Monastery of Agia Lavra and Kalavrita monument
10.10.2008 - 10.10.2008 21 °C
We stayed on night in Kalavrita. Our group was split into two because the one hotel did not have room for all of us. I was with seven girls who got accommodations at the Ahilion Hotel. I'm not complaining at all. It was quite, it was clean, it was rather classy if not small and quaint. A very nice place to spend the night even if it is out of the way. We thought we were going to have to tote our luggage back to the middle of town the next day but our bus driver met us right outside our hotel! I thought that was sweet considering the narrowness of the streets it was located on. Most of the hotels over here do what is called "bed and breakfast", which means exactly that. You get a bed, and you get breakfast. Breakfast usually consists of various breads, fruits, yogurt, boiled eggs, sometimes scrambled eggs, honey, butter, jam, coffee, juice and tea. It usually beats what American hotels refer to as a continental breakfast! So once we had our breakfast we boarded our bus and headed to the other hotel to pick up the rest of the group. Then it was on our way to the monastery of Agia Lavra.
Agia Lavra was founded in 961 CE, so it has been around for a long time.The current building dates from about 1681. As are many of the monasteries it is perched up in the mountains, although no so precariously as monasteries such as Meteora and Mt. Athos.
It is still a beautiful setting none the less. No photography is allowed within the Monastery so I do not have a lot of photos to share. The monk who met us at the entrance was very cordial and full of smiles. It certainly is a serene place, but is not with out tumultuous history. It was here, at Agia Lavra, that the freedom call of "death or freedom" rang out starting the Greek war for independence in 1821. It is said the Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the revolutionary flag on these grounds. The scene is depicted in this statue on the grounds.
Some scenery outside the actual monastery walls....
Of course, as expected, there were cats at the monastery. Not sure why I expected it, but I did. The monks feed them and care for them and I suppose the cats probably keep vermin at bay. They did seem much more well fed than some of the Athens cats I have seen.
We left Agia Lavra and drove down to the Kalavrita monument which sits just on the edge of town. Kalavrita, while a quaint little town, has a tragic history. Most people do not think of Greece when they think of the tragedy of World War II, but Greece did not escape the horrific nature of the war. Germans had been after resistance fighters that were hiding in the mountains of the Peloponnese for a while. The resistance fighters of course had the advantage because they knew the land. At one point several German soldiers were captured by Greek resistance fighters and eventually executed. This in turn angered the Germans who decided to make an example of the people of Kalavrita. On December 13, 1943, the Germans locked all the women and children of Kalavrita in the school house. All the men and boys who were over the age of 13 were taken up onto a hill that over looks the town.
They were made to watch as the entire town, including the schoolhouse, was set on fire, knowing their women and children were trapped inside. The men and boys were then all executed, their bodies left lying on the hillside. Whether it is fortunate or not, a few of the women manage to escape. They went looking for their men and boys only to find their corpses on the hillside. Over 1400 died in the Kalavrita massacre. You recall the clock in my last entry? It remains stopped at 2:34, the time of the massacre.
The monument is moving. White rocks spell out the words Peace and No More War. A message we could take to heart in today's world. The museum was emotionally overwhelming. Once I got to the final room, a room with nothing but photos and names of those who died, I was overtaken by emotion and had to leave. It is a shame that such a peaceful town had to be scarred by such tragedy.
It somehow feels right to end this entry with Kalavrita and the message that should stay in all of our hearts....