Friday, August 10, 2018


The drive from Athens to Kardamyli provides a glimpse of the horror of the wildfires. Whole sides of hills charred, the trees skeletal remains, black stubble where the grass once was. Any trees with any foliage left have pine needles that look like they would ignite if you looked at them too long — the kind you throw on the fire for a little poof of flame. The houses nestled in burnt out copses are shells, soot lining the window openings. How terrifying it must have been to see the mountainside ablaze with the flames coming barreling toward you at 100+ km/h.

We cross the isthmus and stop for a look at the Corinth canal blasted out of the landscape to link the Aegean to the Ionian sea. Henri drops a coin from the suspended bridge to sound the drop and instead of falling the coin is taken away by the wind under our feet. The water is turquoise and we watch a boat that looks tiny because of the height making its way through from one side of the peninsula to the other.

The drive is spectacular. I never imagined Greece had mountains like this. The peaks are tall and numerous, popping up in every gap on the horizon with each turn. The road signs direct us to places like Corinth and Sparta. I am kicking myself for not paying closer attention in history class.

We fill up with gas and a few kilometres later the oil light starts flashing in red. Flashback! (See Mexico blog)

We stop for lunch at a little seaside eatery in Kalamata (Good Eye), and watch crowds of young people pile off a pirate ship only to be replaced by a whole new crowd. The dancing starts before the boat sets sail. I guess this is where the young of Athens come for their summer holidays.

We drove on to Kardamyli. The backdrop is unreal. A cloudless, pale blue sky, craggy peaks towering above us. A little village clings to the mountainside above us. The road from there to here notched into the flank. The buildings are all one or two-story built of local rough rock in shades of pale grey and cream and rust. The roofs all four-sloped terracotta tiles. Flowers everywhere. Passion flower, bougainvillea, azalea and a dozen others I don’t recognize in bright colours that pop against the greeny-grey background of the abundant trees and shrubs. The greenery is alive with the chirping of insects that sound like a hundred high-pitched automatic lawn waterers. I keep trying to see the little noise-makers but as soon as I approach one, the silence is sudden. A few steps back and they start up again. The trees that aren’t flowering are heavy with fruit. Limes, oranges, pomegranates and figs.

The hotel where we’re staying is just south of Kardamyli, a series of stone buildings strung out in a little patch of flat land. There are vegetable gardens everywhere. Squash, tomatoes, fennel, onions cultivated in the shade of the squat trees. The family is constantly hustling around while grandpa moves from one chair to another taking endless naps.

There is a stone path that weaves its way through the trees and under a pergola dripping with grapes down to the sea. A set of steep stairs switches back on itself, the steps littered with what look like dried tamarind pods. The fragrance of the olive trees mingles with the briny tang of the sea. The “beach” is a small, stony sheltered cove. The sharp rocks give way to rounder and smaller pebbles as you reach the water. Oh, the water. It’s just ... perfect. The temperature isn’t that different from the air making the entry as easy as can be. Not a wave in sight. Pretty sailboats bob around between the land and the small island off the shore.

We sit beneath a shady bower for dinner, cramming plate after plate onto a table for two. Ratatouille, thick pork chop, meatballs, homemade tzaziki, caprini (yogurt, onions and capers), green salad with fresh figs and grapes from the garden and a phenomenal greek salad. The feta is so fragrant and salty that the salad only needs a little drizzle of olive oil. Young white wine (lefko krasi) comes to the table in carafes. The waitress who is also one of the cooks is lovely in the greek way. Dark hair and lashes, piercing blue eyes. The greek speak a very gentle english. The “O”s sound like “oo”s, the TH sound is like a lisp, even the Ss are dragged out like the gopher engineer in Winnie the Pooh. Her every sentence is punctuated by a little tilt of the head.

The breakfast spread is full of homemade baked goods. On the instructions of the rental company, we head into town to see the mechanic about the oil light. We wait around for 40 minutes as one of the twin brothers makes the rounds of the cars that have pulled in ahead of us. We finally start the engine for him and he asks us to cut it a second later. Not good. I put him on the phone with the rental agency and the phone call concludes with the message that another car is coming from Athens. Nothing smaller, we hope, as the kids, who aren’t really kids anymore, are already squished. We wander into town, have a poke around the local supermarket, picking up snacks like oregano chips and cookies that look like little chocolate pies. The rental car company calls back and asks us to take the car back to the hotel.

We drive down to the port and park up the car, looking for a place to swim. A dead end track leads us to a cliff of volcanic rock so we backtrack to a little cove protected by little promontories of jagged craters. We pick our way down to the edge and jump in. The depth is so difficult to gauge as the waters are so incredibly clear. We float around on our backs, soaking up the Mediterranean sun. I have a moment. One of those times when all is perfectly right with the world. Surrounded by my favourite people who are all as happy as I am. Floating is positively effortless in this water and the temperature is divine. We poke around and Wil discovers a vein of freezing cold water feeding into the cove. We look for the source but it seems to come from nowhere and everywhere — we guess it’s filtering through the volcanic rock. We’re not the only ones enjoying the cold water, we startle a few big crabs hanging out where the rocks meet the sea. Henri, Alice and I opt to swim back to the pebble beach of the hotel which is a kilometre away. Wil and Frances selflessly return the car. The three of us float around, using the smallest of efforts to move through the water. Henri swims underneath us, his hair alight in the combination of sun and sea.

Wil sorts out the replacement car which has just arrived from Athens. It’s a compact. This is going to be fun. The rental company guy is in a hurry to get back to watch his team play soccer tonight.

We head into town to sit on the pier and watch the sunset over the next peninsula. A pair of old greek men with big floppy hats float in the water chewing the fat. Sunburned couples sit out on their little balconies watching the sun drop into the Med. We spend cocktail hour playing endless rounds of Asshole and drinking the local rosé.

Another delicious dinner on the terrasse. Salads and moussaka and fresh peas from the garden. In the morning we meet down on the rocky beach at 8 for a little dip before hitting the road to Mystras. Watching the kids pry themselves into the back seat is a bit of a laugh but they are thankfully good natured about it all. They’re just happy the stereo has bluetooth and that we can listen to rap instead of bouzouki music. Across the peninsula we go.

1 comment:

Jenny Wren said...

Great to read of your adventures, I feel I am almost there. Keep on writing Sassy, love to hear what you are up to. sending love to you all. JJ/M