Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kalavryta, Nearby, and a few randoms

I was going to drag this out further, but I'm not sure I'll ever get through my Greece postings if I don't cram them all in. So, here's the rest of our Peloponnese trip.

As promised, this is the link to the place we stayed near Monemvasia:

Our host was Fotini, and she was absolutely lovely. She made breakfast every morning. It was delicious.

There were a few nice beaches nearby. This is one of them:

On our way from Elafonisos to Xifias, where we stayed, we saw this old fort. I thought it was cool, and took a photograph of it. That's the whole story. The end.

Cool, old fort. 
We drove from Monemvasia to Kalavryta, and saw nice things along the way.

This is a shipwreck beach. It's not the famous one on Zakynthos, but it is almost as pretty, and way more accessible. 

This is the Mani town of Gytheio. It was stunning.

More of Gytheio, with big mountains in the distance.

We finally made it to Kalavryta, after winding our way through teeny mountain villages. I made a terrible remark that I didn't realize was terrible at the time. There weren't many people in the villages, but there were large cemeteries, so I made a stupid joke about how the dead outnumbered the living.

I learned later that the Nazis obliterated many of the mountain villages of the Peloponnese. Kalavryta was particularly brutalized. For a time, the Greek resistance was operating out of Kalavryta, and captured about 80 Nazi fighters during an early battle. The Nazis, angered by the defeat, began to work their way through the villages, burning homes, and killing residents. The Nazis told the resistance that unless the prisoners were released, they would continue slaughtering the villagers. The resistance responded by killing the prisoners. Infuriated, the Nazis were ordered to Kalavryta, where they locked the women and children in the village school and set it on fire. Every male over the age of twelve was marched to a nearby hill, and shot. The women managed to escape the school, where they witnessed the deaths of their loved ones, and were forced to drag their bodies off the hill for burial. It was December, and the widows of Kalavryta were left with nothing.

Today, Kalavryta is a sleepy ski town, primarily populated by tourists. There are a few, good Greek restaurants, and a fun cog rail trail. Despite the attractions, there is an inescapable undercurrent of tragedy. The old school now houses a holocaust museum, and the hill is a memorial to the lives lost.

"No more war."

Names and ages of the youngest victims.

I had a hard time in Kalavryta. It is beautiful, and the people are magnificently welcoming, but it is sad. I was glad we went, but I wasn't sorry to leave. My favorite part of the village was sitting in the square next to the church. The church was destroyed twice: once by the Ottomans, and once by the Nazis. One face of the church clock is stopped at the time the December massacre began. All around the square are cafes, and park benches. The locals spend their mornings and evenings in the square. The kids walk through it on their way to school, and play in it after school. It's a gathering place for the village, and a nice reminder of the goodness of community.

There are many villages across Europe that faced unimaginable horror during the last world war. As a young American, I've had a blind spot about the toll the war took on the continent. War is terrible.

I'm not sure how to transition from that, to this next part. It's jarring, but maybe that's okay. Near Kalavryta is a ski resort. It's deserted during the summer. I hiked up the side to grab some snow.

View from the top.

The snow.

View from the bottom.
Outside Kalavryta is a little place called Planitero. It's famous for its trout farms. We ate at a very good taverna in the village, the name of which has escaped me entirely. There are only one or two tavernas there, and both are highly rated, so you're probably safe no matter where you go. The food was delicious, and the taverna was beautiful. I've added it to a list of places where Phil and I would get married if we hadn't already gotten married.

This is the yard outside the restaurant.

This is the inside of the restaurant.
 The mountains were amazing. I had beauty-fatigue for a week after we left. Everything looked ugly in comparison.

If I could return to one place in Greece, it would be the Peloponnese. It's huge, it's lovely, and it's enduring.

Friday, July 7, 2017


We took a side trip to Elafonisos while we were staying near Monemvasia last month. Elafonisos is a tiny island off the coast of the Peloponnese. The ferry ride is only twenty minutes. There's not much to see on the island, apart from the stunning, Caribbean-like beach, Simos.

Here's Simos.
Simos is not too far from the harbor. Nothing is too far from the harbor. We drove around the entire island in less than an hour. There are some nice-looking hotels, some insane villas, and a good number of restaurants. You could easily spend a day and a night there, but it would probably start to get boring beyond that, unless you go to the island with the specific intention of marooning yourself somewhere quiet.

More Simos.

I can't remember where this was. Probably near Simos.

Simos from a distance.

We were still there in the off-season, so it might crowd up significantly during the summer. European tourists, especially, like to take in the island during their tours of the Peloponnese.

The church on the point. Peloponnese in the background.

We spent a few hours on Elafonisos, and had a great time. Simos was one of the most beautiful beaches we saw in Greece.

Have I mentioned that I miss Greece?

Monday, July 3, 2017


We are currently on home leave. I miss Greece. Moving is the worst part of Phil's job, and I hate doing it. We had a few stressful, sad weeks, and now we are recovering for a month. Before we land at our next post, I'm hoping I'll have time to share the rest of our adventures in Greece. Part of our final weeks there involved cramming in a bunch of last-minute sightseeing, and it was really lovely.

One month ago, we took a final tour of the Peloponnese. We started in Monemvasia, an old Byzantine/Venetian/Ottoman fortress on an island. The name Monemvasia roughly translates to "one entrance," and refers to the fact that there is only one entrance to the city, through a gate at the base of the island.

The entrance is on the other side (helpfully cropped out of the photo).
Today, Monemvasia is a hopping little tourist town. The lower city has a handful of cool hotels built into medieval structures, along with nice patio restaurants and souvenir shops. The upper city is ruin, but pretty ruin, with outstanding views. There is still only one entrance, accessible from the mainland by causeway. There are no cars in the city. You have to hoof it on the cobbly streets with your gear. It's worth it, though. It is really pretty. 

A local residence.

View from the lower city.

Phil at the far end of the city.

Looking toward one of the many old churches in the lower city. 

I took this photo because the flowers were magnificent.

Cool, little streets.

An old church in the upper city. It's the best preserved thing up there.

View from the top.

Looking toward the modern town from the upper city.  
Upper city ruin.

An old building from the upper city.

Looking down at the lower city.

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Church in the lower city.

Monemvasia from a distance.

We didn't stay in Monemvasia proper. We thought it would be too difficult to manage with a kid and luggage. On our way to the city, we realized that we'd left the baby backpack sitting on the couch at home. We did okay with his stroller in the lower city, but took turns running to the upper city, while The Kid and the stroller stayed behind.

The place where we did stay was about ten minutes down the coast from the new city. It was quiet, and lovely. I'll ask Phil what it was called, and report back with more photos. Until then, here's one more of Monemvasia.