Sunday, May 31, 2020

Gythio - Re-discovering Greek treasures

Freedom. We were fleeing from the confines of lockdown. . .we were escaping!

Sun roof open and on the road again in Greece

Last week, after more than two months of traveling no further than a couple of kilometers from home, we were finally free to travel anywhere in the mainland. Greece, to its credit, has kept the curve flat and as a result is slowly coming back to life from its rather draconian, but effective, lockdown for COVID19.

We were finally free to travel as part of the country's staggered reopening. And I am here to tell you, these two vagabonds were giddy at the thought!

On the road to Gythio passing through the village of Agios Nikonas

The only catch was that this newfound freedom to travel came a week before restaurants and tavernas were allowed to completely reopen and a couple of weeks before hotels were allowed to reopen.

Fishing boats line the harbor in Gythio, Greece

Our first outing would have to be a day trip. Like kids in a candy shop, we couldn't decide which direction to travel. Finally we decided to follow the lead of  Paris and Helen and head to the charming port town Gythio, (Gytheio) on the other side of 'our point' in the Peloponnese.

Gythio - The Myth

According to Greek mythology, Gythio is said to have been founded by Heracles and Apollo.

Gythio, Greece

Paris and Helen fled to Gythio, (ghee-THEE-oh) to escape her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta.

In short: Helen of Sparta was the most beautiful woman on earth. Paris was a Trojan Prince. She and Paris fled to the island, ancient Kranae, just off the shore at Gythio, and after a night of passion they sailed to Troy. That little getaway set off the Trojan War and ultimately the end of Troy.

Okay, our getaway wasn't quite as earthshaking as that. Yet, I can tell you we felt the thrill of escape as we set out on our journey!

I am certain all of you who've experienced some sort of confinement in recent months can appreciate how it felt getting in a car, opening the sun roof and side windows -- being blasted by sun and wind -- and setting off on an adventure that takes you beyond a grocery store, pharmacy or the local take-out place!

First post lockdown daytrip route

Gythio is a little over an hour's drive from our home in The Mani region of the Greek Peloponnese. The route takes us south through several small villages and then across hills and valleys that make up the inland countryside.

We often visit this once-seaport of Sparta (some 30 miles away) because it is so close, yet so different. This picturesque town is a total contrast to the world in which we live. Its soft pastel-painted 19th century Neoclassic architecture is so very different from the harsh gray and brown stone construction that dominates our area. But never has it looked as inviting as it did after lockdown. We have been guilty of taking its charms for granted. In fact, I realize I've never even written about the place before!

Greek treasure - discovered

Mermaid on the new cruise ship dock

A Greek ferry arrives and departs this city once a week, taking passengers and cars to and from the islands of Kythira and Crete. The ferry continued running throughout the lockdown.

We've noticed in recent years, a definite upswing in tourism here, perhaps as result of being discovered by the cruise ship industry.

Cruise ships at Gythio before new dock was finished
By last year, Gythio was becoming a regular port of call for a number of small cruise ships. Among cruise lines with ships stopping here were Regent Seven Seas, Windstar and Oceania. So many ships, that a new dock was constructed at the harbor to handle the ships, tour buses and passengers.

New ship dock in Gythio sits empty

The new dock was empty. A a sad reminder of the impact of COVID19 on travel, cruise travel in particular. We were the only ones on the dock. We can't help but wonder when and if a cruise ship might dock here again.

Plenty of yachts in the harbor

The shops throughout town were open. Hotels and restaurants that line the waterfront were abuzz with activity as eateries prepared to reopen (which happened this last week) with the opening of hotels in the next few weeks.

A new wine shop, Ell-oinon, find in Gythio

We had a coffee to go and sipped it in the plateia (plaza) that serves as a roundabout for traffic on the seafront road. Traffic still swirled around the little oasis as it always has. On a street perpendicular to the waterfront, we discovered a new wine store where wine can be purchased by the liter and is poured from the barrel and box into a container the size you desire. Along the waterfront I purchased a new sun bonnet from one of my favorite tourist shops. We were the only customers in both shops.

La Boheme Boutique Hotel Gythio

For years we've said we should spend a night here. We've learned from lockdown not to put off until tomorrow as the opportunity may be lost. . .so we've already been scouting accommodations! There are plenty of them and once again, like kids in a candy store, we will have difficulty in deciding which one to choose.

Flower decked balcony in Gythio

It is a great feeling to again be making decisions about which way to go and what to do when we get there. As our adopted country continues to open, we are planning some overnight getaways in the next month. We will take the appropriate precautions but unlike some other travelers who've written about taking a bag of cleaners and disinfectants with them, we don't plan to spend our time cleaning rooms. We plan to get out and enjoy the destination. It seems as if it has been a long time since we could do that!

I'll let you know how it goes in our next post and in the meantime our wishes for safety and health wherever this finds you.  Thanks for your time today!

Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Hooray! Our stay-at-home order ends tomorrow, but now we have to deal with curfews and National Guard troops in Seattle. Sigh. Envious of your carefree getaway! Keep up the fun reports!

    1. The headlines from your part of the world have me shaking my head in disbelief. . .for once I wish it was 'fake news' but sadly truth is often times stranger than fiction. Take care and stay on your island!! xx J.

  2. So fun to read about your day trip and I can relate to your "giddy" joy after the stay-at-home orders. As of today, Portugal has entered Phase III of the re-opening process with larger stores, the mall and theaters now waiting for customers to come. After being essentially house and yard confined since mid-March, it feels strange to contemplate all the options that are open again! I'm looking forward to seeing friends again (in very small gatherings) and can't wait to eat something novel (maybe octopus salad?) outside at one of our many restaurants. I feel rather giddy too! Keep well and enjoy!

    1. It has been two weeks and I am still announcing that it is 'so nice' to do . . . (fill in the blank). . .those who were never locked down or who refused to comply will never understand. Stay well and maybe this will still be the year we meet somewhere sometime! xx

  3. Like you, our first excursion after the lockdown was a short trip. It felt so nice getting out and about after the stifling quarantine. Of course, ours was not nearly as visually dramatic as discovering Greek treasures.

    1. Having freedom taken away for a bit of time just might have been what we all needed to appreciate life just a wee bit more! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Nice to see you are now again enjoying the great spits all over Greece. What a choice for retirement...where civilization all started...and somehow stood still.

    1. Yes, I think we are blessed to be at this place at this time!

  5. Steve and I really enjoyed Gythio with our friends, John & Maggie 2 years ago. I would visit there again in a heartbeat!

  6. So glad it remains just a bit of a hidden gem to the world and isn't over touristed as so many places in Greece! Glad you enjoyed your time there. . .come back and visit! xx

  7. I can relate to the joy of a day trip after months of confinement. I haven't had that pleasure yet but hope to start more exploring close to home soon. I'm sure you'll find many delights in your upcoming Greek outings.

  8. I am glad to hear your numbers are low. Sounds like your Government was very proactive in keeping people safe. But it is wonderful to be able to get out again, though we haven't ventured too far yet. A few day trips, but we are planning a 2 week holiday in the next couple of months. I think keeping our internal borders closed is great for encouraging locals who usually go overseas to explore their own state! Happy travels and stay well.

  9. So much to see and experience in Greece. Gythio will definitely go on the list. So glad for you guys to be able to freely move about without worrying about safety for your health. Enjoy!


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