A day in Distomo and Arachova, full of history

The travel team of Eat Dessert First Greece with a new lineup for a trip to Distomo and Arachova. Giorgos with his mom and Eliza with her dad got their exploratory mood and got on for another trip that would have it all!

We left for another day trip!

In our new travel article, the destination is the martyric Distomo and the picturesque Arachova. There, we learn history from the monuments of Distomo, we visit the historic, recognized by UNESCO Holy Monastery of Osios Loukas, we take walks and try the cuisine of Arachova, without forgeting of our dessert of course! A day trip full of knowledge, experiences and flavors…

On the way we came by many cyclists, probably due to a cycling race!

Our first destination was Distomo, a semi-mountainous town -at an altitude of 467 m- in the province of Livadia in the prefecture of Viotia. Since 2010 it is the seat of the municipality of Distomo-Arachova-Antikyra.

Distomo is unfortunately mainly known for its tragic fate in World War II. We are referring to the Distomo Massacre or Holocaust on June 10, 1944. As we read, until that day the inhabitants lived in an idyllic homeland, until everything changed on a Saturday morning. German soldiers entered the village and killed men, women and even children. In a report on German public television ARD, two German journalists, who spoke to the descendants of those executed, described it as “a barbaric, bloodthirsty act, unexplained even to this day.” You can read the chronicle of the tragedy in detail here.

source
source

One of the worst atrocities of the whole war

Mark Mazower, historian (source)
On the way to Distomo

Three monuments and a museum stand in the village to remind of its tragic history, for the young to learn and the old to remember, so that the mistakes of the past do not happen again, and the victims are not forgotten.

The first monument is found immediately at the entrance of the village. It is a 7-meter sculpture, which as we read is called “World Kiss”. It symbolizes the peace and friendship of the peoples and was erected in its place on the 62nd anniversary of the massacre of the 218 inhabitants of Distomo by the Nazi occupation troops. The abstract sculpture is the work of the sculptor and professor of NTUA Mr. Georgios Kalakallas. With great symbolic value, this work welcomes us to the martyric village and, for us, says that we must not forget, but we must move forward for a world peaceful for all.

The “World Kiss” at the entrance of Distomo
The sculptor Mr. George Kalakallas (source)
Entering the village…
The Holy Church of Agios Nikolaos in Distomo
Crossroads leading to Distomo Beach, the Church of Agios Nikolaos, the Mausoleum and other destinations such as Osios Loukas that we would visit later

Following the sign for the Mausoleum we ended up perhaps at the highest point of the area, where a building of special architecture is built. The second monument we saw in front of us was a complex of rectangular volumes forming a monument-building, dedicated to the victims of the Nazi Germans. Looking for some information about this place, we read that it is located on the hill Kanales, at an altitude of 346 meters above Distomo.

Walking around the building, sometimes you are near its center and sometimes you are away from it. Approaching various places, its details are revealed: a wall with the names of the dead engraved on it, among which there are even infants, an elongated relief work of art with human figures, and the most shocking of all, in the main building if you look from the glass you see inside a wall full of the skulls of the victims.

A small amphitheatric event space
The relief work of art with human figures
The wall with the victims of the massacre, whole families from the elderly to the small children…
Martyric Distomo 10-6-1944 Day of massacre and destruction by the Nazi troops
The enclosed space of the Mausoleum, with the skulls of the victims
The view to the settlement of Distomo
The view from the other side

Excited by what we had felt in the Mausoleum, we headed to another landmark of the area which preserves the historical memory, the Museum of the Victims of Nazism, a stone building in Giannis Stamoulis Square. Unfortunately we found it closed, but we searched for information about it on the internet.

The Museum of the Victims of Nazism

From the museum’s Facebook page we learned that it was founded in 2005 by the Municipality of Distomo. Its purpose is “the acquisition, acceptance, safekeeping, preservation, recording, documentation, research, study and interpretation, as well as the exhibition and display to the public of historical testimonies, material and immaterial, which report and document the historical event of the massacre of the inhabitants of Distomo from the German occupation troops on June 10, 1944, but also during the general period of the Occupation in the prefectures of Viotia and Fokida”.

Downstairs is the collection of objects of daily life of a rural community of the interwar period, with some objects coming from the families of the victims (source)
The Chronicle Room, with copies of photographic items and excerpts of the daily press (source)
On the upper floor of the two-storey building, where the exhibition of the Victims of Nazism takes place (source)
The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Museum of the Victims of Nazism in Distomo (source)
Monument to the heroes of the glorious wars of the periods 1921-1922 and 1940-1941

Leaving Distomo, we also came by its City Hall, which also had a work of art with a similar theme in its main facade. Throughout the settlement there are things reminiscent of its tragic history…

The City Hall of Distomo-Arachova-Antikyra in Distomo
The work of art on the facade of the City Hall
On the map we saw that the Monastery of Osios Loukas is located northwest of Distomo.
Leaving Distomo

Nearby from Distomo we had seen the Monastery of Osios Loukas. This was our next destination. Arriving we saw a magnificent, serene landscape with beautiful, Byzantine buildings, and so we knew we had made the right choice to get over the bloody past of Distomo that moved us deeply.

