Traveling to Greece this year?

January 1st, 2016

Welcome to 2016!

After all my travels last year I’m hoping to head off once more – back to my favourite Greek places. On my last trip I became tangled in the Greek Crisis, but despite the problems experienced by the Greek people themselves, tourists were relatively free of worry or hassle. The main thing was to carry lots of cash.

I thought I may have to update my book “GREECE – 100 Travel Tips,” but as it turned out, nothing much had changed. Things were cruising along as normal for tourists – the only nuisance I found was the timetables of the ferries visiting the islands. These were subject to change at short notice, so continual checking was the name of the game (not so bad in the High Season). Many connections with islands had been cut too, so travel between them was often a bit convoluted, and of course more expensive.

However, if you haven’t already, check out my book. It’s a fun read, and is only $2.99 on Amazon – Is there a place you’d like me to comment or write about? If I’ve been there I can probably help. You can always get me at

More later…P1180823A

Back to Parga

August 17th, 2015

It always surprises me how few people know about the existence of this amazing spot in Greece. Nor do they recognize the whereabouts of the Province of Epiros. I’ve written about Parga before, but because I love it so much I’m going to write about it again!

I recently spent three weeks in Parga. It’s a little difficult to get to and this is probably why tourists don’t bother, but oh dear, they are missing out on an amazing part of beautiful Greece. Situated on the north-west coast of the mainland (Epiros), 45 kilometres south of Igoumenitsa which is opposite the popular island of Corfu, it’s considered part of the Greek Riviera. Parga is a lovely little town perched on hillsides overlooking some of the most stunning coastline. It has three beautiful sandy beaches, an old ruined castle, excellent accommodation, great restaurants, cafes and bars, and lovely welcoming people.P1170289

I’ve mentioned before all the great things one can do from Parga and this time I did them all again because it’s so easy! From the busy Parga pier one can take day-trips by boat to Corfu, the fascinating little island of Paxi, the Ionian islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Ithaca, and of course nearby beaches. One can take a day-tour by coach to Albania and the ancient ruins of Butrint, another to Meteora and the monasteries on top of the rocks, another to the Acheron River, the River Styx and the Necromanteion, and of course up to the mountains and the magnificent Vikos Gorge. Parga’s little tourist train takes you for trips around the area as well – that’s when you aren’t lying in the sun on the beach!

This time I stayed at the lovely Hotel Acrothea with it’s amazing views of the area. See view from my balcony! P1260274Thoroughly recommended – very helpful staff and comfortable rooms – the proprietor’s family also run a lovely restaurant up near the castle, specializing in traditional Greek food. Another restaurant I frequented for pasta, pizza and delectable cosmopolitan menu was Gemini, on the waterfront.

To get to Parga:
1. Drive! Hire a car and enjoy the trip across Greece.
2. Bus from Kifisos, Athens. It’s a 7-hour trip but very scenic and not too tiring. Take the early bus.
3. Flight to Corfu, ferry to Igoumenitsa, bus/taxi to Parga.

Back to Greece!

August 11th, 2015

It’s been a while since I added to my Blog. I apologize for my tardiness, but I’ve made another extensive trip – research for my new travel books on Greece – and have just returned.

I did some great island-hopping by ferry in the Cyclades, interesting day-tours from Parga on the north-west coast of the province of Epiros, and even some tripping around Athens to catch up on things to do when stuck in the capital.

I have to admit I was caught in the middle of the Greek Crisis, but fortunately for all international tourists, accessing money and traveling around was just the same as usual. The only major difference was having to carry cash. Hardly anyone would take a credit card – mainly the travel bureaus and the larger hotels and restaurants. But this wasn’t a problem as the ATMs took all credit cards and paid out the amount you required. It was only the Greeks themselves who had the day-to-day problem, only being allowed 60 euro per day. However, this was only one of their problems, and I felt very sorry for my friends.

If anyone reading this post is traveling to Greece for holidays and would like any info, please contact me. You can reach me at or message me on Facebook

More soon!

The Cyclades Islands – Naxos

November 3rd, 2014

Hi everyone – I’m back!
I’ve had a bit of a break – travel in Oz, visitors, and then a bit of a bug to annoy me. But back to it now, to continue the journey around Greece.

The Cyclades

I know you’ve all been waiting for me to write about the Cyclades Islands, for this is the region that attracts most tourists. If you think of Greece at all, do you automatically visualize those rather contrived posters seen in art shops – cornflower blue church cupolas and wedding-cake bell towers, whitewashed steps leading to nowhere, odd-looking white cube houses climbing up a hillside, and black islands swimming in deep blue seas? I used to look at these and say “Nah, can’t be real.” I still remember our first trip to the Cyclades, well over twenty years ago, and our astonishment to find it was all true. Here’s what I wrote about about this region in my book: From pallet-box blue seas, dry rocky islands rear up like dragon’s teeth. Tiny villages, like spilt sugar cubes, cling precariously, scatter across, spill down, or cower between steep hillsides of grey stone. They pool into towns in the lush valleys, or spread-eagle at the edge of perfect bays…


It’s easy to reach the Cyclades Islands by ferry from Piraeus, and some of the larger islands are connected by air (if flying, be very careful to pre-book, as the planes are usually small, and fill very quickly). Most islands are at least a good three hours away on a Highspeed ferry, even longer on an ordinary one, but to me island-hopping in the Cyclades isn’t the same unless it’s done on a ferry. Thus, each visit to Greece, I make sure I sail to Naxos.

P1060164Naxos Chora rises from the paralia (waterfront) to cover a conical hill with white and golden houses, crowned as usual with a Venetian fortress. It’s curious how so many of the Greek islands are crowned with a Venetian fortress. The Venetians have left their legacy right around Greece, which is fun in a way. They sure knew how to build fortresses. However, on the left of the Naxos quay is the rocky Palatia islet with a massive empty marble doorway, standing like a giant picture frame for the town, the remnants of a Temple of Apollo built two thousand five hundred years ago and called the Portara. The ancient Greeks sure knew how to build temples, too. I think the Venetians suffered from jealousy. They certainly stamped their authority on their captured territory by building massive fortresses or kastros, just to prove who was boss. Make sure you visit the Della Rocca-Barozzi Venetian Museum for a tour of an old kastro tower house and its exhibition of artifacts.

