Karitsa is a picturesque village perched on the slopes of the Parnonas Mountain Range. Stone built houses with large red roof tiles and whitewashed walls overlook the Laconian plains.
On 1 January 1999 the village council of Karitsa changed into a subdivision and merged with the neighbouring villages Alepohori, Kalithea and Geraki to form the new Area Council of Geronthres. The new subdivision takes up the northeastern section of the Prefecture of Laconia. In the northeast the village is bounded by the Prefecture of Arcadia, in the southeast by Geraki and due south by Alepohori. Before the area re-organisation the village had its own local authority, the former village council of Karitsa which belonged to the Province of Lakedemon, one of the four provinces making up the Prefecture of Laconia.
The Prefecture of Laconia and the former Province of Lakedemon clearly bear the name of King Lakedemon. The new area council of Geronthres inherited the name from the ancient city by the same title. Whilst this much is very clear, unfortunately we do not have any conclusive information how the village came by the name of Karitsa. One idea is the name is a derivative of καρυδιά (karydia), Greek for walnut tree. In other words the name could have originated from a patch of walnut trees that may have existed there once.
It is worth noting that in Greece there are seven villages with the name Karitsa. Karitsa of Pieria at the foot of Mount Olympus near ancient Dion is the largest with a population of about 2000. Karitsa of Laconia comes fourth on the population chart:
1 Karitsa of Pieria, population: 1983
2 Karitsa of Larisa, population: 599
3 Karitsa of Ioanina, population: 422
4 Karitsa of Laconia, population: 286
5 Karitsa of Karditsa, population: 127
6 Karitsa of Evritania, population: 81
7 Karitsa of Etoloakarnania, population: 40
How do you spell it, Καρύτσα or Καρίτσα?
How do you spell it, with an ipsilon or an iota? In days gone by its correct spelling was Καρύτσα with an «υ» ipsilon. The "Neoteron Egiklopediko Lexiko Iliou" of 1940 shows the name of the village with ipsilon. Nowadays, however, its spelling has been simplified and it is formally more acceptable to spell Καρίτσα with an iota.
Area and Population
The council subdivision of Karitsa has a total area of 41 square kilometers, only four of which are considered suitable for cultivation, two are wooded whilst the remaining area is open grazing land. The village is 680 metres above sea level and according to the 1991 census is populated by 253 souls.
As mentioned earlier the council subdivision of Karitsa is bounded by the Arcadian subdivisions of Mari, Kounoupia and Niohori (or Vlisidias) from the area council of Leonidion. It also borders the Laconian subdivisions of Geraki and Alepohori from its own council Geronthres and Agios Dimitris belonging to the council of Niata.
Karitsa's boundaries mainly follow mountain ridges that split the flow of the rainwaters or gulleys and ravines that collect and course the waters.
To trek around the ridges and ravines that mark the boundaries of Karitsa it is best to a start off from its northernmost spot, Agios Lias, the place where the boundaries of Karitsa, Geraki and Niohori meet. Ahead of us a thickly wooded fir forest covers the mountain slopes. Heading westwards we follow the ridge leading to Sorbanou. Here we can enjoy some stunning alpine views. Scanning across we can behold the other face of Mount Tsouka, its northwest slopes called Tou Gounari. They are covered by trees, though here and there rocks of black marble spring from the bowels of the mountain. In ancient times we would surely see the ox-carts plodding uphill from Velota. As unbelievable as it may now seem, before the destruction of ancient Geronthres in 375 A.D., a network of roads reached this area for its timber and marble. The tracks that the steel wheel rims carved onto the stony terrain are still visible today and bear witness that the place once flourished.
Beyond Gounari we come across Neraidalono (fairy-ring). It is named so because Karitsa folklore has it, "in days gone by fairies would come out from there!" There we also find Pigadaki (small well) where shepherds water their sheep and goats.
Around Sorbanou we see many sheep and goat corrals, some of which are public. The shepherds bring their goats here for milking in spring. An unsealed road for shepherd and stock use reaches the area.
