Showing posts with label springtime in the Peloponesse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label springtime in the Peloponesse. Show all posts

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Greece: Sun, Sand, Sirocco ~ Must be Spring

‘All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind. . .’
                 -- Kerry Livgren, Kansas (group), 1977

That song was playing in a taverna last night in the village. No other song could have been more fitting this week. 

Sunset during Sirocco wind in the Mani
The famed Sirocco wind carrying the warmth and sand of Africa’s Sahara desert into Mediterranean countries to its north, made its annual appearance this week.  While we are told Greece doesn’t have a word of its own for the wind, we are coming to call it the Winds of March or the Wind of Martios, as the month is called here. It always seems to visit this time of year.

Maybe it should be the Winds of Spring, because it seems to bring the new season along with it as well."
'Springtime is the land awakening.
The March winds are the morning yawn.'
     -- Lewis Grizzard

The Mani became 'dust in the wind'
By whatever the name, it mutes our normally vibrant-colored Peloponnese and turns our world gray for a few days. It makes everything dust in the wind. Then as quickly as it comes, it goes.
The ‘bright side’ to the Sirocco, is that it’s a sure sign that spring is almost here. And not a minute too soon, I might add!

'I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now,
one does, I think as one gets older.'
         -- Virginia Woolf

Wild iris border the roadways
Actually it has felt spring-like since we returned to Greece in mid-February from our six-week sojourn to the United States. This is the first time we’ve been here that early in the year and we were surprised at the many wildflowers already in bloom.The first troubadours of spring, the tiny wild Iris, have lined the roadsides and bordered the groves it seems for most of the winter.

Olive groves are carpeted in gold
Then, as if those iris were the warm up act, a few weeks ago the countryside threw off winter’s coat showing all its springtime colors.

Our olive grove – that drought-stricken, barren area we arrived to last fall – has become an almost magical place – home to hobbits, elves and  fairies - if you let your imagination roam.

A tree in our olive grove
Red, yellow, white and blue are the colors woven together in this year’s spring carpet.

Blooms are everywhere
PicMonkey Collage
The Garden in the Grove at The Stone House on the Hill

Going Wild in the Peloponnese

It is the perfect time to explore the Mani countryside. The old limestone trails that once served as the only link between communities have become popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Ribbons of hiking trails curl and wind deep into gorges and wrap around hillsides.  Any number of walking tours can be booked or follow the trail signs with guidebooks and maps in hand and explore on your own.

A few days ago we hiked out beyond the end of the road, just beyond Trahilia village near us on a day that was ‘just right’ as Goldilocks might say. . .

Looking back at Trahilia

Another day we parked in the village of Platsa, just above us and set out to visit a spring nestled into the hillside some 1.2 kilometers away. As we walked through the village we passed its long-ago school-house-once-turned tavern, now abandoned, and admired the wildflowers growing as high as its once crowded tables.

The old schoolhouse-turned-tavern in Platsa
'There are always flowers for those who want to see them.'
                                 -- Henri Matisse

The path to the springs near Platsa
Whatever season you are welcoming in your part of the world, we hope it is as beautiful as springtime in Greece.  That’s it from The Stone House on the Hill this week.  As always we are grateful for the time you spend ‘with us’ and look forward to your comments. Hope to see you again next week and bring some friends with you. . .

‘Like wildflowers;
you must allow yourself to
grow in all the places people
thought you never would.'

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Greece ~ When the Cicadas Sing. . .

We can’t leave until the cicadas sing, I announced several weeks ago.

For some reason those little insect mariachi bands hadn’t heralded summer’s arrival as early as they did last spring. And that was reason enough in my mind to stick around until they did. (And it didn't take much to convince The Scout that more time here was in order. . .even singing cicadas.)

The Stone House on the Hill
Cicadas are the sound of summer and the song of the Mediterranean. If you've never heard them, their symphony of sound is reminiscent of those 'shaka-shaka-shaka' rhythms generated by orchard sprinklers or an electric wire’s buzz in the mid-day heat.