The Naxos Old Town actually hunkers in the thirteenth century kastro precincts. The main problem is finding a way into it, for the tiny narrow streets and passageways wind around in the most puzzling fashion, doubling back and zigzagging until visitors are totally befuddled. It was to confuse the pirates, we’re told. You have to give it A for ambience. Overhanging pink bougainvillea drops blossoms onto the blue painted table tops of secluded tavernas. Massive old arched doorways lead into the entry chambers of the kastro itself, the ceilings crossed with solid black beams. A time-warp hush hangs over these streets, enhanced by the click-clack of donkey hoofs on the old flagstones and the somnolence of eternal summer. At night, the shadows dancing on the old stone walls are wraith-like and bewitching.

P1180303The Agios Georgios beach, near the main town, is a lovely place for families – the wide sand and quiet water is children friendly, as are the tavernas along its frontage. The tiny sails of windsurfers dodge in and out flying across the bay like swooping sea birds – it’s one of the best places apart from Vasiliki in the Ionians for windsurfing.

As it’s the largest of all the Cyclades islands, the most fertile, and with the highest mountains, there’s plenty to see around Naxos. The Tragea region of the interior is a veritable artist’s canvas of spiked peaks, verdant valleys, olive groves, and unspoiled villages perching precariously on the slopes of bald mountains. Heaven for jaded tourists, dedicated hikers, avid explorers or just enervated café crawlers. To reach these pastoral places one needs to catch a bus. In the way of Greece, bus travel is always an experience, and on Naxos it’s no exception. So, to investigate the picturesque town of Filoti and its next-door neighbor, Halki, first find your bus. Buses depart from the small square near the ferry quay, and
climb up from the coastal plain into rolling mountains, through fields of wild flowers, down into lush green valleys and across gray sun-blasted rocky plateaus. Winding through odd little villages crowned with derelict windmills, you’ll pass by old gray stone fortress-like houses called pyrgos, eighteenth century stone tower houses built by the aristocratic families as refuge/fortresses against marauders and pirates. There are vistas back to the sea and up to the sky, switchback bends, and sudden glorious panoramas. In fact, it’s a pretty nice ride.

P1030555The village of Filoti clings to the skirts of Mt Zeus, (known locally as Mt Zas – actually the highest point in the Cyclades Islands). It’s a large and pretty place, sprawling across the hillside with prosperous new growth reaching up and out, like the spreading contents of an upended giant white paint tin. The bus stops on a plateia (square), cool and shady under enormous plane trees. Busy tavernas spread their tables out to the roadway – a great place in which to sit with a caffe frappe and watch the world and his dog go by. I usually stroll along a quiet main road, taking me into peaceful outskirts, where farmlets with olive groves, figs, vines and vegies spread into the valley. Wildflowers drape the rocky terrain as the road heads out towards the stark peak of barren rock that is the pointy end of Mt Zas. Hiking trails lead out for the summit, a rather daunting challenge not for the faint-hearted, but sure to provide fantastic views of the whole island hinterland.

Walking out of Filoti, back towards the sea and away from Mt Zas, is a great idea. Downhill all the way, the great little stroll is only two-three kilometers along a winding road. It passes orchards, scattered hamlets, olive groves, lemon trees, fields of wildflowers, rocky hillsides aromatic with wild herbs, to finally head into the little town of Halki. Once upon a time Halki was the region’s commercial center, and is now experiencing a mini resurgence as some of the ruined Venetian houses have been restored to capture the interest of tourists. Halki’s a tiny gem not to be missed. Near the bus stop, a diminutive street leads to a hidden plateia. Walking down the narrow flagstone entry is a transport back to Venetian times, past faded facades with iron balconies propped up with fancy brackets, and wooden shutters closed to the midday sun. Under the shadow of the balconies hide little sophisticated shops – a ceramic studio; a craft gallery with resident weaver; a shop devoted to the olive and its products. Halki also possesses several pyrgos. The Gratsia Pyrgos is just off the main road in the town, a forbidding-looking grey stone square castle.

P1060442Another drive to the hillside town of Apiranthos is recommended. As the bus grinds up the further ten kilometers from Filoti, truly magnificent mountain country unfolds. The views are stupendous, the rolling peaks stony and barren, Filoti a white splodge below. Apiranthos differs from Filoti. In many respects it’s more like Halki, with a distinct hint of Venice, but most of its early inhabitants arrived because of the rich emery mines of North-east Naxos, now mostly defunct. These mine owners were well-heeled, and built classical, rather ornate houses of stone and marble, centering on a gray stone kastro/pyrgos pile, originally built upon the natural rock of the mountain. All the footpaths and narrow streets are paved with marble flagstones, giving the town a slightly ancient and rather exotic feel. The main street, which wanders along the median contour of the hillside, is about two meters wide, opening out into several shady plateias, all with huge plane tree umbrellas. Apiranthos is the prettiest of the hillside towns to my mind. Eating lunch at one of the tavernas on the edge of the escarpment is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Just gazing over the panorama of patchworks fields, vineyards and orchards across to neighboring mountains is soul food.

Tucked away in the oddest places, Naxos Chora hides sophisticated shops, an eclectic collection of handcrafts, woven carpets, knick-knacks and glorious kitsch. One of the nicest things about Naxos is the evening volta (promenade), another Greek tradition. Happy, friendly people, dressed in their best, greet each other with warm hugs and kisses, exclaim over babies, chatter in groups as their young racket around them, and parade up and down in the mild evening air. Surely this must be among life’s most engaging pastimes. The Naxos volta is often high street theater, and on reflection it remains for me as one of the best in Greece. Then, treat yourself to an entertaining meal at Lucullus estiatorio, for ambience extraorinary. And, if you’re looking for a great budget hotel experience in the kastro precinct of Naxos Chora, try the Hotel Anixis, and tell Dimitrios I sent you.

You can read more about Naxos in my eBook Make Mine a Moussaka: and also in my novel One Greek Summer set in Naxos:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The Saronic Islands

September 30th, 2014

Situated in the Saronic Gulf, near to the Mirtoon Sea, are the gorgeous Saronic Islands – Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses. There are a couple of others (as in the way of Greece) but these four are the most visited. In easy reach of Athens via the port of Piraeus, they are just a day trip away, either by tour or by simply catching the regular hydrofoils (the Flying Dolphins) and speedy catamarans. Aegina is the least interesting, in my view, but it does have an interesting temple built in 480 BC, the Temple of Aphaia.