From here we can see the mule track snaking uphill towards Kosmas. Up there we may marvel the peaks of the Hasanous. Locals swear that on the summit, "there's a fathomless hole which swallows all things to draw near." The hole, they insist, ends up on the River Vasilopotamos at Skala some 20 kilometres away.
How do they know that? They say they once heard that a shepherd pushed an ewe from up there into the hole and it ended at up in the Vasilopotamos! Others claim to have heard that a young shepherd was once playing his flute by the hole when it fell out off his hands and into the fathomless depths. The devastated young man thought he had lost it for good but lo and behold it soon resurfaced in the headspring of the Vasilopotamos in Skala. His sweetheart, who recognised it by the initials the young shepherd had carved on the flute, apparently found it!
Moving on we pass Splithari and come up to Tsipoureiki Spilia (cave) and then Sorbaniotiko Rema (creek) that collects the waters off Mount Tsouka and Mount Koumaros. Climbing down the Creek on the east we have Karitsa lands of Mount Tsouka and on the west Mount Koumaros of Geraki. Lower down at Skalitsa (little stairs) the boundaries stop following the creek and cross eastwards to Vlahaki to Tzarko (goat and sheep corral). Beyond that we trek along the ridge Aganoteika Kalivia (hovels) and Komeno Nero until we reach Tou Papa tin Spilia (priest's cave) where we rejoin Sorbaniotiko Rema.
Sorbaniotiko Creek empties into Likorema Creek in Zavrena slightly downstream from Plati Pigadi (wide well). From here on we stop following Likorema and hike up to Kritikou to Aloni (threshing floor) where we pick out the shortest track to the ridge of Kalogeros (monk). Up to the ridge and the spot Koureika (shearing places) we flank Geraki lands. After that the ridge of Kalogeros marks the boundary between Karitsa and Alepohori lands.
Moving on, in a while we face Koumoundires and the road from Mari. Heading northwards, after Kondinou (near one) we flank the land of Agios Dimitrios. We hike along the ridge Tsamaleika Vrahia (rocks) to Thimaropoli and take the track Palia Strata across Mariorema to Thodori to Milo (watermill) where Karitsiotes would grind wheat into flour in the olden days.
Trekking northwestwards we come by the fields Traganitsa and follow the ridge that borders on Mari lands. We pass Sterna tou Spanou (water pit) at Megalo Vraho (big rock) and come across Litharostrouga (stone corral) after which we flank Kounoupia lands and pass by Mitsoura, Kanalakia (water springs) and Mnimata (graves). The place was so named after the annihilation of a division of Imbraim Pasha's forces by the fighters of Kolokotronis in 1825. This battle will be dealt with more extensively later. From Mnimata onwards we border Niohori lands, trekking across Koutsouveria and Traganitsa and completing our journey where we had begun, Agios Lias.
Karitsa lands in their entirety are mountainous or semi-mountainous, made up of stony ridges, crags and a few plateaus. Village dwellings, a few cultivatable fields, old abandoned grazing fields and a small piece of fir forest take up the land. The largest section is open grazing land for goats and sheep.
As mentioned above the nature of the subdivision is essentially mountainous. It is part of the Parnonas Mountain Range or Malevos as is otherwise known. Two peaks of the imposing Parnonas are to be found in Karitsa. Mount Elatias (1272 m) surges steeply north of the village facing Mount Tsouka (1100 m) in the northwest. The neighbouring peaks Mazaraki (1557 m) and Koumaros (1045 m) are on Geraki lands while Malevos (1937 m) the highest peak of Parnonas is to be found in Arcadia.
The biggest plateaus of Karitsa are Komatakia and Anaskela at the foot of Kalogeros. Unfortunately the terrain is rocky and not so fertile. In days gone by, during times of greater need these fields were worked as grazing fields. Nowadays those sections of the area that can't be worked by tractor have been abandoned and overgrown by scrub. They have ended up as open grazing land with a few olive trees scattered here and there.