Our part of Greece was quite literally abuzz with the cicadas song when we returned two weeks ago from our whirlwind trip to France and Switzerland. Since then the temperature has been rising and the cicadas have been singing so . . .

Sunset from The Stone House on the Hill
Our time here - for now - is coming to an end. We are next week returning to America’s Pacific Northwest.

Spring burning in the grove brings a magic haze
As anyone with a second home, vacation home, boat, cabin, RV or other can understand, we are in the pack-up, close-up phase of this ‘other’ life we step into and out of like scene changes on a stage. 
Dust covers will soon be in place; cupboards and refrigerator emptied of perishable food. 

We’ve attached specially treated bags to our olive trees in an eco friendly attempt to kill the ‘dako’, the fly that is ravaging olive crops in Italy and Greece and who might threaten in our absence. We’ve applied the insecticide to keep our citrus trees from insect attack during the next few months.  (A whole new set of behaviors and routines we’ve developed as result of this ex pat adventure.)

Our grove was carpeted with wildflowers in March
We will have lived more of 2017 on this side of the Atlantic than on the other.  So as I am packing up our life and house I thought I'd tell you a bit today about our last 106 days ~ random memories of a spring at our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese:

It is only fitting to start with 'our' cats (who’ve been front and center of our FB posts of late): The photo below is of Mom Cat/Maggie Mae, left, Princess/Sulita/BooBoo, right, and Scamp/Mackie on the floor. 

Maggie Mae is the former stray who’s been the neighborhood baby producing machine until finally we took her in for surgery and she's now our Maggie Mae, who's enjoying being a permanent ‘empty nester’. Princess (aka Sulita and BooBoo, depending on the house she's living at) continues to reign at our place despite belonging to a couple from Athens who have a home further up our hill and are here for less time than we are. Scamp (aka Mackie) lives three doors down, but the other cats at that house intimidate him – as does his shadow – so he hangs out with us when we are here.

Cats Rule at The Stone House on the Hill

And what is a blog post about our Stone House without a report of projects undertaken and completed during our stay?

P1040065Aside from obtaining our residency permits the only big project we hoped to accomplish was converting our concrete ceilings to wood. And once we made the acquaintance of the carpenter and his son who live at the foot of our hill, it didn’t take long to make that happen.

I guess we also had planned to buy a car, but you regulars here know that could only happen with the residence permit which came too late in the stay. That goes on the 'next fall' list.


We’ve also been reminded the last few months of the joy that comes from spending quality time with friends. Not a rushed dinner or a quick text, but real time, real talk. Our friendship world is expanding as we meet others in this new home base. And we love having friends from our other world come and stay with us. What fun it is to show those from our U.S. life this new world of ours and have them say they finally understand what drew us here and what makes us want to stay longer.

The Scout and his long-time friend Mike look out at  Viros Gorge.
Even better when they say they want to return for another visit!

We knew all these friends back in Kirkland, two have moved here, two were visiting
This really is a world where meals can last for hours, where wait staff won’t clear dishes or bring bills until we summon them. . . we’ve grown accustomed to the pace and this lifestyle.

Orange honey cake, one of our favorites
Our days have been sweet and we’ve savored each of them.  More importantly we’ve reminded ourselves how important it is to keep stepping out of our comfort zone. . .and make ourselves stretch our minds and abilities. It isn’t always easy to live in a foreign country but it sure is fun. For that reason we are counting the days until our return in September.

Bus to Kalamata passes through our village a couple times a day
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
--Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

I’ve not yet told you about how we toured the French countryside by public bus nor have I shown you some of the hauntingly beautiful but nearly abandoned ‘tower’ towns just down the road from us here.  I will get to those in future posts but its time to go dig out the suitcases. . .I've got some packing to do!