1210 Tavernas,  Poros DSC07534You would be forgiven if you thought Poros was not an island at all. It’s only a few hundred meters (five minutes in a tiny boat) from the shore of the Peloponnese. In actual fact there are two islands – the main port, Poros Town, sits on the tiny island of Sferia, separated from the main island of Kalavria by a canal. Boats of all descriptions tie up at the waterfront, and it’s pleasant just to sit and watch them as they ply to and fro. The waterfront stretches for some way and is full of interesting tavernas and shops, while steps lead up to lanes and squares that make up the upper town. At the top is the focal point – a clock tower and cathedral. The interior of the island is wooded and sparsely populated. It was devastated by fire in 2007 and has taken some time to regenerate, but Poros has some quite nice beaches and is well patronised by visitors from Athens. Also it has a very active group of wildlife rehab workers who are doing a sterling job with native birds and raptors.


Hydra is one of my favourite islands in Greece. Here’s a quote from my travel memoir “Make Mine a Moussaka.”

P1070684“We disembarked from the catamaran onto the cobbled quay and stood and stared. It was like landing in the middle of a postcard. The marina was so full of craft it looked like a Boat Show poster. Modest rented yachts to luxury cruisers and everything in between were there – quaintly painted caiques (fishing boats), pleasure craft for every occasion, tiny tinnies, revving water taxis, huge rusty cargo boats and even small ferries.

Behind the perfect horseshoe harbor, the stone town rose in tiers to form an amphitheater, the houses rainbow painted, their terra cotta tiled roofs like matching flat hats. The paralia (waterfront) was lined with the usual quaint boutique tourist shops. Eclectic tavernas spilled out across the flagstones, their rows of cane chairs facing the action, and the whole place buzzed with people. Narrow cobbled streets led back into the town, like slits between the walls, mysterious and inviting. A stoic string of donkeys stood unmoving while crates of vegetables, soft drinks and bags of cement were transferred from one of the cargo boats to wooden racks on their strong backs.”

Hydra has always been a barren rock, stuck in the sea like a beached whale, with very little vegetation, hardly any trees and no water. Early settlers couldn’t follow their tradition of agriculture so they took to boat building, which explains the strong maritime influence in the town and its history of seafaring. During the Greek War of Independence, Hydra was responsible for supplying ships for the blockade of the Turks. A maritime school is still in existence. The shipping merchants accumulated much wealth and built large and beautiful mansions around the town, most of which are restored and used to this day, some as galleries and museums, others as hotels, or weekenders for the rich and famous.P1070894 As it is now proclaimed a Greek national treasure, the island cannot alter, rather it dresses up, evolves and reinvents itself. A wander around the back streets of the town finds little narrow cross streets suddenly opening into tiny squares, each with a taverna tucked into a corner, and little shuttered shops concealed in odd places. Behind old whitewashed stone walls the houses hide in cool courtyards, their pergolas hung with vines and bougainvillea, shaded with lemon trees and decorated with eclectic plants in pots. Each corner is a tiny idyll, a fascinating glimpse, an enchanting surprise. Back of town, houses cling to the hillsides, staring down at the harbor, and across the Saronic Gulf to the misty Peloponnese.

All streets eventually lead to the paralia (waterfront). You can’t get lost, no matter how far you ramble through the labyrinthine back alleyways. Under the clock tower is the archway leading to the peaceful Monastery of the Virgin Mary where the Byzantine Museum is housed, icons and oddments, a haven from the hurly-burly. My all-time favorite hotel, the Hotel Miranda, is a challenging pull up Miaouli Street, one of the narrow lanes. It’s an eighteenth century sea captain’s mansion, converted and stylishly restored into a hotel, retaining much of the old ambience. Luggage bounces over cobbles polished smooth by eons of donkey hooves. It has been decreed there be no cars or mopeds on Hydra (except for rubbish, sanitation and construction vehicles), so you travel by donkey (or mule) or walk. I could sit all day and watch the donkeys. DSC07272The village of Kamini is walking distance along the cliffs and is picture perfect. All the beaches on Hydra are pebble, but it is fun to dive off the rocks into the crystal clear water. Yellow and red water taxis take you everywhere, and it’s quite an experience zipping along.P1050833

Evening lends enchantment. Down at the port the water ripples change color as the sun sets over the far shore of the Peloponnese, flooding the harbor with orange and pink. The yachties come home to roost, berthing among the caiques, as the water taxis dash to and fro. The occasional hydrofoil, the Flying Dolphins, and the Catamarans skate in and out. As it grows dark, lights come on around the paralia, washing the shadows and the shiny cobbles with yellow, and the whole waterfront becomes illuminated with a string of white fairy lights like a giant stage necklace. I’d describe it as beautiful, but that’s an understatement. For dinner it’s fun to opt for a taverna with tables perched right on the edge of the narrow cobblestone street, or out on the edge of the harbor where you can watch the action while you eat. As darkness slips over the harbor, the fishing caiques chug into port, easing into their berths through the golden ripples of the reflections from the fairy lights. The water taxis gradually park for the night, the beautiful people emerged from their boats looking for tavernas, and the local youth gather to sit on the sea wall and eat yiros and ice cream.


Spetses is an island not so often visited by tourists, and therefore is a little more “normal Greek” than Hydra. However it does have a certain charm, and is well worth a visit. The Dapia Harbor of Spetses Town is another of the fascinating waterfronts of the Saronic Islands. I was particularly interested in the water taxi rank (see here) – much more organised than elsewhere, and the horse-drawn carriages all waiting for customers. DSC07482A wander around the tranquil town shows leafy alleyways, shops, and boutiques. The delightful main square is full of tempting tavernas – check out the brightly coloured signage. I haven’t seen much like it anywhere else. Spetses has a strong maritime influence, and like Hydra grew wealthy from ship building. Captains from here led ships to the Napoleonic wars, and of course the War of Independence. Although there are remains of Hellenic, Roman, and Byzantine settlements, it seems Spetses was virtually uninhabited from the 10th century to the 16th. Once again, there are some interesting museums in the town.

Next time I’ll take you to the Cyclades Islands. These islands are where everyone goes – but there’s more to them than just Mykonos and Santorini…

Kalamata to Patras

September 23rd, 2014

Have you ever travelled along the west coast of the Peloponnese – from Kalamata to Patras?
Well, to complete my travel diary of the circumnavigation of this part of Greece, we will do just that! In my last post I traveled through the Mani country, but there’s another wonderful way to get to Kalamata – from Sparta and through the Langada Pass. P1040419The journey through the Langada Gorge and across the amazing Taygetos mountains to the pretty village of Artemisia is spectacular, then the switch-back road on the descent quite incredible.

