The “real” Greece

September 30, 2012

The tourists are gone, but that’s ok. Now that September comes to a close, and October begins, we experience what I call the ‘real’ Greece.  This is our homeland for its true beauty, without the hoopla that comes with summer. Yes, August still remains the best month to be in our village of Vassara, due to the increased ‘parea’ of friends and visitors, but fall has its charm too.

The ‘real’ Greece is a peaceful existence. This is how we grocery shop in Vassara.  The ‘farmer’s market’ comes via this truck twice a week, and if we’re lucky, we catch the bakery truck as well, selling bread that’s still warm, and the best melomokarona (honey dipped cookies) you’ve ever tasted.

As the summer heat leaves and temperatures cool, this time of year is the best. Aaah, the ‘real’ Greece.

Just a few more photos of this fantastic beach before we move on…………

 

 

Can you believe how clear the water is?

Part of Greece’s magic is the ability to find yourself high in the majestic mountains one minute and splashing in the legendary Mediterranean Ocean the next!  With Gythion close to beloved Vassara, we have both versions of Paradise at our disposal!

Once known as Port of Sparta in ancient times, Gythion is a common place for ocean seeking tourists traveling in Peloponnese.  As Sparta has always been our home base, Gythion has always been our ocean.  I could tell stories of Gythion and all that it has meant to me for more pages than this blog will allow, but for now, let me say that you will never regret a trip to Gythion.  Most surprisingly, the ride from Sparta to Gythion is almost all straight highway, literally ‘straight.’  After we’ve become used to the twists and turns of Greece’s mountainous topography, it’s a little strange to get in the car, and drive in one line to a destination, but none the less, that’s the case for this road trip.

Gythion is charming. Alive with fishermen bringing in the freshest catch, charming stores selling things you wont find anywhere else, and home to THE BEST ‘pikilia’ (seafood appetizer tray) you’ll EVER eat, don’t miss Gythion.

Just a town over is Mavrovouni, Gythion’s suburb of Beach Camping and now, wonderful hotels like Castello Antico. I can’t say enough positive things about this air conditioned, beach front hotel, reasonably priced, with the coolest Jazz Bar, and full sized swimming pool, (along with a smaller pool for the little ones – Thank You Castello Antico!)  Here, there is live music at night, a grassy area for martini cocktail hour, and divine entrees at the poolside restaurant. Like most European  hotels, breakfast (which is really brunch) is included.  Beach chairs with waitresses waiting to bring  you the best martini or daiquiri you’ve ever had are available for daily rental should you choose not to stay overnight. But why would you leave? This place is a game-changer for staying in Peloponnese. With an ocean hotel this nice, and this affordable, you simply have to stop your Greek tour, and hang by the ocean for 3-4 days minimum and enjoy the soothing Mediterranean ocean by day, and its captivating moon by night.

(PS. I’m not an employee or relative of any of these places. I’m just a true fan!)

Around the corner………..

September 5, 2012

There’s this stoop around the corner from my house in Vassara, one that my mother tells me she remembers all her life. My yiayia (grandmother) remembered it too.  The stoop has sat many villagers, watching passersby, catching up on village gossip, seeing the children run home for meals.  This is the same stoop, unchanged for generations. This is what I love about Vassara.  Its timelessness. Its purity.

Here, only descendants from the town can share their stories of that stoop, or whatever else they remember about a particular corner, or bench, or doorway in Vassara.  My memory of the stoop recalls water fights as children, and lazy afternoons, eating an ice cream and waiting for summer’s heat to soften.  I find it funny to watch people sit on it now as they talk on their cell phones to America. Apparently, the stoop provides great cell reception!

Around the corner from the stoop is my aunt’s house. Home to the best cooking and baking in the world. Cookies and other delicacies come out of that kitchen that are unsurpassed by any culinary expert.  She’s an artist at heart, and paints the street before her house with beautiful daisies. She plants flowers in these fantastic pots. Are they not artistic?  This is not the center of the village. This is not a ‘hot spot’ at all. It’s just something quiet, something special….something we share, around the corner.