Tag Archives: Peloponnese

Bradt Travel Guides’ revised version of Greece:The Peloponnese by Andrew Bostock

Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese by Andrew Bostock

Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese by Andrew Bostock

Continuing the Peloponnese travel theme it would be remiss of me not to mention that the nice people at Bradt have let Andrew Bostock update his excellent guide to the Peloponnese just in time for your 2013 excursion. And rather like the paperback of An Adventure it shows a certain house. I think that Andy may have had some influence on this choice of cover!

Andy also gets in touch with me quite often, and it was he, working in close collaboration with that other Karmayli expert, John Chapman, who first picked up on the filming of the movie Before Midnight at Paddy’s house. Andy has lived in the area with his family so he is no fly-by-night travel guide author. I have a copy. I know the Peloponnese pretty well having holidayed there on three occasions. There is a lot to see and it is by no means all about the Mani, or Paddy. There is so much more. If you would like to get in touch directly with Andy about travel to the area his details are here.

Andrew Bostock: +44 7961 061 052 (cell)
Twitter: @andybostock

You can buy Greece: The Peloponnese (Bradt Travel Guides) at this link, and the blurb tells us this:

The Peloponnese contains a huge diversity of landscape, everything from the classic image of Greece – white sand beaches and sleepy white-washed villages through to the ancient sites of Olympia and Mycenae, Byzantine churches and medieval fortresses; towering mountains for hiking and skiing, olive groves which produce the finest fruit, and mountains covered in flowers.

In recent months Greece has undergone a well-publicized economic meltdown. However cheaper prices and the expense of long-haul tourism has actually led to an increase in visitor numbers. The government is keen to invest in tourism as a way to reinvigorate the country. Specific examples of this are the new year-round flights from Athens to Kalamata and a major new international spa / golf resort in Messinia.

Greece is no longer an ‘easy’ travel destination and there as been an increase in the trend towards independent travel, away from package tourism. The new edition reflects this with reviews of the plentiful new accommodation, details of independent tours and activities as well as excellent coverage of off-the-beaten-track sites and attractions.

Greek expert, Andrew Bostock leads travellers to hidden villages, sophisticated towns, and to other top attractions – one of Europe’s most spectacular train journeys and the tower houses of the famed Mani. He explores the lesser-known sites and attractions, including details of places not covered anywhere else. The guide is packed with information on agritourism spots, eco-conscious boutique hotels, camping under the stars, rustic tavernas and locally grown produce. Traditionally the tourist season in Greece is the summer, but this is fast changing, with savvy travelers discovering the wild flowers of spring, the joys of the olive harvest in late autumn, and skiing opportunities during the winter. Bird life and marine life are also a huge attraction for visitors to the Peloponnese. The guide also focuses on the colourful life of the traditional ‘paneyiri’ and those who still embrace the Greek spirit of ‘philoxenia’.

Related article:

The movie Before Midnight, featuring a certain house in a starring role

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The movie Before Midnight, featuring a certain house in a starring role

If you never get the chance to visit Paddy and Joan’s house in Karadmyli, it looks like you can have an extended viewing if you go to see the movie Before Midnight.

Related articles:

Before Sunset sequel, Before Midnight movie shooting in Greece at Paddy’s House

Intimate portraits from Kardamyli by Miles Fenton

John Chapman’s ManiGuide

The publication this week of the article by Kevin Rushby about his search for the memories of Paddy and Bruce Chatwin in the Mani prompted a degree of comment; not much of it particularly flattering. There were many unfavourable comparisons made with the excellent work of John Chapman in his ManiGuide website.

Back in 2010 I did a feature about the Guide saying ‘Having had a quick scoot around it certainly looks very comprehensive, so if you are planning on a visit to the Mani you may wish to use it…  the content looks very useful indeed.’

Following the comments about Rushby’s article I thought it would be a good idea to bring John’s work back to your attention, particularly as he has now become a regular contributor to the blog, having provided some excellent photographic material and articles.

As I said ‘ …. if you are planning on a visit to the Mani you may wish to use it.’ In fact I would recommend it. Visit —> Mani: A Guide and History by John Chapman

Related articles:

On the trail of Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece

John Chapman at Kardamyli

John Chapman’s photographs of Paddy at home in Kardamyli 2005

On the trail of Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece

This is a little bit toe-curling but as I always say we place all things Paddy related here …  for the record!

Ahead of a new Patrick Leigh Fermor biography, Kevin Rushby visits the Mani peninsula, home of the great man and unsung resting place of another British travel writing giant, Bruce Chatwin.

By Kevin Rushby

First published in the Guardian 28 September 2012.