The capital city of the prefecture of Messinia, Kalamata, was rebuilt in the 1830s after the Turks demolished it during the War of Independence. An earthquake in 1986 wreaked havoc once again, so consequently it’s now a rebuilt, sizeable, modern, busy city. Earthquakes are fairly regular in this area, but not of great magnitude (fingers crossed). Kalamata is a small Athens without the antiquities, and cleaner, tidier and not so cramped, but still with the obligatory old town and kastro. As Greek cities go it’s rather pleasant. Everyone’s heard of Kalamata olives – well, if you haven’t, I’m here to tell you they are just as large and delicious as their reputation acknowledges. The Kalamata variety is a great big black beauty, twice the size of other varieties. The best Kalamata olives are grown in the rich soils around the town of Messini, just out of Kalamata itself – although they’re also grown very successfully on Crete and on Lesvos.

Due to the closure of most of the train lines in Greece, to proceed on our journey we either bus it or drive.P1040436 There’s a large newish bus station out of Kalamata, overlooked by an ancient castle ruin, and it’s easy to catch an onward bus. The last time I traveled from here it was market day in Messini – the first town along the way. A lurid carnival occupied the central square, swinging children on lethal-looking rides. We stopped somewhere in the middle of chaos, and the bus emptied like suds from a washing machine, only to be refilled immediately with school children; Mamas struggling with huge bundles yakking loudly; and older, stoic, wrinkled, silent codgers. The aisle was sardine-packed. A large woman sat heavily next to me holding a huge bulging shopping bag that extended onto my knee. The bus groaned off with its new load into heavy traffic. I loved it!

We headed out through the market garden of Greece – citrus and stone-fruit groves, vegetables and vineyards and, of course, field after field of olives. The grape harvest was in progress at that time, and the bus sailed past tractors pulling trailers piled high with grapes. Such a contrast to the Mani country. We wound through low hills, across picturesque flowing rivers, and through lush green country, while passengers disembarked willy-nilly in little villages, at gates or corners, or just in the middle of nowhere. Eventually we crested a hill, and there below was the beautiful wide Bay of Navarino. We almost free-wheeled down the winding road into the picturesque port of Pylos, rattling to a stop in a large plateia, shaded by huge trees.

P1040483And just in time. The bus station at Pylos was suddenly seriously challenged. A procession was coming down the main street, led by the school band. Following them moved what seemed to be the whole town, pacing slowly for maximum effect. This solemn procession took some time to round the plateia and head off to the church. In the meantime all traffic came to a halt, buses piled up, camper-vans stopped, and drivers fumed and cursed. When the last of the procession disappeared, as is the way in Greece, chaos reigned as everyone tried to move off at once. I was staying in Pylos for a few days, at the Hotel Miramare. Bliss – I found my room had a lovely balcony with harbor views, and I could sit there in the glow of the late afternoon, gazing at the bay stretching as a huge circular, peaceful body of water, with a large tanker wallowing plum in the middle like an exotic island. Pylos, once known as Navarino, overlooks this bay, where in 1827 an Allied fleet (British, French and Russian) defeated the Turkish, Egyptian and Tunisian fleet in a battle that wasn’t meant to happen. The Allies sank fifty-three ships with a huge loss of life, on what was later described as a “misunderstanding”. However it was a turning point in the Greek War of Independence.

Pylos is a most attractive town, strung around the bay with a very attractive marina full of boats. P1040443It has two castles in its near vicinity, but I only had energy to climb to the nearest, the Turkish Neokastro. It’s a huge place in an excellent state of preservation, with crenelated battlements and a citadel so complete it’s used for a museum and offices. It’s surrounded with soughing pines, under which grow skirts of tiny pink crocuses. The whole area is a mecca for castle-lovers. Apart from the two Pylos castles there is a massive fortress at the seaside town of Methoni, south of Pylos and well worth exploration. Another extensive castle can be seen at Koroni, across the peninsular from Methoni. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been fascinated with the Trojan War. Having been to the home of Ulysses on Ithaka, and the fortress of King Agamemnon at Mycenae, I wanted to find the palace of old King Nestor, to complete the Trojan triumvirate. A short bus trip out of Pylos took me to the site – an important, well preserved, and well defined, Mycenaean ruin – but somehow it lacks the ambience of Mycenae.P1040460

The next stage was Pylos to Kyparissia. As the bus climbed the steep road out of town, the water of the Bay of Navarino and Pylos harbor was pink, yellow and green glass. The morning light shined golden on the sandstone houses with their red roofs. Our conductor looked hung-over – maybe he’d been among the wedding cars I’d heard roaring around the town the night before, tooting madly. We wound a tortuous way through wine country, up into hills gray-green with olive trees, where crocuses spread in circles in their shade, like pink petticoats of flowers. We overtook a farmer, as old as King Nestor himself, hefting his scythe over his shoulder as he walked along the road. The blade winked in the sun. Kyparissia is an attractive market town, busy as a beehive. Well, busy for some, for every street corner boasted a kafeneion full of men playing cards, draughts or backgammon and lifting the odd beverage. Magnificent fruits and vegetables stocked the shops, testimony to the bountiful farmland of the surrounding countryside.

But I caught the next bus onward to the main town of Pyrgos. Out of Kyparissia we literally flew along, for we were now on a two-lane highway and our driver was obviously late for an appointment. There were continual loud and angry cries of ‘Stasi! Stasi!’ (stop), and much argy-bargy from the passengers as we rocketed along the coastal plain, past market gardens, vineyards and orchards, and tootled past their desired destinations. But stop for them he did. I wasn’t impressed with the Pyrgos bus station, with few amenities and full to overflowing with disgruntled passengers, but fortunately I wasn’t stopping. From Pyrgos you can catch a bus to Olympia. Of course everyone makes a pilgrimage here at one time or another if you travel around Greece. The site is a lovely place, set in attractive country, within walking distance from the town. You must run the Olympic track, just to say you’ve done it! And the museums are stunning. But for me it has been ruined by the tourists – there were 18 buses parked there the day I went, and the town of Olympia is really just a collection of hotels and kitsch souvenir shops. But you’ve gotta love it.

The bus to Patras continued through the low coastal plain. There are not many villages along here and it’s a relief to finally arrive at your destination – the largest city in the Peloponnese and the jumping off point to Italy and the Ionian Islands.