As always thanks for the time you spend with us and our wishes for safe and healthy travels. And a huge thank you for the overwhelming response you gave us to the news of our Greek residency.  Your enthusiasm and good wishes have brightened our week and made our success a real celebration!

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sirocco Wind and Saharan Sand ~ Springtime in Greece

The sky turned as gray as if a rainstorm was headed our way.  The air was humid and heavy. The temperature, climbing.

Gray sand-filled skies made for an odd sunset

The Sirocco, as the wind that blows from the North African desert is known, was blowing sand from the Sahara. As it darkened the horizon and dirtied the house, we knew spring had arrived and we were on our way to summer in our area of the Greek Peloponnese.

It is the most wonderful miserable weather imaginable, to my way of thinking. And I love it, simply because I am here to experience it! 

PicMonkey Collage
Scirocco sunset, left, regular sunset, right

For so many years I’ve read books set in the Mediterranean – novels, travelogues and those real-life tales written by ex pats -- that have told of the winds and the sand and I found the whole concept so . . .well, . . .exotic.  I really hadn't thought about the dirt.

The Sirocco originates amid the dry, dusty conditions of North African, bringing sand from the Sahara Desert. As it makes its way north it adds a fair bit of humidity and by the time it reaches Italy, France, Spain, or Greece it is packing a warm wallop of dirt and dust.  Housecleaning is a waste of time when the Sirocco is in town. And you certainly don’t want to hang laundry out to dry either. It is too hot to do much else. So you sit and watch the dust blow (just like all those things I'd read had said).

Sirocco greeting 2016 en route home from Athens
Our introduction to this weather phenomenon was a year ago when we were driving from Athens to The Mani and instead of the magnificent blue sky and stretches of green fields we are accustomed to passing through, we drove into a sand ‘fog’ bank.

Luckily in our area the winds and their sands seem to last no more than a few days.  Enough time for me to experience the exotic that I’d dreamt of and enough time to dirty up everything and move on.

PicMonkey Collage
May Day 2017 in Greece
All sorts of signs of spring giving way to summer have been evident in The Mani the last few weeks.  And most of those signs were far more beautiful than the blowing African sands.  For example, on May 1st, nearly every home and business sported a beautiful hand-made wreath (some cars even have them affixed to the hood).  They are sure signs of spring.

Nasturtium carpets in the olive groves 
Another sign is that the nasturtium has begun carpeting fields and trees in the area (well, everywhere but at our house where my attempts to get them to grow have again failed.)

Baby Kalamatas (those little dots between the leaves) have appeared on the triees
The olives – Kalamata olives – are but mere pinpricks in size in the spring.

Fisherman leaves the port of Agios Nikolaos
The fishing fleets are out in full force and the pleasure craft are beginning to appear in harbors and ports that dot this coastal area.

Limeni Harbor to our south
We are basking – sometimes baking – in temperatures this week that are nearing 90F and 32 –34C.  Spring might well be giving way to an early summer. . .here in this exotic Mediterranean that I’ve for so long imagined.  You know? Sometimes reality is even better than one’s imagination!

20160331_081316 [1378312]That’s it from The Stone House on the Hill this week. Hope whatever season you are experiencing in your part of the world that it is a lovely one. 

I'm a bit late posting this week as we’ve been busy with our adopted (as in, she-adopted-us) Mom Cat, pictured left in a very pregnant state last year.

For those not on FB, Mom has been a regular at our place for nearly two years, either about to give birth or with nursing kittens. She gave birth to three  kittens in early April and all died a few weeks ago. The sad situation had a golden lining as we finally had a window of time while we were here to get “Mom” fixed.  She had surgery on Thursday and we’ve been busy watching over her (doting) ever since.  The vet told us she was already pregnant with four kittens so the surgery was a bit more than expected. She is, I am happy to report (knock on wood) doing well. And, 'Mommy' Cat has become 'Maggie' Cat.

Safe travels to you and yours ~ and as always, thanks for the time you spend with us!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Greek Road Trips: Finding the Menalon Magic

Our destination was Dimitsana, population 340.

