Diros Caves and the Mani
Trip Start Sep 13, 2010
13Trip End Sep 30, 2010
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The caves are located at the top of one of Greece’s peninsula’s known as the Mani. As soon as you enter this area, you know you are in a different place. The terrain is mountainous and very dry. It seems like a very harsh and remote landscape and very rocky. I would hate to try and create a garden there. Our plan was to drive down the west coast to the bottom and visit Vathia which looked like a fascinating place in the guide books. Then we would drive up the east coast. I filled up the car with gas because we were warned that there are not many gas stations in the Mani. The gas was even more expensive here. I’ll have to make sure that the next time I get gas I find a station that sells cheaper quality than the 100 which I didn’t realize was all that this particular place had. I went into a bakery and picked up some bread and biscotti and in the next town I picked up some water, fruit and cheese and we were off.
Thus fortified we continued on toward Vathia. First I need to share some history about these towers and the people that live in the Mani. The people here are tough and even when the Turks invaded Greece, they couldn’t convert the Maniotes who are independent, hard to access in their remote locations, fortified in their tower homes and not afraid to attack anyone who rubs them the wrong way. The Turks left them alone. Amongst themselves, they were very clan-like and fought for the best land for cultivation and the best vantage point to build their tower home for defense and offense. If someone was offended or had a relative killed by a neighbour, they would shoot cannonballs at the offending neighbour’s tower. A feud could only be ended by total annihilation or capitulation and the last recorded feud ended in 1870 after the intervention of the Greek army.
I noticed a graveyard higher up on the mountain and we took the car up to check it out. Some of the gravestones were dated in the 1800s. Many were so old they were eroded to practically nothing and other old markers were dated differently than we do now. Surprisingly there were many new gravestones or elaborate mini-mausoleums that were dated as recently as 2007, some with windows you could look into and some with pictures of the deceased. One of these people looked like they had been standing on the barren hillside by the cemetery dressed in his soldiers uniform and holding his rifle.
On the way back north we took the winding road up the east coast and took in the beautiful scenery with the sea juxtaposed with the mountains. The rugged land looks like a desert with prickly pear cactuses growing everywhere. It all looks incredibly inhospitable and barren now but hundreds of years ago these hills were densely populated and cultivated the remnants of which we can see today with the ancient terracing of the hillsides dotted with olive trees and stone walls that marked farmers’ fields.
We ate an excellent dinner at the Fish Taverna Takis in Lemeni which is about 30 minutes from our hotel. We have learned over the last few days how to identify fresh fish which is important because I am told that if we do not have this skill, we will surely be ripped off and get old fish… which has happened once already and we don’t wish to experience again. We chose our fish, and it was delicious.
I have more to say in general about Greece but it will have to wait because this is getting long and I am ready to take a break.
Tomorrow we are off to Monemvasia. It is a castle out on the water and my travel agent couldn’t find a room available inside the walls. We really wanted to stay inside as I have read that it is a special experience to do so and after several tries I was able to find a place and she booked it for me. This place is not on trip advisor and I have no idea of what to expect. I hope they have a bathroom and running water. I hope they have internet access but if they don’t, you won’t get another blog post until the following day.