We leave Sparta with a special goodbye to the warrior king Leonidas, and head for parts unknown. We are told to separate out only what we can carry from our luggage: something to sleep in, a change of clothes, toothbrush and any medications, and to bring umbrellas or rain jackets. Oh my!
The Spartans still revere Leonidas, the warrior king (there was an administrative king too, but no statue).
Mountains over Spartan rooftops
We decide to scrap another museum tour and instead we stop at Aeropolis, where Eva knows a good bakery. She tells us this part of Greece, and particularly this town, was inhabited by pirates, and the people here tend to be somewhat secretive and keep to themselves. However they seem friendly enough to us. And what a wonderful town! Completely undiscovered by tourists of any kind, and yes, the bakery was wonderful. We ate cheese pies while walking around, inspecting flowers, stone buildings, picturesque doorways, local gathering spots, and local produce. I bought an excellent orange, so big it lasted me well into the morning.
After the delightful Aeropolis stop, we climbed back in the bus and headed farther south, getting great views of the ocean on our way . . . where? We pull up to an unprepossessing entrance of some kind – to a CAVE? Which we are to explore in BOATS? Some of us were reluctant – we never would have done this on our own, for sure – but we all climbed in the waiting boats, ducked our heads, and made it through. What fun!
Can this be topped? Yes it can. For lunch, we arrive at Gythios, where we had the best meal of our entire trip – crusty bread drizzled with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and onions, taramasalata (divine!) fried fresh sardines, grilled smelt, deep fried baby squid and calamari – oh my! After lunch we watch a thunderstorm over the water.
Hard to believe, but the best is yet to come. Where are we spending the night, that we have to bring only what we can carry? That evening, our bus arrives at the ocean, then crosses a bridge onto an island, then stops. It can go no farther. We are at Monemvasia, an old, old town being restored, with a monastery, also being restored, a whole passel of Greek orthodox churches, and some inns. We must carry our bags, since the streets are way too narrow for vehicles of any kind. Even the donkeys which carry supplies up through the town must go single file. It is raining, which only adds to the atmosphere of mystery and strangeness. We climb up through the narrow streets to our inn and are assigned our rooms, which were lovely! Spacious (ours has two bedrooms and a large bath with windows that overlooks the ocean and a small patio). We love this town! As soon as we unpack and dry off a little, we head down for dinner.