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Posts Tagged ‘Greek Travel’

Greece2015 MykonosThe Word Is: Cash is King! Discounts prevail, pensions and small hotels give most value; bus it to the beach; eat gyros and souvlaki and an Alpha Beer daily.

Euros and major credit cards are no problem for the savvy traveler in 99% of the venues.  Lock your Cash in a sealed envelope in the Hotel room safe or the Hotel front office safe with any good jewelry. Take only what you need for the daily missions.  Keep only one credit card on your body.  Inform your card company bank that you wish to be informed of any purchase over $XXX.xx dollars via text.

Greece2010 125Most of the restaurants on the Greek major tourist islands bring the Card Billing Machine to your table for you to swipe your card.  Use the visible ATM machines in the front of the local bank windows.  Avoid the ATM in Gas Stations or Beach Bars.

http://www.pensionhotel.co.uk/

Greece2015$100 to $200 per day will get you  a room in a pension, perhaps with a continental breakfast for two people. These prices are quite normal.  The room will be in a smaller building with close proximity to the harbor, bus stations, restaurants and the port of Mykonos. Expect twin beds that might be a tad firm.

Here is the news on the ground: there are definite rip-off. Example this: Paranga Beach, on the north side of Mykonos Island is  a great sandy cove beach with a small traverna.  The beach vendor maintains the beach and offers Chaise Lounge Bed (2) and one umbrella at the sea edge. The ripoff price is 120 Euros.  What?  These should be no more that 5 Euros each  or 25 Euros max!  I would expect a full body massage at those inflated prices.

Greece2010 193A cocktail at the Little Venice area in Mykonos Town, a trendy nightlife spot, will set you back $20.00. Note, the tip is included, thank goodness.  Shopping will be a task in the evening well-lit narrow white cobblestone streets of Mykonos. Look for up to 20% cash buyer discounts on jewelry and clothing.

The Mykonos traveler will find that they are in an insulated world from the confusion and news of the day.  Make the most of it and like Zorba, ” live for the day”!  Opa.

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Dollar Strong, Island of Mykonos Awaits

Greece2010 109     The brisk breezes that move the windmills will soon usher the savvy visitors to the most famous of the Aegean Sea’s Greek island of Mykonos.  Whether you arrive by ferry-boat, hydrofoil vessel or jet, the options that will open up to you on this whitewashed mecca of bliss will keep you poised to return each year.  The European Bohemians that uncovered the Cycladic isle in the 1960’s, welcomed the yachting set, and in turn they turned up the energy several notches. Today, Mykonos is a melting pot of race, color, creed and capital.  Accommodations will vary broadly and many choose the countless bed & breakfast inns in the village, Hora, of Mykonos Town. Others may rent the lovely villas scattered among the cliffs and hillsides or find the seaside hotels on the shores of the many cove beaches. Most are affordable to each desire and disembarking ferry passengers will  be greeted by innkeepers with placards at the port.  Find your lodging and head to the cafes that ring the town harbor for the first frappaccino or Mythos beer.

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Get around this island.  Many use the mopeds, but I love the Smart Cars.  Buses from the top of the village cost a few euros and will get you each late morning to the beaches. A network of fishing boats converted to passenger ferries, or Caiiques, will take dozens to the outlying cove beaches for a similar fee. The captains are a colorful breed and will sing, laugh, or shout and swear. Not much is needed on the beachfront. Perhaps a bathing suit could be brought, but that is your call. All else is found at the tavernas on each beach. Beach club bars set the tone, as late morning hours require new age tunes to awake from the late late night activities, while three PM brings in the techno disco and the volume increases exponentially.  Peace may still be found making the right choice of beach.

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The day may end at the beach, yet with a nap and a shower, the night opens up to adventurous escapades back in Hora. The restaurants and cafes are open past midnight and at that time the clubs are just about to find their rhythm. Many are outdoors in the courtyards of the town or spill out onto balconies. There is a reasoning on Mykonos that this island has over 365 whitewashed churhes. The season begins the weekend of Easter and will continue through the second week in October each year.  Prime season is most active from June to August end, but my season is the first two weeks of September.  The “September Club”, as I call it, finds a certain mellowing out of the people, and the vibe grounds me to drink in the best of Mykonos.  I do find a moment to search out  a little church perched over the blue Aegean Sea, sit and pray for next year’s visit.

