This late afternoon sun-lit view of the walled medieval village of Monemvasia greeted us after a fantastic all-day 69 mile sail from Milos. Sangaris
was reaching and fast all the way! We explored north and south anchorage options yet, expecting a "sea roll" with decreasing winds, decided to tie, side-to in the simple (no service/no charge) "marina". (If you "Click to see the Full Map" to the right and zoom the Google Earth map, you can see exactly where we were - on the wall just below the blue position dot.)
Monemvasia occupies a steep, rocky islet now connected to the Laconian coast by a causeway (the old Venetian bridge replaced). The settlement high atop 'the rock" was founded in the 6th century A.D. after barbarian incursions forced locals to retreat to the rocky island. A second settlement was later founded on a lower level and gradually it developed into a town of significant strategic importance. By the 13th century it was the commercial center for the Byztantine Morea. complimenting Mystras, the spiritual center.
The area was captured by the Venetians in 1464, occupied by the Turks in 1540, came back to the Venetians in 1690 and, in 1715, recaptured by the Turks. All this power churn despite its single entry (moni - single, emvasia-entry) and an easily defendable natural rock fortress! Monemvasia was the first among the fortified towns of the Peloponese to be liberated by the Greeks in 1821.
A signposted path led us to the vast and fascinating jumble of Byzantine and post-Byzantine ruins in the upper town and to the mostly intact, cliffside Church of Aghia Sophia, from 1150. The lower right photo (above) shows this octagonal, domed cross-in-square church, constructed 1150.
Being early September, we had a perfect hiking day with very little company. Thankfully, our guide book's reference to 'mass tourism' at Greece's equivalent to France's Mont St. Michel must be a summer-only event. Many waterfront restaurants were eager to fill vacant tables and we happily chose Scorpios Fish Taverna. The workers happened to just be sitting down to their own late lunch which looked so good we didn't give the menu a glance but simply ordered the same delicious homemade meals they had, highlighted by a generous portion of fresh horta cooked with local olive oil, lime juice and garlic - yummmm!
The next day, naturally, we sought out that fresh horta and found it overflowing at the local market, where the delightful shopkeeper was proud to display it for the camera. That's the local olive oil up on the shelf, too.
And, no surprise to anyone, Katherine's homemade version was even better than the restaurant's!