Food memories of Greece

I am on a roll with sharing our Greek holiday (just a few months late!) and by the end of the week I’ll have shared it all.  I’ve told you about our lovely hotel Kinsterna and our visit to the island of Elafonisos, today we’re off to the Mani Peninsula…

The Mani Peninsula in Greece

Sea around the Mani Peninsula

When I was doing my pre-holiday research I was already intrigued by the Mani just because of it’s name, which seemed to have an air of mystery to it.  The Mani Peninsula is a bit of the Peloponnese which is apparently distinguishable both geographically and culturally.  On doing my research prior to our Greek holiday (you can reads part 1 and part 2 here) I loved the sound of this bit of the Peloponnese because it was described as being rugged, rural, and inaccessible.

Rugged Mani landscape

Old walled city of Monemvasia

I think poor Mr Rigg would have preferred another day of lounging by the pool at Kinsterna, but I dragged him off on a road adventure around the Mani.  I think Mr Rigg worries about these kind of day-out-adventures that I come up with, because unlike our day trip to the island of Elafonisos which had the clear aim of sitting on a beach all day, my plans to go to the Mani didn’t have a destination nor aim.  This usually translates into a lot of a driving.

Driving along the Mani Peninsula

Mountain coastal road on the Mani

And it was a lot of driving.  We spent the whole morning pottering along the winding coastline to Gythio, down to Kotronas, and then through the mountains to Aeropoli.  I thoroughly enjoyed all this wiggling along the coast, watching the scenery change, seeing a few towns and villages along the way, but it’s not Mr Rigg’s ideal way to spend the day.

We did come across this pretty cool ship wreck on a beach somewhere around Gythio…

Shipwreck near Gythio

Us in Greece

Dried seedheads

Old shipwreck in Greece

Then as we started to climb into the mountains to cross the Mani Peninsula to Aeropoli on the other side  we found beautiful olive groves with some truly ancient looking trees.

Driving into the Mani mountains

Ancient olive trees in the Mani

Old olive groves

Mani mountain village

There was also a rather friendly horse who although having his front hooves tied together (assuming to ensure he didn’t get too far!) looked healthy and well cared for.

Horse in a Greek olive grove

Greek stone wall

Views of the Mani

Friendly horse

It was this journey across the peninsula that I loved the most as it felt very rural and very different to the bit of the Peloponnese we had already seen.

Going through one village on the road to Aeropoli we came across cows in the middle of the road happily grazing on whatever they could find.  And weren’t they handsome!

Cows in the Mani

Cue photo moment complete with attractive wheelie waste bins.  I love that life reminds you it isn’t always picture perfect.

Cows grazing by the side of the road in Greece

Cow grazing by the side of the road in Greece

In Aeropoli we parked in what seemed to be the main square, and then wondered through the streets.  It felt quite old – its name means “city of Ares” after the Greek god of war.  Funnily enough, before we set off for Greece I was imagining this ancient landscape full of myths where legendary Greek gods and goddesses resided, which wasn’t at all what I found.  However, of all the places we visited Aeropoli had that ancient air about it.

Market stall in Aeropoli

Aeropoli in Greece

I’m not sure if this was someone’s house…but I fancied living there…

Beautiful restored Greek house in Aeropoli

Aeropoli sits beneath this towering mountain backdrop…

Church in Aeropoli with mountain behind

Pink bougainvillea in Aeropoli

There were also some pretty nice looking fruit and vegetable stalls – I always get so jealous about the fresh produce people ‘elsewhere’ have on the doorstep.

Vegetables for sale in Aeropoli

Spring onions on a market stall in Aeropoli

Aubergines and peppers in Aeropoli

Unsurprisingly lots of citrus fruits as you would expect with the number of groves we passed driving down to the Peloponnese.

Crates of citrus fruit in Aeropoli

And just look at this selection of greens!

Bunches of greens for sale in Aeropoli

I wasn’t sure what this place was, but I loved it’s street garden full of herbs and sunflowers.  Whenever I see little street gardens like these abroad, I always think of my lovely friend Caroline and imagine that she would love them.

