Monemvasia - Single Gate

Trip Start Apr 17, 2009
Trip End May 09, 2010

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Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Monday, June 1, 2009

Hello from the island village of Monemvasia, Greece.

We drove from Nafplion down the Peloponnese peninsula toward Monemvasia. We used our GPS mapping device to map our route. Prior to this little journey, our GPS mapping device has been a godsend to get us through areas and has been far superior to any paper map we have found. However, our little device finally let us down- we followed the route it selected and found ourselves high in the mountains on a series of deserted dirt roads- not paved roads, but dirt roads that were in terrible shape. The problem was that we were already 2 hours into the drive and far away from any alternate route. We had a fairly full gas tank and drove slowly for many miles until finally finding a paved road again. So, what should have taken 3 hours took about 6 hours. However, we finally arrived at Monemvasia.

Monemvasia is actually a small island village connected to the mainland by a little causeway. The island consist of an enormous, rock cliff with a fairly level plateau on top and from a distance it looks like a giant rock in the ocean. Because of its appearance it is often called the “Gibraltar” of Greece. Originally, there was a thriving Venetian town built in the 1600s on top of the rock and down one side of the cliffs. The town was the scene of much fighting between Venice and Turkey over the years before becoming part of modern Greece. By the mid 1900s the town had been almost completely abandoned.

****side note, many towns on islands and the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece were virtually abandoned in the 1940s and 1950s when over 30% of the population left Greece and immigrated to Australia, the United States, Canada, Britain, etc.

Anyway, in the 1970s the artists and wealthy Greeks started buying up the buildings of the lower town (the area built along the bottom of the cliff) and renovating it. Today, the lower town is beautiful - and all of Monemvasia is pedestrian only (no cars) because the cobblestone streets are very narrow. Supplies are brought in from the causeway each day by donkeys. There are many little art galleries, craft shops, several boutique hotels, a couple of small café bars, and a few, very nice restaurants that we really enjoyed.

The upper town (the part built on the plateau above the cliffs) remains as abandoned ruins and we hiked up the cliffs to explore it. The views from up there were stunning and there is an old Greek Orthodox church up there that is still maintained and used for special occasions.

While in Monemvasia we stayed at a small, inexpensive inn called Hotel Goulas.  It was a small place with six rooms and our room was perfect. It was authentic stone and whitewashed walls with ancient timbers and an amazing terrace overlooking the sea. Our patio overlooking the sea was wonderful-- we spent our days there enjoying the sun and sunsets.

We were not completely lazy in Monemvasia. We did break away from our patio for a hike around a fairly treacherous trail that went around the entire outer edge of the island, we hiked up to the old town ruins, and John did manage to make it down to the sea for a swim. Without doubt, we loved Monemvasia and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful and quiet get away.

Another little note to mention- We have continued learning Greek words and phrases. We have mastered enough to get through dinner and drinks without a problem (must set our priorities!), but trying to make purchases using Greek in the grocery or a small store can present quite a challenge.

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