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Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

The Greek Mountains of the Peloponnese of “southern Greece” is far from tropical in the winter months. This roadside chapel near the famed Olympia is active with tourbuses, except for my vision this winter!IMG_5549

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The Nikon d7100 DSLR, Nikkor 55-80mm captures this Alps-like scene.

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Copps Hill Burial Ground      My travel to a new destination is not complete without a journey to a local cemetery.  You may call me bizarre, as others have noted this trait as unusual.  I generally see that the culture of a land and the knowledge of an age long past is before my eyes upon walking past those gates.  A somber reflection, in a dignified manner, into the lives of those departed, opens my eyes to the needs to respect the dead.  The payment of homage and need to glorify the memory of a family member takes on so many differences in the cultures of my travel.  From an early age I found the monuments to the dead intriguing.  The walks through the cemetery take on a peace of their own.  Ancient or modern in design, open wide or grown over set a tone.  The maintainers of the gravesites add to the culture.  My earliest remembrance came from a Victorian era matured cemetery in Connecticut, USA.  Though not in a New England wealthy town, the deceased  retained many beautiful and massive stones over their graves.  Many monuments reflected the touch of the sea with anchors and granite crosses adorned with cherubs and dolphins.  The cedar and cyprus trees were so mature that the shadows fell across most graves in a cloak of sadness.  Pools of fresh water in the hollows on the grounds drew weeping willow branches toward the reflections on the water and tears of leaves  floated down in the breeze. The families of the late 1800’s felt the sadness of loss of the loved ones and those graves clearly let the living feel the grief.

    sabagraveIn the heat of the noonday sun, no cemetery was more striking to explore than the Hassell Cemetery on the 5 square mile  island of Saba in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean Sea.  This island is an upside down ice cream cone with a population of 2,000.  The lilliputian villages are populated by ancient seafaring Scot families and Carib/African descendants. The families had etched a space over several generations to bury the dead.  Volcanic in nature, the land required the above ground vault mausoleums.  These were not like the historic New Orleans, LA style, but more low-rise, in a dense plot of graves.  The island seaman would travel the world and return with glass and ceramic tiles from every culture.  Those tiles were then used to pave every inch of every vault in every color and mixed pattern. The reflection in the sun and the intensity of the blend is a vision of ingenuity.  Most crypts sport an oval photograph of the deceased imbedded on a raised head stone. Like a hotel washroom, the tiles are scrubbed and shined gleaming by the  families.  They were so proud of their graves.

  GreeceChurch On the road to the last vestige of land of the mainland before touching the deep blue Aegean Sea and the islands of Greece, the villages of the Peloponnese area, known as Mani, gives us the color of a proud culture.  These fierce people from ages long past retain the memories of stoic, no, Spartan times in history. This culture retains religious veins of intense respect for the dead.  The honor of the departed parent is most evident here.  The graveyard of Greece is a family place and many times attached to the family’s own individual church. These churches serve as the last resting place.  Black-shawled women tend the grave/vault near the cubic whitewashed structure.  Within a glass-doored wooden tombstone are put vessels of  “holy water” and olive oil, photographs of family, incense, dried flowers, toys, “toma” or the pressed religious icons of silver, painted icons of saints, candles of golden bee’s wax and the list goes on.  The touching sadness of the stuffed toy puppy and the photo of the dark curled haired toddler speaks of this culture.  These are glimpses into a respect for life and the prayers for the departed.  The life of the village revolves around all in the Mani mind-set.

     These and the many chances to walk the paths that the mourners have walked have opened my eyes to a respect for the timeless  museum of granite, marble, slate and the wood.  I place my hand on the chiseled words and feel the warmth of the stone and drink in the sound of the wind through the monuments that draw me to the land of the lost.  The land of the living becomes most real. 

