The End of the World

The ancient Greeks believed that the gate to Hades lay in an underground cave beneath Cape Tenaro (also called Cape Matapan), the southernmost tip of mainland Greece. It’s a remote place, wild and windy, golden brown and nearly empty.

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There are a few buildings with services for tourists — rooms to let and a taverna — but otherwise, this place feels somehow unlike anywhere else I’ve visited in Greece.

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This area has been important to seafarers for centuries. World War II buffs might know it as the place that British defeated the Italian navy. Mercenaries used to wait there to be hired by passing ships. And Spartans built several temples on the Cape, including this one that the sign marks ominously as “Sanctuary and Death Oracle of Poseidon Tainarios.”

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In Byzantine times, this structure was converted into a church. But it continues to feel much more like the temple of a sea god than anything else.

The Romans used Cape Tenaro, too. You can walk out to see mosaics that used to be the floor of a Roman villa.

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It amazed us that these are right out in the open — you can walk right up to them. This means that you can see the mosaic work in close detail.

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Cape Tenaro also offers two areas that might be loosely called beaches (if you like your beaches with a lot of rocks).IMG_2553.jpg

Jocelyn and I sat and looked at the sea life by the edge of the shore.

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Not for the first time, I wished that I had brought goggles to Greece so that I could see better underwater. Though the fish life in the Mediterranean is somewhat limited — years of fishing and human shore activity have killed off whatever reefs might once have existed — we saw some interesting stuff just poking around at the edge of the rocks.

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We happily would have stayed longer, but we had a long drive ahead.

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Cape Tenaro sits at the very bottom of the Mani penninsula, the southwestern finger of the Peloponnese. To get back up to the farm, we drove up the eastern side of the penninsula. This area feels incredibly quiet and removed from the rest of the world. It is dotted with the occasional village, but the goat-to-person ratio seems to lean heavily in the goats’ favor.

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We saw goats of every shape and size …

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… including this one, which had the biggest bell I’ve ever seen on an animal.

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We chased this herd down the road for a long time. It felt like the line of goats stretched on forever.

Even the churches in this area look rugged.

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We enjoyed a quiet ride back, stopping only to take in the orange color of the sunset over the town beach at Kotronas.

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For our final morning in Greece, we returned to the east coast of the Mani, this time for a farewell swim at Skoutari. We went to a section of this beach that we hadn’t known existed, one that had brollies and more beachgoer services than the quieter area we usually frequent.

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Our cat and seahorse, which our mother had sent as safe-travel talismans, also said goodbye to Greece here.

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Before heading out, we made one last stop at the bakery on the main road just outside of Skoutari, which has a large selection of tiny popsicles:

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We love the tiny popsicles of Greece and will definitely miss them (along with the rest of the country)!

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