A few Septembers ago we had a family trip to Kalamata on the Peloponnese. I had not been to Greece before, and it was love at first sight – from the moment we left the airport. There had been a fierce summer that year with no rain and the earth looked parched. I don’t know what it was that spoke to me most – the rugged stony uplands, the everywhere-colonies of feathery phragmites reeds, the wild cyclamen, household clutter around the homesteads and olive groves, the olive groves themselves, the country lanes and then the views of the Taygetos Mountains across the Messinian Gulf. The only downside for us, though quite the opposite for the locals, we brought the rain on our heels, so there are stormy skies as well as china blue ones. It anyway seems like a dream now.
And a touch of white: small sailing boat plying the Messenian Gulf between Koroni and Kalamata; a glimpse of white walls on the shoreline; leaves of well-drenched olive trees glinting silver-grey in the afternoon light. Sometimes less is more.
Taygetos dawn, Southern Peloponnese
Summer left on our first day in Greece. We might have woken to hot and dazzling sunshine, but by lunchtime the storm clouds were building over the strait. And then came the deluge, torrenting off the pantiles on our cottage roof. Maria, the cottage owner, said it was the first rain in months and after the broiling summer (that we’d only just missed) the olive groves and vineyards were desperate for a good watering. So it was hard to feel too hard-done-by as, before our eyes, the parched Kalamata land sucked up the downpour.
The thunder racketed around for a couple of hours, and finally rumbled off in late afternoon, leaving us with still threatening clouds but, by then, a pressing need to stock up on provisions. We had been told that the nearest supermarket in Harakopio village was an easy two-mile walk. And so it was: a tranquil path between small farms and ancient olive groves; no traffic; only the scent of damp leaf litter and sometimes the delicate fragrance of tiny cyclamen along the verges. There was farm clutter of course along the way, but that goes with the territory. Hens scrattled about under the trees and handsome dogs kept watch over their people’s domains. There was a rather nice horse. Now and then the sun almost shone and I fell in love with gnarly olive trees that looked at least as old as Odysseus.
This week Jude at Travel Words truly set us a photo challenge:
“find an object where its outline is more dominant than its three dimensional qualities, you need to approach your photograph with an eye for shape rather than form.”
She also provided a very striking photo for guidance. I then returned to the words, thought I understood them, but as I looked through my own photos began to wonder if I actually did. So after a backtrack to Travel Words to see how others had responded, these are the photos I came up with. The header tulips are anyway worth including simply for their ‘look-at-me’ factor. Also if you’ve forgotten to plant your tulip bulbs (in the UK anyway), there’s still time to do it in December.
The next photos are all from Kalamata: remembrance of sojourns past and other Greek reflections across the Gulf of Messenia.
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).