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Local Quality Pact of Northern Peloponnese "Orina" - Τοπικό Σύμφωνο Βόρειας Πελοποννήσου τα "Ορεινά"
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Local Quality Pact of Northern Peloponnese "Orina"
Local Quality Pact of Northern Peloponnese "Orina"

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East of the ancient site of Stymphalos, next to the main road, stands the bulk of a tower-shaped pillar, part from the Monastery of Cistercian Monks of Zaraka. Next to this lay the remains of the church. Frankish monks arrived in the area as commanded by Pope Innocent III for religious orders settle in Greece. The knights of the Fourth Crusade had just overthrown the Byzantine Empire. The exact foundation date of the monastery is unknown, however historic testimonies lead to the conclusion that the monastery was built in the early 13th century, and specifically before 1236. The monastery was constructed using an ancient building material, probably from the temple of Artemis that is believed existed there.

The Cistercian monks were the first to respond to the invitation of Innocentius. During the first half of the 13th century they founded 12 monasteries. The first reference to the monastery is made in a letter of Pope Gregory IX to the abbot of Zarakas, Peter, which dates back to December 23, 1236. In most occasions the Cistercian monks occupied Greek orthodox monasteries and restored them. The monastery of Zarakas was built from the beginning. When the Frankish lost their sovereignty in the region, the catholic monasteries in the Greek territory are forced to close.
Until 1260, the monastery is mentioned sporadically in the statutes of the Cistercian General Chapter and it was one of the few not been obliged to participate in the annual compulsory attendance to the General Chapter. The monastery was required to attend once every seven years. It was abandoned in 1276.

The church was excavated in 1928 by A. Orlando and in 1962 by E. Stikas. In 1993, the Archaeological Service granted the Canadian Archaeological Institute permission to conduct excavations. The excavations lasted until 1997 under the supervision of Professor Dr. Sheila Campbell.

The church is a three-aisled basilica with an elevated middle aisle, dome roofed by pointed arch cross-vaults. The north external wall is reinforced by buttresses, while on the northeast corner of the church’s protrusion there is a belfry. The decoration of the church represents the simplicity and the impeccable style of the roman buildings. 
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Acrocorinth

The castle of Acrocorinth, the biggest in Moreas, was the watching eye of the entire Peloponnese. Excavations started in 1961 by the Archaeological Institute of America. It was created during the reign of Sisyphus, the mythical king of Corinth, and its first fortification took place in the late 7th- early 6th century, during the Kypselid Tyranny. After a long history of different occupations by different conquerors –Romans, Franks, Venetians, Turks – the castle finally returned to Greek hands in 1823 with the liberation of Corinth. Fortification works from every period, the Mycenaean, the Classical, the Byzantine and the Medieval can be seen on Acrocorith due to the Turkish and Venetian occupation.

The castle includes a large multileveled yard, covering 25 hectare of land and is a typical example of fortress architecture. The walls have a polygonal shape following the natural curve of the rock and are strengthened at intervals with towers and bastions. The view from Acrocorinth is breathtaking. In front of the visitor’s eyes spreads the entire Corinthian Land, until the borders of Argolis, over the Geraneia Mountains and until the beginning of Achaia, and Central Greece can clearly be seen. Acrocorinth is the Magical All- Overseer of Peloponnese.
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Castle of Agionori

Between Argolis and Corinth, in the middle of eastern Corinth, the castle of Agionori is located. The Franks built it during the later Byzantine period, and that led to the creation of a settlement that shares the same name. The small castle was a significant stop on the way from Corinth to Argolis, since the shortest road that connected the two prefectures of today passes from that spot. It also provided a magnificent field of vision The inhabitants of the village Agionori communicated with the castle of Acrocorinth, the castle of Larisa in Argos but also with the Armenokastro of Kapareli in Argolida. In order to Agionori from Corinth, we take the peripheral road of Corinth and pass through on the villages of Chiliomodi and Klenia. To get to Agionori from Argos, we take the peripheral road Argos- Chiliomodi, passing though Neo Ireo and Prosymni. The castle stands at 680 m above sea level appears ahead of us.