Next week I’m taking you to one of the delightful Saronic Islands – Hydra. Come with me! Meanwhile – there’s always a good read in my book “Make Mine a Moussaka” available here:

The Mani Country

September 16th, 2014

In the strange, bleak Mani country of the Peloponnese, time is irrelevant to all but the traveler. I believe this area is one of Greece’s best-kept secrets, and time should not be an issue when discovering it. The Lakonian Mani country, barren, gray and somber, is certainly gloomy but intriguing, a place of secrets, of early blood feuds and fierce independence.

DSC06187Maniots, descended from the Spartans, defended their territory through the centuries from invasions by Romans, and Byzantine Turks. Continually warring with their neighbors, mainly over possession of the few fertile pieces of land, the Maniots built their distinctive tower houses in fortress-like towns, and from these strongholds kept watch for marauding clans. The whole area of the Mani is scattered with these gray stone towns complete with towers, many in total ruin, but many still alive, and much the same as they were three hundred years ago.

The Mani is still a part of the Peloponnese mercifully under-patronized by tourists and therefore highly desirable to those seeking locations where the very essence is authentic and free-spirited, and where tourist buses don’t fill up the parking lots. It’s the lower section of the middle finger of land – the very southerly part of the Peloponnese. Contrary winds moan through mountains of gray rock, which in turn fold down to hills dotted with wild thyme, which then tumble to narrow plains of inhospitable stony fields, to eventually fall into a restless turbulent sea – here is solitude in isolation. It’s difficult getting around the Mani by public transport. Buses are scarce and don’t service the really interesting spots – the secluded bays, the hidden ruins, the rocky valleys, the isolated fishing villages, the somber deserted tower towns. The clever way to do it is to be footloose and fancy-free with a car, to stop, ponder and potter, not whiz past in a bus.

One of the most fascinating of the old ruined tower towns is Vathia. DSC06224Spread in a jumble across a bald hill, its square austere towers stick up like giant broken teeth from its rocky vantage point. This amazing place is a gaunt reminder of the past. Tall turrets like mini-castles complete with slits for windows and with crazy stone steps leading up to nothing, crumble into piles of bleached stone. Figs, prickly-pear and weeds encroach where mamas originally tended their small vegetable plots and their pots of geraniums. An effort has been made to restore a few of them, but most are left to endure the dry sharp winds and the ravages of time. The view from Vathia is breathtaking – scattered tiny farmlets, rugged coastline, hidden bays encircled with fishermen’s cottages, brown fields and the endless backdrop of gray stony mountains.

The pristine fishing village of Porto Kagio, right at the bottom of the middle finger of the Peloponnese, is a tiny gem – about twenty buildings nestling together on a windswept horseshoe bay. It’s about as remote as you can get, yet often visited. There’s a path up along its rocky headland to a point where one can see out across the Lakonian Gulf to the Mediterranean itself. Right there is the tiny white-painted stone church of Agios Nikolaos, complete with a large iron bell hanging from a rusty iron rail attached to the austere building, a little incongruous under the circumstances, considering the church’s isolation. Travelling north one comes to Gerolimenos – another tranquil seaside village, perfect for R&R.

DSC06178The Mani capital is Areopoli – named after Ares the god of war. The guesthouse where I stayed was one of the old towers – the walls of my room were three feet thick, the tiny window a gun slit, and the ceiling cylindrical, an authentic tower room. An afternoon spent walking the flagstone streets of Areopoli revealed an austere town of gray stone dwellings, hiding behind ancient gray stone walls. The late summer sun beat relentlessly on silent tower houses, many in sad decline, others restored in a sort of converted pseudo authenticity. But as dusk enveloped Areopoli, lights came on, and the blank, austere buildings opened out like flowers. Tables and chairs emerged and tavernas sprouted. Children yelled, motor cycles farted, cars revved, dogs barked, cats fought. Areopoli rocked.

From Areopoli it’s best to continue along the west coast. One gem along here is Limani, a tiny seaside hamlet of spectacular stone houses, and towers, with the bald barren backdrop of hills looming above it. A few small boats lie on a tiny pebble beach like toys. Nearby are the Diros Caves, worth a visit. The village of O-Itilo is a backwater worth exploring and further along one begins to experience the perfect seaside holiday spots of Agios Nikolaos, Stoupa, and Kardamyli. I love the latter and have stayed there several times – its Old Town of typical stone towers is worth a visit. Hiking is really good here – the mountain village of Exohorio is a challenge, also the nearby Vyros gorge. Eventually, all roads lead to Kalamata, the second-largest city in the Peloponnese.

DSC06097Wandering around the Mani in a little red car at the end of summer, when the grass is dried to the color of sand and the stone ruins blended into the bald hills, is one of life’s enchanting experiences. Nobody emerges to challenge you as you clamber among the deserted stone towers and piles of crumbling masonry, among the rampant prickly-pear plants, the stunted figs and contorted olives. There are no signs saying “Keep out”, in Greek or English. Where have all those independent, proud people gone? Athens? Melbourne?

More pictures in the gallery. Enjoy!


September 8th, 2014

From last week’s fascinating Sparta and Mystras it’s time to continue on to one of my very favourite places. This piece comes from my book “Make Mine a Moussaka”


P1090868What do you do when you step through a gateway into a small piece of Paradise? You stand there, and boggle. (Boggle: to allow one’s mind to arc out.)

For two and a half hours the bus wound its way from Sparti through the pouring rain. Along narrow winding roads it went, grinding up into craggy alpine country and rolling down into orange groves, up again to where the pink heather clung to the rocky hillside, and finally down again to rattle along the last decline to the sea. As though they had done their worst, the storm clouds melted away and the sun burst out just as the bus pulled up in a small village. Everyone scrambled out. I presumed this was journey’s end. But not quite…

P1090704The collection of shops, tavernas, houses and domatia, clustering at the edge of a perfect pebble beach, is called Gefyra, pretty as a picture, somnolent in the early afternoon. I had come to see Monemvasia, described in my guide book as “the Gibraltar of Greece.” So far I couldn’t see anything resembling Gibraltar, just a pleasant little hamlet sprinkled across a small promontory facing a crescent of azure water. Behind the main street, Gefyra hid its tiny marina. Colorful caiques, runabouts and small boats nudged each other, a perfect little spot surrounded with outside tavernas and a wide paralia (waterfront). Domatia and small hotels straggled around the water to a yacht harbor and breakwater.
The road which brought the bus to Gefyra continued onwards to cross a causeway, and then to skirt the edge of a towering rock the color of dark chocolate. I’d never seen Gibraltar, but I guessed this was Monemvasia. It drew me like a magnet. I boarded another little bus and headed towards it.