Clinging to a hillside overlooking the Lousios Gorge in the Menalon Mountain range of the Peloponnese, the small hamlet lies northeast of Kalamata.

We’d chosen it to be our introduction to the area from among a dozen such small villages that are scattered across the region known as Central Arkadia (are-cod-EE-ah).

Dimitsana, Peloponnese

Lonely Planet’s guidebook describes it as ‘a tangle of precipitous ravines and narrow roads that wind their way through the medieval-village-speckled valleys of the Menalon Mountains. . .where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking mountainous scenery in the Peloponnese.’ 

P1030659The guidebook described it perfectly. But it didn’t prepare us for the lush forested peaks that rise from those magnificent gorges nor for the charm of its villages. I've caught myself wanting to use the word 'charming' in every paragraph of this post.

The guidebook could also have described it as:

'a magical land straight out of a fairy tale’.

Amanites Guesthouse, Dimitsana - Our room with a view
The first part of the trip is on the national highway, a slick divided four-lane route, that links Kalamata to Athens. Our adventure began after leaving that freeway as we set out on roads so narrow in places and without guardrails that we were relieved when the only on-coming traffic was a herd of goats.

As the road became rougher, and thinking this place really was remote, we realized we’d taken the wrong turn back at the village with the castle (I said it was a fairy tale setting so of course there would be a castle). Once we got on the right road (which was narrow but well maintained), it didn’t take long to reach our destination.

Oncoming traffic in Greece's Arkadia region

Each of the roads had taken us through several picturesque towns each it seemed with an ancient castle, or bell towers or church or fortress.

PicMonkey Collage
Villages in Central Arkadia - Peloponnese
We had afternoon cappucinos in a captivating village named Stemnitsa, population 200, home to a gold and jewelry college. Items created there are sold throughout Greece. The village is also known to outdoor enthusiasts from around the world because of. . .

No better place to sip a cappuccino than Stemnitsa, Peloponnese

The Menalon Trail

Menalon Trail Map
The area’s a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts who are hiking all, or parts, of the 72.5km Menalon Trail that stretches between the villages of Stemnitsa  and Lagkadia.

The well-signed trail, completed in May 2015, offers eight sub-section hikes. One of the most popular is the 12.5 km route from Stemnitsa to Dimitsana. That route takes hikers past two Monasteries – each worth a visit.

We didn’t bring day packs and hiking poles, hats and gear for tackling the route, but having seen the area, we plan to return and explore at least a part of it one day.

Lousios Gorge, Central Arkadia

Destination Dimitsana

Gunpowder Mill - Dimitsana
We did – thanks to the advice of friends -- visit the village’s Open Air Water Power Museum (now don’t quit reading or start snoring here!). 

We are glad we took their recommendations – it was a great trip back into the area’s pre-industrial past.

Paying the 3-euro per person admission we toured the restored grounds and mills of the long-ago bustling Agios Yiannis (St. George) mill. It is 1.6 km from the village, a nice taster-sized hike or you can drive and park at the site nestled into the side of the gorge. We watched the water-run flour mill operate as well as the nearby gunpowder mill. (Ammunition was produced here for the Greek War of Independence.)

New upscale bars and bistrots line old cobble-stone streets in Dimitsana
Coffee shops, upscale bars and restaurants – so many from which to choose that we couldn’t try them all in a single two-night visit.  And the view of the the gorge from those overlooking it, drew us back each night to sip and savor the view.

8 p.m. sun was just setting over the Lousios Gorge - we had a front row seat
There are guesthouses and hotels in several of the villages.  We chose Amanites Guesthouse, an 8-room boutique hotel recommended by Lonely Planet guidebook. We had a delightful room with a view (note photo above) and our 70-euro a night rate included  a buffet breakfast the featured homemade jams and spreads, a variety of bread and pastries, eggs, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.

