We decided on the Doukades walk. Thank god, I don’t know what it entails until I’ve done it.. They picked me up at Tzavos and then we drove back to Ann’s cottage at Poulades in the Middle of Temploni, and started walking inland through the flatlands water soaked meadows, past the lake now full of water. Last summer it was dried out. Crossing a wet field I got both feet wet having only plastic boots. Ann said, ‘Oh they’ll dry out as you walk.’ They did, very quickly.
We came to the ruined monastery with an outside staircase going up to the Women’s Gallery a hatch lifts up through the floor . The church is set in a grass court with the living quarters in a cottage in one corner. These places were more like rustic Alms Houses; no more that 2 or 3 nuns must have lived there. The Nuns tilled the fields and lived the primitive life of the peasants. These little nunneries were more like primitive almshouses and Nuns like dowerless daughters
A famous murder is connected with this place. A local farmer with an already large family of married sons and daughters, started an affaire with a Nun from this little nunnery. The man’s family became worried that he might leave all their property to this convent to atone for his sin. So they murdered the man and the nun in the family home, where now ghostly phenomena have been experienced, apparently. It was in the 1950’s and the murder was attributed to Civil War Vendettas and so passed over.
We went on from there along a charming grassy track where there are some old houses of some grandeur including the Venetian house on the ridge of the low hill out of the wetlands.
We came out on the road to Fontana and from there joined the Paleokastritza road , with no alternative but to hoof along it towards Doukades, which seemed a long way away. We did walk a bit of the original Paleo road now existing only in fragments of curves where the new modern road goes in a straight line. It was surprising to see how narrow the old road had been. Back in the ‘Sixties, I used to drive it in my little Fiat 500 and if we met the Paleokastritza Bus on one of the many blind corners, I would have to pull right into the verge to let the bus squeeze past. It was quite a small bus in those days. The road was always full of pot holes . It took at least 1 ½ hours to drive to Paleo, but what a beautiful road it was , bordered by olive groves with wonderful views left and right. Then during the ‘Junta’ period N.A.T.O bulldozed the road to make it straight with access to Paleo where they intended to stock their ammunitions in the rocks – or so it was told – but thus destroying so much of its natural beauty.
As we walked along this road, Ainley suddenly pointed up to the sheer mountain above us , where a tiny white chapel perched high up on the wall of the mountain. ’That’s where we have our picnic.’ she couldn’t resist telling me. Apparently Ann had done the same to her on her first walk this way. Cruel. On we plodded climbing up into the Village of Doukades.
Another local story This is where that amazing English woman :Lady Jane Digby lived briefly as the Countess Theotoki. In her period in Greece she also took off with a Greek Bandit and galloped about with him. – but ended up eventually married to a Bedouin Chief in the Desert! What a woman!
On we plodded up to the top of the village by the alleyways between the houses . A steep climb which became steeper as we left the village below us and started the ascent through ilex bushes to gain the level track to the little chapel We emerged onto a bulldozed track with lots of Soapwort on the terraces. Finally we achieved the little chapel, sitting like duck perched over the precipitous drop, with just place enough to hold it. It is a wonderful perch hanging above the main road to Paleokastritza down below. You can see Castel San Angelo’s cone and the mountain above Lakones where we had walked on another occasion. Looking at it from this angle it seemed astonishing that I had walked up there on that rocky structure.
The chapel is firmly locked, but there were signs around it suggesting it is being used as a lighthearted rendezvous – lots of plastic cups of coffee, cartons of brandy and a couple of soggy shirts. Young people must come here. A hole in the rock had been used as a fireplace . Ainley collected all the plastic rubbish and managed to burn it all.
Yet another story Ainley had to tell about a local man who climbed up to rob a Buzzard’s nest of a young bird and sold it to a tourist (this was years ago) for a good price. So he went back up to the nest to get another – but the Buzzard attacked him and pecked out his eyes, and he fell to his death! The Buzzard’s revenge.
Down we went again through the village and out by the back way towards Skripero, turned into a track which took us onto heathland full of heather, nearly in bloom, and young oak trees. From this angle the main mountain range rises up like a great wave of granite. Under it lie the villages of Skripero and Korakiana – both picturesque.
We pushed through the bundu, till we regained the world of grassy olive groves with sheep feeding – such a din of bells as each animal must have had a bell on it – the tinkle-tinkle was underpinned by a clonking of a deep toned bell of the leading animal.
We came out onto the old Skripero road , the original approach to the village . Blackthorn bushes clotted with bloom, literally starred with ‘Stars of Bethlehems‘, Rumala runucula and Veronica Ancusa – a little blue flower. We walked the road until we could cut across the meadows where the wild narcissus grow abundantly, passing en route some scenes of picturesque rusticity as in an 18th Century painting: Cow under thorn tree, black hens, geese, turkeys and a dog barking hysterically. A friendly wave from a man carrying a bale of hay to the cow who licked her lips in anticipation and seemed to indicate with her head just where he should put it down for her to do justice to it.
We joined the main Paleokastritza road again, crossed it on another track – tramping miles through an area burned by the horrendous fire 2 years ago. The blackened trees are like fish bones impaled in the ground, but the green is greening and the wild flowers are there.
Then we came to an architectural gem of a building – an olive press with arches supporting the extended roof. We could only see in through a crack in the door to the vast area which once contained press – the light penetrating through the rear window like a Rembrandt etching. The building is being used as a sheep cote or cowbyre. It is for sale with 79 stemmata of land.
Return To The Life and Works of Theresa Nicholas
By plodding on we arrived back at Ann’s cottage. The longest walk I have done with them. It was 4 pm. We had been walking since 10 a.m. with only the break for picnic – 6 hours! I felt very pleased with ‘Brother Ass’ or should I say ‘Sister Ass’. though I could have done with more pauses to use my eyes as well as rest my boots. ~~