When your road is suddenly blocked by a medieval stone fortress wall, complete with ramparts and circular turrets, just at the time you’re expecting an ordinary, albeit picturesque, town, that’s when you begin to boggle. This grand wall began way up at the top of the “Gibraltar” rock and swooped down to the road, its crenellated stonework resembling the back of a crouching dragon – sort of like Camelot on a cliff. Where the road ended, the gaping mouth of an arched stone entrance beckoned, then the wall continued, to finally drop into the sea. Inside the dim tunnel-like interior there was nothing but a blank wall at the end of the passage, then a blind-alley path which turned at right angles and led from darkness into bright sunlight again.
There it was. Monemvasia.

P1040244It was certainly a mind-boggling place. When the brain slowly comprehended one was standing in a town where building commenced earlier than the eleventh century, and it was occupied from then until now in some form or other, the fascination was absolute. So this was what the Middle Ages looked like? From the ruins of the old fortress way up on the very crest of the rock, the whole town of Monemvasia hid below the chocolate colored escarpment and cascaded down to the sea wall, with each salmon-pink or washed-sandstone house facing out to sea. Authentic Byzantine stone buildings crowded in along the cobblestone pathway, but real people were toing and froing and getting on with their lives – the fact they were in sundresses, shorts and T-shirts didn’t lessen the time warp, for everything was so totally bona fide. So very non-twenty-first-century.

A little potted history here – during the sixth century AD, barbarians forced the residents of the surrounding area to locate onto the natural rock fortress, and by the thirteenth century the complete town was a thriving commercial center, totally hidden from the mainland and only accessible by sea. Over the centuries Monemvasia declined like Mystras, but it didn’t descend into total ruin. Consequently, when it was “rediscovered” in the latter part of the twentieth century it was easily restored to unspoiled charm by those seeking a paradise invisible to present-day mainland marauders.

Slippery cobblestone streets, worn smooth by eons of feet and hooves, led into the main plateia, but lining the way were present-day shops, set like grottos into the original dwellings. Ah, the usual souvenir kitsch, but somehow it all looked different, kind of olde worlde. Tavernas, their outside tables tucked in single file along old sandstone walls overhung in the way of Greece with pink bougainvillea, were also hidden inside restored buildings. Only the stainless steel of the new kitchens set them apart from hostelries of the past.

P1040209Exploring Monemvasia was a discovery-fest. Narrow stone steps and winding passageways; unexpected corners; secluded courtyards decorated with beautiful old pots tucked into niches; hidden gardens softened with creepers and shaded with figs and pomegranates; red brick and sandstone walls; and mysterious archways. The main path eventually led out to the far ramparts and a twin wall to that of the entry gate, thus enclosing Monemvasia within the square of the two walls, the fortress on the crest of the rock and the sea wall below. Up on these ramparts a path three feet wide allowed the original defenders to walk along the inside of the crenellated battlements right along the sea-front, and now permitted tourists to lean out to watch the sea fling itself onto the rocks below. A climb through the town right to the top culminated in the precipitous staircase leading up to the fortress. From this rear vantage point one could look over the jumble of orange tiled roofs and walled gardens, across the rippled ultramarine waters of the Mirtoon Sea to the southern Aegean and infinity.

In the central plateia of Monemvasia, guarded by an ancient cannon, stood the thirteenth century Cathedral of Christ in Chains, its landmark square stone bell-tower rising above all other buildings like a lookout post. Opposite, an ancient tenth century church had been tastefully restored into a tiny museum. In the lower parts of the town much restoration of the old buildings was taking place, all kept in perfect harmony with the ancient beauty of the old stonework.

At dinnertime, an estiatorio in an old restored house just before the plateia drew me in. The front of the house had been cut away and the interior remodeled, but the old rickety stairs led to upstairs rooms and an outside patio of stone, once a terrace, set out with tables. Red tablecloths and matching napkins. Balloon glass of iced water. Citrine colored wine. Delicious rigatoni. And a view like no other as the sun gradually sank into an indigo sea in a blaze of pink and orange. Daylight slowly faded, and the rooftops of the ancient town faded from orange to gray. One by one old lanterns lit up the paths and secret places. Silently Monemvasia slipped back into the middle Ages. It was black night when I left the restaurant. Following the lamps along the main street, each circle of lamplight became an island, surrounded by a sea of deep shadow. People appeared and passed silently, like wraiths and shades of ages past, disappearing into stone stairways and vanishing into complete darkness. For a moment their hushed whispers hung in the present, their shadows leapt as they passed the pools of light, and then were no more. In a tiny ruined church, someone had placed a lighted oil lamp on the remains of a little altar. It flickered and set grey and yellow ghosts dancing on the crumbling stone walls. Outside, beds of night-flowering Chonakia, which we call Four-o’clock Plant, were bright pink and yellow under the lamps, like confetti sprinkled on leaves, a sweet and musky fragrance suffusing the warm still air.

DSC05951Drawn toward the sound of music, I found a bar, down a few stone steps, backlit with flickering candles, its tiny terrace overlooking the sea. A crescent moon now rode high, silvering the water across to the far shore where a few scattered lights twinkled. Wavelets near the battlements were touched with the silver moonlight and sparkled like sequins. Occasionally, clouds scudded across the moon and the mood changed, darkening the sea to ink. A tiny feather of breeze touched my face. It was so lovely. I was not ashamed of the tears running down my cheeks. The music came to an end and the spell was broken. Some days are diamonds… I vowed I would return.

P.S. – I did. I have returned several times. Each time has been memorable. Monemvasia remains one of my most favorite destinations in Greece. I usually stay at the restored Malvasia Hotel right in the old town itself. This hotel has everything, ambience, authenticity (albeit in twenty-first century style), comfort, views, genial and helpful hosts, fab brekky, seclusion, peace and quiet, and marble mod cons. The New Malvasia backs against the chocolate rock-face, and at night an errant zephyr whispers against the rock, telling stories of long ago. Its surroundings are illuminated with old-style lamps, its communal rooms cozy with stone fireplaces, hand-woven mats and cushions, and its outside terrace scattered with sequestered tables and chairs. It’s a private place, one for complete rest and recuperation (bring lots of books) – or for a wonderful honeymoon (don’t bring any books at all).

