When travelling for an extended period around such an amazing place as Greece, which has plenty to offer, you are often seeing sights and places every day that bring the word ‘WOW’ to your lips.
Occasionally however, you happen upon a place where “wow”, even spelt in capitals, just doesn’t really seem adequate to convey the feelings of awe and wonder of experiences.
For those times, we have our own word, which is “blabbage”. This is a word which has no English translation but for us it incorporates the feelings of ‘wow, amazing, unbelievable, how the hell did they do this, all rolled into one versatile word.
Anyway if we say something is blabbage then you can rest assured that it’s the best of the best and has exceeded our wildest expectations and I hope that you grasp the sense of what this word means for us.
So when I say that the place we visited today was given the title “Super Blabbage” then hopefully you appreciate how amazing it was! That’s the first time a super has been put in front of this word because it’s simply not been needed, until now.
So what is this place that took our blabbage word to new levels of blabbageness?
Before I tell you about our Super Blabbage place I need to go back a bit in time and tell you about some of the cool things we have seen on our travels. Amongst them are the various castles, fortresses, and archaeological ruins we have come across. When entering places like these we have a certain expectation of what will be seen before we set foot on the first ancient rock. If you have read our blog about the walls of Methoni then you will know what a cool place this was. Then there was Acrocorinth, again another amazing site. Delphi was also right up high on the scale of blabbageness however none of these were awarded the title “Super Blabbage”. The only place that has come close was the Meteora region with ancient monastaries perched high on towering spires of weathered rock.
Monemvasia, is a small town in the municipality of Laconia, and includes the unique Venetian fortress/settlement on the island, which is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.
At about 3pm on a beautiful sunny day we parked on the pier by the causeway, jumped out of Betsy, our lovely Motorhome and pointed our electric bikes towards the fortress on the island. I remember saying to Alan, “here’s another castle in the air”, meaning all castles are high and require considerable effort to hike up and see the ruins and piles of rocks that await us. Don’t get me wrong, I do actually enjoy walking around the rocks and thinking about those who used to live there, how they lived, what they looked like, what they dressed in, and what their way of life was actually like all those centuries ago.
So by now its 4pm and the sun is still shining. We knew that tomorrow was due to be cloudy so taking photos with a blue sky trumps any other plans we [meaning I] might have had of relaxing after the drive down here.
Across the causeway we rode. Passed the old stone buildings and around the access road while looking up at the shear red ochre stained cliffs with fortifications perched precariously on their edges and up to the fortress walls. Most of the archaeological sites and museums we visit close at 3pm in the winter months so we expected that we would arrive at closed fortress gates. Alan parked his bike and I stayed with them while he went to check out the timetable and costs for tomorrow so we could come back and explore.
“You have to come and see this” I suddenly hear from an excited Alan, there are shops and hotels in there. Not really understanding what he was saying or what he saw we quickly locked the bikes together so I could take a squiz (a look for those non-Kiwis).
This place was amazing! This place is Super Blabbage!
It wasn’t just shops and hotels! It was an entire township with bars, cafes, and houses. While that in itself was amazing and unexpected, the rather special thing was the realisation that unlike virtually all of the other ancient places we had visited, this place has never been abandoned. We had suddenly been transported back hundreds of years to a long ago era. It took me back to the TV Series ‘Outlander’, (which we have been watching) where Claire found herself living in castles and visiting dungeons. Here we were, feeling the era, walking on the uneven paved and slippery stones under our feet. We were walking down the tiny walkways with stone houses and buildings on both sides, no place for Betsy on these roads. We could see the signature Venetian, Ottoman and Byzantine construction in the various buildings. How cool is this?
The walkways went up towards the fortress and down towards the sea. We were like kids in a candy shop not knowing which way to turn next. What treasures would we see if we turned right, what would we see if we went downhill? It was all too much to take in with the timeframe we had and it soon became obvious that we would need to return tomorrow to absorb everything this place had to offer.
We met a nice English couple from Bath who were also fellow sailors, and retired to their hotel for a few cold vinos and took the opportunity to take some snaps from their hotel room (above). The photo below is the lounge room of their hotel, check out the curved entranceway.
We popped our heads into the ancient churches. We walked down through a labyrinth of passages, through a hidden gate in the town walls and down to the waters edge. Here there are ladders luring holiday-makers into the crystal blue ocean to cool off from the summer heat. No temptation to us though as the March water temperatures aren’t very enticing. We traced Lower Town buildings right through to the outer eastern perimeter fortification, then ventured beyond what would have been the safety of these walls just a few centuries ago. Looking upwards there were multiple levels of houses and buildings. Their colours varied from the standard clay, brownish red, orange, blueish greys and of course stones with multi colours, all being built into a large rock cliff face below massive towering fortifications.
Some of the newer buildings dated back only a hundred years or so, however, these appear to have been built around the ruins of old houses, churches and shops. These ruins are a constant reminder of the antiquity and history of the place.
There are certain rules here. The words ‘rules’ and ‘Greece’ often don’t go together in a sentence but here there are rules. No plastic chairs outside, no satellite dishes or air conditioning units visible from the outer buildings, and no laundry hanging outside (the last one isn’t a bad rule, particularly for those looking out from above towards the ocean). And for the most part, people seem to, astonishingly, abide by these rules.
Looking at our surroundings I felt like I was an intruder, like I shouldn’t have been here, but nevertheless this was a privilege to experience. This settlement has to be the best preserved we’ve seen anywhere in our travels around Greece and having arrived here in September we’ve managed to cover quite a bit of ground.
We learned that the houses are two or three stories with a basement and tiled roof. At the lowest level, which is always vaulted, lie the cisterns for collecting rainwater and the cellars. The ground floor is used as a reception area and for the kitchen facilities. The family lives in the upper storey which is often a single space with many openings.
The shop owners proudly showed off their handmade crafts, from oils, to olive wood carved goodies, to brass art, paintings, sculptures, and ceramic wares. Hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants and general tourist spots were aplenty, each having its own splendid view of the ocean and terracotta roofing tiles below. They receive their goods by wheelbarrow as the roads are too narrow for modern vehicles to venture.
Old olive trees were left undisturbed and were built around, clearly respected as important to the Greek culture.
These days Monemvasia opens her doors to tourists by the bus load (and Motorhome load) that flock to this destination, just four hours south of Athens.
If you find yourself in this region, Monemvasia is a must to visit and you can thank us later over a vino.