Peroulia Dreaming Part 1

It was hard to leave, yet if we had stayed longer we might never have come home. We drank light, red wine pressed this summer from the ancient Greek Agiorgitiko grapes grown at our door, ate olives picked last autumn from the garden trees, laced our food with fragrant oil, drizzled honey over little clay pots of fresh yogurt, bit into sun-warmed figs, breathed in lavender, rosemary, oregano, rose geranium, then gazed, quite mesmerised, over the olive groves to the sea and the blue spine of the Taygetus Range. And then forgot. Everything.

We were here for seven days. On the Peloponnese (Πελοπόννησος) – the place where legend has geographical existence and the gods once roamed and made mischief. One of the gateways to the underworld is at the foot of the Mani penisula, another is at Lerne (Λέρνη) in the Argolis, where Heracles also slew the multi-headed serpent Hydra. Before that he had been in Nemea, slaying the Nemean lion. This is also the area from which Agiorgitiko vines are said to originate, and so the wine is also dubbed Blood of Hercules since it is believed to have fortified the hero before he vanquished the big cat.

Later he travelled across the northern Peloponnese in pursuit of the Ceryneian Hind and the Erymanthian Boar, while in the west he diverted the rivers Alfeois and Pineois to clean out the monumentally filthy Augean Stables. (Don’t you find it pleasing to know these fantastical events occurred in real places).

This is also the land of the Bronze Age Mycenaeans – they who were the builders of palaces, cities and tholos tombs – their centre the city of Mycenae in the north-east – until their mysterious disappearance in 1100 BCE. Homer’s tales in the Iliad have their beginnings here too, in Sparta, whence Paris eloped with Helen, and set off the whole bloody conflict that was the Trojan War.

In the Common Era, and especially from the early Middle Ages, the shores of the Peloponnese suffered serial conquests, falling under Byzantine rule twice, invaded by Slavs, Franks, Ottoman Turks (twice), Venetians (twice) – all of whom, one way and another, have left traces of their passing. And yet for all this and the many following upheavals, including the War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1821 -1832, and the Civil War of 1946-49, one has the sense, at the very heart of things, that the Greeks have, and always will, remain true to their authentic selves. They live for, and of, and by land. For many, that living may be tough, and especially by cosy 21st century standards, but still they live well. You sense this as you wander the lanes past the ramshackle farms with their litter of tractor parts and decomposing cars. And here we come to the crux of the matter – the smiles and exchanges of kalimera (good morning) as we pass: for if the true measure of a civilised people is their capacity to welcome strangers, then the Greeks continue to show us the way. Indeed, many of us could learn a great deal from them.

Samuel Butler (1774-1839) - The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography  Project Gutenberg

Samuel ButlerThe Atlas of Ancient and Classical Greece, Project Gutenberg

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But in case you are wondering where exactly was the location of our collective forgetting – we were staying above Peroulia Beach, among the olive groves between Kombi and Harakopio villages, 6 km north of Koroni (Κορώνη) on the easterly tip of the westernmost peninsula. Our little house at the Iconpainter’s Villas had a veranda that looked east on the Gulf of Messinia and the mountains of the Mani across the water, and south to Koroni – a hillside fishing village hugged around its harbour, the promontory behind dominated by the monolithic bastion of a huge fortress built by the Venetians in the 13th century and added to by the Ottomans in the 16th. Perhaps I’ll take you there in the next post. But be warned: it is a fair hike through the olive groves.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

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43 thoughts on “Peroulia Dreaming Part 1

  1. Whenever I hear of Greek holidays, I cannot help but think of two things, Shirley Valentine, and my dear friend Harry, a ”partner in tonsorial crime” for many years here in South Africa. He now lives in Paphos (yes, Cyprus I know, but it’s all Greek to Me, right?).
    I look forward to your next post.

  2. I never would have guessed, Tish! 🙂 🙂 What a sublime place to stay. I was just recently reading Victoria Hislop’s ‘Postcards from Greece’, which I enjoyed very much. It carried me back to those halcyon days. My Greek Island wanderings. 🙂 Sound like you might have a walk for me next week 🙂

  3. That first paragraph is so exquisite. I forgot everything vicariously. Greece is one of the few European countries that I’ve never been to. Thanks for reminding me that I must go there one day.

  4. Homer is a great companion for a journey to the Peloponnese. I enjoyed your blog enormously; perhaps more so as we stayed at the villas a week or so before you. The sunrise, the mountains, the peace, the memorable singing in the village, the convent at Koroni again cast their spell. We were six women – we came away like you reluctantly – but will be back….again.

    1. Thank you for adding your own story to mine, Val. It is hard to imagine not being touched by such a place. You’ve also made me think I actually need to re-read some Homer. So much appreciate your dropping by my blog.

  5. I can hear the joy in your voice from this visit….and the words in your first paragraph paint a picture of heaven on earth. From your description, I can imagine how your senses must have been so fulfilled. You are right about the Greek people…they are welcoming, generous, and all round wonderful. Maybe this should go on my bucket list…haven’t been there in years. Thank you Tish for starting my day off on such a lovely note. Janet 🙂

  6. You have reignited my travel lust Tish, this post touched a chord in my gypsy genes. Sadly distant travel is now a dream for me, but that is the beauty of word press and blogging I can go there with you. Such a beautiful post that conjured up a vivid picture of a place I have never been to, but would love to visit. I look forward to more…

    1. So pleasing to share this place with you, Pauline. We don’t travel much ourselves these days – English airports providing a huge disincentive to leaving the country. And once you have left you certainly have to steel yourself to the return experience therein. V. stressful.

    1. Actually feeling a bit cross with home, Meg. So much stupid politics and life ruled by corporate imperatives. I know we were only away for a week, but somehow one had the sense of people living their lives quite differently. They had much of the high-techery to hand, but it was the upcoming olive harvest that was on people’s minds.

      1. I think I know what you mean. I spent a few nights in the middle of an orange growing area in western NSW and I loved the feeling of everybody focused on oranges. J used to come home drenched in the perfume of oranges after a day’s hard picking.

      1. Have to thank niece for the discovery. She was looking for somewhere where we could go as a sixsome. I’m not sure that she’s very clear how she found it though. The wonders of googling.

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