Breakfast buffet included at Amanites Guesthouse hotel - Dimitsana
While warm weather brings hikers to the area, winter snow draws the big city dwellers. If you are traveling between Athens and Ancient Olympia, this is a great scenic route to follow.

If we’ve teased your travel bug with this post, here are some sites you might find of interest:
Map picture
Menalon Trail,
Open Air Water Power Museum
Amanites Guesthouse
Dimitsana is less than two hours drive from Kalamata.

That’s it for this week’s travels in Greece. We thank you for the time you spend with us and love hearing from you.  And thanks to those of you who’ve been recommending Travelnwrite to your friends! Hope you’ll be back next week and until then safe travels to you and yours.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Greece ~ The Solitude of the Sea

“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea..
And the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.
      -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Life is simply about the sea here. 

Sunset in Kardamyli, Greece
We use it to gauge the weather with phrases like ’i thalassa vrazier’ – 'the sea is boiling'. We celebrate festivals spawned from its bounty. It is a constant in everyday life; the comings and goings of fishermen, the wave action, the colors.

Even sunbeams striking the water’s surface or cloud formations dancing across it can cause us to pause our everyday activities for just a moment ~ we take a deep breath as if inhaling a restorative bit of the sea and its solitude.

Sunset on the Messinian Bay

Ships at Sea

We delight in watching freighters off in the distance, traveling to and from Kalamata. We focus on the fishermen in their tiny boats bouncing and bobbing to the wave action as they come and go from nearby harbors. 

Such seafaring has been a focus since, according to Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts, (named for their ship the Argo) sailed off in search of the Golden Fleece.  Some say his ship was the first ship to sail these Greek waters.

Kafenion in Agios Nikolaos overlooks the harbor - the fish scale hangs close by
It was the vistas of the sea that drew us to this area of the Greek Peloponnese where small fishing villages dot the coastlines at regular intervals. Now we are discovering its centuries-old rhythms and routines are providing new wonders to our everyday life.

Kitries boat harbor - Peloponnese
When we hear the early morning chug-a-chug of the small boat engine echo from the sea below our home we pause to watch it heading back to the harbor. Over dinner with friends – those also new to the area – our conversations stop as we pause to watch the fishermen coming or going, depending  on the season, the tides, the catch. It is as if each sighting is our first and certainly not one to be missed.

Fisherman returning to Kardamyli harbor
I still grab the camera wanting to capture a moment to relive again when life has taken us far away from this setting of sea and solitude.

Kardamyli Harbor - Peloponnese
We are, over time, learning the words of the sea. Kimas (key-mahs)  waves – not to be confused with kimas (key-MAS) minced meat (or hamburger).  One of our favorites, is Limeni, the harbor; perhaps because the word rolls off our tongues or because each harbor is so distinctly different, yet stunning.

Harbor in Agios Nikolaos village - The Mani

Although we don’t yet know their names, we are recognizing fishermen, by this our third year in the area. The Captain, as we call him, dressed in dark coveralls rides his bike to the harbor about 6 p.m – a routine so regular you can almost set your watch by it. Another, whose name we also don’t know, always makes us pause in the heat of the mid-day sun just to watch him organize his nets – an art, not just a skill, we've concluded.

Preparing the nets - Agios Nikolaos, Peloponnese
We imagine the weight of those nets that must be tossed into the sea and then retrieved by the lone fisherman, in what we speculate must be a very solitary life. On the other hand, perhaps it is the sea and its solitude that has captured his heart as it has ours.

Kitries harbor, Peloponnese
'Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman,’ he thought.
'But that was the thing that I was born for.'
--- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea

The solitude of the sea
That’s life at The Stone House on the Hill this week.  We plan to do some sea gazing while we wait to resume our journey on the 'Road to Greek Residency'.  As soon as we do, we'll tell you where the adventure has taken us on this side of the Atlantic. Hope you are having a great week and that you’ll be back with us next week for another look at life in Greece.

Safe travels to you and yours and as always, thanks so much for the time you spend with us!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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