Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 15 Mar, 2012
Megalopolis, as the name suggests, was a major regional centre in Arcadia, the first one of the kind when it was founded around 370BC as a counterweight to Sparta. Nowadays it remains the largest town of the area (though the capital of the whole of…Read More
Megalopolis, as the name suggests, was a major regional centre in Arcadia, the first one of the kind when it was founded around 370BC as a counterweight to Sparta. Nowadays it remains the largest town of the area (though the capital of the whole of Arcadia is a much-larger Tripoli) and sits in this valley, flanked somewhat unromantically by two power plants (which apparently supply great proportion of electricity needed in the whole of Peloponnese). Despite sounding very grand, Megalopolis is a sleepy little place with a population barely above five thousand people, a small market town with a few shops and bars, but busy with locals that come from the surrounding villages. For a tourist the chief interest in Megalopolis is the ancient site, located somewhat out of the current town. The site was excavated in the late 19th century by the British Archaeological School at Athens, while new work by Greek archaeologists started in the 1990s and is still going on. The main structures in ancient Megalopolis include the ancient theatre, agora, parts of walls and the Thersileion Bouleuterion. Of these, the agora with remains of an impressive stoa (covered portico, now open to the skies but with many columns standing) is clearly visible from the road north towards Karitena and Gortyna and can be easily explored on foot. Megalopolis' theatre used to be the largest in the ancient world, with a capacity of 20,000 people. Its remains can be seen closer to the modern town, though you need to turn-off the main road to access the site (there is parking available). At the time of our visit it was officially closed (and it's fenced off, though you can see bits through the fence) but there was a group of volunteers working there, helping the excavations and clearing some of the ground and stones, and thus we were luckily let in, even with a little background information.What is left now gives only a some impression of the original scale of the place as most of the tiers of seats that surrounded the stage are still covered by a bank of earth, but several tiers at the bottom have been cleared and the structure is emerging out of the earth closer to its former glory.Certainly worth a peak if you are driving past or staying locally. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 14 Mar, 2012
From Kleitoria and the Lake Caves of Kastria (which used to be in Arcadia in historical times but are now in the administrative region of Achaia) we drive across the increasingly wilder mountains of Peloponnese into the Arcadia proper. The name has many associations…Read More
From Kleitoria and the Lake Caves of Kastria (which used to be in Arcadia in historical times but are now in the administrative region of Achaia) we drive across the increasingly wilder mountains of Peloponnese into the Arcadia proper. The name has many associations and resonates widely in the European culture, commonly signifying an unspoilt land, idyllic nature, closer to some kind of utopian paradise of a simple, happy, pastoral life than to the reality of desperately poor goatherds chasing stock around hillsides covered in prickly bushes. It's beautiful, though, and although happy shepherds have been a bit thin on the ground, Arcadia has a great warrior tradition, as do many mountainous regions all around the world. It saw fierce action during the Greek War of Independence and Theodoros Kolokotronis, the great guerilla warlord, pirate and then the Field Marshal of the Greek army came from an old Arcadian clan known for its warrior spirit and pride. Kolkotronis is a more than a larger-than-life historical figure, he's also a folk hero, a William Wallace of sorts (though he lived into old age) and Kolkotronis-related memorials, memories and memorabilia can be found all over Greece, but particularly in Arcadia. The road hugs the hillsides in vertigo-inducing switchbacks before descending into a valley of the beloved and culturally significant river of Alfeios.We stop for a couple of nights in Karitena (Karytaina), a village of two hundred inhabitants that clings to the hillside on the right bank of the Alfeios, near the confluence with the Lousios river. The village stretches along one street that climbs up from the bottom of the valley to a central square, where a few side alleyways spread out. Arcadia is one of a less known regions of Greece, with no major visitors' attractions and no coast to lure sea-and-sun holiday makers, but tourists, obviously, get everywhere and even smallest settlements have some facilities for visitors. In Karitena, there are a couple of bars (one of them an internet cafe) and a few sets of domatia (rooms for rent), in one of which we stay. It's a strange place, old and somewhat claustrophobic in the way it's laid out, and yet it appears self-contained and content, with friendly but not overbearingly so locals. It's mostly Greek's Greece here, and the nature and history of the area means little to the outsiders. As many parts of Greece, it suffered a decline in population and (limited) prosperity under the Ottoman rule and the fierce Arcadian highlanders were among the first to ignite the movement for independence – it's accident that the aforementioned Kolkotronis hails from this part of the world. Above the village stands an impressive (and hellishly painful to reach in the heat of the day) ruin of a 13th century Frankish castle, and a couple of associated Byzantine churches of interest to those who collect such sights, but we mostly use the village as a base for a couple of days' exploration. The cafes/bars don't serve food but there is a makeshift souvlaki place that serves customers on a wide terrace by a modern church. The food is simple, cheap and fresh. Sitting in a shade of a tree with a view down the valley and drinking the post-meal 'ellenico (Greek coffee) we enjoy one of those simple but special moments that in many ways define the experience of many a Greek holiday. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 07 Oct, 2011
Mani is the new Tuscany, one could say, or perhaps one doesn't need to say anything but that Mani seems to be one of those slightly snobby destinations with a certain mystique attached to it. It is possible that it was all started by…Read More
Mani is the new Tuscany, one could say, or perhaps one doesn't need to say anything but that Mani seems to be one of those slightly snobby destinations with a certain mystique attached to it. It is possible that it was all started by the excellent if a wee bit pretentious book by Patrick Leigh Fermor ("Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese"), but whatever the reason, the Mani remains one of the "off the beaten track" Greek destinations listed by every guide book and yet retains some of its charm and mystery. The Mani Peninsula lies on the middle "finger" of the Peloponnese. Some consider all of the finger to be Mani, some consider only the southernmost part (below Areopoli) to be truly Maniot. Whichever version you go with, the whole area combines striking landscapes with peculiar – even for Greece – local culture. Mani is now famous for its tower houses, clusters of tall and narrow stone buildings with no door at the ground level. Until fairly recently (and we are talking 19th century or so), Mani was rather ridden with bloody feuds between the neighbourhoods and the peculiar construction of the houses was a direct result of the need to fortify one's abode. This type of building is particularly common in the southern (inner) Mani, but can be seen all over the whole peninsula, in its original as well as modern – presumably only aesthetically inspired – versions. This defensive domestic architecture fits very well with the Mani landscape, rugged, semi-barren, wild. There are now tarmac roads criss-crossing the peninsula, especially along the coast, and a string of holiday resorts (Stoupa being the most packagy and a one to avoid) all around it. The coastal road around Mani is stunningly beautiful, with the continuous contrast between the craggy hills of the interior and the deep-blue, sun-sparkling sea crashing against rocks and licking the beaches in the countless coves below. It is worth it, however, to drive inland as away from the coast many tiny villages still appear to be stuck in the 50's or – just maybe – the 70's and the hills are as forbidding as they have always been. The good quality tarmac road paid for with the EU money suddenly peters out to a narrow (though still metalled, just about) track that turns around a corner of a falling down stone barn at a 80 degrees angle. Ruined buildings appear in the fields, and they could be twenty, hundred or two thousand years old. There is a timelessness in the landscape and in the architecture that northern European locations rarely have, though the far Celtic fringes of Scotland and Ireland can have some of the same feel. The Mani landscape resembles the landscape of the main part of inland Peloponnese (particularly Arcadia south of Kalavrita) but is somehow wilder. The herbs smell stronger and the bushes seem pricklier and drier. Later on we will see and smell similar landscapes on Crete. Mani inhabitants have -quite unsurprisingly, really – a warrior like reputation even among the warrior-like Greeks, though nowadays it is hidden somewhere under the surface, how deep is anyone's guess. People are generally friendly without being too pushy and, as in pretty much all of Greece, the visitor can feel safe and welcome everywhere. Close
Travelling long-term with children throws up many challenges, some of them less obvious than others. Among the latter ones is the fact that if you are on the road for several months then it's quite likely that a child's birthday will fall within the…Read More