The prevailing opinion concerning the castle’s name is the one referring to the settlement of monks from Mount Athos during the 11th century. This opinion explains both the name of the castle Agionori (=holy mountain) and the existence of many churches around it; Saint George, Saint Stephen, Saint Marcus, Saint John the Precursor, and Saint John the Theologian and of course Our Lady, scatter blessing memories. Of these churches, only the churches of Saint Anargyroi and Saint Athanasius have been restored.
In its complete form it consisted of 5 towers of different size connected to each other with a wall. The entrance is located on the northern side of the building and there you can see the small monastery of Saint Anargyroi. Today, only two of the five are preserved, they are three-stories high and their walls have a slight slope towards the interior, towards the yard of the castle. For its construction squared stones and strong whitewash were used.

The castle of Agionori is directly related to one of the most glorious battles of the Greek War of Independence; the Battle of Dervenakia. It was here, on the second day of the battle of Dervenakia that Dramalis’ army was completed decimated. On his way back to Corinth, he was attacked by 1000 Greeks, who finished what Theodore Kolokotronis had started one day earlier. Climb up to the castle, find Acrocorinth and the stragegic battlefield will unfold before your eyes
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The Gorge of Lepida

The gorge of Lepida is one of the numerous, impressive natural formations of Mount Parnon, which stands between the prefectures of Arcadia and Laconia. Its length is 500 metres and it is relatively flat. Two hours are required to cross it, during which visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique natural beauty of the landscape, which is filled with rich flora and fauna and boasts two gorgeous waterfalls (ideal for rappel), of 45 and 70 metres respectively, which complement the impressive scenery.

Access to the gorge is possible via the villages of Kato Doliana and Kastritohoria. Crossing is safer during the summer when the level of the waters is low, and this can also be combined with visits to notable attractions, such as Tiryntha, Akronafplia and Mycenae. There are also several lovely beaches close by.
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The Wine Routes

The Peloponnese undeniably holds one of the leading positions in terms of wine production in Greece. It’s no coincidence nor a surprise that many of the most domestically and internationally popular wine varieties have their origins in the Peloponnese (the island of Pelops or ampeloessa, according to Homer), since this geographical district has a production of approximately 1,208 labels and a total vine area that covers 29.1% of the Greek wine map. The Wine Producers Association of the Peloponnese, which is based in Tripolis, had the idea of creating the Wine Routes, in order to promote wine tourism, a sector of substantial importance for Greece.

Arcadia has been famous for the quality of its wine since ancient times. According to Theophrastos, “men lost their minds when they drank it and women got pregnant”. So intoxicating was this wine, that it was also popular among the Gods. Pan, for example, the God of vegetation and fertility, who was known for his womanizing behaviour, as well as Dionysos, the God of wine, who was worshiped through rituals and celebrations of ecstatic inebriation, had Arcadian wine at the top of their preferences.

Even nowadays, Arcadia continues to be an important wine-making centre. One of the most famous vineyards in the country extends across the Mantineian Plateau, where, over a total area of 7,000 square metres, the particularly popular variety, Moschofilero – one of the most aromatic Greek wines – is cultivated. This area has been established since 1971 as a zone of the Mantineia PDO, a region that produces wine with a designation of origin of superior quality. During our tour of the Arcadia Wine Routes we will pass through various places where we will have the chance not only to taste the delectable varieties, but also to admire the unique architecture of the buildings where the wine is produced.

