Epitalio: 10 Ways to See All of Greece in Just One Village

Do you want to see all of Greece in one village from the Age of Homer until today? Come to Epitalio, known as Thryon during the Mycenaean Age. Later, during the Greek War of Independence in 1821 – named Agoulinitsa after the region’s exquisite wetlands – it heroically fought bloody battles against the Ottoman Turks. Through two world wars and post-war civil strife, victories continued for the picturesque Peloponnesian town that has been especially endowed by nature.

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Built on the verdant slope of Dardiza where the 110km long Alfeios River forms its delta, it is part of the Natura 2000 network. The river flows to the coast where loggerhead turtles once laid their eggs in the golden sand. These days, however, all you’ll find are ramshackle huts, built illegally in just one summer’s night. In winter, waves reclaim the beach, getting their revenge. What’s left are images of abandonment, resembling the Wild West. That’s why I want to keep coming back. Because Epitalio has everything… and yet it has nothing. Just like all of Greece!

Here’s why all of Greece is encapsulated in this one, beautiful village:

1.Most people just drive by the small town, ignoring it on their way to the antiquities in nearby Olympia. For this reason, those who veer off the main road – usually just to ask for directions – are warmly greeted by locals that want to know their name.

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2. Miles of sandy beach once home to a thriving population of loggerhead sea turtles, still get a hatchling or two even though Archelon volunteers are more concerned about saving the turtles of tourist hotspots like Zakynthos and Crete than at this foresaken, forgotten but fascinating beach.

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3. Unfortunately, arbitrary housing development on the sandy stretch ensures that the tourists are kept at bay from the warzone between man and nature. Locals build their illegal buildings as quickly as the winter waves swallow them up, leaving behind a haunting landscape of utter ugliness and beauty intermingled together in one place.

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4. Nearby Kayafa health springs have fallen into decay, taking with them crumbling hopes for health tourism.

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5. Of course, there is beauty in the decay.

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6. The abandoned train station was once a lifeline for Epitalio, connecting the village to other regions, such as Athens.

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7. Everybody rushes to Olympia unaware that there are castle ruins at Epitalio.

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8. Mycenaean tombs were discovered at the mouth of the Alfeios River.

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9. The village has four places of religious worship: two rival churches in the main town, a monastery and Aghios Georgios on the hilltop, offering panoramic views of Epitalio all the way to the beach.

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10.Epitalio is blessed with so much beauty, history and potential and yet, rather than showcase the region the government is doing all it can to ensure that it remains a sleeping beauty. I’m stumped as to why local government reform in 2011 swallowed up the municipality of Volakas and shifted the seat to Pyrgos.

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Θες όλη την Ελλάδα από την ένδοξη εποχή του Ομήρου μέχρι σήμερα σε ένα χωριό; Έλα στο Επιτάλιο που στην μυκηναϊκή εποχή λεγόταν Θρύον. Αργότερα, στην επανάσταση του 1821, ως Αγουλινίτσα πλέων – έχοντας πάρει το όνομα του σπουδαίου υδροβιότοπου της περιοχής – αντιστάθηκε ηρωικά με αιματηρές μάχες. Και οι δόξες συνεχιστήκαν σε αυτό το γραφικό κεφαλοχώρι στο οποίο η φύση στάθηκε ιδιαίτερα γενναιόδωρη. Χτισμένο στον καταπράσινο λόφο της Ντάρντιζας, εκεί απ’ όπου αρχίζει να σχηματίζει το Δέλτα του ο Αλφειός (ανήκει στο δίκτυο Natura 2000). Ήρεμος κυλάει στην απέραντη αμμώδη παραλία όπου παλιά υπήρχαν θαλάσσιες χελώνες. Τώρα βρίσκεις μόνο παράγκες, χτισμένες παράνομα σε μια καλοκαιρινή νύχτα. Τον χειμώνα τα κύματα παίρνουν την εκδίκησή τους. Η εικόνα θυμίζει κάτι από Φαρ Γουέστ. Γι’ αυτό θέλω να ξανάρχομαι. Γιατί τα έχει όλα – αρχαιότητες, λίμνη, ποταμό, εύφορη κοιλάδα, ιαματικά λουτρά, γραφικές εκκλησίες και ξεχωριστούς ανθρώπους – και όμως, στην ουσία δεν έχει τίποτα. Σαν την Ελλάδα.

 

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