The more fertile fields of Karitsa are around Agios Nikolas, Vambakia, Gatsi, Kremidiari, Laka, Pano Loutsa (upper pond), Smeiko, Pano Longo (upper shrub), Xerokambia (dry plains), Vranika, Plati Pigadi (wide well), Malavazeiki Houni (basin) and Sternitsa (small water pit).
Essentially the creeks of the village are the ravines, gullies and furrows that would once collect the rainwater and snow-water of the area. Now they present relics of a climatic period long gone.
Rainwater catchment from Mount Tsouka, opposite the village, and from Mount Elatias flows into three creeks that meet and empty into Likorema near Agios Nikolas. Likorema begins on the far side of Agios Yiannis and gathers the waters from Litharostrouga, Asfaka and Grivas. In its lowland course Likorema runs side by side with the bitumen road of the village. At Zavrena it is joined by Sourbarniotiko Rema, which as mentioned earlier cuts through the gorge between Mount Tsouka and Mount Koumaros and for a long stretch carves the natural boundary between Karitsa and Geraki lands. Eventually Likorema flows into Mariorema which rolls towards the plains, weakens and disperses in Elos (marshes)
It is something acclaimed by all. The climate of Karitsa is alpine, relatively dry with clean air and very healthy. Summers are often cool and winters fairly cold. In winter temperatures between day and night vary significantly. A good many days each year fog or "andara" as the locals term it, envelops the area . There are light snow falls each year and slight rains for a short while. As it is a place in the mountains winds are both frequent and very forceful. Karitsa is well known for its windy days common all seasons and most forceful in winter. The Karitsiotikos Vorias (northerly) is very fierce and may last many days on end. Locals say the Vorias in its most fierce of days whistles furiously day and night, tormenting the shepherds on the uplands and the farmers in the fields and ruining the gardens in the village. Vorias also leaves a most noticeable mark on the trees of the village, all of which grow slanting away from the wind. Another grievance often mentioned by the locals is that in the last few years they note a trend towards harsher winters and longer and hotter summers. Only time will tell whether such testimonies are isolated anomalies or trends of significant climatic change.
Sights of Karitsa
(The following text was written by Alexandra Katsambi, when in 3rd Year High School Student in 1992)
Karitsa is one of the better villages in our region. First and foremost it commands magnificent views. Built high on the slopes of the Parnonas Mountain Range, in the distance below it overlooks ridges, villages and towns, and the blue ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see. At sunset on late winter afternoons one may marvel at skies filled with a veritable kaleidoscope of hues and colours.
Greenness reaching out all around adds to the beauty of the village. Had Ibraim not torched the region during Turkish rule, today we would have an even greener environment and many more trees.
In and out of the village there are many sights to be seen. One is the Megalo Kotroni (big rock) which we find on the way to Karitsa. It is a large stone piercing out, really strangely, from a relatively flat terrain. Quite oddly an almond tree grows on the highest point. We all wonder how the tree got to grow there and why it doesn't die.
The living monument of Karitsa is found in Zavrena. It comes in the form of an age old, many-branched, hollow-trunked and evergreen olive tree. The hollow trunk stretches 13 meters around. English archeologists are quoted dating the tree to times bore the Birth of Christ.
The village square (Πλατεία) is another sight. Stone built, it was once a small threshing floor. Today it serves as the Village Square.
Other sights to point out are the village springs. On the right hand side of the village there is a spring with a very old history. Our village originally was built around Agios Nikolas. People however were dying off as a result of the prevailing climate. One day a billy-goat appeared dripping. The next day they kept a close watch on the billy-goat and found water. So they built the village higher and close to water. Hence the spring exists from the very beginning of the village.
Yet another sight is Vathi Pigadi (deep well). It is more than 10 meters deep and very old, in use since the days of Turkish rule.
Around Sorbanou there are the large rocky plates and gaps known as Splithari.
Other notable sights of the village include the church Evagelistra, an imposing building constructed 100 years ago. The mountain peaks Tsouka and Elatias dominate the backdrop. The houses with paved patios and large arches also draw our attention. Many caves in and around Karitsa may also be of interest. These are the sights that make Karitsa a beautiful village.