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Shaolin & Taiji Summer Retreat 2018 - Shaolin & Taiji Summer Retreat 2018

Zagorochoria 29/6 - 4/7 2018

Our "base"     

This year the Shaolin Changui Cultural Center and the School of Traditional Shaolin & Taitsi in Peristeri, organized the Shaolin & Taitsi Summer Camp 2018 in perhaps the most beautiful location in Greece, Zagorochoria, Ioannina, based on the traditional guest house Eleftora with the indescribably hospitable Mrs. Dina.

Asprangeli is a mountain village in the prefecture of Ioannina. They are built at an altitude of 1,000 meters on the slopes of Mount Mitsikeli. Asprangeli is the seat of the Municipality of Zagori and their population according to the 2001 census is 237 inhabitants. Until 1927 it was called Dovra or Dovra

Our exercise

This year the Camp lasted 6 days, as a result of which we had to balance the daily training hours with those of sightseeing. After all, how could we be in such places and not see some key destinations?

So our exercise hours were limited to four daily, with three in the morning near our "base" and one in the afternoon which usually took place at the location we had visited.

The training included exercises of Nei Gong and Chi Gong, the traditional form of the Shaolin Chi Ching Chuan 拳 七星 συν ensemble, Chan λογισ Δια Meditation with the speaker the 34th generation Shaolin monk, Xi Yang άν 释 向 法师 and part of Lao Tzu太极 老 架 一路 by Chen Taichi with lecturer Master Alexopoulos Nikolaos.

Our Excursions

Our first excursion is the Kokkori Bridge. The impressive single-arched bridge located between the villages of Koukouli, Dilofo and Kipoi in Central Zagori.

The bridge was first built in 1752, with the financial assistance of the prefect Noutsos Kontodimos from the village of Vradeto, however it was repaired in 1910 by Kokkoros, from the village of Koukouli, which had its mill there, and is now called the Kokkori-Noutsou bridge.

The arch of the bridge is 23.6 m long and 8.5 m high. The access to the bridge is made from both sides with paths that have been carved on the rocks and are a continuation of its construction. Next to the bridge stands an imposing vertical rock while below it flows the river Voidomatis with its crystal clear waters where we dived.

The Kalogeriko bridge or bridge of Plakida.

Although it belongs to the community of Koukouli, the "Kalogeriko bridge" or "bridge of Plakida" as it is otherwise called, is located a few meters before the entrance of the village Kipoi Zagori.

It is a three-arched stone bridge, with a length of about 55 meters and a deck width of more than 3 meters, while on the sides instead of a parapet it has sparse arches.
It is one of the most famous stone bridges of Zagori, a wonderful example of the high folk technique and aesthetics of that time.

It was built in 1814 and cost 20,000 grosis (silver coin of the Turkish occupation) which were granted by the then Abbot of the Monastery of the Prophet Elias Vitsas, Seraphim.
The monastery of Profitis Ilias maintained a watermill at this point along with a water mill and the bridge was built to replace the older bridge, to make the passage safer.
The old bridge was wooden and was built in the middle of the 18th century by Zotos Roussis from Negadi, who spent 8,000 grosis for this purpose.

The monk's bridge that replaced it, was maintained by the Koukouliotes brothers Alexandros and Andreas Plakidas in 1866 (or in 1863) and since then it bears their name. We visited it, walked it, took photos with it and we really liked it!

The ravine of Vikos from the place Oxia. Near the village of Monodendri is the place Oxia from where there is an amazing view of the ravine of Vikos. Observation point (a small balcony - plateau), with the very great depth of the ravine and Vikos rolling to its lowest point, caused us awe.   To the left of Oxia point, we walked a path of about 100 meters reaching a dead end but also with amazing views.

The imposing Vikos Gorge is a magical location with great ecological value. Vikos Gorge is located in the Guinness Book as the gorge with the smallest opening, just 1100 meters at its narrowest point and at the same time a depth that exceeds 900 meters.

With a length of 12 km and a maximum height of 1000 m. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world. Its width ranges from 30 to 100 meters and its slopes are overgrown with rare flowers and herbs. The river that crosses it, Voidomatis has water from November to June.

Perama Cave. The Cave of Perama is geologically connected with the presence and evolution of Lake Pamvotida. It dates back to about 1,500,000 years and is part of a riverbed, when the waters of Lake Pamvotida covered the entire basin of the city of Ioannina and Goritsa hill was an islet.

Perama Cave belongs to the limestone caves and has 19 species of stalactites and stalagmites, an extremely large number.

It consists of many consecutive rooms and corridors adorned with stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and impressive columns in magnificent complexes.