The first stop is the villages of the municipality of Korythio, which boasts around 5,000 square metres of vineyards. From the old Tripolis – Argos national highway, we head to Steno, which is a village with interesting historical sites. The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was built in 1847, stands at its centre, while on a nearby hill we see the windmill of Bakopoulos, which dates back to 1850. At the beginning of the 1980s, the team of the Ephor of Antiquities, Dr. T. Spyropoulos, brought to light six thermo-metallurgical kilns from the prehistoric and the late roman years (2500 BC – 500 AD). After the village of Steno we arrive at Agiorgitika, where they also discovered a kiln from prehistoric times, which was the biggest ever revealed. After Agiorgitika, we arrive at the historic Mouchli, where one of the most important castle states of the time held power. The castle of Mouchli was established in 1296 by General Andronikos Asan. It was surrounded by a triple wall, and inside they built the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mouchliotissa or the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mouchli, remnants of which still exist. In 1460, the castle was destroyed by the Turks and its residents moved to Constantinople. However, for about a century and a half, it was one of the biggest and most important castles in the Peloponnese. Our tour continues to Partheni. Just before the entrance to the village, we will see three windmills –those of Pantelis, Rasiarmos and Gyftogiannis- while in the village we cannot miss the imposing church of Agios Georgios. Further on, we will see a beautiful lush grove, where the chapel of Agia Kyriaki has been located since 1891. In Partheni we will also have the chance to visit the Folk Art Museum, which is housed in the old elementary school and has exhibits from the wider area. Our next stop is Neochori, which has a lovely main square and a fertile valley where they mainly cultivate potatoes. To the north of the village we will stumble upon the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which according to an inscription was established in 1696. At a close distance from Neochori we will see the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos of Varsoi, at an altitude of 1,100 metres, which was built around the 11th century and had a brilliant history up until 1460 when its decadence started. Today, important heirlooms are kept in this monastery, as well as the sacred relics of the martyr Dimitrios, and part of the relics of martyr Pavlos.

We then make a visit to the biggest vineyard in Mantineia, known for the production of exceptional and delectable wines, which lies ahead after the village of Zevgolatio. The first stop here is Milia, with its important archaeological remnants. We will see the ruins of a temple dedicated to Ippios Posidon, which was built by Trofonios and Agamidis – famous architects from Viotia. Dr. Spyropoulos revealed an impressive building in a nearby spot, which he identified as the tomb of Epaminondas, the great General and politician from Thiva. A little further on, we see the hill of Gortsouli, around which there are numerous archaeological ruins from the early Helladic and the Hellenistic era. Then we visit Artemision, a beautiful village with impressive stone houses and a scenic bridge which dates back to 1890. Our next stop is Pikerni, with the church of Agios Nikolaos, around which Klimis Gkonopoulos built the homonymous monastery in 1822, as well as the remnants of an ancient castle. The village of Sagka has a spectacular view to the mountains of Mainalo and Lyrkeio. From here, you will see the lovely church of Agioi Theodoroi, with its amazing bell tower, which was built by Tinian craftsmen in 1892, as well as the double-arched bridge of Mpouselitza. The municipality of Mantineia is based in Nestani, where we will see remnants of the walls of the ancient acropolis, the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as many mansions and watermills. We will see, the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Gorgoepikoou, which was built around 1080 AD by the Emperor Alexius Comnenus. This monastery houses the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to be the work of Lucas the Evangelist. After the village of Kapsia, where one of the most notable caves in Greece is located, we make our last stop to the scenic village of Simiades with the Chapel of Agios Prokopios and the archaeological ruins, evidence of past inhabitation.

Merely few of the winery-estates you can visit are the following: Mantineia Winery in Zevgolatio, P. Kalogeropoulos & Co. Winery, also in Zevgolatio, Spyropoulos Estate in Mantineia, Kalogri Estate in Kapsia, Bosinakis Winery in Steno, Boutaris Winery outside of Tripolis, Troupis Winery in Fteri Milias, Boutaris Winery in Milia, Papageorgiou Winery in Artemisio, and many more.
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Stemnitsa Silver-Gold-Smithery School

In 1976, a unique school in Greece opened its gates in the picturesque, traditional village of Stemnitsa; it is the Stemnitsa Silver-Gold-Smithery School. Here the students are taught the art of silversmithery, which reached great heights in various areas in Greece, such as Rhodes and Ioannina.

The School was founded by the great craftsmen barba-Lambis Katsoulis and Aristides Vlachogiannis. Today it is housed in a beautiful, traditional two-storey building, recently renovated and fully equipped: it has modern, equipped labs, designing room and computer lab. The course has a duration of two years, with emphasis on applied practice. This public School is open to everyone, on the condition that they have completed at least the first year of the Greek Lyceum. The students are given great facilitations, such as free meals, rent allowance and free transportation to and from their area of permanent residence. Despite the fact that the School operates in an area with difficult access, every year it is full. This means that, apart from being a very beautiful settlement, Stemnitsa is also an attraction point for many young, creative people.