Arriving at the Monastery of Osios Loukas
The many, interesting places that the Monastery includes

The Monastery of Osios Loukas has a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Outside the complex of the monastery there are tall, shady trees and seats that invite visitors to enjoy the tranquility of the landscape.

The Monastery of Osios Loukas was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990, as it is an excellent example of a monastery complex with a thousand years of history and universal value, which needs protection for the benefit of all mankind.

Osios Loukas

The area of the Monastery is very well organized for visitors, with signs with information, architectural plans and photos. In an introductory sign we read the following:

“The monasteries are a miniature of a Byzantine city. The buildings show the various activities of the monks’ daily life. The timeless use of these buildings in the Monastery of Osios Loukas has resulted in multiple repairs thus they are not preserved today in their original form.

The monks’ cells are housed in three-story wings on the west, north and southeast sides, with open arcades to the inner courtyard. The bell tower rises next to the southwest gate, built on the ruins of a Byzantine church. The two-storey building to the south of the churches houses on the first floor the refectory (dining room), where the monks dine listening to the synaxarium of the day -in the area today there is an exhibition of sculptures. On the ground floor of the building is the large olive mill, indicative of significant oil production.

A large underground water tank served the water supply needs of the monastery. At the warming room, in the northern part of the courtyard, the monks gathered to warm up the icy nights. It is a colonnaded room with cylindrical domes, in which ventilation holes are opened. The old stable is located next to the main east gate. In this two-storey building, the ground floor is intended for animals, while the first floor is intended for conductors and animal feed. On the floor of the restored building are exhibited Byzantine frescoes from the church of Agios Spyridon in Antikyra.

Finally, just outside the east gate is the small cemetery church of Agios Charalambos, built in the 10th century with materials from the neighboring ancient Sterida.”

Reportage photography from the Monastery of Osios Loukas

The view of the surrounding mountains
“The high bell tower with the clock, a sample of technological development and modernization, joined the life of the monastery at the end of the 19th century. (1888)”
“Entering from the east entrance, visitors could rest and admire the churches”
Monument of the Bishop of Salona Isaiah, who fell with his brother Papa-Giannis on 23-4-1821 in Chalkomata, fighting for altars and homes. “In this Holy Monastery, which was the home and stronghold of the Revolution, the Bishop blessed the weapons of the Roumeli uprising against the Turks”
“The restored wings of the cells are preserved in the form they acquired during the Ottoman period and until the end of the 19th century, built on embankments of ruins of the Byzantine era.”
The old Church of Panayia: “The church of Panayia, which is identified or built on the site of the original church of Agia Varvara is the oldest of the two churches of the monastery and dates back to the second half of the 10th century. It introduces to Greece the Constantinople architectural type of the four-column cruciform inscribed church with a dome, but adapted to the local building tradition.”
The new Church of Osios Loukas: “At the beginning of the 11th c. the new majestic church is being built. It belongs to the architectural type of the complex octagonal temple, where the creation of a single interior space under a wide dome is achieved. Here the influence of Constantinople architecture is evident too, with the large windows, the cruciforms in the housing of the interior, the covering of the walls with orthomarbling and mosaics”
Inside the oldest Church of Panagia, we found a magazine from the Prisoners’ Support Association “O Onisimos”
The Church of Osios Loukas
“At the junction of the two churches, in the center of the complex is the coffin with the relics of Saint Loukas, just above the tomb of the crypt. »
The crypt of Saint Varvara: “The four most important figures for the early history of the monastery are depicted in the southeastern crucifix (in the background): Saint Loukas founded the monastery, while the abbots Athanasios, Philotheos and Theodosios led it to its prime.” In the background is the tomb of Saint Loukas.
“The Byzantine olive mill with its large facilities, which was unveiled almost intact in the basement of the dining room, played an important role in the financial prosperity of the monastery”
The warming room where the monks gathered for praying

Having enjoyed the peace and tranquility that the monasteries always exude, we took the road that led to Arachova. At the top of the mountains we saw wind turbines collecting wind energy, a kind of Renewable Energy Sources. Otherwise we learned that they are called Mild Energy Sources as they do not require any active intervention in the environment, such as mining, and are also environmentally friendly, without emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide or toxic waste. So we were very happy to come across wind farms on our travels!

And then we arrived in Arachova, after a journey of about half an hour. Arachova is a mountainous town in the Regional Unit of Viotia, built on the southern slopes of Mount Parnassos, at an altitude of 950 meters. Arachova is a popular destination in winter, as it has a ski resort nearby, but we think it is a beautiful place for summer, so we chose to go there for lunch and afternoon coffee.