Kardamyli, on Greece’s Mani peninsula, was home to Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Old Mr Fotis turned my question over in his mind while sipping his morning coffee. Below the veranda some youths had been playing noisily on the harbour wall, but now they all dived into the turquoise sea and set off on the long swim to the rocky island in the bay. It had a fragment of crenellated wall on top of it, the ruins of a Venetian fortress. Fotis watched them go, half-smiling.

“We do seem to attract a lot of writers,” said the old man eventually. “But that’s a name I don’t remember.”

“Bruce Chatwin, Baroose Chit-win, Chaatwing.” I tried a few variations but none struck a chord. “His ashes are scattered somewhere in the hills.”

“No, I never heard of him.”

“What about Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor? You must know about him.”

I’d first heard of Kardamyli because of Leigh Fermor, who had made the place his home. I’d always hoped we might meet, but then the grand old man of British travel writing had died in June 2011 (leaving the literary world praying that he had finished the final volume of his Time of Gifts trilogy). I’d come to the Mani on a sort of literary homage, hoping to find a little of the magic that had attracted first Leigh Fermor and later Chatwin.

The old man shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. There was a writer called Robert. Now he was famous – cured himself of cancer by walking around Crete. [Former South Africa cricketer Bob Crisp wrote of his walk around Crete in the 1970s.] He was very famous.”

This felt all wrong. Was I in the right place? How annoying that the locals should raise this unknown above the two giants of travel literature.

Fotis leaned back and shouted in Greek to his wife in the kitchen. She came through, cloth in hand. “Robert Crisp,” she said, smiling. “What a wonderful man! So handsome! I remember him sitting up at Dioskouri’s taverna drinking and talking with Paddy. They were always laughing.”

My ears pricked up. Fotis’s face underwent a transformation. “Ah Paddy! That is him – your English writer. Of course, Paddy – or Michali we called him. Yes, Paddy was here for years and years. When I was young we used to say he was a British spy and had a tunnel going out to sea where submarines would come.”

It didn’t surprise me. Leigh Fermor had been, by all accounts, extremely old school, endlessly curious and an accomplished linguist – all well-known attributes of British spies. He produced a clutch of good books and two classics of the genre, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, detailing his journey as an 18-year-old on foot to Constantinople.

“Did you see a lot of him?” I asked.

Fotis shrugged. “Sometimes. He liked to walk a lot. Now Robert Crisp – I used to see him. What a character!”

“Is Paddy’s house still empty?” I persisted. “I heard it was now a museum.”

Fotis shook his head. “No, no. He left it to the Benaki Museum in Athens (benaki.gr) and they’re supposed to turn it into a writers’ centre. My guess is nothing will happen for a while.”

I could hardly complain about Greek tardiness: Leigh Fermor himself had taken 78 years over his trilogy, and even then no one seemed very sure if he had completed the task. There was, I decided, only one way to get close to the spirit of these colossi of travel-writing: to walk.

“Which paths did Paddy like best?”

Fotis fetched a map and gave me directions. It was already hot when I left him on his veranda. I could see the youths lazing on the harbour wall again, tired by their long swim. Was this really the time of year for walking?

I headed through the ruined village, as instructed, and found a narrow steep path rising up the hillside. Before too long I came across the stone tomb that locals say is the grave of Castor and Pollux, heavenly twins and brothers to Helen of Troy. Kardamyli is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as one of the seven towns that Agamemnon gave to Achilles.

Sweat was pouring off me now, but I kept going. Scents of thyme and sage rose from the undergrowth. Fotis had said there were lots of snakes up here, but I didn’t see any. The views of the bay below, however, were becoming more and more magnificent.

The Mani is the middle finger of the three-pronged southern Peloponnese, a 40-mile long skeletal digit that was almost inaccessible, except by sea, until recently. When Leigh Fermor first came here in 1951, it was by a marathon mountain hike across the Taygetus range, whose slopes seem always to be either burned dry by summer sun, or weighted with winter snow.

Tower in the Taygetus mountains. Photograph: Kevin Rushby

The people here were different. For a start they had turned vengeance into a lifelong passion, building war towers to threaten their neighbours and generally making life on a stony mountain even grimmer than it needed to be and clinging to weird atavistic beliefs. No wonder that in the 1950s most of the younger people abandoned it for places not as badly infested with saltwater ghouls and blood-sucking phantoms – Melbourne and Tottenham were particularly popular.

Fotis himself had been one of them, settling in Australia for many years before coming home and opening a hotel. Nowadays some parts of the Mani are thick with holiday homes and development, but Kardamyli remains delightfully quiet and understated, the sort of Greek village where old widows in black sit out every morning watching the world go by.

