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A visit to Monemvasia

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 15 May 2014

Thursday 15 May, a visit to Monemvasia

As usual, we start the day quietly, have breakfast, drink some tea and coffee and then go on to the road, today to Monemvasia, a historic fortified city and according to the travel guides worth a visit.
Monemvasia MonemvasiaMonemvasia is a city on a rocky peninsula in the southeast of the Peloponnese. Once it was part of the mainland but due to earthquakes it broke loose from the mainland in 375 AD and became an island until a bridge was built in the 6th century. From a distance, the rock, which is 1 kilometer long, 300 meters wide and up to 200 meters high, looks pretty impressive. At the beginning of the dike we park the car in the shade and walk up the dike to this Gibraltar from the east, as the rock is also called.
Street in Monemvasia Houses in MonemvasiaIn the 6th century a city was founded here that was not visible from the mainland and it quickly became a thriving trading city. Because of the strategic location everyone wanted to own the island and it has had many different rulers throughout history. Usually without a fight because the island is almost impossible to conquer. In 1249 Willem van Villehardouin (the builder of Mystras) only succeeded after 3 years to force Monemvassia to surrender.
Terrace on Monemvasia Flowers on MonemvasiaThe largest part of the rock consists of a plateau at 100 meters high where the upper town used to be, but only the ruins of the castle are left, nothing more. We stay in the lower town, where you can wander through the maze of narrow alleys. The well-to-do families used to live in the upper town while the poor lived in the lower town. So it is quite funny that the 'poor' part has been preserved so well. In 1911, the last inhabitants left the upper town while the lower city was always inhabited.
Terrace on Monemvasia Street in MonemvasiaThe last decades the Greek authorities have come to realize that this is a very special historical place and many of the medieval buildings have been restored, also because more and more tourists came in.
Now many former houses are used as hotel, restaurant or souvenir shop and we find without any problems a place with a beautiful view over the city and the sea for a drink. It's hot today and we have to climb and descend continuously here, so it's great to be able to rest somewhere. And again we are happy that we have planned our visit before the high season starts, because in the summer the city is flooded with visitors while it is now fairly quiet.
Castle on the top of Monemvasia Panagia Chrysafitissa church, MonemvasiaAt the top of the rock there is a castle and the Venetians have built fortifications around the city that run down to the sea to protect the island. It seems a lot of Venetian influences can be found in this city but we don't have any knowledge about that, but even without that knowledge we find the city very attractive to wander through. There is a narrow and steep path to the castle but we we skip it, there is also plenty to see in the lower part of the city and we are a bit wary of climbing even more.
Fortifications, Monemvasia Cottage for sale, MonemvasiaWorkers are still busy everywhere to restore the town and there are various attractions such as a small archaeological museum in an old church that has been converted into a mosque. And of course the churches themselves of which there are several such as the Panagia Myrtidiotissa, which is still being used, and the Panagia Chrysafitissa where beautiful icons can be seen inside. The church is named after an icon that is supposed to have flown here by itself, but we do not know much about that story. Those kinds of stories make history a bit more fun.
Terrace on Monemvasia View from MonemvasiaWe walk around for a few hours and totally agree with the travel guide that this place is worth visiting. But because we do not know much about architecture and we do not know local history well enough, we probably miss a a lot of interesting details. We read about it when we take a longer break on a terrace at the end of our visit but that information can all be found on the internet so we will not repeat it here.
Smiley mandarins Keep the beaches of Monemvasia cleanWhen we walk back to the car we see some nice smileys, drawn on mandarins and a sign that explicitly requests to keep the beaches clean, a school project that hopefully catches on. Most of the beaches we have seen so far have been fairly clean but there is still too much junk, although some of them also come from the sea, probably thrown overboard by the many tourist ships that sail around here.
Dimitrios shipwreck Dimitrios shipwreckBut it is not just waste that washes up on the beaches: in the vicinity of Selenitsa we see the Dimitrios shipwreck that stranded here in 1981. Rumor has it that the government ignores this type of wrecks because they grow into tourist attractions and thus bring in money. There are also all sorts of exciting stories about the ship itself, for example it would be an unknown ghost ship or set on fire by smugglers to hide evidence of their smuggling.
Bay of Lakonikas Beach at MavrovouniAlong the coast we drive back to Gythion and the last hours of the afternoon we spend on the beach of Mavrovouni. We already have a bit of a tan on our skin so we can spend a bit longer in the sun without having to worry about burning. I had a heat stroke once (in Portugal) and that will never happen to me, I felt so ill back then.
In the evening we drive to Gytheio for some food and then spend a relaxed evening at our apartment where we stay until the day after tomorrow.


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