A number of things led me to Greece which I’d been wanting to return to for some time: a Greek friend, proofreading Sue Kidd Monk’s lovely book Travelling with Pomegrantes for Headline, set partly in Greece, meeting Anna again at a jewellery fair (www.asimi.org.uk). I hadn’t been away on my own for a while but I just wanted a good, quiet rest in a beautiful place – where sun was pretty much guaranteed! Anna – who not only makes beautiful jewellery but works as a mountain/walking guide (www.sunvil.co.uk/holiday-ideas/walking-holidays) suggested I would like Kastro in Kardamyli and she was spot-on.
The drive from Kalamata airport in Nikos’s cab with another English couple was an experience: talk of life, philosophy and politics all the hour’s way. When I arrived at Kastro (www.kastro-mani.gr), the couple who run it don’t speak English but we managed and I was delighted when I found myself in my room with its balcony and beautiful views of the sea one way and the Taygetos Mountains behind. Kiki, their daughter, did speak English so when she was around, that was the time for my questions.
I wrote about my first night in Kardamyli in my first post, The Single Gourmet and Traveller and Petros’s warm welcome was typical of what I was to experience in Kardamyli. People everywhere were friendly and keen to talk; would even call out to me in the street when I passed and asked how I was and whether I was having a good time, and this made it a perfect place when alone – because there was always someone to talk to! I think Kardamyli is possibly the friendliest place I’ve ever visited.
I ate lunch or had coffee most of the time at Androuvista cafe – run by another Anna. Partly this was because they had free wifi so I was able to check and send emails from my iPhone there, but also because their food was wonderful – the most amazing Greek Salad with wonderful creamy feta that wasn’t too salty, as sometimes feta is, and lovely country bread, which Anna told me came from Kalamata. In the evenings, apart from the Kastro Taverna I wrote about before, I loved eating at Lela’s Taverna which is set right on a cliff by the sea with glorious views and the food was as good as the view. I’m not sure if Lela herself is still around but she was once housekeeper to the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor – who lived in Kardamyli until his death only a week before my arrival. I’d bought his book, Mani – Travels is the Southern Peloponnese a few weeks before my holidays after doing a ‘Peloponnese’ search on Amazon; when locals saw me reading it they all wanted to tell me what a lovely man Fermor was and how sad they were that he’d died. It says a lot for Kardamyli that Fermor, a famous travel writer, chose to live there for most of his life.
My room had a little kitchenette and so I was able to keep a few things in a fridge and would have tea, Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey on my balcony first thing and have coffee at Androuvista later. The honey I bought from Yiannis Dimitreas in his shop just below Kastro. This is a wonderful little shop, almost like Aladdin’s cave, where Yianni makes wonderful creams and lotions and herbal remedies from herbs he collects in the mountains; he has olives and olive oil and local sea salt. When I got badly bitten by mosquitos, some of Yianni’s cream healed a badly swollen bite overnight and on his advice I rubbed the cream in each evening before I went out and didn’t get bitten again. His honey comes from the mountains and is rich with the flavour of many herbs and is without doubt the best honey I’ve ever tasted.
I’m sure I’ll go back to Kardamyli soon. My stay was enriched by its people’s friendliness, Anna visiting but there was something calming and healing in its beauty and the slow pace of life there. I usually like something a bit livelier, cultural things to do, but, I discovered, sometimes quiet is very nice indeed. And there is something quite liberating about being on your own in a place like this: no one else to worry or think about or compromise with … and I wondered if the way I struck up conversations and would talk to people was different because I was alone. If it was, it was a bonus!