mountain, which belong to the prefecture of Viotia. They are located on a plateau, at an altitude of 530 to 570 meters. The five settlements of Dervenochoria are Pyli, Skourta, Stefani, Panaktos and Prasino. We would learn the rest on the spot, so we got in the car and started!

The first place we wanted to visit was the Monastery of Saint Meletios of Kithairon, on the borders of the Prefectures of Attica and Viotia, since the church of our neighborhood in Athens is also dedicated to Saint Meletios.

The entrance of the Monastery of Saint Meletios of Kithairon

Arriving, we passed the entrance and found ourselves in the verdant outdoor area of the monastery. We did not find anyone to ask about the history of the monastery, so we sat in the shade of a large tree and searched for information on the internet.

The travel team of Eat Dessert First Greece: son George, daughter-in-law Eliza, granddaughter and niece Maritina and grandmother Christina

From a website of the Ministry of Culture and Sports we learned that the Monastery of Osios Meletios is one of the most important monastic complexes of our country, SE of Mount Pastra of Kithairon and is about 2.5 km from the settlement of Oinoi (Mazi) Megaridos. Today it operates as a nunnery.

We sat in the shade of the tree and read about the history of the Monastery.

The history of the monastery is inextricably linked with the action of Saint Meletios the Younger, who was the reformer of the ascetic life in Greece. Saint Meletios, originally from Cappadocia, arrived in the area at the end of the 11th century, where the Monastery of the Symbol existed, and established his own solitary community, following the strict principles of the asceticism of the early Christian years.

Odysseus, Ministry of Culture and Sports
Saint Meletios the Younger (source)
We took beautiful photos outside, but also inside the Cathedral of the monastery.
The Cathedral of the monastery with its bell tower

From the outside, but also from the inside, the Cathedral of the monastery is beautiful. Externally it fits in harmoniously with the natural environment and the wonderful view. Inside, with the low lighting from the candlesticks and lanterns, along with the beautiful surviving murals and interior architectural elements, a worshipful atmosphere is created that takes you back in time. We lit candles, said our prayers and went out into the outdoor courtyard to enjoy the coolness and the view.

Inside the Cathedral of the monastery
Murals of the 16th century, but also surviving murals of the late Byzantine era
Virgin Mary of Gorgoypikoos, who, as grandma Christina told us, quickly offers her help to anyone who asks for it.
In the fount of the Monastery

Exploring a little further the outside of the Monastery, we found a small building, overgrown from the outside with a small inscription above a wooden gate. We approached and from the gaps of the door we saw that inside there was a manger! Since it is summer, we assume that this manger is permanently set up in this area, which resembles a cave.

In a small, closed area of the monastery there is a manger permanently set up.
A wonderful view extends beyond the railings of the courtyard of the monastery.

Leaving the monastery in the direction of Dervenochoria, we saw signs to Saint Paisios Church. On our way we found the Church of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos of Oinoi-Attica, unfinished from the outside, but equipped from the inside.

The Church of Saint Paisios of Mount Athos of Oinoi-Attica
The interior of the church during its festival (source)
A local dog

Back on our way, we wanted to find the Dafnoula Bridge, a bridge that we had read looks like the bridges of Zagori, Epirus. At one point we found a bridge and getting out of the car we saw the river Asopos passing under. It was the only element in the vast landscape we saw in front of us, which showed that the bridge was not a myth. Unfortunately, the route was a ground road and we did not have the right vehicle to continue, so we left it for another time…

The river Asopos
The bridge of Dafnoula (source)

The village of Dervenochoria that we chose to visit first was Pyli, where we had learned that there is a very good tavern called Aris. We read that Pyli was the seat of the former Municipality of Dervenochoria and is built on a plateau at a height of 550 m. Until 1927 it was called Dervenosalesi and then it was renamed Pyli. One of the most important battles of the national resistance with the Germans took place at Pyli village, the “Battle of the Pyli” on October 18, 1943.

From afar, we saw the village extending in the plateau.

Arriving at Pyli we saw the Regional Clinic of Pyli with the name Periklis Tsevas. Approaching we noticed a monument dedicated to Dr. Periklis Tsevas. We thought he would be an important figure in the area and indeed he was. Searching the internet, we found a website of an elderly care center named Marepi which was founded by the daughter of Periklis Tsevas, Anna Tseva. On its website we read very moving words about her father, which outline his personality and his contribution to the local community.

More important in her (Anna’s) adult life is her informal role as the “right hand” of her father Perikli’s, during the fulfillment of his medical duties, in the difficult economic and social, post-war conditions of provincial Greece. Periklis Tsevas was an inspirational figure, whose philosophy is impressed in the medical services of Marepi even today. Anna’s father vowed to dedicate his whole life to where they needed him most, in the medically neglected Greek province. Serving Hippocratic Oath, Dr. Tsevas, as he was called, instilled in his daughter Anna a sense of responsibility, moral obligation, and purpose in life to help those in need.
The Regional Clinic of Pyli “Periklis Tsevas”
The monument of Periklis Tsevas

And after a while we reached the tavern Aris and sat outside, in a shady spot. It was a bit late for lunch, it was time when the village goes to sleep. We assumed this and indeed found out later in the afternoon, when the residents started moving on the streets of their settlement. We did not want to wait for the afternoon, so we immediately sat at our wooden table in the beautiful tavern.

Apart from a very nice place and good food, the tavern belongs to a family from which we met mom and a daughter and they were very kind and very happy! They brought us grilled rustic bread with olive oil and we ordered a choriatiki salad, handmade tzatziki, greens, tiganopsomo (a fried bread), chicken, beaf burgers and two pork chops. It was all exquisite and especially the chotiatiki salad had the most delicious tomato we have ever tasted!

