Last month I went to Greece with some friends. The trip had been in the works for a while. None of us imagined the economic situation would have reached a crisis point while we were there. Banks were closed for a couple of days and there were limits on cash withdrawals after they reopened with queues forming along the sidewalk.
On the Mani peninsula where we stayed the effects of the crisis were subdued. Tourism was slower than usual and certain people were worried about their country’s future, but it was all a far cry from the action in Athens.
The Peloponnese is stunning. Many associate Greece with its islands but the coastal areas of the country’s mainland are just as breathtaking. Enormous purple mountains cascade into translucent waters of cerulean blue. The sky on a clear night is speckled with millions of stars. I felt that I understood why myths were made in that place. The enormity of the natural surroundings have a positive effect on the mind. One realises that we are extremely small in the vastness of the universe.
Patrick Leigh Fermor spent a lot of time on the Mani peninsula and wrote books about Greece. One of the beaches between the towns of Kardamyli and Stoupa was famously frequented by him. There is plenty to see and do in the Mani. Amongst my favourite things was swimming at the jetty in Kardamyli, visiting Scoutari beach and eating at the restaurant there beneath a rushy awning, driving to the end of the peninsula through scenery reminiscent of a moonscape and walking to the lighthouse. There are also some interesting villages to see in the mountains including Kastania and Vero’s Gorge.
It was deeply enjoyable to be with friends and to cook and drink together. Greece has delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, yoghurt, olive oil, pork and herbs. All of these are ridiculously cheap by northern European standards. Cooking with others is a communal activity. Food is prepared in a group. It tastes better because many had a hand in its creation. Greece also produces lagers, the main three being Fix, Alpha and Mythos. They are great to drink on a hot day after a salty swim, but out of context might not be as delicious. Ouzo, an aniseedy liqueur is also very refreshing.
Greece is awesome on many levels. The natural surroundings, the food, the people who are so friendly. Venturing off the beaten track is often rewarding and eye-opening. The Peloponnese is beautiful and diverse. The economic future for Greece doesn’t look like it will be pleasant. This is why it is important to travel there and provide money for the people through tourism.