Having reached a good height on the mountain I started to follow the contours, dipping in and out of the shade of walnut trees and cypress, drinking clear cold water from a spring. Further on I came to the village of Proastio, where Fotis had told me there was a church for every family, the ancestors having been sailors, and very superstitious. At the gorgeous little basilica of Agios Nikolaos in the main street I got the priest to come and unlock the door, revealing a gallery of perfect 17th-century Byzantine murals.

Byzantine murals in Proastio church. Photograph: Kevin Rushby

I tried the name Chatwin on him, and wondered how to mime death, cremation and scattering of ashes. But the Orthodox Church does not approve of cremation and his face told me I would not get far.

Returning to Kardamyli by a steep cobbled donkey trail, a kalderimi, I passed Fotis’s veranda once again.

“Who was that writer?” he called. “My wife thinks she knows.”

Anna came out. “Paddy himself scattered the ashes of a writer friend of his, up in Exochori.”

That was where I had just been walking, only higher. Next morning I started much earlier and with a water bottle. Fotis was already up and about when I passed his house.

“Exochori is my home village,” he said. “But what you see now is just old people up there. The old Maniati culture is gone. We used to grow silkworms and our mothers made all our underclothes from it. Can you believe it? We were peasants in the most remote part of Europe, but we wore silk.”

He tried to give me directions to the church, but it got so confusing that I just pretended to understand and resolved to ask along the way. As it happened, this was a useless strategy since the few old people I bumped into spoke no English, and my phrasebook was inexplicably silent on the important line, “Where are scattered the remains of the travel writer?”

In the end I came across a small white-washed shrine with a view of the sea. There was just room to enter, and inside a votive candle burned on a tray with some fresh flowers. A white dog appeared. I elected to call it the Chatwin Church. After a few minutes of contemplation I set off again, southwards past one of the war towers, a gorgeous forest monastery and finally the unspoilt hamlet of Castania, where the taverna owner marched me into the kitchen, pointed out the various dishes and then served a vast quantity of delicious food with a jug of rough wine. It took several strong coffees to get me moving again for the long tramp home.

Back in Kardamyli late that afternoon, Fotis was keen to hear of my walk, but he scoffed at my description of the Chatwin Church. “No, no! That is not it. Come on – I’ll take you there.”

“I’m a bit tired.”

“Good God, we’re not walking! In my car.”

Soon we were on a longer, twisting route. Fotis pointed out landmarks and patches of land that his family owned. I asked about his ancestors.

“The Mani was always where people came to hide,” he said. “Our family are said to have arrived when Byzantium fell to the Ottomans in 1453.”

“They came from Constantinople?”

He nodded. “Our family tradition is that we were clowns for the Byzantine emperor.” He smiled. “But I’ve no idea if that is true.”

He slowed the car down. “Look. This is where you turn off the main road, between the school and the cemetery.”

We pulled up in the shade of two pine trees then set off walking. We picked our way through some old stone houses, their walls overgrown with vines, their shutters closed.

“Holiday homes now,” said Fotis. “Exochori people working in Athens.”

Sunset above Kardamyli. Photograph: Kevin Rushby

Then we were on a grassy rill of land and I could see the church, a tiny Byzantine basilica, its rough stone walls and ancient pantiles crusted with lichens. Laid out before it was a wonderful tranquil panorama of the sea, its surface smooth as a sheet of silk. It was obvious why a traveller would want to come to rest here, overlooking the sea Homer’s heroes had sailed.

I stood there for a long time. Fotis was searching for the key to the church, normally left in a crack or niche, but there was no sign of it and we gave up. Back in the car, I asked Fotis to point out the house of Paddy Leigh Fermor and glimpsed a low pantiled roof almost submerged in trees on a crag next to the sea.

“Is there no way to see it?”

He shrugged. “It’s all shut up.”

“Is there a beach?”

“Yes – a tiny one.”

I memorised the spot. When Leigh Fermor came to the Mani he did some impressive wild swimming. To honour his adventurous spirit I felt I should swim around to his house and take a look. So next morning, before the heat of day, I entered the sea by the harbour and swam south down the rocky coast hunting for that tiny beach. I swam for what seemed a long time and had given up and turned back when I saw it: a little shingly beach with a single-storey house above. I swam closer until I could stand in the water.

It was a lovely place: deep verandas and stone walls under a pantile roof. Mosaics of pebbles had been made on a flight of steps. I called out but got no answer. The house was shuttered and quiet as though still in mourning. I waded up the beach and sat at the foot of the pebble path. I could see a colonnade with rooms off it, then a larger living room.

