Monemvasia: My Kind Of Town

  • by XpatAthens
  • Wednesday, 18 February 2015
Monemvasia: My Kind Of Town

Author and Classicist Paul Waters loves the peace and isolation found in the Greek town of Monemvasia. He says, I hesitate to write about my favourite places, because I don’t want people to go there and spoil them. But even in this age of easy mass travel, Monemvasia is still refreshingly difficult to reach, and only the determined will trouble to make the journey. When I first visited more than 20 years ago, almost no one lived there, and the buildings had fallen into ruin.

Actually, there are two towns on the island – the lower town, at sea level, which has been slowly (and tastefully) restored; and the upper town or citadel, still in ruins, where you can wander alone among the old streets and fallen houses, with the cicadas singing around you.

Spring is the best time for southern Greece, when the grass is green and the wild flowers are in bloom. Otherwise, go in autumn.

How do visitors get there?

Monemvasia is almost an island; its only link to the mainland of southern Greece is a narrow causeway. To reach it, it’s best to go by road from Athens, either by car or coach, which takes about five hours. Sometimes ferries call; sometimes not. If you’re thinking of going and don’t have your own transport, the hotels or a good travel agent will give you the latest advice about what’s running. For train-lovers, there’s a quirky little railway that follows a circular route around the Peloponnese from Athens; but you’ll still need to combine that with a bus/coach/car journey. There are also luxury cruises that call in.

Where are your favourite places to eat?

Twenty years ago an old, black-clad grandmother cooked me a dish of beans on a Primus stove in Matula’s taverna ( I think it was the only place to eat in those days. Now there are others – the Kanoni taverna, Mariantha’s taverna and places across the causeway on the mainland. Greek cuisine isn’t really “haute”, but it’s fresh, lively and local. Try the fish, and perhaps the local Malvasia wine – Shakespeare’s Malmsey.

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By Paul Waters