Saturday, August 18, 2012

Amalia's Grecian Odyssey, Part 4--Fearlessly into the Mani

The Mani region in the southern Peloponnesus has been notorious for over 400 years (from the fall of Mystra in 1480 or so until about 1870) for the fierce blood feuds, worthy of the Hatfields and the McCoys, that caused families to barricade themselves inside their fortress-like homes and devote themselves to wiping out their neighbors, invaders (and pirates).

 Every inaccessible rock and hill in Mani usually is topped by one of the Maniote towers--built several floors high with narrow windows just big enough to stick the barrel of a shotgun through.  Some men lived most of their lives inside their fortress/home.  It was against the rules to shoot women and children, so the wives were gun runners and while not likely to be executed by rival families, women and girls might be kidnapped by enemies and sold to the Turks or the pirates.

Amalia and her entourage based themselves in the Turkish-style Kyrimai Hotel in Gerolimenas, once a  trade center for importing goods from Syros and the Middle East.   The hotel is now famous for its chef, Yiannis Baxevanis.  Breakfast every day, overlooking the water, was a revelation featuring several courses including local specialities.
 On the first night Amalia strolled a few hundred yards into the harbor and decided to have dinner at the Etilekton which, you might guess from this photo, specializes in fresh-caught octopus.  She quickly discovered a new favorite food--octopus meatballs.
 The kitties liked them too.
 While we ate , the cliff across the harbor was lighted.
 The next day we set out to see the fortified homes and villages of Mani, many of which are still occupied (although the blood feuds were suppressed by the government in 1870.)
 Most famous is the town of Vathia.
 We continued driving south until we reached Cape Tenaro, which has several distinctions.  It is the southernmost point of continental Europe (or so I'm told). It is also the site of a small ancient structure which is called the "Sanctuary and death Oracle of Poseidon Tainarios."
  And Cape Tenaro was considered by the ancients to be one of the gates to the underworld.

Fleeing such an ominous spot, we headed to the nearb Marmari Paradise Restaurant, perched high above an inviting beach where Amalia and her  Mommy took a quick dip.  Then Amalia discovered another seafood favorite--shrimp risotto.

Back at our hotel Amalia slept through happy hour but roused herself for an unforgettable dinner at the Kyrimai Restaurant, that ended with a chocolate dream desssert.  Life in the dreaded and infamous Mani was not so tough after all, she decided.


Yiayia Vicky said...

It sounds as though you're having a marvelous adventure with Eleni and Amalia. Van and I will be in Kefalonia in September, after the wedding, and thanks to your blog, I will try to get him to take a trip to Mani and beyond. Greece has so many beautiful places to discover, it's a shame to stay put in one spot. Best to all.

by Joan Gage said...

Yiayia Vicky--you have got to stay at Costa Navarino in Messinia if you haven't already. It's heaven for families with children (especially the Westin part)--all sorts of nature museums and ecological stuff and a water park and a "sand castle" where your kids can be amused all day long (if they're four or older. There's a "cocoon for smaller kids). Will be writing bout it in the next few posts. The place is huge (golf courses, two resorts with an "agora" in the center showing traditional sk
ills) and it was completely full for August.