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Nestled under a wall of colored rocks that offer stupendous views of the surrounding landscape, Leonidio (pop. 3,000) is a small paradise for rock-climbing enthusiasts. Until 1957, the area was treated as if it ere an island because the precipitous cliffs kept the entire area of ​​Kynouria on the east coast of the Peloponnese virtually cut off from the rest of the world for centuries. Because of this legacy, locals still speak their ancestral dialect, Tsakonian, a direct descendant of ancient Doric Greek.

There are rocks everywhere, both along the coast washed by the Myrtoos Sea and along the Dafnon River, which flows from the mountain mass of Parnon. Of all these rocks, the most impressive is the so-called Red Rock, which rises almost vertically to a height of 250 meters, right behind the houses that rest on the outer edge of this picturesque town.

Today, the very wall of stone that made communication with the outside world difficult has become a blessing. Leonidio noq ranks among the fastest-growing climbing destinations in the world. The October to May climbing season finds the once deserted rocks alive with people from Europe, America, Asia, Australia, and elsewhere, who come there to test their strength and endurance.

It all started about 10 years ago when the impressive rocks attracted the Swiss Remy brothers, legendary climbing figures, who planned the first routes, giving the venture the necessary sparkle. At the same time, Dina Danesi, a young architect and a native of the town, discovered sport climbing during a stay in Berlin. She returned with a group of sports buddies, and they created Panjika, a cooperative experiment to support climbers.

The word “pandjika” means a natural dead-end in Tsakonian, the point where rocks block a passage, allowing shepherds to corral their animals. Today, the members of Panjika, in addition to founding a cozy cafe that acts as an informal information and meeting center for climbers, help to open new routes and maintain the old ones. The area around Leonidio noq has almost 2,000 routes!

Leonidio looks forward to a rosy future. Many foreign climbers who are also digital nomads stay for long periods, giving life to the place and expanding the circle of activities beyond the strict framework of climbing. The historic town has now become international, without sacrificing any of its character. The result is that more and more local young people have decided to live and create in their city—an example worth following.

Elisavet Laloudaki

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