I thought of the years that Leigh Fermor had spent here: by all accounts he was a great host and storyteller. When I’d asked one old lady in the village if she had read any of his books, she’d laughed, “Why would any of us read his books? He told us all the stories himself!”

The last story had been that third volume of his epic walk across Europe, but he had never finished it, perhaps never would have. And now a great peace had descended on the place, a peace I didn’t want to disturb. I walked back down to the water and swam out into the bay. Without thinking, I found myself heading for the island of Meropi, the one that those youths had swum to. I would explore the ruins of that Venetian castle.

Order Paddy’s biographyPatrick Leigh Fermor:An Adventure by Artemis Cooper here.

Related article:

Chatwin and Paddy: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin

To guidebook or not to guidebook

I just received this message from Andrew Bostock who authored the Bradt guide to the Peloponnese. It seems he is heading off there now. Paddy appears to have had some views on guidebooks; what are yours?

There are people who always seem to be fated to end up in their eventual career; children whose endless games of doctors and nurses or Lego translate into later careers in medicine or engineering. I used to think that I didn’t fit into this category, but now I’m not so sure.

In a week’s time I head out to the Peloponnese, the southern mainland of Greece, to complete the research to the second edition of my guide to the area, due to be published in early 2013 by the award-winning publishers Bradt. The first edition was written whilst I lived in the area, and whilst my daughter, who was born in Kalamata, grew up. Now I’m heading back for six weeks to show her where she comes from, and to introduce her one-year-old brother (middle name Telemachus) to the country.

How I ended up doing this seems to be due to huge smatterings of good luck and coincidence; but thinking about it there was an element of fate involved. This was mainly due to my mum, who instilled in me an early love of Greek mythology and history. It was also on her shelves that I first found the books of Paddy Leigh Fermor. I must have been about 14 at the time, and I devoured them. This quickly led to backpacking trips round Greece, sleeping in olive groves and abandoned tower houses, and eventually working there as a teacher, tour guide and writer.

Fate continued to intervene and my small family ended up living in a house on the headland above Kalamitsi bay, where Paddy had built his beautiful Greek house. In truth I had never really wanted to meet him, expectations are too easily let down, but in the end it seemed inevitable. He turned out to be just as affable, engaging and generous as the books would lead you to think.

He wasn’t really that keen on the idea of a guidebook to the Peloponnese, and I do see his point; but it was his books that guided me there. I think that if people are to travel, then a least they should travel with knowledge and understanding.

I’m pretty proud of my book, and hope to spend the next few weeks making it even better.

Andrew Bostock

07961 061 052 (cell)
Twitter: @andybostock
Website

Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece – a talk by Artemis Cooper

Paddy’s biographer and good friend, Artemis Cooper, will talk about his life in Greece at the Gannadius Library in Athens at 7.00 pm on 24 May 2012. 

Full details of the event can be found here.

Biographer Artemis Cooper, who is preparing a biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor, will trace his life, experiences, and legacy in Greece from his early travels to the end of his life, on 10 June 2011. She will talk about what drew Patrick Leigh Fermor to Greece in the first place; his ‘participation’ in the Venizelist rebellion of 1935; his early travels in Thrace and Macedonia, and first encounters with the Sarakatsani; his experiences in the war on the Albanian front and Crete, as well as the post-war explorations of Greece that produced Mani and Roumeli. She will also touch on the Cyprus years; his friendship with George Seferis, George Katsimbalis, and Nicos Hadjikyriacos Ghika; how he and his wife came to settle in Kardamyli, and built their house with the architect Nicos Hadjimichalis; how the Greek translation of Mani was undertaken by Tzannis Tzannatakis, while he was in exile in Kythera under the Junta of the Colonels. She will also reflect on his position in the village of Kardamyli and how he is seen in Greece today.

PS – I have been told that there will be a webcast available after the event. I will post the details when I have them.

Patrick Leigh Fermor The Art of Travel broadcast c.1990-1992

A recording of a BBC Radio 4 programme entitled “The Art of Travel” (broadcast c.1990-1992) in which Annette Kobrak interviewed PLF for about 26 minutes concerning his early life and his journey to Constantinople. There is some good discussion about his travels after Between the Woods and the Water, about Bulgaria and into Constantinople.

I am indebted to David Turner for taking the time to convert this to digital and very successfully too – the sound quality is excellent!

You can listen online or download (press the downwards pointing arrow on the right hand side menu bar of the player).

I have updated the Video and Audio page with the programme. Don’t forget to visit to find more interviews with Paddy.