Monemvasia: Do Not Enter

Started out the day relatively early – we were out the door at the crack of 8:06. We had a hour and a half drive to Monemvasia, also known as “The Rock,” a giant landform jutting out of the sea that’s connected to the mainland by only a tiny spit of land. It was used as a fortress for many centuries; it has a ruined Upper Town and a Lower Town that still functions as a place to live (and a major tourist destination in this area).

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When you arrive at Monemvasia, you enter through one of the four small gates by which the fortress could be accessed – no motor vehicles can get in (and you wouldn’t have any use for a bicycle, given the cobblestone streets and endless stairs).   Then you wander through the narrow medieval streets – flanked with a few (but not many, given the location) tourist shops – and work your way up, up, up to the Upper Town. And it’s hot, and you’re looking forward to the amazing views and appreciating the views down the hill:

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But in our case, we were nearing the top when we saw a small sign that told us that the Upper Town was closed. Not really believing the sign – how can you close the entire top of a giant rock in the sea? – we charged upward. Then we found our way blocked by a door and another tiny sign saying that the Upper Town was closed.

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When we and a Dutch family tried to breach security, a Greek woman came out and explained that they were going to be closed for two years – but that they might open up for a day in September for an open house. So if you’ll be in Monemvasia in September, maybe they’ll let you in. If not, you might want to wait two or three years to make the trip.  Here’s J after her security breach:

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Foiled by our original plan, we wandered the quaint streets of the Lower Town and out along the fortress walls.  The architecture is a mix of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian (Monemvasia looks fairly impregnable, but it turns out that invading armies figured out that you could starve them out with a siege).

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We found figs during our wanderings!

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And the day grew hotter, and hotter, and hotter – one of the shopkeepers told us you can come to Greece for the “free sauna.” We shopped a little, stopped in a taverna for a Greek salad, and said farewell to the Rock. On our way down the causeway, we stopped to dip our feet in the water, which was a huge relief from the heat.

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Our next journey was to a nearby beach called Ampelakia (after our second stop of the day at the excellent bakery in Yefira), was a perfect semi-circle of sand with umbrellas that whacked us in the head.

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Home for a quick nap, then we walked (J ran much of the way) up to the old Turkish fortress (“kastro”) above our town. It’s a good walk, pretty much straight uphill, with 360 views at the top — very few of which our cameras were able to capture very well.  There are enormous mountains to our north and west!

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This is the church in the upper village of Vasilaki (with Dimitri’s elementary school just downhill).  I was not allowed to ring the bell (Jocelyn is better behaved than I am, and she keeps me in line).

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And this is the church at the top of our road:

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Now we’re at the second taverna in Koumani (also called Tarapsa by locals, by the way), waiting for our dinner and appreciating air that actually feels cold!  Lots of good food:  Greek salad, sauteed mushrooms, an artichoke omelette (made with wild artichokes!).  And food just keeps appearing!  First Litsa brought us a gratis plate of real Greek spaghetti, made with sauteed grated cheese that gets a little bit burned in the cooking.  Then the people at the other table (including the woman and her husband who used to live in Hamden) sent us wine.  Then they sent us cake with ice cream.  We’re stuffed.

This was the view from our house when we were leaving for dinner:

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Wifi has been spotty here, so we’re posting far fewer pictures than we took …

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