Driving inland the clouds slowly cleared and the temperature slowly dropped. In the far off mountains we spotted more snow, we didn’t know at that moment that we were heading straight for it.
To be honest, regarding the weather, things had been pretty grim on and off down this west coast of the Peloponnese. We seem to have had more wet days than dry and the last time I had shorts on was back in Croatia, end of October. It didn’t look like ‘shorts weather’ was ever going to be on the cards, but I did expect it to be a little warmer than this. We both needed a little perk up, so I booked a hotel room in Kalamata, ‘Home of the eating’ olive’. Apparently every olive tree we’d seen so far (millions) are all harvested for oil, but around the Kalamata region they grow a bigger, wider leafed variety picked for the edible ones you get in jars and packets in the supermarket. Driving along I couldn’t spot any different types of trees, but then my eyes must have seriously OD’ed on olive trees by now. As Finland has millions of pines ,tall trees planted about a meter apart, Greece’s equivalent is millions of short bushy trees about 3 metres apart. It’s now olive harvest time, so everywhere we go, you can hear the air-powered picking machines ‘thrapping’ and you can smell the pruned olive branches being burnt, scores of smoke plumes rising and filling the air with it’s familiar scent.
Horizon Blu hotel in Kalamata was very nice, clean, quiet, bath, breakfast…perfect. Not that it happens very often, but we always feel a little like traitors sleeping in a different bed, leaving Charlie alone in the car park. It was cold first thing in the morning, which left a fine layer of ice on the paint-work. Last time that happened was Marrakesh in February. Kalamata town looks pleasant enough, with a long pebble beach curving all the way around a bay, it would be great in summer, but it’s cold, empty and dead in winter.
Lots of the restaurants still open, but can only offer the hungry tourist a couple of dishes that have been kept warm on the back burner most of the day (and possibly yesterday too). The owners jump up and switch the lights on when you walk in the door, immediately dousing them as your exiting feet hit the pavement on the way out. Nothing appetising or edible could be found along the front, so it was back to the bus, raid the fridge and muster up enough goodies for a ‘Hotel room pick-nick’. We just grab jars and tubs of stuff, crisps & cutlery and sort it all out in the hotel room, it makes for some interesting combinations …and it’s cheap. We have discovered one little gem here in Greece, a potted cheese paste (cows milk) with olive oil and a hint of chilli, I could sit and eat it with a spoon, I also think it will probably account for about a kilo of my current weight, but ‘hey-ho’ you only live once, please pass me a bigger spoon!
Did I mention the rain had stopped? Yeah! It won’t be for long, just long enough for us to navigate east through the Langada pass. From Kalamata to Sparta (Sparti) 59km of twisty, switch-back mountainous road cutting through the superb Langada Gorge, then climbing up 1524m over the Taygetos Mountains. A not-so-challenging road as a driver, but the scenery was top-notch. Flame red autumn leaves in the death-throws of rejuvenation, set against a recent sprinkling of snow. My only criticism, not enough lay-bys to stop and take pictures.
And so we enter into the land of Spartans (Sparti). Descending from the west side of the Taygetos Mountains, through the area where the Spartans abandoned the ‘weak or feeble’ or those that ‘will never quiet make it as a Spartan soldier’ on the side of the mountain to die alone. Tough gig! If you did make it to the age of seven you’d be sent to a training school where you’d be underfed and encouraged to live off the land and steel food. Surviving regular brutal beatings and sexual molestation (by your mentor), you’d eventually join the regular army at 18 where you’d be marched from one end of the Peloponnese to the other. All this with-out any trollies on!
I’m still a little confused, having just read all through the ‘Lonely Planet’ and ‘Wiki information’ on Spartans why there isn’t more physical evidence of their existence left. There’s a theory that as the Spartans declined, heaps of building materials were robbed and carted up the hill to build Mystras. As the Spartans were mostly a mobile army, taking what they wanted, from where they wanted it, not relying on this area for food, so little evidence of ‘The Spartan soldier’ still exist.
I’m a little behind with the timeline of the blog so I may need to skip a bit or knuckle-down and catch up. See how it goes. Cheers, Wayne.
n37.07290 e22.41480 Sparti, small car park north of town. No services. FREE
n37.07658 e22.26911 Mystras car park (lower). No services. FREE