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It was 3:00 by the time we left the first monastery, so we headed to our destination for lunch, Gorgopotamos, a beautiful and strategically important site. Although we were all starving, before going to the nearby restaurant, we stopped at the famous rail bridge. During WWII, the German utilized this important rail passage to move supplies from Germany down to Athens/Piraeus, where they were sent by boat to North Africa for Rommel's forces.
On November 25, 1942, 150 members of the Greek underground resistance, with the aid of British commandos, sabotaged the bridge as part of "Operating Harling" to cut off the German supply route. In retaliation, the Germans executed 16 Greek locals. The bridge was reconstructed after WWII and the ensuing Greek civil war.
In the photo above, you can see Pres. Pelagia and the kids, along with our friend Despina, at the bridge. Just as we were leaving to head to lunch, a train came over the scenic bridge.
After lunch, we headed to the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos Damastas. Paul had a nap on the bus, while Phoebe and Benny swung their way with Fr. Stavros and Pres. Maria to the large monastery's central church for Vespers.
The monastery pre-dates 1800, but there is no historical record regarding its foundation. What is known is that the monastery was destroyed by fire in the early 1800s, and quickly rebuilt by 1818 through the generous donation of the local Greek revolutionary military hero, Ioannis Duovouniotis.
Unfortunately, like many, many monasteries in the years right after Greek independence, this monastery had its brotherhood forcibly disbanded and all its property expropriated by the new Greek government. It thus lay dormant from 1833 until it was re-founded in the past few decades as a women's monastery.
Here is the central church, which is the only part of the monastery that survives from 1818. The monastery's pride is a wonderworking icon of the Panagia that dates from the 16th century.
Fr. Stavros and I were honored to be asked by Abbess Ioanna to serve Saturday Vespers for the sisters, who number around 13.
Afterwards, we were invited into the arhontariki for refreshments. Above is a photo of the relatively small central church from the arhontariki.
Here is our group enjoying refreshments in the arhontariki.
Finally, we stopped at the monastery's bookstore as we headed back out to the bus to return to Portaria. Above is a photo of the entrance to the monastery as we were leaving.
For more photos from the trip, click here.