In 1956 fossilized teeth and bones of the cave bear were found. It occupies an area of ​​14,800 sq.m. and the tourist route is a total of 1,100 meters 45 minutes. The indoor temperature is 18 ° C, while the humidity reaches 100%.

The first modern reports of the existence of the Cave date back to World War II, when the inhabitants of Perama found refuge during the bombing.

During and after the end of World War II, he was photographed for the first time by Konstantinos Kasvikis, a gymnast and amateur speleologist. Its systematic exploration and mapping was started by Ioannis and Anna Petrocheilou (founders of the Hellenic Speleological Society).

After the Perama Cave we visited the lake of Ioannina for relaxation and coffee. Lake Pamvotida (ancient name Pamvotis), also known as Lake Ioannina , is located at an altitude of 483 meters above sea ​​level . It has a length of about 7.9 kilometers, a width of 1.5 to 5.4 kilometers, an average depth of 4-5 meters, a maximum depth of 11 meters and an area of ​​19.4 square kilometers. It is surrounded by the Mitsikeli Mountains and the eastern ridges of Tomaro (or Olytsika) and is formed by the waters of three main springs (Drabadova, Sentenikou and Krya), which gush at the foot of Mitsikeli. It is associated with the legends of Kyra - Frosini and Durahan .

Around the middle of the lake is a small islet, on which is built the settlement of the same name , which now has 347 inhabitants according to the 2001 census. On the islet there is the monastery of Agios Panteleimon, where in 1822 Ali Pasha was assassinated.

On the same day we took a walk on the Acropolis of Its Calais with the mosque of Aslan Pasha which was built in 1618 a few years after the suppression of the revolution of Dionysius of Skylofos (1611).

It is located in the northeastern citadel of the Castle and was probably built on the old Christian church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos, which according to some gave its name to the city of Ioannina. The mosque is located on the rock of the castle and was a very difficult task for its time.

Aslan Pasha was happy to see his historic creation finished since, as tradition tells us, he died as soon as the mosque was built. Before he died, however, he even took care of the continuation of its operation after he endowed it with a large real estate property and made it the richest in the city of Ioannina.

In the center of the citadel of Its Kale in the Castle of Ioannina is the circular Norman tower called the Tower of Boeomund.

For the second time we dared and dived into the crystal clear blue waters of Voidomatis. One of the cleanest rivers in Europe, it flows rapidly from the foot of the Tymfi, creating in its path one of the most important pockets of wildlife in Greece.

The name Voidomatis comes from the Slavic Bode Mat, which means "good water". The river springs to the south of Mount Tymfi, below the top of Biliza, while at its highest points begins the deep ravine of Vikos.

Its length is 25 km, the altitude of its route starts at 1,500 m and ends at 500 m, while its waters are very cold with a maximum temperature of 5 degrees Celsius.

Hiking in Drakolimni Tymfi. This is probably the most walked route in Zagori, since every year thousands of nature lovers visit it. And of course not unjustly since although it is a bit tedious, in the end every hiker is compensated for his efforts by the amazing beauty of the landscape of Drakolimni.

This hiking route started from the small village of Papigo (altitude 978 m.) And had as its first goal, the shelter of Astraka (1921 m.). According to the signs in the village, the time required to cover the distance of 5 km that separates the small Zagorochori from the shelter, is less than 3 hours. Our time was around 5 hours with the stops we made at each source of the route. These are the fountains: " Antakli " (1178 m), " Trafos " (1522 m.) And " Krouna " (1780 m.), Which of course we do not know if they have water every month. The path is clear, preserved and with frequent marking.

When we start our journey, we pass its first stage through a wooded place. But quickly the landscape is stripped naked since we now enter the Alpine zone of Tymfi.

Arriving at the shelter and after the required stop for a few breaths, we enjoyed his cuisine with a Greek coffee and dessert for about 2 hours. Continuing, we entered the last stage of our course (distance of about 3 km). Our path for a while descended to " Xeroloutsa " and then ascended to Drakolimni. Perhaps the most difficult part of our journey. The steep ascent started for about half an hour where it reached one of the most beautiful destinations of Epirus, Drakolimni of Tymfi (2050 m.).

There we camped for one night with a guard of a beautiful white dog (Trek), who followed us from the beginning of our hike. And of course we did not sleep at night because Trek barked all night smelling and hearing different things.

Waking up in the morning around 06:30 we practiced the Art of Chi Gong and Taichi inhaling the alpine air of the mountain. We took our photos, packed them and started the return.

On the 4th of July we left for Athens, about 4 hours drive, where our camp for this year came to an end. We hope all participants had a great time with unforgettable experiences. Date of the year with new adventures.

Report of our Summer Camp from the CHINAGREECE TIMES newspaper here and the official Shaolin Temple website here


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