If you didn’t start reading on Day 1, you might want to start from the beginning
I didn’t expect we would spend so much time driving in a country smaller than the state of Utah. Today we drove from Kardamyli, to Monemvassia, to Nafplio. I tried to remember our route and plug it in to Google which claimed it takes roughly six hours. I think we were slightly over that and I’m guessing my GPS had something to do with that.
If you zoom in on Google maps you can see how many of the roads that look straight are actually quite hairy (like this one). The formula from point A to point B must be multiplied by π (yes, that is the Greek symbol for pie) to account for all the switchbacks (and the funky TOMTOM GPS routing).
It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. Most of our journey was through the mountains with gorgeous views where towns, people, and other motorists were few and far between. We saw a lot of beautiful country, stopped at little stores to grab snacks (like a yummy spinach pie), and were slowed by multiple encounters with sheep, goats, and cows. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Monemvassia is a small village on the back side of a giant rock of a peninsula that is linked to the mainland by a narrow causeway. The mountain sits close enough to the mainland an Olympian could peg it with a javelin. For the defenders on the 100 meter high plateau of Monemvassia, an Olympian hucking javelins would be of little threat and an easy target. The safety of the medieval fortress high above made Monemvassia an excellent refuge from attackers.
1500 years ago Monemvassia was established by people wanting to escape their invaders. As an ideal location for a fortified fortress, it passed through several different ruling powers over the past thousand years. On the far end is a tiny hillside town set at the base of a stairway that climbs up the cliff to the ancient ruins on the top. The town and ruins are well worth the extra out-of-the-way driving required for a visit.
We drove across the causeway, wound around the giant rock, and parked outside of town. The Greek words Mone (single) and emvasio (entrance) help explain the single castle-like door that blocked the entrance to town. Even if your car could make it through the front door, it never would fit on the path that climbs and weaves through the little shops, taverns, and restaurants. Narrow, steep stairs shoot up to the left and drop down to the right on the the alleys that veer from the main path. It felt like I had jumped back in time and was walking through an old medieval village where at any moment a wizard might appear in a flash and puff of smoke.
We perused through a few shops, walked to the edge of the baluster to look out into the ocean, and then climbed the steps up to the ruins. We curled up the mountain, passed through several tunnels, and then found ourselves on top of the plateau. The remains of a powerful medieval city covered the top of the mountain. We walked along the stone paths, through various stone arches, up and down the stone stairs, and poked our head in the stone houses. Yes, everything was made of stone. The only intact building was the church but I don’t know if it was rebuilt or restored. We enjoyed the view of ocean from multiple angles and then descended back down into town.
On our way out of town we stopped at a cozy looking tavern so Mikayla could get a coffee. I convinced her to try some Greek coffee (I won’t touch anything that has the word coffee in it, bleauch!). Coffee powder is boiled in water and the beverage is served with the grounds that settle in the bottom of the cup as a brownish mud. Not knowing any better, Mikayla tried some of the mud. Suffice it to say that she is not a fan and didn’t even finish her $4 drink!
We stopped on the causeway and I walked out on the Pier to get a close up of the waves crashing in. It was a little scary, some of the waves crashed up and over the barrier which, at the very least, would have soaked me. There was also the potential of being swept off into the water (although I believed the chances of that to be slim). I walked out nervously to the very end with my camera and camcorder. When nothing happened my arrogance took hold and I yelled out to Poseidon, daring him to give me his best. He didn’t and I called him a wimp, a has been, a washed up God. Finally, disgusted I walked back to the car. He did, however, get his revenge in Athens. But that is still a few days away.
On the drive to Nafplio Tom Tom took us up over a mountain on a road that slowly deteriorated. Once the tar vanished and we hit dirt, I got nervous. My logic is that a road that is slowly getting worse will eventually die out completely at an old barn or something. At least, that’s how it seems to work in Utah. But if I turned around it was a loooong way around…so we kept going. We hit a point where the road was covered, literally 100% covered, in sheep droppings. Moments later we encountered thousands of sheep coming the other direction (not the picture). It took about 20 minutes to get through them and when the last lone sheep ran past us I rolled down the window and said “Do you know you are last, very very last out of thousands? You better pick it up buddy.” I think he flipped me off (as best a sheep can) as he went past.
The road panned out, more beautiful scenery, and eventually we arrived in Nafplio. Up until now I have mentioned a few of TOMTOM’s shortcomings. In Nafplio, old Tom totally blew it. One simple tip would have really helped…I give it to you now free of charge. “Nafplio is a pedestrian town.” I tried to drive to our hotel, which turned into a frustrating nightmare. The streets are not made for cars. We circled, I tried to squeeze down narrow roads where people sat at tables dining, I backed up, and performed a 20 point U turn. Once TOM TOM even tried to get me to drive up some stairs.
We finally parked and walked through town with our luggage clicketyclacking along the cobblestone. The sound totally reminded me of my trip with Aubree last year as we dragged our luggage around Italy, France, and Spain. We were looking for a certain listing that Rick Steve’s suggested and inquired at different place while we hunted for it. It was a dungy looking place with no internet and we decided to keep looking. It looked old, and not in the rustic, cool old-looking way.
We found the place we were looking for, the Pension Rigas, which was the same price as the dungy place…but that is all they had in common. We had internet and the new place was so charming I wanted to spend three nights instead of just two. It was clean, spacious, and had a really good feeling about it. Nicholas, the owner, was incredibly helpful and friendly. He told us about the town, suggested places to visit, and gave us a map.
We enjoyed a traditional Greek dinner and spent the evening exploring the crowded pedestrian streets, rummaging through little shops, and avoiding one particular restaurant on the waterfront because the owner called me a liar the second time we walked past. His argument was that I did not return for dinner as promised. In my defense, I said I’d think about it rather than I’ll be back later. I think he was just mad because, based on his prices, he could have retired after I had purchased our meals. Can you spot what caught my attention as I walked past this shop (click the picture for a larger view)?
Continue to day 11…