Arriving in Arachova

So we arrived in Arachova and made our first stop in a nice tavern with good reviews for its food. All the dishes we tried were really delicious, we enjoyed them very much in combination with the fresh air and the nature that surrounded us.

Grilled bread and garlic butter for welcome
Traditional chortopita (pie with greens)
Homemade lachanodolmades (stuffed cabbage rolls)
Greens with feta cheese and handmade tzatziki (garlic yogurt dip)
Fried zucchini flowers
Beef burger with potatoes and salad
Pork chop with potatoes
And to accompany all this, local rosé wine!

We liked everything we tried very much but what we wil remember are the homemade delicious lachanodolmades and the fried zucchini flowers, which we tried for the first time!Delicious food combined with a wonderful view is the best!

We continued walking in the alleys of Arachova, where we saw small shops selling souvenirs and local products. One of the local products of Arachova is formaela, a hard cheese produced only there. We read that its name has been registered in the European Union as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) since 1996. New information and a nice walk to digest, before sitting somewhere for coffee and dessert!

The local products of Arachova: formaela cheese, chilopites (traditional Greek pasta), honey, trahana (a wheat product), wine and tsipouro (a strong distilled spirit)
Souvenir wooden walking sticks and much more …

Taking our walk in the picturesque streets of Arachova we reached a nice square with cafes. We chose one and enjoyed Greek coffee with desserts, whatever each one preferred!

Homemade apple pie with caramel syrup
Cheesecake flavored pancakes with cream cheese, strawberry marmalade and fresh strawberries

After eating our delicious sweets, we continued walking to the place where we had left the car, and saw other beautiful places of Arachova.

The City Hall of the Municipality of Distomo-Arachova-Antikyra
Another spot of Arachova with awesome views!
Outside the Ethnographic Museum of Arachova, which unfortunately was closed when we went.

On the outer railings of the museum there were information posters with QR codes, which led you to a page with information about the museum. There we read that the Ethnographic Museum of Arachova is housed in an old neoclassical building, next to the famous clock of Arachova. It was built in 1908 thanks to the sponsorship of Andreas Syggros to operate as an elementary school. Thus it replaced the first old primary school of Arachova that was built in 1830 with financial support from Ioannis Kapodistrias. In 1984, the Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri decided that the old school of Arachova should be classified as a historical monument. In 2003 the neoclassical building ceased to function as a school, as a new building was built to house it. Today, the neoclassical building is completely renovated and houses the Ethnographic Museum of Arachova.

The Ethnographic Museum of Arachova

One of the most famous sights of Arachova is the Clock on the rock of Tyrias. After photographing it, we also learned its history: at the beginning of the 18th century it was part of the Metropolitan Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1870. The clock was repaired and took the form it has today. It has also served as a natural refrigerator for the preservation of food and cheese, while during the Nazi Occupation it was a good hiding place of important objects of the inhabitants of the area.

In front of the Clock of Arachova

It was time to take the road back, where we would make one last stop to see and photograph the third historical monument of our trip. On the way to Livadia we met a large, imposing monument that lets no one pass indifferent. This is the Monument of the National Resistance, which is located in Karakolithos, Viotia. There we read that on April 25 and 26, 1944, 134 civilians were executed, in a passage on the road from Livadia to Arachova, where there was no settlement or village.

The idea for the creation of the monument belongs to the first elected Prefect of Boeotia, the late Giannis Stamoulis. At the beginning of his term and in parallel with the preparation of the now historic lawsuit of Distomo, he announced, at the expense of the Prefecture of Viotia, an artistic competition for the creation of a sculpture, entitled “Execution of 134 Patriots and National Resistance”. In this competition, the sculptor Angelika Korovesi-Kalantidou was distinguished and in 1995 she was assigned to perform the artwork.

The artwork is located on a highway and I wanted it to be able to “be read” from both the two opposite sides of traffic. I also wanted the visitor who stops and approaches to have another, third, direct, visual communication and that is why I chose to show the fighter so imposing and looking as if moving.

Angelika Korovesi-Kalantidou (source)
The sculptor Mrs. Korovesi and the Prefect Mr. Giannis Stamoulis during the construction of the monument in 1995-96 (source)

Having completed our journey into the history of Distomo, Arachova and the surrounding area, with strong images in our memory and moving thoughts in our mind, we took the road back. Until our next sweet trip…

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. I grew up with stories about the German occupation of Greece, but I don’t remember hearing about Distomo. These are the sorts of things we need to remember, but that people are starting to forget, to everyone’s detriment. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much dear Aspasia! Exactly, these are the sort of things we need to remember! Our best wishes! 🙏🙏🇬🇷🌹

      Liked by 1 person

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