Travelling long-term with children throws up many challenges, some of them less obvious than others. Among the latter ones is the fact that if you are on the road for several months then it's quite likely that a child's birthday will fall within the travelling period. Adults tend to understand the limitations (and opportunities) of travel while children still expect the presents, hats and cake caboodle (and a party if possible).In the last two years we celebrated family birthdays on three continents and in six countries, from Canada to New Zealand, Poland to Greece. The Greek birthday was a fifth one of the Younger Child and we happened to be on the Mani peninsula at the time, mid-way through our extended European tour that took us six months in the spring and summer of 2011. In addition to some practical-but-fun presents (including buoyancy aids, snorkelling supplies, drawing books and puzzles) and a typical Greek ice-cream gateau (which tastes so-so but looks fabulous) we also planned entertainments. The preferences of our children and us clash a little bit, particularly their love of purpose made "attractions" goes against our (and especially The Other Adult's) dislike of crowded and overpriced tourist traps.But birthday is a birthday so we set off to Kalamata with its cultivated beach and waterfront attractions. We ended up in the Waterworld, a grand name for a small water-park-cum-taverna located on the Kalamata's beach-front drive. Despite our fears of Saturday crowds, it was actually rather good: whoever manages it realises that water slides are much more attractive to children while smoking and drinking beer (or even coffee) on a shaded patio is much more attractive to adults. And thus, we have a wet play area that comprises two tall slides (one fast, one slower), a wet bouncy castle and a couple of toddler slides, flanked by by a large, sun-shaded outdoor sitting area filled with tables. From the majority of tables it is possible to see most of the water play area, keeping the eye on the kids (who can also come to the table for a drink, a snack or a rest). The entrance to the water play area is 5 Euro per person, you can sit at a table for free (or rather, for the cost of the drinks and food, though we were served the free tap water without any problems and if you were really tight you could actually just do that). There is also a beach section that belongs to the Waterworld, with free loungers and umbrellas, but as it was, unlike the land part, extremely crowded, we decided to pass on that one and instead go and rent a pedalo with a slide further up the beach which was great fun even on the wavy sea and, at 10 Euro per hour, pretty good value too. We came back tired and sun-burnt to our lovely cottage (see Trisilo review) and the birthday tea and cake, but the whole day was a success (while the swimming equipment was among the most used presents any of my children ever received). Close
"Gythio is lovely," said everybody we met on the western side of the Mani peninsula. This itself made me a bit suspicious as I find that places that are "lovely" tend to be busy tourist traps if visited in the high summer season, and it…Read More
"Gythio is lovely," said everybody we met on the western side of the Mani peninsula. This itself made me a bit suspicious as I find that places that are "lovely" tend to be busy tourist traps if visited in the high summer season, and it was July. And thus it was with some apprehension that we drove across the middle of the three fingers of the Peloponnese, through a severe beauty of the mountainous Mani landscape. But I needn't have worried. Gythio is indeed lovely, and, possibly because the season in July was not yet as high as it should have been (which might have something to do with the fact that Greece was about to default and the whole of the Euro zone was in the middle of a financial crisis), not as overrun with tourists as we have feared.Gythio (or Gytheio, or Gytheion – Greek transliterations vary for most words and place names) is a small town located on the eastern coast of the Mani finger of the Peloponnese on the Gulf of Laconia. It is a pretty, traditional-looking and feeling Greek town. The highlight is undoubtedly the waterfront, running along the quintessentially picturesque Greek harbour, enclosed by a peninsula with a castle (now folk museum), a lighthouse and a pretty church complementing the view. The waterfront lined with tavernas and cafes, from traditional to hip, and the village raises in an amphitheatre of narrow streets and steep alleyways up the hillsides that surround the harbour. There are shops with basic and not so basic supplies, and a choice of reasonably priced rooms and a few hotels. All in all, a lovely place to spend a few days. Beaches require a drive but it's possible to swim off rocks near the harbour. Gythio is less than four hours drive from Athens (a lot of it through pretty hills and mountains of Peloponnese) and the mainland port from which the crossing to Kythira and Crete (there is no ferry every day, so check timetables) is the cheapest (though not the shortest). Close
Written by isleroyal on 07 May, 2003
Ah, Easter vacation . . . we have left the hustle and bustle of Athens behind, endured what was to be a three-hour drive (shades of Gilligans Island), that turned into 6.5 hours of detours and hairpin turns over the mountains with beautiful vistas (a…Read More
Ah, Easter vacation . . . we have left the hustle and bustle of Athens behind, endured what was to be a three-hour drive (shades of Gilligans Island), that turned into 6.5 hours of detours and hairpin turns over the mountains with beautiful vistas (a full roll of film later), and arrived in Githeo. (Githeo will be reviewed later) Along the way we spotted many, too many shrines to accident victims. A good reminder to take your time and not to drive at night. What Greeks consider a two-lane road, we U.S. citizens would think of it as a nice one lane.