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The Gold and Silversmithing Workshop School of Stemnitsa was established in the 1970s in Stemnitsa, an area with a great tradition in this particular art. It was founded by two great craftsmen, the late Lampis Katsoulis and Aristides Vlahogiannis. In the academic year 2007-2008 it acquired the status of a Public Vocational School and today it is a Public Technical Vocational School. This School is unique in Greece and it attracts students from all over the country to the small, traditional settlement of Stemnitsa, who go there to be taught the art of gold and silversmithing in the most apt of environments and by the most experienced of teachers -the majority of whom graduated from this same School.

The School is housed in a two-storey traditional building, which was recently renovated by the municipality of Trikolonoi, and offers its students a state-of-the-art infrastructure, boasting three fully-equipped workshops, a design studio and a computer room. The sole prerequisite for enrolment is the completion of at least the first grade of the Lyceum. The School’s curriculum emphasizes on practical training. However, it also includes various general education courses, like foreign languages, IT, literature, religion, mathematics and many more. Students are greatly facilitated on various levels: they receive, amongst other things, a rent allowance, food, the opportunity for field trips and military service deferment..
Although Stemnitsa is a mountainous and remote village, every year this School is full of students, many of whom have excelled in important competitions. For example, in 2012, the students of the School won the first three prizes and a second distinction in the 23rd competition of Jewellery Design Crafting in the international exhibition KOSMIMA, which took place in HELEXPO in Thessaloniki.
 
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Mountain biking

A great way to discover a new place is actually on two wheels. Arcadia, with its stunning nature, does offer visitors this unique opportunity. The changes in the landscape, the lush vegetation, the dense forests and the hidden traditional settlements are only few of the natural attractions a visitor can enjoy with just a bike and the desire for exploration. Around the city of Tripolis, as well as in the Arcadian villages, there are many beautiful trails, which are ideal for relaxing bike rides. However, for the adventurous types, we recommend some more difficult routes, which can also be guided:*
Rizes in Tegea – Prophet Elias
The route begins from the main square of Rizes, in the region of Tegea, and terminates in the chapel of Prophet Elias, which dominates the homonymous hill, about 10 kilometers away. The trip takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes and it’s quite challenging. However the stunning scenery will certainly bedazzle you, since the entire trail goes through the pine forest.
Tripolis – Kastri – Agios Petros – Coastal Astros
A demanding 4 hour and 78 kilometres long trail that passes through the most beautiful villages of Kynouria.
Mount Mainalo Α1 DH Trail
A demanding and adventurous trail that starts from the lodge of the Greek Mountaineering Club in Mainalo and terminates in the northeastern part of the mountain. It lasts for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, with few intermediate necessary stops. Within the first 500 meters of the trail you will probably need to carry your bicycle, since the soil might occasionally be unstable. The next part, which is about 3,5 kilometers long, is also difficult, while the trail becomes easier in its last section, since it’s straight and you will be able to accelerate.
Mount Mainalo Α2 DH Trail
This is yet another trail for advanced bikers, about 8.6 kilometres long, with a duration of approximately one hour. It starts from the back side of the ski slopes of Mainalo and terminates in Levidi, passing through the Kapeli Plateau. The trail is fully marked and includes ramps, mounds and jumps.
Mount Mainalo Α4 DH Trail
A short trail, about 4 kilometers long, which starts from the Rouchoi Plateau and heads towards Vytina. It lasts for about 30 minutes and passes through the fir forest. It’s quite demanding, however, and it’s not recommended for beginners!
Mount Mainalo A2 Rouchoi Tour
A trail of medium difficulty, about 16.5 kilometers long, with a duration of approximately 2 hours. The starting point is the trail A2, then goes through the Kapeli Plateau, descends towards Vytina and heads towards the Rouchoi Plateau, where you will arrive after a hard ascent. From there you will follow a downhill trail, which will lead you to the lodge of Mainalo.
* Information taken from Arcadia M.T.B. 
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