It’s not what readers in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia, enduring a long and possibly harsh winter in Northern Europe, want to hear, but December and January are often beautiful months here in Paleochora. Usually we have periods of “halcyon days”, when the sea is calm, the sun warm, and cloudless skies are clear blue. Last December was unbelievably warm, dry and sunny, with practically no rain, and daily temperatures in the low/mid 20s.
In Greek mythology, Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, god of the winds, and married to Ceyx. When her husband was shipwrecked and drowned, Alcyone, grief-stricken, threw herself into the sea, whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds (kingfishers). When Alcyone made a nest, waves threatened to destroy it, so Aeolus restrained the winds and kept the seas calm for seven days either side of the winter solstice, so that eggs could be laid and incubated. So, “halcyon days” are storm-free, and our kingfishers, seen regularly along the coast, fly undisturbed, their flights “ mixed with a sound of waters murmuring …”
Here’s a relatively easy walk suitable for a winter’s day, (or a summer’s evening,) all on tracks and quiet roads, with the optional inclusion of the summit of Kastri, 897m, if required. It’s a circuit from Temenia, distance approx. 10 km, and will take around three hours. The Anavasi 1:25 000 map of Samaria/Sougia will be useful ; route-finding is a bit complex, but the correct way, at any confusing side-roads, is currently indicated by yellow way-marking.
Temenia, home of the famous mineral waters, is 17 km from Paleochora, easiest through Azogires and Strati, with ample parking as you enter the village. Maybe take a coffee at the simple “Yrtakina” cafe, with a view to the former Dorian fortress, (see ‘Explore’ Feb 2011), before setting off, walking north out of the village and taking the second turning right, signed ‘IAMATIKH’ (“spa”).
Yrtakina from Kastri
A little further ahead, towards Kandanos, is “Ta Temenia” taverna, where you could enjoy a fine meal afterwards. Descend to the taverna/rooms, cross the stream, past houses, the track then rising towards open ground, keeping left at a junction and following the Lagos Rema brook upstream.
After 750m fork down right, cross the brook, and climb steadily to reach the ridge, then turn left through a gate *. Now the track winds down, rather disconcertingly in the opposite direction to that needed, soon remedied as it swings left to another gate, and on to meet a wider road (coming up from Maza.) Keep left here, between vineyards (Maza has a reputation for its fine wines.) And care needed, look for the waymarking, and always keep walking north and uphill (if it’s flat or downhill you’ve gone wrong.) Higher, at a 3-way junction, keep ahead, then left (less obviously) up a shaly track to reach the ridge.
Vines above Maza
Another gate here, and to its left a rocky outcrop, perfect for a rest and view down back to Temenia.
Temenia & Kastri from Yrtakina
Now it’s easily downhill, but first an option to follow the ridge (keeping left of the wire fence) to the summit of Kastri. It’s not easy-going through heather and maquis, and after the concrete pillar at 897m, a fence crossing before continuing along the ridge, passing en route a stone shepherd’s shelter, but views in all directions make the diversion worthwhile.
Kastri shepherd’s hut
On the main route, follow the track down to the brook, (through more gates,) and up to reach the ridge top (the alternative to/from Kastri joins here,) with extensive views, over Agia Irini (everyone’s favourite gorge walk) to Psilafi and the western White Mountains. Walk down to a junction and fork right. All straightforward now for more than 1 km, always south, always downhill. Mid-way, look back over your left shoulder to the ridges leading to Agios Zinas, 1331m (see ‘Blue Moon Walk’ August 2015).
Below a distinctive S-bend, turn sharp right, on a wide track which contours around the hillside to Epano (upper) Maza. En route are views to the sea at Sougia, into the Kamaria valley, and the picturesque villages of Rodovani and Maza. Eventually, after approx. 1.5 km, go left then right, on a surfaced road leading down to the “main” road, and a 2 km usually traffic-free walk back to Temenia. On the way, visit the 13th century church/monastery of Christ the Saviour, outstandingly beautiful, and a small (and more recent) roadside chapel.
Christ the Saviour
Immediately after crossing the bridge below Temenia, turn right on a passageway which leads directly up into the village.
Note * : There are several gates on this walk, some of which appear to be barriers to progress, but all can be opened by unfastening wires, and of course closing them behind you.
The winners of the 2015 Christmas Puzzle were R & M Colbeck. Thanks to all who entered. The correct answer sequence was D J G F E B A H I C