An hour by car from Gythion and a nights sail away is Monemvasia.
Monemvasia is proof that a community can preserve and retain the color of an ancient village. This is a two-sided town. The friendly little port town (which has centuries of history, too) has restaurants, a supermarket, and plenty of hats and T-shirts amid the normal everyday life.
When one crosses the causeway on a shuttle bus, one enters the ancient world. Through an arched tunnel we walked next to men pushing wheelbarrows for the locals. These wheelbarrows hold supplies for the housewives that they purchased on the “real” side of town in order to live in the…I can’t say “pretend” side…picturesque village on the side of the peninsula cliffs.
We wandered past the gift, art and jewelry shops and the restaurants and coffee shops, up rock stairs, past renovated homes, and onto the steep terrain of the hillside. The well-preserved byzantine church was closed. The ruins of fortress and tower on the mountainside beckoned.
I soon lost sight of Ron. I was happy to have carried water.
The ruins were sparse. The steps weren’t steps at all…only a goat path. (I had given up on fashion for this climb and wore my airline socks and Ron’s heavy sandals, thank God!) Strenuous workout or not, there is something irresistible about making it to the top. I can’t say I stood on the highest wall.
I was deterred by the sheer drop to the ruins at the base of the island on the far side. When I read later that the peak was only 650+ feet above sea level, I was a bit chagrined. It felt as if I had climbed Mt. McLoughlin.
I continued to get reports of Ron, who had climbed far ahead of me, circled around to all points and was waiting in the village. We skipped the return shuttle and strolled back to the port; stopping to read gravestones at a small cemetery.
Ever the plugged-in, shoe-conscious traveller, I retrieved my computer from the ship having changed into sandals and sought out an cafe with wi-fi. I had a yummy greek salad and a coffee, used the internet and then decided I must explore the “real” town.
Strangely enough, if I returned to this place, I would probably prefer to stay in the more modern part of town where the people are going about their lives.
TRAVEL NOTE: As is usual in the small villages of Greece who are not totally inundated with tourists (as in the “real” town), the people are short on English and wa-a-a-y long on hospitality and helpfulness.