…a view to watch for ever.
July Squares #6 There is some optical fun over at Becky’s
Six Word Saturday And Ninjas at Debbie’s
The first morning in Greece the sun was so astoundingly bright I panicked. Why had I not brought better sunglasses? How would I get around if I couldn’t see for the dazzle? It took me a while to realize that the effect was caused by the glassy stillness of the Messenian Gulf. It did not last. Nor did that morning’s terrific heat.
We Farrells have a habit of taking our holidays just as summer is ending, and our trip to the southern Peloponnese was no exception. On that morning, the last of high summer departed. By noon a storm had rolled in, cascades of rain pouring down our cottage pantiles. When the rain cleared three hours later, it was a different climate. The sky was grey. I could see where I was going, and I was no longer melting.
Of course we had some sunshine in that last week of September, and the temperature was perfect for exploring Koroni and Pylos. But the season was pretty much over; the beach empty of locals who thought it too cold to be there; fish soup off the menu at the taverna due to lack of mass demand. But if the season was done, there was still much magic – the softer shades of Taygetos Mountain pink at sunrise and sunset. And each day, looking over the Gulf at the wild fortress lands of the Mani, I thought I probably was in heaven.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
I’ve had a passion for pantiles since childhood when they appeared in a storybook I was reading. The story was set in Spain, and I have absolutely no memory of what it was about. Only the pantiles stuck. Once I had discovered what they were, and that they were made of terracotta, and so were red like clay flower pots, and nothing like the boring, dun-coloured slates on my own house, they gave me my first magical sense of ‘the foreign’ – of lands and peoples beyond my island. But perhaps more than that, they suggested new horizons, and new possibilities; only in my imagination though. My family was not one that ‘went abroad’.
And so this pile of tiles simply had to be recorded on our walk to the supermarket in Harakopio. It is hard to say whether they are leftovers from a past project and thus spares for an existing roof, or if they are a roof in-waiting. Or being Greece, if they are simply there, stacked up under an olive tree.
Here’s an actual Harakopio village roof: interesting compilation of new and old.
And a roof with a very nice datura, the spitting image of the one I once planted in my front garden in Nairobi, bought from a roadside nurseryman.
For more of the walk in words and pix see On the path to Harakopio
Roof Squares #3 Now over to Becky
During our late summer stay in the hills near Harakopio in the Messinian Peloponnese, I was impressed by the dogs we passed on the lanes. Most were loose, yet they were clearly on duty. No malice was involved, but they barked to let us know that the olive grove we were passing through was under their jurisdiction. As soon as we reached the boundary, the barking ceased only to be taken up by the next property’s guardian.
Back at home some weeks later, I caught the ‘tail end’ of a programme on the BBC World Service, whose content I meant to follow up, but forgot to. Somewhere in the world where the exact location of rural land boundaries had been forgotten by humans, researchers found that they could pretty much identify them from monitoring their dogs’ barking zones.
The thing that struck me about all the dogs in the photos was, while they might be faithful comrades to humans, they still retained a sense of their own canine dignity. They were what I call good dogs.
The weather in Shropshire has taken a frigid turn – flurries of sleet and bone-chilling winds, the need to wear too many vests and socks and feeling that I’m far too nesh to venture out in it. For any reason whatsoever. (Allotment? What allotment?) Which also has me thinking of a warm sea and Peroulia Beach and the rosy displays laid on there each dawn and dusk, and walking through silent olive groves that come down to the shore, the days’ warmth stored in the many seasons’ leaf layers beneath our feet. At sunset we find we have the beach to ourselves. The sea barely lapping the sand, and somewhere across the Gulf, above the Mani’s fortress scarps, a raptor mews. There are no other sounds.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
This view across the Gulf of Messinia to the Mani peninsula was taken from one of the bastions of Koroni Castle in the Messinian Peloponnese. This part of Greece has a coastline dominated by several of these great Venetian strongholds begun in the 12th century and expanded through several centuries of repeated Venetian-Ottoman conflict.
You can find more of the castle’s history HERE
As you can see, our visit coincided with the sudden arrival of autumn, which perhaps adds to the overbearing broodingness of the place. But when I looked at the photos later I was intrigued by the accidental ‘tromp l’oeil’ effect in the header shot – that apparently displaced, more brightly lit view through the arched aperture. It’s a trick of the geography – a spit of land jutting out into the sea way below the castle.
The town of Koroni had its trading heyday in the 13th century. You can see here how it hugs up against the battlement for the full width of the photo, up to and beyond the church in the top right corner. Within the castle there is the town cemetery, several churches, a convent and a number of cottages with gardens and small holdings where people still live. It is a fascinating place, the past somehow still marching on with the present.
One of the cottages inside the castle.
Inside the convent garden and the convent entrance (below).
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 ButlerThe Atlas of Ancient and Classical Greece, Project Gutenberg
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