Dr. Despina Siolas and her husband, Laurentino Ibarra, witnessed the unique Holy Friday Greek Orthodox celebration in Tripoli, Greece. They also decided to take a trip around the Peloponnese. Driving to Mani showed them the rugged Peloponnesian mountainous landscape. They did not stay at a hotel. They picked the traditional Xenonas Elixirion Guesthouses in Karavostasi of Mani. “We picked it because Karavostasi is on the water, the Messinian Gulf,” explained the tourist. “It was an old pirates’ hide-out.” The architecture, traditional Greek rooms, ceramic bathrooms can be seen at www.mani-elixirion.com. A welcome of sweets greeted them in their room with a sea view. The waves crashing on the shore reminded them of traveling on a cruise. They ate at the nearby town, Ifilos, at Mavroi Pirates (Black Pirates).
The Elixirion owners in their welcome explained “visitors of the area as well as guests of our guesthouse will have the opportunity to taste and enjoy exquisite plates upon request from Mrs. Maria Sotirakis. Our guests will be able to see for themselves the truth in our sayings by visiting our biological farm and olive tree where we produce our own olive oil. All our recipes are biological, coming from our farm. The meat is from local Mani producers.”
The tourists were impressed by the Easter decoration with flowers, eggs, chicks, chocolate covered bread homemade jellies. Breakfast had Easter baskets with eggs, chicks, lady bugs and butterflies. A burning fireplace gave a hospitable feeling while they watched the Messinian gulf from the windows. The Caves of Dirou were unique.
“Mani is famous for its tower houses without stairways,” she explained. “They were built because of the feuds among families for defense. A ladder thrown from the top was needed to get into the tower.” They reminded me of the princess in the fairy tale “Rapunzel.”
On Tuesday, April 7, they drove through the olive groves of Kalamata to reach Pylos, the site of the Battle of Navarino during the Greek War of Independence. They stayed at Tina’s House for 60 euros a night. “Tina’s House on the water is unexplainable. They had a fireplace with a miniature water mill running in the dining room. According to the owners, “It’s stunning location on the highest spot in town offers moments of calmness and relaxation to every traveler, since it combines an insuperable view to the sea with the boundless serenity of nature. Our recently refurbished rooms with a special decoration refer to the old Pylos mansions. Enjoy the unique sunset experience from your balcony or even while savoring local flavors on Tina’s House yard.” Visiting the Peloponnesian coast appears to be like visiting an island.
“As we were leaving Pylos, a pickup truck with goats and lambs stopped us,” said Dr. Despina. “The driver asked us for directions to Asfalion in Greek. We said we were not locals but from New York. He left us, searching for Asfalion.” What do you think was the destination of lamb and goats during Easter week?
On April 8 and 9, Holy Wednesday and Holy Thursday, they traveled to Dimitsana (ancient Teuthis), arriving at Xenonas Enastron for 71 euros a night. “Enastron was better than the Sofitel by Athens Airport. The view of the mountain, books, DVDs, videos, slippers, towels, loukoumia and free matia in our rooms gave us a feeling of real hospitality. When I was in Dimitsana, the bed and breakfast owners made bougatsa for breakfast and gave me some to take with me during the day. The breakfast had koulourakia, kreopita homemade jellies of apricot, caramel, plum, citrus, peach, pomegranate with Nutella and honey from Mani. Her jellies are popular and she sells them. Fresh oranges were pressed into orange juice every morning with lahanopita, yogurt and cereal. The owner said he was drinking chamomile for thirty-five years. The owners even gave us kreopites, pites and sandwiches to take with us to the Lousios Gorge. Goats were running along mountain roads.
The fireplace and heated floors gave us comfort. The dining area had baskets of red flowers with Easter eggs on embroidered tablecloths and eyes. We passed a petting farm and saw a friendly pony near the road. The pony showed real affection for company. A beautiful sight for the traveler!”
The Open Air Water Power Museum, a major attraction, mentioned an interesting fact about Dimitsana. “Dimitsana, isolated among the mountains, possessed not only the know-how of collecting saltpeter and manufacturing black powder, but also combustibles, plenty of water power and a knowledge to use it. ‘We had powder,’ wrote Greek War of Independence hero Theodoros Kolokotronis, ‘because we had Dimitsana.” The Museum showed the old fashion way of making Tsipouro.
On the road to Olympia, they stopped at Stemnitsa. It is famous for its jewelry college and as a weekend getaway for Athenians. At Stemnitsa, the local restaurant served luncheons of octopus with macaroni, fish, beef and potatoes. The Olympia ruins had spring flowers and flowering trees: rebirth. Shells in rocks, a sleeping, unhappy dog, Hermes Praxiteles, Museum and Olympic Stadium were some of their impressions.