This week we explored a bit more of the Messinian peninsula, had the first swim in the sea for 2017 and then travelled north to finish the week in Kalamata, joining Greek families in their 25th March celebrations for National Independence Day. Well, watching them is probably a more accurate description…
From our base at a campsite in Koroni, we made a few day trips, like this one to the town of Methoni.
Driving towards it, we could see the ruins of the fortress stretching out to sea.
It’s a Venetian castle and together with the castle in Koroni they were called the ‘eyes of the Venice republic’ because of their strategic location, guarding the trade routes.
Admittedly the prospect of seeing another Venetian castle hadn’t been exactly thrilling. Well, why travel all the way there to see one when we’ve a perfectly nice one where we were staying in Koroni….shamefully lazy or what?
It was good we hadn’t given into ‘castle fatigue’ or we would have really missed an unexpected treasure (to the uninformed visitor).
But the highlight of the week was finding this place…
Actually, we didn’t find it for ourselves…we were about to leave Koroni and head off to the Mani peninsula – the second finger of the southern Peloponnese – when our fellow campers Nadja and Gunter told us about this beautiful lagoon. You can’t leave without going there, they advised.
And so we did and we also agreed we’d keep a look out for the stray dog that they had be-friended when they stayed there. He had made such an impact on them, that they were now planning to return to look for him and hopefully ‘adopt’ him, assuming no owner turned up in the meantime.
We spent a day there and loved it so much we packed up from Koroni and returned to wild camp the following night.
Here we are close to the lagoon, just one big puddle to cross…
…and a short drive down the track…
…accompanied all the way by this little fellow who had been loitering by the bins in hope for new visitors (Nadja and Gunter will be pleased he’s still here we thought)…
..and we parked up beside Voidokilia Beach where the water was just about warm enough to brave the first swim of 2017.
And we had the place to ourselves….
….apart from the local wildlife.
The lagoon is a favourite stopping off point for migratory birds heading to Africa though not at the time we were there. Still when Stuart hiked up to the ruined castle overlooking the lagoon ….
…to get this panoramic shot..
…he also managed to get close enough (almost) to snap a colourful hoopoe, after many frustrating days of seeing them flit past the window of the van as we’ve been driving along the peninsula.
And just in time for dinner, along came this man from nearby Pylos who had spent the day in the lagoon diving for ‘gold of the sea’…
That’s this seaweed. He generously gave us a plateful and suggested we should eat it sprinkled with lemon juice. …
…which we did along with Nadja and Gunter who had returned to find Blackie as they now call him.
Yes, a very happy ending for this little dog so no more hanging around the bins waiting for scraps with strangers. He’s bonded well with their own dog Ella. The vet in Kalamata has given the all clear that there is no owner out there looking for their lost dog so he now has a new home albeit one on wheels for the next year or so!
It was great hearing about where they have travelled so far especially as it turns out they have stayed in some of the same places as us. They too had been to the winery in Sardinia where wine was dispensed by petrol pump; they stayed in the same overnight stop in Ragusa and had also been to Mount Etna though they got there a few weeks after Stuart and Callum had been skiing so they saw the eruptions first-hand.
Leaving the lagoon, the van made some strange screeching noises thanks to the caking of mud it received going through that puddle. Thankfully driving a few miles cleared it. We don’t want any problems between now and Bulgaria when it goes in for a big service.
We were sorry to leave the lagoon but we were heading to Kalamata where we hoped to join in some festivities to mark Greek Independence Day and also the Greek Orthodox religious festival of the Annunciation.
But apart from the closed shops and the flags flying to mark the occasion….
….the festivities were confined to family gatherings for celebratory meals in the harbourside restaurants.
So we adjourned to a nearby bar to celebrate with Guinness. No local beers on offer so it was either that or more Italian fizz.
…then it was back to the van, tucked in between the yachts on the harbour…
….to watch the sunset…
… and sample the town’s most famous product.
Next stop we move on to the Mani peninsula.