Our rendevous with Uncle Peter was to be near a kiosk and roundabout. Luckily he was told what our rental car looked like and two of our family members are blond (not a lot of blondes in Greece). Now I was a little concerned about the language barrior -- Uncle Peter speaks NO ENGLISH. He saw us coming and flagged us down. I should not have been concerned about language -- we all smile a lot and the kids weren't fighting at that moment. So we followed Uncle Peter to the villa Daphne (see review), we started up this hill at a steep angle, I sure was hoping this was the driveway and not another narrow two-way street! Awesome villa with an amazng view overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
We decided to check out the local grocery store so we would have breakfast provisions. I don't cook on vacation, but the hubby does, how nice. Took a look at the map for the next days "relaxing" drive.
Holy cow, I thought the detour roads from Athens were spine tingling! We did many day trips while here in the Mani, most of which I would classify as "Baja-ing" (don't ask it's a family thing).
The Mani is divided into two regions, Inner Mani and Outer Mani. Inner Mani is severely depopulated, 100 years ago this was highly populated with most people living in tower houses that were fortified by the mountains and by man. I looked at some of these places and wondered WHY anyone would build a house there. I found out that although well defended against invaders, the area has a history of internal feuding which led to the building of its many tower houses. People used to fire cannon balls at their neighbors. This has a tendency to leave some of the tower houses in disrepair.
I heard somewhere that Mani meant "gates of hell", it has a very rugged appearance, very rocky and mountainous. Only God knows how many times we crossed the mountains in our 1 week of "relaxing by the sea"! We once again picked an area described in the guide books as "a harsh, remote region", oh boy. Well I have already said we don't like crowds. Well my husband doesn't anyway, but give my kids Disney World any day.
We saw many Byzantine chapels, in various states of survivorship, repair and disrepair. The Mani was the last part of Greece to embrace Christianity and this took place in the 9th century. (My kids had better remember that.) Amazing what has survived through time. It makes me realize how young the U.S.A. is, and how not enough of us appreciate history and what we can learn.
With all this I must say, I had a blast! My driving skills were put to the test, my patience tested (both with my husbands driving and the kids whining), and I learned to love a new culture and people! I also took a heck of a lot of pictures.
By the way, we did get to the beach three times! Only one day was sunny enough to relax and "swim". The water was COLD when you first got in, then when you got used to it (your legs were a lovley shade of blue), it was merely cold.
Written by Re Carroll on 15 Jun, 2003
I hadn’t anticipated visiting Methana but fate had other plans. I was on the ferry from Piraeus to Aegina but didn’t disembark quickly enough at Aegina. Before I knew it, the boat was pulling away from the dock and I was headed towards the next…Read More
I hadn’t anticipated visiting Methana but fate had other plans. I was on the ferry from Piraeus to Aegina but didn’t disembark quickly enough at Aegina. Before I knew it, the boat was pulling away from the dock and I was headed towards the next port of call. In my defense, I wasn’t the only one who missed the boat, so to speak.
An hour later the ferry docked at Methana on the eastern edge of the Peloponnese. Having learnt my lesson, I made sure to got off the boat pronto this time. The next ferry heading back to Aegina wasn’t for another four hours so I had lots of time to explore.