Sparta, and Mystras

September 1st, 2014


We’ve all been fed stories of ancient Sparta. Inhabitants of that grim warmongering city left weak and sickly infants to die of exposure, pushed unwanted or useless people off cliffs, and ordinary existence was pretty harsh. Anyone who couldn’t take the rigors of military discipline was disposed of – which means if I had been alive then, well I probably wouldn’t be. I’d be off the cliff.

Maybe you’ve heard of the legendary Spartan King Leonides, whose courageous band of three hundred soldiers defeated the Persians at Thermopylae in 580BC. Maybe you haven’t, but he did. And thanks to Brad Pitt and his friends, we know that in Mycenaean times the whole area of the province of Lakonia was ruled by the Spartan King Menelaus who goes down in legend and history as the unfortunate cuckolded husband of Helen of Troy. (Hence the word “laconic”, no doubt).

R001-048The modern town of Sparta (or Sparti, as the Greeks know it) is set in a wide peaceful valley of the Lakonia plain, surrounded with lush citrus and olive groves, and guarded by the awesome dark mountains of the Taÿgetos range. The north-south main street is rather like a disturbed anthill – people everywhere enjoying its eclectic collection of tavernas, kafeneia, cafés and fast-food joints – but there are enough interesting shops and reasonable hotels to distract the visiting tourist.

However, the ruins of ancient Sparti lie just out of the town. There, hidden among ancient gnarled olive trees, repose remnants of venerable walls, piles of timeworn building blocks, marble fragments, and the rubble of ages past. If you’re there in May you’ll see a magnificent collection of wildflowers decorate the scene. Ramblings lead to the remains of the ancient acropolis where, with another leap of the imagination, it’s easy to fantasize about grim Sparti, the place where life was so laborious. P1180541Built on top of the ruins, a Byzantine church and monastery, now itself reduced to hardly more than rubble, stares blankly down at a once mighty theater, a rival in size to Epidavros, but now nothing but a shell, an imprint left by time. The few pathetic remnants of the seats, columns and blocks, have been lined up in symmetrical rows by somebody with restoration in mind. It looks as though this person said, ‘Wait here, while I get help,’ and never returned. But archeologists are at work now and the new excavations are revealing much more of the ancient town.

Over everything broods the black, misty, magnificent Taÿgetos Mountains resembling a present-day Mordor, reaching for the heavens through drifts of fuzzy clouds which continually reveal higher and yet higher peaks and then close over them like drawn curtains. Heady stuff, I can tell you.


0522 Top Entrance Gate to Mystras P1030935A taxi from Sparti will take you to the top entrance of the Byzantine ruins of Mystras – a must-see of the Greek Peloponnese. How can I describe the magic of Mystras? Mere words are not adequate. Entering the stone gateway transports you into one of the most fascinating, spectacular, astonishing places imaginable. Every turn of the cobblestone path, every flight of stone steps, every archway, or doorway, or rubble strewn courtyard brings a new vista, a new perspective of Byzantine life. Ruins of mansions, palaces, houses, churches, all draped and festooned with wild flowers, bushes, figs, pines and leafy trees, cascade down the hillside from the thirteenth century fortress crowning the very top.

From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century AD, Mystras was a city of over twenty thousand inhabitants, and although it suffered the same fate as most other early cities and was captured and lost by most of the warring states, it grew to major importance and reached a population of forty thousand under the Venetians from 1687. But from 1770 it was successively burned by Russians, Albanians and Turks and gradually fell into the abandoned and ruined state of the present time. Nowadays it’s the tourist invasion – but at least Mystras is cherished as a World Heritage Site.

It’s best to begin a tour of Mystras from the top of the hill, as the climb is steep, and down is best on the rough, original cobblestone street! From the fortress crown, the path leads past the Church of Agia Sofia, almost at the top of the upper town. This is a unique little Byzantine church with an arched portico and little round cupolas in the orthodox style, capped with ribbed terra cotta tiles. A bit further down is the youngest of the Mystras churches, the church of Agios Nikolaos, sixteenth century, a wonderfully peaceful place with original uneven tiles on the dirt floor and more striking frescoes on the walls.

0533 Palace of Despots, wildflowers and view, Mystras DSC05769Approaching the “Palace of the Despots” through the arched Monemvasia Gate, an incredible vista of the Lakonian Plain opens out, with Sparti Town in the distance like a pile of colored pebbles. The Palace is a collection of large buildings, the seat of the former rulers of Mystras, a Frankish leader with a rather exotic name, Guillaume de Villehardouin among them. It’s undergoing renovation and reconstruction – I can’t wait to see inside when it’s finished. Around the heights above this site is a bonanza of ruins, bones of dwellings, leavings of lives long gone.

One of the most interesting of the Byzantine churches is Agios Dimitrios, also called the Mitropolis, a thirteenth century place of crumbling vaulted arches, old balconies and a peaceful courtyard entry surrounded with potted plants and flowers. Inside the church are fine frescoes. Much restoration work has kept the building in a remarkable state of preservation. Another rough, narrow pathway leads to the convent of Panthanassia, where the beauty and serenity of the place is unexpected and particularly tranquil. The convent perches precariously on the hill slope, anchored to the rock by a high thick wall. Into this wall was built the cell-like rooms still occupied by a few nuns.
Inside the church are more beautiful frescoes in the original state. 0543 Convent gallery, view over Lakonia, Mystras P1040029Sitting outside on the ledge of the balustrade and soaking up the views from this sublime place, sets you wondering how many others over the past seven centuries have viewed the vast panorama of orchards and olive groves, farmlets and hamlets, surrounding brush covered hillsides, and mist laden mountains.

A tiny rough pathway leads onwards to the monastery of Perivleptos, with another amazing fourteenth century decorative church, looking rather like an elaborate birthday cake in stone, sprouting from the rocky hillside itself. Inside, the walls are painted with the most perfect of all the frescoes, each scene depicting some biblical event, the nativity being the most exquisite.

Pathways continue wandering around the hillside. There are wild gardens of old ruined mansions, stone walls, arched gateways and staring, empty colonnades of windows, draped with an abundance of wildflowers, creepers and greenery. Against the backdrop of trees and conifers and the wild mountains it’s sheer poetry.

More pictures of Sparti and Mystras in the galleries of this website. Enjoy!

Epidavros, Mycenae and Tiryns

August 25th, 2014

Nafplio is the stepping stone to three of the most interesting tourist destinations. If you like to commune with the homes of the Gods and ramble through archaic ruins, these are the ones for you!