GreeceMani

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Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Challenge: choose an image that denotes: Curves

Paraportiani Church, Hora, Mykonos, Cyclades Islands, Greece

This little structure is really three small churches in one.  Located near the famed windmills on the port near “little Venice”,

the Church is active, ideal for wedding services, and photography in the many hues of the Aegean light.

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Paraportiani2

Greek Orthodox Church, Mykonos

Greek Orthodox Church, Mykonos

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Paraportiani4

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 Living Santorini Greek Wines: Let the Lava Flow

My first remembrance of this mystical island was the Byzantine chants drifting on Sunday morning through my open window on the edge of the caldera. The chanting Greek priests in the Cathedral of  Thera set the bar high for further Santorini experience.  Several visits in the coming years proved that a surprise was welcomed around every corner on those September island vacations.

Thera, Santorini pathwaysA very fond encounter, on one hectic noontime visit in the village of Thera, made  friends for life with Yannis and his mother, Ruella.  The touristic streets and paths in the center of Thera were filled with the Cruise Ship visitors, yet the littlest shop under the steps near the postoffice proved to be the perfect refuge.  It was the strumming guitar and the humming to a Greek fisherman’s song that drew me in to sit and listen. Captain John, Yannis’ friend,  put down the guitar and we all greeted each other. The postcards, lottery tickets and the aging souvenirs on dusty long forgotten shelves were behind Yannis.  His diploma of Notary and the religious icon art on the walls, and the stacks of documents in organized piles proved the 60-year-old man was more than perceived. Yannis lived on Santorini his entire life. He and mother, Ruella, perhaps at age 80, lived steps away in the vine-draped whitewashed house, situated on a narrow path in a Greek courtyard.  A rusted and dented Vespa motor scooter gave Yannis his mobility.  The shop was alway open.

The full white beard and the stock of white flowing locks contrasted with the well tanned face and arms on his near five foot frame.  St. Nicholas in khaki shirt and pants was more of the total vision of his appearance.  Yannis spoke english, though a nod and the Greek expression, “Nai” or yes, always with a smile, made most conversation flow.  The visitors to the shop were steady and regulars of local commerce, some farmers, fishermen and several realtors.  In island government, Yannis made the official transactions happen. He knew them all.  Captain John, the guitarist, but also island real estate developer, was a fine friend. In fact, Yannis had dozens of very close friends, very few local family members, and was a life-long bachelor.

The ability as an outsider to be humbled with acceptance into the home of a proud and stoic traditional family on Santorini is very special.  The thongs of tourists and day trippers that come to this speck in the Aegean Sea, an angelic perch above the crater of a still active volcano, dominate a very short island season.  The year-round families and businesses endure for the considerable “off-season”, in an isolated and protective life.  Ruella, on her four and one half-foot height, and dressed for decades in her widow’s black, maintained a simple house.  Discarded olive oil tins hang filled with fresh herbs, amongst the red bougainvillea flowers that climb the front porch.  Cats sit on the stoop and canaries sing in the wire hanging cages in and out of the house.  Cycladic dark cedar furniture, linens and religious icons fill the house.  The china cabinet and several  fine porcelain vases fill the one wall with the photograph of Ruella’s second son, Father Vlavianos, the Greek Orthodox Arch Bishop in Chicago, IL, USA.  The invitation to eat dinner and join with Captain John,  at their home with Ruella to cook was easy to accept.

My beautiful pictureI love all Greek food.  I will try anything, yet, much of the local foods of Santorini are imported, with exception of produce and some fishing.  Yannis’ household was all natural: locally caught, locally grown, and most importantly locally pressed and bottled!

The night began with a dram of raki.  The distilled spirit had a tendril of fennel immersed in the thick bottomed aged glass wine bottle. It was potent and hot on the throat, made to open the senses. Yiamas was the toast to our health.  Soon Ruella’s icebox was opened to produce the dark green unlabeled wine bottle from Yannis’ vineyard.  Yannis proudly talked about his father and grandfather’s grape vines.  Several acres on a track of land toward the caldera road to the Village of Pyrgos is the location of the vineyard.  The soil is ocher, appears very dry, contains one small cinderblock tin roofed structure and a wire fence encircles it with one gate.  Tourbuses on way to Akrotiri rumble past this nondiscript location without fanfare.  The grapes are white Assyrtiko and Athiri.  The rows of Yannis’ grapes are non existent, as the land is planted in clusters.  The vine stems are now ancient and five-inch base stems throw off the vines each year in the volcanic soil of Santorini.  The morning air is rich in moisture up from the sea far below in the crater. The heat of midday pulls the sugars up into the grapes. Very little rain in the summer and fall months requires the porous subsoil to give up the winter deposits from deep below the surface.  These characteristics make a dry, citrus aroma, hinting of salt, acidic full-bodied wine.