Street garden in Aeropoli

I also loved how people had their pet birds in cages hanging outside their homes – I guess the weather is nice enough and it’s probably a lot nicer for them than staring at someone’s living room.  Plus they were all so tuneful, making wandering the streets very pleasant.

Bird cages outside in Aeropoli

Yellow canary in Aeropoli

Tiny restaurants even had pots of tall basil growing on their windowsills – if only we had summer’s warm enough to grow basil like this here!

Windowsill pots of basil

Back in the square we decided now was the time to embrace a kebab, and so we went to a takeaway style place that I have to admit, if it was back home in England, I would never venture into.  However, the meat on spits could be clearly seen a pieces of meat, different bits individually stacked on top of each other, rather than some homogeneous lump that you see here.

Souvlaki in Aeropoli

Kebab takeaway in Aeropoli

What I think of as a kebab, actually seems to be souvlaki…or is it…I got a bit confused over the holiday, but whichever it was it was tasty.  We ordered one with chicken and mayonnaise…

Chicken and mayonnaise souvlaki

…and one with pork and tzatziki, which we shared and both thoroughly enjoyed.

Pork and tzatziki souvlaki

On the way back to the hotel, we made one last stop.  All throughout our day in the Mani we had spotted these colourful beehives up on the hillsides, and as we rounded a bend on our journey back there was a small lay-by with a beehive painted with the words ‘honey’ and a jar of amber coloured goodness sat on top.

Roadside honey stall in the Mani

Roadside honey stall in the Mani

There was an old van that had been converted into a mini shop, a small cabin above the lay-by with a man and lady sitting in the sun, and beside them all along the hillside were more of the fabulous colourful beehives.  We knew no Greek, the man was friendly but knew no English, so we got by with smiles and pointing and exchanged some money for a rather large jar of his golden coloured honey.

Roadside honey stall in the Mani

This jar of honey lasted us a long time once we were home, topping our yoghurt for breakfast and bringing back a little of that Greek holiday memory every time we ate it.

Beehives on the side of the hill in Greece

The Mani

Our final destination this day, was the old walled city of Monemvasia, nearby to our hotel.  We’d thought about doing a day trip there, and so thought we’d ‘pop in’ on our way back to see if we’d like to go back for longer.  When you get to the new bit of the town, you drive out along this long road built up above the sea to this rocky outcrop.

You follow the road round the rock and suddenly you are greeted by this huge wall with an arched entrance leading into the dark.  It’s pretty impressive.

Walled entrance to old Monemvasia

Walled city of Monemvasia

Blue sea below the old city of Monemvasia

Old fortified entrance to Monemvasia

Once through and into the old city, it is a maze of narrow streets and higgledy-piggeldy buildings.  It is like something out of a film or fairytale.

Old bridge in Monemvasia

Inside old Monemvasia

Pink flowers in Monemvasia

View over roofs in Monemvasia

It’s incredible to think it’s all still lived in (whether they are holiday homes or full-time homes I’m not sure) – we couldn’t help but wonder as we went deeper into the town how on earth people move in!  There aren’t roads and I’m pretty sure the only way in is via that one entrance, and everything is so steep with steps up and down.

Church roof in Monemvasia

Small window with lace curtain in Monemvasia

Pink flowering bush in Monemvasia

Narrow streets of old Monemvasia

We wondered if these signs we saw were ‘for sale’ signs…

Old building and doorway in Monemvasia

View of the sea over the roofs in Monemvasia

View of Monemvasia

There were lots of cats chilling out everywhere and pretty flowers.  There were a few shops and restaurants, although when we went it was very quiet, just a few people having a drink.  I can imagine in the main tourist season it’s heaving, so I’m pleased we saw it in a more peaceful and quiet moment.

Cat drinking from a bucket in Monemvasia

Street scenes in Monemvasia

Red flowers climbing up a wall

View from old Monemvasia to the mainland

Looking back from old Monemvasia to the new town…

View from old Monemvasia to the new town

Our next stop on our Greece trip was back to Athens for two nights before we flew home – we went on this incredible guided food tour and ate more delicious foods, so that will be my next and final instalment of this holiday.