A pilgrimage to Kalamitsi

We love to receive your input and proposed articles for the blog. Let’s start 2018 with something from our blog community. Dawn Mitchell sent me this and hopes that you all enjoy it.

In the Spring of 2001, my daughter, my then husband and I drove from Athens down the Peloponnese peninsular. A leisurely journey, visiting Olympus, then remoter sites inspired by PLF’s writings. We arrived at the hotel Kalamitsi in Kardamili on Easter Thursday. Like many before and since, this was a romantic pilgrimage to the spot Paddy, the wanderer, had chosen to put down roots.

It did not disappoint: olives, fruit trees, cypress, orchards running down to the rocks, the glittering sea beyond, enticing views of mountains across the bay. The hotel and the LF house lay on the peninsula beyond the village, in a completely rural area sixteen years ago. (I’ve never been back). The other hotel guests were all Greek, staying for the Greek Easter holiday, which coincided with ours that year.

The purpose of the pilgrimage was not intrude on Paddy,but more to enter the magical world he conjured up. Of course I’d been entranced by the walk across a vanished Germanic world, been warmed under the summer sun of the Hungarian harvest…, but the moment of absolute surrender came with ‘A Time to Keep Silence’. He wrote about the eternal struggle to reconcile spirituality with the human condition, reconciling the deprivations and absurdities of the monastic rule with a reluctant admiration for the sacrifice these extraordinary men had made over the centuries. Standing on a cold winter’s day in St Wandrille, I had marvelled at his perception. (Nowadays, reading his letters, his discomforts and his longing for his lover, give a rather different perspective.) I’d also been inspired by a girlfriend who’d driven alone to Greece with a copy of Roumelli as her travel guide!

Things did not go quite as planned; I’d started a cold en route, which turned into an incapacitating flu and raging temperature the next morning. I was bed bound, so my husband went into the village to look for some medication. In the newsagent he found himself standing next to PLF! Thinking that he lived elsewhere it was quite a shock to see him. He asked my husband what brought us to Kardamili. The latter, quite tongue tied with surprise, simply pointed to the window display where copies of “Mani” were piled up. PLF asked, how did it read nowadays? Not too many purple passages? Weakly my husband said no, not at all; when what he meant to say was how much pleasure the book had given him. Typically British he said nothing-not even remarking on the weather, or wishing a Happy Easter! Before he could regain his composure a young man carrying a heap of newspapers ushered PLF out of the shop. Imagine my chagrin, meeting such a legendary hero: ‘what more?’ I asked. He told me that Paddy had spilled egg down his pullover, that he was accompanied by a very tall young man, nothing more!

However there were more excitements to come: on the Saturday night there was a massive thunderstorm which took out the electricity in the whole region for 24 hours. Disaster, on Sunday, as the Easter lamb was to be roasted. Suddenly the hosts and the guests all came together: three old fashioned spits had been set up in the garden, and everyone worked turning these for several hours. Despite the relentless drizzle and only a single umbrella, the atmosphere was festive. Alcohol and high spirits ensued, and as the party ran into early evening, I realised that we had indeed entered Paddy’s magic world.

Dawn Mitchell
10/12/17

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4 thoughts on “A pilgrimage to Kalamitsi

  1. Caya Edwards

    What a charming recollection. We are planning a family trip to the area, like you curious to see the place that PLF called home. So this interested me. I wonder if it is still as lovely? I guess we will find out!

    Reply

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