At only a short 12km drive north from Paleochora, Voutas is one of my favourite villages in this area, and the starting point for several fine walks (see “Explore” – April 2012, ‘Villages above Voutas’.) But Voutas has seen better days…..
Less than half a century ago, Voutas was a thriving community, the commercial centre of the area, with a population (c.600 during the 1950s/60s) larger than Paleochora. Residents in twenty-one nearby “settlements”, from Archondiko through Kalamiou, Kitiros and Lagadas to Vothiana, enlarged the district even futher. The village had a forge, blacksmith and saddlery to serve the needs of many equines, (donkeys especially) and many shops and businesses. These included (water-driven) flour and olive mills, a tailor and seamstress, cobbler, furniture maker, at least eight cafenia, a mini-market, bakery and butcher. A ‘taxi’ and bus (with hard seats) connected Voutas with Paleochora, although the road through Kondokinigi was not made up and surfaced until 1985. A cinema provided popular entertainment. The village school flourished, with some 70/100 pupils attending. There was a community centre, police and fire station, doctor and medical centre. Even so, until 1969 the village had no electricity, drainage, or main water supply.
But from the 1970s onwards, people moved away, many to the coast at Koundoura to clear land, build greenhouses and grow tomatoes, others to Chania, Heraklio and Athens looking for a better quality of life. Slowly the village dwindled, cafes, the cinema and school (in 1978) closed, shops and houses were left empty, nearby olive groves unattended. In recent years, Voutas seemed a “ghost town”, with just one small cafe/mini-market, where if open, you might get a Greek coffee or Nescafe. In the 2011 census, the population of Voutas was just 57, many elderly.
But, possibly as a side-effect of the Greek economic crises, things may be changing. Recent walks in the area have passed by new houses under construction in Kitiros and Kalamiou, and renovations under way in other small villages. Friends this summer rented a restored house in Faleriana for three months. Better, it’s been suggested, to repair and live in family property, with land to grow food, some animals, and olive trees, than pay unaffordable rents in Athens or other large cities. Best of all, for visitors to Voutas, is the recently opened (August) taverna “To Steki tis Anna” – ‘Anna’s Place’ – on the main street, run by Anna (of course) and her husband Giorgos, with help, when busy, from their two young girls.
Here’s an easy, short and circular walk, two hours at the most, above and around Voutas, possibly with a drink at the cafeneio before setting off, and ending at Anna’s taverna.
Park in the village platea, then take the road signed to Sklavopoula, passing the old schoolhouse, and descend to cross the river (Pelikaniotikos).
Keep ahead at the junction (to Chasi), and on past the olive mill to reach the 14th century church of Agia Paraskevi. Inside are some interesting frescoes, one of which – “The Punishment of the Damned” – may well persuade you to lead a pure and virtuous life.
Continue along the road, winding high above the river, for around 15 minutes (1 km), then turn right on a track signed to Agios Spiridon. This leads through olive groves to the church, not especially interesting, but worth looking inside, and the key easily located if it’s locked. Take the grassy track right, immediately before the church (possible gate), initially through more olives, then breaking out into more open scenery and rising steadily above the valley.
When you reach another track (which climbs to Kalamiou), turn right downhill. Avoiding all side turnings, this leads pleasantly to the surfaced road (to Moustakos). Cross the bridge and turn right, simply following the road south to reach Voutas, and a warm welcome at “Anna’s Place”, in two kilometres.
Thanks to Tonia Sarikakis and her family (from ‘Zygos’) for fascinating history of Voutas.