Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gytheio to Mystras

We attempt to go to the Diros Caves but arrive at 10 (after the tour buses) and are told that there is at least a two hour wait for the tour. Pass. We walk down to the shore to see where everyone is biding their pre-tour time and the water is heaving. We opt to get back in the car and backtrack to Areopoli to go for a swim, struggling into our bathing suits in a parking lot. The bay is beautiful, sprinkled with little boats and one incongruous multimillion-dollar yacht.

The bay is mostly rocky with little patches of white sand. What lies underneath determines the colour of the water, transparent turquoise above the white sand, a deeper greeny-blue over the rocks. We opt for the farthest point from the port, a ramp that eases its way into the water. The old lady section. Heavy-set older ladies in fluorescent one-piece bathing suits float in little clusters while their husbands gather a little further out. The groups chat amiably as though they were sitting around a dinner table and not floating in the bay. The occasional command is shouted by the wives to the husbands. I’d love to know what they are saying.

We’re back on the road in no time, climbing out of the bay into the hills. The mountains look positively hostile. One whole mountain might house a handful of trees but it is mostly what looks like prickly scrub growing around very jagged boulders. The mountainside is carved into little sections by untidy rock walls. It can’t be pasture, I think, as there is barely any greenery to be seen. The only animals who could maybe survive here are goats and the walls are too low to keep them from doing what they do. Perhaps the hills are lush in cooler seasons? I’ll have to come back on my motorcycle to find out.

Opting to avoid the extra hours of driving into Deep Mani (which we’ll save for when we have bigger car) we cut directly across the peninsula. The villages crowd around the windy road which looks like it was built to skirt each and every bush, weaving prettily but apparently unecessarily. The rock walls of the houses are unforgiving obstacles so the drivers are courteous and make an effort to stay well out of one another’s way. Every switchback reveals a new composition of mountain and village, sea and sky. The variety of blues that the Meditarannean offers up to anyone who’s paying attention is endless. It’s all spectacular. Once over the ridge, the landscape softens. The hillsides are no longer bare of anything but rock. I’m not sure if it is a question of precipitation but the land is markedly greener and lush. There are plantations of more than olives.

On the eastern shore of the Mani we pull into Gytheio, a town buzzing with tourists and full of recently landed cruise passengers. The waterfront buildings are white and pastels, their faces all turned to curve around the narrow bay. With Wil’s usual parking horseshoe we find a spot on the pier and choose a little restaurant for lunch in the shade at a blue and white checkered table. Water and wine and olives and tzaziki and a huge red snapper. Fishing vessels bounce around in unison, tugging on their moorings, modest fishing boats alongside million-dollar yachts. We watch tour buses trying to navigate the narrow streets. Octopus tentacles hang on hooks in long lines between us and the pier. Apparently they are dried out in the sun and then pickled to be eaten with ouzo, the Mediterranean equivalent of beer nuts. 

Everyone who serves us has at least one family member in Toronto who has been living there for X years.I don’t know whether it is an attempt to connect or a point of pride for the Greek who seem to need to make it known that they have lived abroad. It is so beautiful here. I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else if it were home but with youth unemployment hovering around forty percent I suppose some just don’t have a choice. We eat our fill and then drive a few kilometres down the coast to Mavrevouni where we find a beach of a different variety, tiny white pebbles and sand and, in our 300 metre section, barely a soul. Just to the north of us and just to the south of us are a long line of parasols and people sitting in chaise longues set out like a checkerboard twelve wide and six deep from the beach to the road. The Europeans have a very different idea of beach time than us. Can you say zero intimacy? The five of us float around in the water in a sea that has a little more life to it than the western side of the peninsula but is still easy and lovely. We are surrounded by peaks, the distant mountains of the Cape Malea peninsula across the water to the east and the mountains of Mani surround us.

From here we head toward Sparti (history lesson please) and beyond that, into the mountains and Mystras. 


P Turner said...

Lovely writing Sarah. Thx

Jenny Wren said...

Sending love Looking forward to seeing photos when you come home - well hopefully you are coming 'home' !!
Not sure what home is for me, reading your blog just makes me want to pack up and go !!!!