Friday, 2 August 2013
I've been away. I have recently just returned from my first visit to Greece. I went to the Peloponnese with my wife and son, staying near the coast in two separate locations. None of us had been to the country before.
In the first week we stayed on an Olive Farm north of Zachora. We stayed in a lovely house surrounded by olive trees, with cicadas chirping loudly all day - you can do the same if you like the look of it and follow the link. We are not usually beach people, but we had decided to have a change and spent a lot of our holiday in the sea or on sun loungers. I am now a bit closer to the colour I feel I'm meant to be. The local beach was nice, but so was the beach at Kakovatos where there was a taverna and bar on the beach.
In this first week we were close to Olympia and visited on a very, very hot day. We had been warned it might be very crowded at the time of year (and day) we went, but it was almost deserted. It is a beautiful, evocative site with a very good museum (although don't make the mistake of going to the adjoining rip-off cafe).
We went into the mountains on a long drive to Dimitsana, Andritsana and Stemnitsa. The mountain villages are lovely, studded with churches and chapels, many of them very old (most sadly locked). The roads in the mountains are not for the faint-hearted. I suffer from vertigo and my wife suffers from a phobia about being driven off the side of a ravine, so my son was the only one looking at the view. It is an earthquake zone, too, so the road has a tendency to be eaten away by slips and peppered with huge buildings that look like they have all-too-recently fallen from above.
For our second week we travelled south to a small village called Pyrgos set into the hills above Stoupa. Here we stayed in a nice house with a little terrace with a view over the rooftops to the sea and the sunset. The next village down the switchback-laden road was Neohori which had a nice taverna with spectacular views. Pyrgos was a lovely little village full of churches hidden in the maze of alleyways.
We had quite a few beaches to choose from, but the beach at Stoupa was our favourite. We bought face masks and snorkels and spent many an hour watching the fish swimming in the crystal clear water and looking for octopus (which we never did find).
We also went into the mountains from here and if I went back I would do more exploring, but possibly spring is the time for that. We did a bit of a loop and went to Kastania, Saidona, Exohori and Proastio (the latter of which we particularly liked). We saw some lovely frescos in some of the churches, but most were frustratingly closed (particularly frustrating as we knew from our guides what treasures they contained)
There were many reasons to come back. I was particularly disappointed not to see Mystra and Monemvasia looks amazing. But to be honest, we passed so many places that looked incredible and just going back and trying a bit harder to get into those churches would be worth doing. I hope I go back. I think we all do.