After an hour of pleasant pottering through attractive mountain villages draped with flowers, and surrounded with lush greenery and gardens, the bus turns into a tree-lined side road and pulls into the entrance of Epidavros. The ruins of this sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine, are hidden in tranquil seclusion. Guarded by gnarled pine trees and sprinkled with cypress pines and olives, back-dropped with rugged wild mountains, the foothills of Mt. Arahnes, the crisp air is redolent with aromatic pine and herbs. Here, the ancient (third century BC) Greeks came to be cured of their illnesses. It’s immediately obvious why Epidavros became the most popular place for a health cure. Just a mere respite in the peaceful surroundings, lulled by the chirruping of cicadas and crickets, the luscious soaring song of the nightingale and the soughing of pines, must have been a perfect restorative. Strangely enough, one of the famous curative treatments given here relied on the “lickings of snakes”, a practice which would have sent me running full pelt in the opposite direction. However, attention was given to special diets and herbal treatments, which sounded slightly more in my line.

P1180500The main attraction of Epidavros is, of course, the theater, which is one of the best preserved and restored in the whole of Greece. It still accommodates fourteen thousand patrons for festivities in July/August each year (bring your own cushion). After an uphill climb, one rounds a corner and there it is, just as it was in ancient times, set in a natural amphitheater, almost pristine. The whole semi-circle of tiered limestone seats fills the side of the hill, topped with a crown of dense pines and olives, like a frizzy hairdo. It’s a place of great drama. You can feel the vibes. You can see the ghosts of actors past, not literally, but in your mind’s eye.

It’s also a place of compulsive performance. The acoustics are said to be perfect, with every sound audible at the farthermost seat, and, of course, it is human nature to put it to the test. Last time I was there, with a group of six other Aussies, we performed “Waltzing Matilda” to the applause of other tourists! Tour guides, with various degrees of stage aplomb, proceed to demonstrate the acoustics by calling for hush and then dropping a coin onto the center stone. It’s audible right at the top seats.

Originally, somewhere amongst the ruins stood hostelries for pilgrims and patients, festival and civic buildings, temples, gymnasiums, bathhouses and shrines, but there’s very little except foundations and piles of stones to mark the once vibrant town. However, a considerable amount of excavation and restoration proceeds. The original stadium, a venue for athletic competition, remains, like a dried watercourse lightly dusted with green grass, its perimeter marked by six rows of tiered stone seats, still in situ.

Epidavros seems to stretch away to the far hills, the protruding stones and rocks awaiting another millennium of excavation. Over it all, the soughing pines whisper an accompaniment to the song of the nightingale – a truly blissful performance, worthy of center stage anywhere.


I’m particularly interested in King Agamemnon. From an early age I’ve been fascinated by the Siege of Troy. Here, at Mycenae (Mikines as the Greeks know it) you actually stand on the site where the good King, with his son Menelaus, and ally Ulysses, planned revenge for the snatching of beautiful Helen. Mikines has existed for so long that myth, legend, and history are intertwined, but by 1300-1250 BC and the time of King Agamemnon, it had reached its most powerful period, documented for eternity by Homer in his epic, The Iliad.

P1180447Walking up through the entrance of the huge Lion Gate is definitely an awesome experience, not to be missed. That it’s still there at all is fantastic, due no doubt to the inability of subsequent peoples to cart away the building materials. Towering on either side, the huge blocks of gray stone, stacked with superb precision, form the monumental impregnable walls of this Mycenaean citadel. The immense gate is supported by massive pillars and surmounted with the enormous carved stones of two lionesses. This grim fortress was the ultimate in defense. Brooding on top of a flat hill between two towering bald mountains, it commands a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside: a formidable presence indeed.

Very intriguing is Grave Circle A. (Grave Circle B is down the road a bit). It was a royal cemetery, but not Agamemnon’s, and some superb finds were made here. One can gaze into the depths of time, into grave shafts of antiquity. I wondered what those royals would say, if someone were to tell them people were staring into their graves 3500 years later. (A young man next to me was sure they’d say two words – piss off!)

But I was more concerned to climb the main path to the remains of Agamemnon’s palace and the Great Court. I allowed myself to imagine Ulysses and the old King with Menelaus, hatching the plot to rescue Helen from the arms of her seducer, Paris. To achieve this, they would have to sack the court of King Priam of Troy. What clanging of swords, what shouting of curses, what scheming and conniving and swearing of oaths went on in these halls!

P1180467The magnitude of the site isn’t immediately recognizable until properly explored. Determined scrabbling discovers dark passages, arched arrow slits, the ruins of artisan’s cottages, the Postern Gate and the piece-de-resistance, the secret cistern that held Mikines’ water supply, thus rendering it impregnable to siege. Water still lay there, deep down, turgid. Enclosing it all was the grim forbidding barrier. No peaceful soughing pines here, and no trilling nightingales. Just dark deeds and suppressed intrigue, fierce sun and bitter cold, somber stone and dreary confining gray walls…


Tiryns is another ruined Mycenaean citadel, only a short distance from Nafplio. There’s not a lot of info about Tiryns. It was purported to have awesome stone walls, in parts some twenty meters thick, constructed of massive stone blocks so large only the giants known as Cyclops could have built it. Indeed, legend said Heracles (Hercules) was born at Tiryns. If so, such sheer power behind those massive grim fortifications must have been inspiration for him.

P1090452The site itself is right beside the main road, easy to find. The ruined ancient citadel stands on a rocky hill, overlooking the lush green plain of Argos. In its heyday (1,400 BC) it co-existed with powerful Mycenae – some say it was the port for King Agamemnon’s mighty fortress. If so, the two cities must have been a force to be reckoned with in Ancient Peloponnisos.
Today, all that remains are the encircling walls, huge blocks of gray stone thirty feet high in places, some interesting storage chambers, foundations of buildings, and a gloomy vaulted arched passageway. In lower parts of the citadel, excavation and restoration work is ongoing, but inaccessible. When I stand in the remains of Tiryns I am always overcome with the timelessness of it all.

However, as Tiryns is nicely elevated, panoramic views stretch over the surrounding plain, the fields, olive groves, orange orchards, and scattered farms. Maybe Heracles once joined the Mycenaean guards to stare out over a similar view from the massive ramparts of their fortified town…

Next week we visit Sparta and beautiful Mystras. You can read more about my experiences in my eBook “Make Mine a Moussaka” available from: )