At our table, in the tavern Aris, ready for another food battle!
The neat interior of Aris Tavern.
Grilled rustic bread with olive oil
Choriatiki salad
Greens and homemade tzatziki
Juicy burgers
Fantastic and huge pork chop
For a treat a local handmade fried bread with honey and cinnamon… Thank you very much!

Before we left, the owner of the tavern treated us to the sweet fried bread they make and we had a little talk about the village. She told us that we definitely had to visit the nearby, historic Monastery of Zoodochou Pigis where we could talk to a very friendly nun, who wants people to come to the monastery. Of course we would follow her advice!

Walking towards the car, nearby the tavern we saw an impressive monument for the victims of wars in the periods 1912-1922, 1940-1941, 1943, 1944 and 1947-1949. The names are engraved on plaques which surround the statue of a female figure, a warrior.

The statue with the victims of the village
The Church of the Annunciation of Pyli

After a short drive in the country roads of the area, we headed to the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi. The monastery is located about two kilometers north of Pyli village.

At the entrance of the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi

We left the car near the entrance of the Monastery and followed a small ground road that led to the Holy Temple of Zoodochos Pigi. Our building was slowly unveiled, along with an awesome, endless view. So, we started photographing!

The Temple of Zoodochos Pigi

Something that impressed us were the ruins that surrounded the temple and showed that there was an older building in its place. This question was answered by nun Filothei, who welcomed us with such a big smile that made us immediately feel happy and familiar. We asked her to tell us a few things about the monastery and the area and she gladly accepted.

The nun initially welcomed us to Dervenochoria, telling us that derveni in Arvanitika means passage, so we were in the villages of the passage. The main road, which we saw from above, pre-revolutionary and in Antiquity connected Thebes with Athens. This passage was occupied by five villages in a circle, Stefani, Pyli, Skourta, Panakto and Prasino.

We were, Sister Filothei told us, in the Monastery of Sterna, which was founded in the 11th century by Saint Meletios. Saint Meletios had come on foot from the Monastery of Saint Meletios in Oinoi -which we had already visited- and founded a monastery dedicated to Zoodochos Pigi. It was called Sterna Monastery because the monks had water from the mountain.

Inside the Temple of Zoodochos Pigi with Sister Filothei
Sister Filothei takes care of the Temple.

The church, Sister Filothei told us, is built on water, on a stone vaulted arch, under which the water passes and comes out in the plain. In fact, outside the Monastery there were Roman Baths. Before the Christian monastery was built, there was a temple of Apollo and because the area had a lot of water, the baths were built. When the monastery was built, their use remained as monastic baths, for the needs of the monastery.

The Roman Baths outside the monastery

The monastery once had 400 monks. At that time the pirates left their boats in Porto Germeno and looted the area. The monks, in order to protect themselves, had built underground tunnels, which started from the outside of the monastery and went out to the plain. Down there the monks guarded their wheat, their oils … In 1600 the pirates raided, found the way out and came from the exit to the monastery. They completely destroyed the monastery and slaughtered all 400 monks. From 1600 onwards it did not become a monastery again.

The iron frames have been added by archaeologists, because that is where the entrances to the underground tunnels are.
The demolished wall that remains is the wall of the first Temple of Saint Meletios, before the destruction.

For about two centuries there were only ruins in the area. In 1890 the inhabitants of Pyli reverently reduced the temple and made it what we see today, using materials from the 11th century. As we have noticed, the temple needs restoration. Jointing has been done only in the dome and it must come lower, the nun observed.

For the past three years, efforts have been made to restore the church and to operate the monastery again, with the care of Metropolitan George. Sister Filothei is the only one who lives in the Monastery and takes care of it. We wish from the bottom of our hearts that this blessed and martyr monastery will be revived!

The bells and the endless view of the monastery in the plain
In the background, on the mountain, there is a aelolic energy park with wind turbines.
The exhibition of the monastery, from which we bought souvenirs.
Candies for a treat!
Wearing the crosses we bought from the exhibition of the Monastery
Maritina baught her grandmother a cross for her neck, and we got her an icon of the Virgin Mary.

Leaving, after we had collected beautiful images and thoughts, we passed again through Pyli village, having Skourta village as our next destination. In Pyli we saw a shop with local honey, pollen and royal jelly, but unfortunately it was closed when we passed.

A local store of Pyli with honey products.
The building of the Greek Police with the Local Policeman

So we left for one last walk in Skourta! We read that Skourta is the largest settlement of Dervenochoria, built at an altitude of 540 m.

The Skourta football field is full of children
Outdoor fitness equipment
The Holy Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary

An emblematic figure from Skourta is Athanasios Skourtaniotis. As we learned, he was born in 1793 in Skourta and played an important role in the Greek Revolution. In his childhood he studied at the Monastery of Osios Meletios and later was initiated into the Filiki Eteria. As a political and military commander of the autonomous region, on April 10, 1821, he raised the flag of the revolution, as one of the first chiefs of Roumeli. After many successes, he breathed his last in the holocaust of Mavromati, Thebes, on October 26, 1825.

The statue of Athanasios Skourtaniotis in Skourta
The Office of the Local Community of Skourta

It was getting dark in Dervenochoria, so we started on the way back to Athens, happy with everything we had learned, the people we had met and the nice food we had tasted. On the way back we made one last stop to enjoy the view of the green mountains…

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