Taxiarchis - Vrastama
This walk between the mountain villages of Taxiarchis and Vrastama starts at a height of 640m above sea level and fmishes at 450m, so it is mainly downhill with a few ups and downs along the way.
The route follows an old smuggling and shepherds track through the Holomondas mountains. The starting point for the walk is the beautiful village square at Taxiarchis. Here stands a marble monument to a war hero: loannis Parliaris, Hero of Macedonia, (1903-1913).
From the memorial take the road that leads northeast between the houses, leading to the church. Continue on the road out of town until, after 250m we come to the end of the tarmac road, which bends away to the right. At this point turn left (look for the way marker), pass to the left of a hut with a corrugated iron root:
then through a hole in the hedge, and down a steep bank of loose packed soil (care needed). This leads directly onto a narrow shepherds path leading southwest, which was also a smuggling route in the past. Turn right onto this track, which meanders down the side of the valley through scrub and woodland. On the way edible chestnut trees are seen, together with fine views of the valley ahead and to the left. The gradual descent continues, with occasional reversals of direction as the miniature gorges cut out by streams in wet weather are traversed. Eventually, after a kilometre or so, the bottom of the gorge is reached, a shady stream is crossed, and the path begins to ascend the other side. However in the next 800m only twenty metres of height are gained, as we traverse across the valley. The vegetation becomes more open, allowing finee views of Taxiarchis above and to the right of us. In the next 200m the route swings to the west and descends to a flat area, well shaded by trees, with a clear stream running through it. This is an ideal place to stop for a lunch break or rest awhile.
From here the path crosses the stream and climbs the bank at the other side; heading in a southeasterly direction. After 200m or so the path, which is now passing through dense undergrowth, reaches a clearing and drops down to a dry stream bed. A much larger clearing, on a rise, is reached after another 400m of mainly level walking. Looking back from here Taxiarchis can be seen standing prominently; high on the hill behind us. The path continues to climb, now in an easterly direction, to cross a farm road at a high point, where there is an Eklissaki (little church). Tum left onto this track for 30m and look for a way marker on the right to indicate the next section of the route, which meanders down the hill in a generally southerly direction. In 200m or so a well shaded stream bed is reached and the path swings east of south, crosses another stream bed and emerges into an open area, where a ruined building can be seen to the left. Soon after crossing yet another dry streambed the path rises through a large clearing in the bush. Here the way is rather indistinct on the ground, as it continues upwards, due east. Eventually, nearly 400m after the last streambed, a small perfectly circular clearing is reached This is an old c:baJ:coal burners hearth, where charcoal was once made. The path carries straight on in a southwesterly direction as it rises to a minor summit in a further 250m. Here there are fine views to the left, with varied and colourful vegetation all around. The route now descends through an oak wood to reach a wide forest road in 250m. Tortoises can be seen wandering here. Tum right on the road, which rises to the southwest until a wire fence is reached; in 500m or so. The road keeps to the left of the fence, bearing southwest to reach the top of a rise; where it divides into two. Our path follows the left-hand branch, which gradually descends across open land to rise again.
About 300m from the fork in the road look to your left for a waymarker. This indicates the start of the next section of the route, a small track leading off into the wood on the left. This path travels eastward and then swings round towards the south to cross a farm track after 200m. It then meanders southeast through shady woods for another 600m, at which point it reaches a wide forest road. After crossing the road the path begins a gradual descent through bushy undergrowth to reach a streambed. It then rises to an open plateau in 600m or so. Here a single tall Saeuleen Cupressus, stands amidst huge piles of cut timber ready for winter (in October). It can be very rewarding to carefully observe the local flora and fauna here. On my last visit a member of the group pointed out a large green praying mantis on a small bush, which I photographe of course.
About 1OOm southeast of the large tree look for a broad and rocky farm track leading off to the right. This climbs to the southwest taking us out of the valley, to cross a road after 1OOOm or so. The route continues south on a narrow track, which winds through holly bushes and descends to arrive at a clearing in 500m. From the clearing the path meets a ploughed field, which we skirt round on the left side, and make for a red roofed building in front. This building is part of the recently cons1ructed recreation area, which is attached to the local church on the outskirts of Vrastama. The church, which in spite of its external appearance is quite old, is well worth a visit. From here it is an easy stroll down to the centre of the village, where there are two Tavemas.