It is time to wash the bedding so we are here on a campsite to do just that. But this post, to paraphrase Jessie J is all about the Mani, Mani. The Mani is the middle finger of the hand-shaped land mass that makes up the Peloponnese. The Mani is a wilderness of two halves, the northern Messinian which starts just south of Kalamata and the Lakonian Mani that kicks off around Itilo.
The area is known for its wild rugged scenery reminiscent of Scotland, even down to the hillsides of lavender, and even wilder people who are believed to be direct descendants of the Spartans. Before I came here my only knowledge of the Spartans was as a brand of dark chocolates made by Terry’s of York that were my mum’s favourites and a movie loosely based around the battle of Thermopylae but now I know a little more I am not quite sure whether they were my kind of people. These were people that had a committee to ‘weed out’ babies who did ‘not look good’ at birth and consequently leave them on the mountainside to die.
They did not marry outside of their clan and this master race lasted about 100 years before they became a bunch of in-bred stale chocolates half way up a mountain.
The other outstanding thing of note here is the Tower houses these folk live in. According to Rick Stein, the celebrity owner of a Cornish chip-shop and font of everything Mani these people used to spend their entire lives at the top of the towers throwing rocks and arrows at each other in never-ending family feuds. Hostilities only ceased when a soldier of one side wanted to marry a maiden he may have spied while re-loading his quiver. Once the reception was over the rocking and rolling started once more.
Aghios Nikolaos 17/10/2015
Most of the original old Stone Houses have decayed, but some are being restored and an even greater number of ‘grand designs’ new ones are being put-up by a burgeoning number of Northern Europeans. They are turning towns along the coast such as Stoupa into a Hellenic Stow-on-the-Wold complete with Barbour wearing ‘locals’. As twee as Stoupa is we decided to pass on through and spend the evening parked-up on the quayside of Aghios Nikolaos.
Being a Saturday Night we went out for a meal on a waters-edge Taverna. Apart from the views, the company and the food the highlight was watching a Kingfisher catch its supper.
Here are those views:
Karavostasi 18/10 – 21/10/2015
As you drive south and cross into the Lakonion Mani the scenery loses its Cotswold charm and takes up a more Caledonian overcoat. Everywhere gets rockier and majestic, the waxy jacket brigade is replaced by crampons and Gore-Tex.
The driving is difficult in the old lump we move about in and so after a couple of hours we set up camp in Karavostasi. This is as near as an Aire in Greece as you are going to get. It is a car-park for the local Pharos Taverna. Here you have access to free WiFi, drinking water and toilets for the princely sum of nothing, not a bean. Fresh bread is provided each morning at 10 AM and if required the owner will nip to the local supermarket and get the shopping in. A similar outlook is provided when paying for drinks. Here you can drink no more than €10. It does not matter if you cannot stand-up, walk or mutter anything coherent the bill will never be more than €10. What a guy, what a place.
Here are a couple of views
With the weather still be scorching we did our usual of splish-sploshing in the sea, BBQing and cycling around. We went to the nearby villages of Neo Itilo and Lemini and they look like this.
Apart from that until the weather changed we did rather a lot of nothing.
With the weather being forecast not to be behaving itself over the next few days we decided to trot off to see the rest of the Mani.
Our first stop was the old capital of Aeropolis. This is a good spot to spend a couple of hours. We took on-board Diesel and a hefty selection of Meat, milk and veg before tucking into a Gyros with chips for me, sparkling still water for Tracy. We rounded off our mini-visit with a quick go around the newly opened Tower House museum. This was the grandest example in the Mani as it used to belong to the ex-chieftain. There is a small museum of religious icons to be seen inside. Here are the pictures of our visit.
Gerolimenas 21/10 – 22/10/2015
A few klicks on from Aeropolis is the old coastal port of Gerolimenas where we headed for the night. We pitched in a car-park with views out over the bay. This is a small resort that is going places. There are already two 4-star hotels built from the ruins of the old stone-houses and a handful of swish restaurants. Nobody to bother us as we cosied on down with an omelette and an early night.
We woke to find a full-on storm had a stern face on and thought today will be a driving about day. So we did. We drove down to the most southern point on the Greek mainland at Kokkinogia via the hilltop town of Vathia with its row of stone houses built on a rocky outcrop giving the area the appearance of a stegosaurus.
We finished off our tour with a visit and cup-of-tea in the van at Porto Kagio. There is parking here for an overnight stay if required. It is also another place visited by the aforementioned historian and Chip Barron Rick Stein. The village is set in a perfect horseshoe bay and wants for nothing scenically but it wasn’t for us.
I think we had had enough of barren and wanted more greenery and headed up the east coast and what can be described as an interesting passage where once or twice we lost grip negotiating hairpin bends during the storms that were raging. With a bit of reversing and a run-up I am happy to report we got through and here we are in the cosmopolitan town of Gythio.
Love to all
E & T