Methana is a small mountainous peninsula that was created from volcanic eruptions many centuries ago. The most recent suspected earthquake was in 1922 so I wasn’t too worried about an immediate eruption. There were no buses and the few taxis that met the ferry had already been snagged so I contented myself with exploring the small harbor town, also called Methana. Most of the town’s businesses and services were ranged around the harbor - a half dozen hotels and tavernas, travel agent for ferry tickets, a small grocery store and a bakery/café where I had galabouko, a
delicious custard pie on a phyllo pastry base.
Following a modern paved walkway across from the water I came to a tiny harbor where fishing boats were moored and kayakers were returning from their morning adventure. The walkway continued past a large Orthodox church and around a rocky point before heading back to town via a sandy strip of beach.
Just a few blocks
uphill from the main street the modern trappings of town disappeared and rural
Greece took over. I passed an old farm house where goats and sheep shared space in the front yard with a two story chicken coop and a noisy rooster. Across the street, an old lady led her donkey from one section of grassy field to another to make sure it found the best patch to graze. Fragrant flowers framed colorful wooden shutters and doors and people called out a cheery "kali mera" (good morning).
Heading back to the harbor I continued past the ferry terminal and discovered fields of purple flowers alongside another beach area. The shoreline was rocky but it looked decent enough for a private swim. Alongside the road, benches and an old blue and white striped table were
strategically placed to take advantage of the Saronic Gulf view and I spent my last 20 minutes soaking up some sun while waiting for the ferry.
As far as I know, Methana isn’t listed in any guide books so is relatively undiscovered by most tourists. It makes a good place to get "off the beaten path" and take a break from more hectic sightseeing.
Written by Marianne on 28 Aug, 2003
Lonely Planet: The PeloponneseDavid Willett 1st edition, March 2003 ISBN 1–74059–014–7
I trust LP blindly and bought this guidebook without studying it closely. This was a mistake because it is not the first edition at all. It is a reprint with some minor additions of…Read More
Lonely Planet: The PeloponneseDavid Willett 1st edition, March 2003 ISBN 1–74059–014–7
I trust LP blindly and bought this guidebook without studying it closely. This was a mistake because it is not the first edition at all. It is a reprint with some minor additions of the Peloponnese section in Lonely Planet, Greece, 5th edition February 2002, first published February 1994. ISBN 1-86450-334-3.
The book reviews all eight provinces of the Peloponnese, Athens, and the islands of Kythira, Poros, Hydra and Spetses. There are maps of twelve cities, the eight provinces, five ancient sites and a general map of the Peloponnese on which highlights are indicated.
Information on Athens was just sufficient not to lose my way. Only seven addresses of hotels are given but what I missed most was a map of the newly-extended metro system. Ironically enough this map is included in the Lonely Planet: Greece edition.
All chapters open with a short description of the provinces followed by more detailed information about the main cities and sights. Ample attention is paid to places of antiquity but I was disappointed by the number of cities described, e.g. in the province of Elia on the west coast no mention is made of the beautiful sandy beaches and the many small seaside resorts all with hotels and numerous ‘domatia’, bed and breakfast accommodation without the breakfast. One of the main reason for me to buy a Lonely Planet guide is coverage of many lesser known places and the many entries and descriptions in the accommodation section. None of this did I find in this book. The average number of accommodation mentioned per city or town is eight, which is a bit meager to say the least. I didn’t find it very helpful to read that "there are several signs of ‘domatia’ (rooms) in the middle of the town". I can see this without a guidebook, I like to read what they are like so that I can make an informed decision.
Online practical contact information is sparsely given in the text. It is not mentioned in the index or in a separate list and therefore difficult to find back again.
Strong points of the book are clear: well-written information about ancient sites and history, the ‘boxed texts’, which give inside information about things typically Greek like Kalamata olives, the Diakofton – Kalavryta railway and much more. What I particularly like is that the names of the provinces and the most important cities are given in Greek letters.
My advice: Don’t buy this edition of the Peloponnese. A better buy is Lonely Planet: Greece which includes this Peloponnese section anyway.