Friday, February 19, 2016

Mystras, Guesthouse Mazaraki, and Sparta

On the final day of Presintine's weekend, which doesn't actually count as the weekend because Phil had to take PTO, we reluctantly dragged ourselves from our hotel in Mystras, and drove home to Athens.

Guesthouse Mazaraki:
Are you emotionally prepared to hear about our Mystras hotel? Guesthouse Mazaraki is the #1 Inn in Mystras on Trip Advisor. The hotel sits on the mountainside, with balcony views of the archaeological site, and the Sparta valley. There are several small buildings, some with small rooms, and some that are meant to be rented as a cabin. There's also a pool, and a convincing little beggar of a cat who comes around breakfast time to cry for food. Our room was equipped with a small stovetop  and minibar/refrigerator. There was a nice t.v., and the WiFi was fast. I kept referring to our room as "The Pinterest Cabin in the Woods," because the decor was unreal. It was like Real Simple meets Instagram meets Home & Design. You'll see. I took some videos for you.

The hotel is within walking distance of several tavernas. but the food highlight of our stay came from the woman who manages the place. When we checked in, we were given a list of food we could request for breakfast the next morning. We were fighting the urge to request all of it, because we figured that wouldn't be cool, but when we talked through all the options with the manager, we ended up ordering almost all of it with her encouragement. We told her what time we wanted to eat, and the next morning, she brought it up to our room in a big basket. It was fantastic. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed our meal while watching the sheep on the mountainside below. It's sounds pretty unbelievable as I'm typing it all out, but it really was that idyllic. It was quiet, too. We were the only guests again. I cannot overemphasize how nice it is to see the sights in Greece during the off-season, if you're willing to risk the weather. We've lucked out with a very mild winter this year.

Breakfast on the balcony. It was a good mix of Greek-ish breakfast (if a Greek were to decide to eat breakfast), and some more traditional egg options. The valley below looks a little bit smoky, because this is the time of year when farmers prune their olive trees and burn the branches. 

While we were staying at Guesthouse Mazaraki, the manager made two different batches of Greek cookies for us to try, and they were friggin' delicious. I wish I had asked for her contact information. I want to ask her for her recipes, and also find out if she'll be my best friend. She really was an extremely kind woman, and she made our stay so pleasant. It was hard to leave. I should have eaten more cookies.

Sad Phil leaving Guesthouse Mazaraki after a great stay. 

We drove through Sparta on our way back to Athens. In the greatest disappointment since my failed attempt at bagels the other day, Sparta is not that impressive. The main part of town looks like any other moderately-sized city in Greece. Ancient Sparta is a bit further out of town. There is a cool statue of Leonidas I. He was the guy portrayed by Gerard Butler in that mega-dude movie, 300. 

Leonidas was the Spartan leader during the Second Persian War. The Spartans were exceptionally fierce fighters. Combined with several other groups of Greeks, the Spartans managed to hold off the Persians for seven days at the Battle of Thermopylae despite being hugely outnumbered. Eventually, some local turd tattled and showed the Persians how to get around the Greeks. Leonidas dismissed most of the Greek force, and stayed behind to guard their retreat with 300 Spartans, and several hundred other men. He ended up dead, along with most of the people who stayed with him.

Although Ancient Sparta is famous for its military training, the women had a pretty sweet gig. They were encouraged to exercise from a young age, and were in good physical shape. They didn't have to wear bulky clothes, didn't have to get married until they were in their late teens at least, and didn't have to isolate themselves from men. They were literate, outspoken, and controlled their own property. These women were boss.

There are some archaeological sites in Ancient Sparta, including an old theater. Phil and I briefly saw these from the car, but they're actually digging out the site at the moment. I don't know if they're uncovering more old stuff, or redoing the old stuff they've already uncovered, but it's basically a construction site at the moment. I'll bet you'd still be able to wander up to it and see what's going on. I don't think Phil and I were supposed to be driving on the road where we were driving, but no one yelled at us. 

If you are planning a trip to the Peloponnese, Sparta's a drive-by, rather than a destination. Go for your Leonidas photo, and then move along to Mystras.

He looks better than Gerard Butler.

That's all I have to show you from our trip. You might be feeling sad that there's nothing more to see. Good. I hope you feel sad. That's how I've felt since coming home. I guess we (Phil) will have to start planning our next adventure. 

Until then, here are the hotel websites for Elies, in Mani, and Mazaraki, in Mystras. 

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