Yannis explained the family church.  Most older family landowners retain a small church on their property.  It is used for religious events from year to year and maintained with the proper icons and candles and offerings.  Yannis takes the harvested September grapes to his church and spreads them to air dry on the stone pavement adjoining the church for ten to 14 days. Covered with gauze to protect from birds, they mellow and concentrate the sugars ready for pressing.  Soon the grapes are brought to a local press and filtered and barreled.  They are stored near the church and some are bottled.

The dinner was wonderful. The start became a hit as a filefish was baked in garlic and olive oil and the crusty local bread combined well.  Ruella grows the special baby white eggplant, unique to the IMG_1733island.  These were sliced into discs and fried in light egg and flour batter.  The finish was the morning harvested local rooster, baked on Greek oregano stems, and feta cheese cubes over warm slices. Horta greens were bathed in lemon juice, salt and olive oil.  The desert was local pastry shop, daily baked, sweets.  The local made wine was two years in the process and paired perfectly with the food.  It was a couple of percentages more in alcohol, but refreshing to taste.  The night went a bit longer that imagined.  We all laughed and Captain John played more guitar.

20130428_22When September comes the vineyard owner must act.  Three days after the dinner we went to the vines.  The time was right.  Yannis opened the little structure, we took wicker baskets, hook-shaped paring knives and we headed to the closer grapes.  The vines are twisted into wreath like circles.  Inspecting the grape bunches was a shocking treat.  Those nearer the ground were so robust in swollen juice, that each grape pressed against its neighbor into a cubic block of grape bunch. A flick of the wrist and the block fell into the wicker, then on to the next.  Several baskets finished the task.  At noon, the work was, well, hard.  A breeze was blowing off the lip of the crater’s edge.  We transferred all to the little church, said a prayer, and had a sip of last years wine out of a plastic liter jug, a little warm but alright.  All was perfect to finish a great day.  I am certain the grapes seasoned and were pressed into a fine batch.  Yannis was a perfect host this visit.

Yannis hopped onto his Vespa and had plenty of people looking for him back at his little shop.  The restaurants on Santorini are supplied by several commercial wineries. A carafe at a favorite taverna is the way to go.  I especially like the dry wines of Santos Winery, and Boutari assyrtiko white is readily available away from Greece.  Prices have risen some over the years but the cost is worth the pleasure.

Down the Caldera My beautiful pictureMy beautiful picture

PyrgosChurch

 

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Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

Beyond

High in the Mani Region of Southern Greece Mainland perches the village of Vathia

High in the Mani Region of Southern Greece Mainland perches the village of Vathia

Tripod mounted Cannon 750, late afternoon sun of September. This village is beyond the reach of most European Tourists, hint-hint!  ~Ron

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A Tiny Greek Island Delivers Big Benefits without Stress

Flying Dolphin GR The desire is simple: hop on a little comfortable vessel, have a coffee in a roomy armchair, watch the scenery whizz by, and dock next to pure bliss.  These are the beginnings to a fulfilling getaway on the island of Hydra, Greece.  The spring months open the tiny Aegean Islands to the tourist trade and Hydra, a mere hour and one half sea trek from Athens, is well prepared for  international visitors and savvy Greeks.  The draw to the several square kilometer parcel a short distance off the coast of Greece’s  Peloponnese is twofold: no motorized vehicles and a comfort oriented infrastructure.

