The drive from dad’s hometown, Geraki, in the Peloponnese region was a typical Greek journey – windy and hectic yet picturesque. One and a half hours on the southwest coast we were crossing a 200-metre causeway linked from the mainland. My Theo (Uncle) Arthur didn’t give much away but the grin on his face meant something remarkable was in store.
We entered what seemed to be a cave and I remember thinking, what is this place? I’m not exactly one for caves. Right before my eyes a quirky medieval village emerged. I stood like a stunned mullet for a minute admiring the paved streets and impressive ancient buildings converted into shops, boutique hotels, tavernas and cafes. I was hypnotised by the sheer beauty and uniqueness of Monemvasia, which the Venetians used to refer to as the Gibraltar of the East.
The entire town was carved on the backside of sea rock in the medieval era. It was constructed invisible so the residents could avoid enemy attacks. Today it is loved and adored by locals, day trippers and holiday makers. We walked to the highest point of the village to admire the spectacular sea view of the Myrtoan Sea. It was one of the best I have seen. We visited the 12th and 13th Century churches of Agia Sofia and Christ Elkomenos which are extraordinary with their Byzantine architecture. The smell of frankincense, myrrh and rose incense wafting throughout the churches transported me back to my childhood.
Surprisingly shopping in Monemvasia was a delight with its local products such as olive oil and honey wine and souvenir shops were plentiful. In no time I found my traditional fridge magnet to add my collection. Enetiko was a satisfying dining experience. It’s a three-story café and cocktail bar with panoramic views of the sea. I slowly sipped my strong Greek coffee, followed by a delectable cocktail. Then the Greek feast of meze (anti pasto), dolmathes, stuffed octopus and other traditional delicacies were soon demolished. Satisfied and elated, I turned to my cousin Litsa, and said “I love this place, it’s so magical”. To which she replied, “funny you say that, because my husband brought me here on our first date, and many people visit for its romantic nature”. In fact, wedding ceremonies are common in Monemvasia and tradition has it that these weddings lead to solid marriages.
Monemvasia is without a doubt one of my favourite places in Greece. I have visited three times and if I had the chance, I would go again in a Greek heartbeat.