The Parnonas mountain range slides down into the southeastern finger of the Peloponnese, eventually terminating in an area that is almost empty of people. Jocelyn and I entered this area two days ago. We drove from Monemvasia through the hills, up into an area that saw a tremendous brush fire two years ago and now looks surreally scrubby.
We were headed to an Airbnb in a village called Velanidia, but first we had to bypass this scene:
It’s not unusual to have goats blocking the road in these nearly-uninhabited mountain passes. The good news is that they usually get out of the way quickly.
We drove through a lot of nothing, wondering where in the world our Airbnb might be, and then we turned a corner and saw this:
The village of Velanidia is tucked into the mountains, nearly hidden from view in all directions. We were told that it used to play host to pirates. Sadly, it’s now nearly uninhabited for most of the year. Only about 100 people (mostly over the age of 70) live here year-round, and then the town gets swamped with visitors (often returning ex-residents) from Athens in June and July. Still, it’s a beautiful location in June.
Our Airbnb place had incredible views along the mountains and down to the sea.
Our hosts, who were real characters, took us for a walk down to a secret beach — the only ways to get there are by boat, foot, or 4-wheel drive.
It was unusually cloudy, but we were happy to swim in this incredibly clear water anyway.
We also walked up to a church that’s been built into the side of the mountain. Greeks love to build churches in hard-to-reach places like mountainsides, mountain tops, and tiny islands.
Inside, there is room for exactly twelve chairs (you could probably stretch it to fourteen for the saint’s name day).
Our hosts spent the whole afternoon and evening with us, even joining us for dinner. It was great to have them out with us to help us order. We had wonderful stuffed grape leaves and a local specialty made by the restaurant’s elderly owner, who wraps a thin layer of phylo around a local cheese and then flash fries it. Yum!
While we weren’t entirely sure what to make of our hosts — John was extremely chatty and somewhat mercurial — we did love their cat, Frieda.
We have seen a lot of cats in Greece, many more than we remember from our last visit. We have made three observations about this: (1) the feral cat population appears to be getting out of control, (2) Greece needs more vets to deal with spaying and neutering, and (3) most Greek cats look different from American cats — they appear to be longer and thinner, and they hold their front paws right together in a manner that seems very polite.
On the way out of town the next morning, we stopped by this very old and lovely church.
The Turks did a number on the frescos inside, but it’s still very beautiful.
Velandia is quiet, peaceful, stunning, and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If you can get there, we would highly recommend it!