Mules and Sporty Motorboats

IMG_2046HYDRA The Port of Hydra is bustling with action, as the visitors make their way over cobblestone whitewashed paths to the numerous guesthouses and very small hotels. Want a taxi? Grab a Mule and driver to move you and luggage to the comforts of your Bed and Breakfast perched over the harbor slopes. A breeze is alway found in the town from the western direction and the mountainous southern peninsula of Greece.  The local sea is regularly calm and commercial trade moves on it between the mainland, the port and several little villages. Caiques can be hired to move the tourist from the harbor to several picturesque coves. Beaches abound, though some are pebbles,  and others have amenities of tavernas and changing facilities, and chaises and umbrellas. The network of pedestrian pathways lace the seaside and countryside and make casual walks very easy and true hiking objectives very manageable.

Grilled Meats and Homemade Wine, A Room with a View

hydra_tavernaHydra_ hillsPhaedraHotelHydra

Wild hare stiffado, baby lamb chops, braised field green in lemon, pistachio ice cream, washed down by carafe upon carafe of white wine from the courtyard’s oaken barrel is a start. The locals know the seasonal foods and the several great little restaurants accommodate, as all are quite good,  Seafood is alway available and a mullet or seabass grilled in olive oil and Greek oregano, bathed in lemon juice, surrounded by crispy chips is a best choice.   Christina’s Taverna is an outdoor courtyard leader and Hilda, owner at the Phaedra Hotel will point you in the right direction for the best daily activities and nighttime dinners to your liking.  The morning meal is perfect on their rooftop plaza and the comfortable rooms add to the pleasure.

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My fondest pleasure is the morning wake up call; well, not a call, but the sound of the “clop-clop” of the Donkeys on the cobblestone village path. Out of the canopy double bed and up to the balcony for a Greek coffee got my day going just fine.  No mopeds, no SUVs, no tour buses, all kept the day perfectly aligned.

Take the Flying Dolphin line from Pireaus Port to Hydra, secure advance accommodations, pack light and wear hiking shoes. The evenings are certainly casual and the visitor will want a sweater at night in the shoulder seasons. Value here is very good for the benefits, but bring a few extra Euros to splurge. Ya’ sou!  ~ Ron

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Mykonos nightsThere is a group of folks who taught me to live life to the fullest.  I call them the “September Club”.  Many years ago, on the island of Mykonos, in the Aegean Sea of Greece, a birthday party of  night revellers spilled over onto my hotel’s accessible balcony. These people knew how to party. They came from all over Europe, a few Greeks and several Americans. Some were on perpetual holiday and others had jobs, like airline flight attendants, teachers and Club Owners.  They had bonded for several summer seasons in the month of September. The invite to join them could not be refused. I was part of the September Club.

MykonosThe owner of the fun bar, called Uno Bar, Michael, lived on Mykonos and was well-connected and part of the group.  He had a large speed boat and many toys.  He was good at organizing beach parties. With a well planned Saturday outing of 40 people on two commissioned Greek fishing boats, we headed for the tiny island 3 Km off of Mykonos and near Delos Island.  Uninhabited, yet home to dozens of goats, this idyllic spot and the little sheltered-cove sandy beach promised a full day of pleasure.  We were not disappointed.  Soon after the beach chairs, volleyball net and kitchen BBQ area were arranged, Ouzo and Mythos beers flowed.  The Greeks and several Europeans, a very un-modest bunch, jumped right into volleyball, sans clothing.  The same was for the two beautiful Uno Bar Waitresses, as they proved they could somersault the whole beach. They could and they did.

The highlight of the afternoon became the feast. Lamb chops, fried zucchini, feta cheese, marinated chicken in olive oil and fresh oregano were prepared. Michael’s boat had snorkel equipment and three of us headed into the cove to gather the spiny black sea urchins amongst the rocks and sea weeds. With a potato sack full, I was to learn the secret of the Greek fisherman’s Sea Urchin salad.

