Lost in Greece. Mani.
Mani is an amazing area of Greece, first brought to my attention as my husband, MGG(My Greek God), hails from there and then again through reading Patrick Leigh Fermor's splendid books about his travels and life in Greece.
Read about him at the above link.
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Mani is situated at the bottom of the middle of the three "legs" that form the Peloponnese, in the prefecture of Laconia.
The fact that Mani is built on bedrock makes for a shortage of water and suitable land for cultivation.
This gives a rather desolate, arid landscape, the main vegetation being olive trees.
They have stone though, plenty of it, with which they built their fortress-like, square, tall houses.
All the better to keep watch for would-be invaders.
Life in Mani was hard, owing to the shortage of arable land and water and the isolation from the rest of Greece made the "Maniates" tough.
They had worked their fingers to the bone, shed blood, sweat and tears for all they owned and they would protect it to the death!
Mani is the only area in Greece never to have been captured by the Turks.
The "Maniates" fought for their lives, for Mani, for Greece.
So you can see how the people of Mani, the "Maniates" acquired their reputation for being proud warriors, fearless, strong people, people not to be messed with!
Read about Mani , above link.
Greeks from Mani can be identified by their surname.
The endings of Greek surnames give an indication of where that family originates from, here are two examples:
A name ending with atos, signifies someone from the Island of Kefalonia, a name ending with akis, signifies the Island of Crete.
Greeks on hearing a name ending with akos are most likely to comment:
"Ah, Mani, you're a Maniates. You must be a tough nut"
Our surname is Athanasakos, that being the male form, for females it is Athanasakou.
MGG and my son are Athanasakos, my Daughter and I are Athanasakou.
We are Maniates!
Most of MGG's family had left Mani years ago so he has never really got to know this area of Greece.
I broached the subject of taking a trip to see Mani, to find the village of Scala from where his family originates, at the same time hoping to visit Kardamili(Kardamyli) where Patrick Leigh Fermor, surely a man, who with his love for Greece, had become Greeker than the Greeks!, had made his home.
"Good idea" says MGG.
My son did his national service in Sparti(Sparta) which is in the same prefecture as Mani, Laconia, so on our many visits to see him we had seen a bit of the place.
Now we were going to see more.
Yiannis serving his country in Sparti(Sparta).
Sparti(Sparta) has become a quite large town but the old section is very interesting.
Here is a picture of the newer town of Sparti(Sparta) against a backdrop of the Tayetus mountain, another name for the mountain is Prophet Elias.
Tayetus is the oldest recorded name in Europe and is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey.
Before setting off on our day trip I had asked MGG if he knew the way, "of course" he answered.
"Do you need to take a map?" I asked, knowing that the area was a bit off the beaten track and sign posts few and far between.
MGG just laughed.
He has driven us all over Europe countless times, we have never been lost so I put my faith in him.
I shouldn't have!
I shouldn't have assumed that he knew where he was going! See the link below for my previous post about not assuming!
Bright and early one morning we set off from Loutraki to find MGG's "roots" and Patrick Leigh Fermor's Kardamili (Kardamyli), which I felt I already knew from reading his book " Mani" but I wanted to actually see it.
We headed first to Sparti(Sparta) found the small village of Scala and had a look around, we saw plenty of shop signs and with the name Athanasakos, it was the same in Sparti(Sparta), the telephone directory for this area is full of the name Athanasakos.
It was midday so everywhere was closed up, the people having gone home for lunch and siestas.
After leaving Scala we headed for Mystras(Mistra), a wonderful Byzantine fortified town that neither of us had seen before.
See Mystras at the above link.
Right, now it was time to go and find Kardamili(Kardamyli).
We headed South down the "leg" of the Peloponnese.
I thought it strange that we saw no sign posts for the place but MGG was confident that he knew the way.
We drove for miles, the landscape was quite desolate, just a few olive trees dotted about to relieve the monotony.
Then a sign!
Another place that we had never been to but heard wonderful things about.
We'll go there!
Popular with tourists, lots of history, as with the whole of Mani.
A welcome sight after so much "nothing".
Full of Square, tower-like houses, many converted into hotels, linked together by narrow, winding alleyways, all reached by a short causeway dissecting the sea.
Outside the city walls of Monemvasia.
See wonderful Monemvasia at the above link.
After visiting this amazing place we set of again in search of the elusive Kardamili(Kardamyli)
We had still not seen a single sign post for this place but we kept on going South, seemingly on the road to nowhere.
We are running out of land now, soon we will have to stop and turn around, we admit it, we are lost.
We reach a place called Neapolis, the end of the line.
We fortify ourselves with coffee at a little cafe on the harbour and watch the ferry boats going to and fro from the small Island of Elafonisos.
The Island of Elafonisos
While we were having our coffee we asked the waiter directions to Kardamili(Kardamyli).
His reaction was one of amazement!
We were nowhere near, it was miles away.
He gave us very general directions and we headed off back up the road we had just driven down.
We did have a GPS but the signal was nonexistent way down here.
We carried on hoping to spot a sign post, we didn't but we did happen upon a petrol station, which was just as well as MGG was beginning to worry about the flashing light of the fuel gauge!
We filled up the tank and asked the man directions, he sent us back in the direction that we had just come from.
Now the sensible thing to have done at this point was to have given up and return home.
MGG's star sign is Taurus, he is stubborn, he doesn't give up.
He's a "Maniati", he said he would take me to Kardamili(Kardamyli)and he is going to do just that!
By now we had more or less ploughed the whole area, MGG had finally had enough, I had had enough hours ago but had kept quiet.
Even though we hadn't found Kardamili(Kardamyli)I had enjoyed our day out and seen some magnificent parts of Greece, I was ready for home.
I never once said to MGG "you should have brought a map", not once!
In hindsight, why did I not just put a map in my bag to be on the safe side?
A lesson learnt.
At last we saw a sign, for a place that we knew, Gythio.
We know our way home from Gythio!
We found a welcoming sea-food taverna at the harbour of this picturesque little coastal town and had a delicious meal.
MGG, one tired driver!
From here on the going was easy, we reached home tired and weary but we had a very nice day out!
We had been on the road for about thirteen hours.
Eight or nine of them completely lost!
You can see from this map of the Peloponnese where we went wrong and how near to Kardamili(Kardamyli) we were when we left Mistras!
We made the mistake of going all the way down the East side of Mani.
Note that I very diplomatically state that WE made the mistake!
MGG has promised that we will again go in search of Kardamili(Kardamyli)
Until then I will see it in my mind's eye through reading again Patrick Leigh Fermor's book "Mani"
I did get a glimpse of it in the wonderful film released in 2013, "Before Midnight" starring Judy Delpy and Ethan Hawk.
Patrick Leigh Fermor has died since we took this trip.
His spirit lives on in Mani.