12 November 2017 | Kalamata - 6,606 NM
Kalamata is a popular place to overwinter for yachties and over the past few weeks boats have been pouring in. Some arrive and are lifted a few days later with their owners flying home, others stay afloat with their owners living aboard for the winter. It makes for a lively social scene and we've made friends with Louise and Gordon, a Scotish couple living aboard their Moody 31. A small boat for live aboards but they have made it very comfortable. Our first boat, Socotra, was a Moody 28 and spending time aboard with them bought back lots of memories.
We wanted to fully explore the area of Mani, the middle of the three fingers of the Peloponnese, and even though the distances aren't huge the roads are so slow we decided we would need a hotel for the night, so we set off in the car heading towards to the fishing village of Gerolimenas where we had booked a room.
Our first stop was in Limeni, a picturesque fishing village on the west coast with a few tavernas and beautiful tower houses. The people of Mani claim to be the true descendants of the Spartans and they certainly had a very violent past. When the Romans and later the Byzantines and then the Ottomans occupied northern Greece, many people fled to Mani and competition for land became fierce, so individual families lived in fortified tower houses. They are everywhere, some still lived in, some derelict and others converted into hotels or holiday accommodation.
Our next stop was the coastal town of Areopoli named after Ares the Greek god of War. We found it to be a pleasant place with narrow old streets, old churches and restaurants to hangout in around the old town square. From there we drove a few miles further south to the caves of Diros. These limestone caves are right on the sea and after buying our tickets at the top of the cliffs, we made our way down past the closed (for a few years now) museum to the lower carpark and the cave entrance. The caves are completely flooded and you visit them by boat. You are slowly punted through the caves across mirror flat water often having to duck down to get through low and narrow passages. They are full of stalactites and stalagmites and the reflections in the water created a wonderful and beautiful atmosphere. Well worth the exorbitant (for Greece) entry fee.
From the caves we carried on south to Gerolimenas where our hotel was. There were towers everywhere, high up on the hills, on the side of the road and on the cliff edges, with what must have been fabulous views of the rugged coastline that reminded us of Cornwall.
There is a lot building here, with old towers being converted into holiday homes, but also new developments in the same style. The new developments are very small and scattered across the countryside and have been done very sympathetically. While they aren't there yet, they are in danger of overdeveloping the area.
Gerolimenas, is of course a pretty fishing village and our hotel was in a converted tower right on the sea. The hotel was excellent, luxurious and very atmospheric. We had an (almost) Michelin quality dinner in the hotel restaurant with a good bottle of Greek wine finished off with a very short and very windy stroll along the hotel's sea front walkway - lovely.
The next morning, after breakfast on the beachside terrace we made our way up the hill to a viewpoint above the village of Vathi, where almost every other building is a tower. This is apparently the most photographed village in Mani and we did our bit to keep it at the top of the list.
We then headed onto Cape Tainaro, the most southerly point on the European mainland. We parked the car by the ruins of a medieval church built on the ruins on Ancient Greek temple and walked along the often narrow and rocky path to the lighthouse on the cape. At times we were scrambling on all fours over some narrow ridges and steep climbs, but we made it and the views were fabulous. On the way back to the car we found the ruins of an ancient fortified village we missed on the way there, which had some wonderful mosaic floors to look at.
Leaving Tainaro, we started heading north along the east coast of the Mani peninsula stopping at Porto Kagio. Our guidebook described it as a favourite hangout of the international yachting set so we obviously fitted right in. It was more of a small fishing village with a sheltered anchorage rather than a Cannes or Monaco, but a lovely spot for a drink nonetheless. From there we drove a little further north along a spectacular mountain road before heading back to the northwest coast to get back to Kalamata. We stopped in Stoupa only 40 minutes from home for a very late lunch/early dinner. Stoupa is very touristy with a lot of foreign visitors and some expats but still quite nice.
Our final few days in Kalamata were spent putting Freya to bed for the winter and of course a bit more socialising. Freya was lifted on the Friday morning and we retired to the bar while she was cleaned off and put into a cradle. Sat in the bar we were surprised to see a mast moving along the road. It looked very surreal to see a boat moving slowly along a road. A few minutes later the boat itself came into view, it was Freya on a trailer being pulled by a tractor to the marina's second boatyard by the bar.
The following morning we said goodbye to Kalamata and got the bus to Athens where we are spending a couple of nights before flying home to Bristol.
The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it