There is danger to this recipe. We used Diving Gloves to hold on to the spines as we applied the Dive Knife to the crown of the Urchin’s mouth area. These slender tubular black needles penetrate the palm of my hand easily and biting them out with front teeth is an art.  Yet, in little time the stainless steel 10 inch salad mixing bowl had a pound of the roe ( some believe its gonads), in the bottom. The one inch ocher colored sacks give off a salty aroma and glisten.

compliments of Fotosearch Stock

Greek fisherman’s Sea Urchin salad, ala Mykonos Beach Party

  • 1/2 kilo Black or Red Sea Urchin Roe, one pound approx.
  • One cup soft White Loaf bread cubed without crust
  • One half cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • One freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup
  • One tablespoon Sea Salt
  • One half tablespoon Greek Oregano
  • Fine ground black pepper to taste.
  • All ingredients are whipped in the Stainless mixing bowl to a semi smooth blended consistency.
  • The bowl may be floated on cracked ice.  Prepare the White Loaf Crusty bread in two-inch cubes for dipping.

We did not need the bowl on cracked ice, as it lasted for five minutes and satiated about 15 people.  The rest of the September Club folks were still running around naked or sleeping after too much Ouzo!  These summers, the group has dispersed. I have seen a few a while back.  The Uno Bar has changed, and not in that great traditional spot in Mykonos.  The Urchins are still there and I now live life to the fullest, waiting for next September.

 

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The mountains and seaside slopes of the mainland of Greece etch out treasures for the traveler.

I love the islands of the Aegean and all the attractions of the city of Athens.  Yet, the peaceful existence of the smallest villages a mere 3 hour drive from 5 million residents and the hustle of the Capital City beckons.  This is a journey not to delay.  The summer months into late October support the flexible traveler to drink in the life and leisure and weather for finding that perfect route.  I can help you find that magic place.

    I focus my attention around the town square.  Lush with olive and palm trees and roped with vines and blossoms of Bougainvillea. This village life bustles in the morning, grinds to a halt at noon, unless it is a holy day, near the church.  The cafes remain active if there is a grape-arbor overhead. Pushcart vendors do stay out in the midday sun to sell the lottery tickets or the trays of slices of melon and kilo of citrus.  The shutters on most shops close and siesta prevails.  I enjoy the pace and tone of the residents.

The southern region of Greece has the benefits of mild, dry weather and the lack of people. The variety of landscape and the ability to be close to the sea should secure the  Peloponnese Peninsula as a great start. The loop around the region is a two day trip, but I prefer to linger for a long week-end.  Think of your right hand with your first three fingers pointed downward. The center southern branch is the Mani region.  Use this as your staging area and travel on the Areopolis-Kalamatas Highway toward the West. This is a two lane road though this area and in the villages it may be one lane.  A few tour buses run this loop with European senior citizen and the Central European camper vans tour in caravans.  Take the time to visit the seaside tourist town of Stoupa. The beach is commercial and the harbor front supports a thriving trade of Pubs, Coffeehouses and Tavernas.  The Brits have figured this out a while back and Bed and Breakfast Inns abound.  This area is a little busy for me and I suggest that you move west several kilometers to Kardamillis.

    In Kardamillis (Kardamyli),you will have the beach access, the Tavernas, craftshops, bars and B&Bs. The architecture is Greek, Turkish, (though they never conquered the Mani), and colonial.  The Mani castle structures remain in this western region.  There are real estate companies that may rent one of these villas for a family for the week and many have sea views from the side of the hills above this town.

    The nightly village life reverts to the passion for freshest ingredients for food of salads, wild game, carafes of red wine, more stifados of rabbit, fried zucchini and sweets.  Somewhere ouzo will find a place.  Metaxia brandy, 5 star, rounds it all out.  A rare bouzoukis player may turnout at a Taverna; hopefully yes.

My real journey for your daytrip into the mountain villages begins five more kilometers west on the Areopolis-Kalamatas Highway to the micro village of Prosili. The draw to this hillside village is the Cathedral of  The Church of Prosili, but I prefer to find the smallest white-washed paths below the church, high on the hill above. There is a blue paint, an aqua paint, and a green paint that may only be know to Greeks in this village.  This combination painted and weathered on the doors, windows and fences paired with the intense foliage is surreal.  Prosili is a bit in decay.  The Taverna in the square has been opened, then closed, periodically.  The For Sale signs perk up in several areas and the average age of the folks has risen over these years.  Still, the beauty remains and the village life rewards all.

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