“There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it gets sent away”
I had posed a question to Sasha at the start of our trip asking if we would gain or lose weight in our four weeks in Greece. The verdict…we lost weight and got fitter! The Greek lifestyle and Mediterranean diet is indeed the key to a long, healthy and happy life. During our five days in the Peloponnese / Arcadia region, we stayed in an Airbnb 100 meters away from the sea.
Greece is the first country we visited where we don’t feel ready to leave yet. We will miss absolutely everything about Greece (except for maybe the mosquitoes, but we’re used to them), including the genuine Greek hospitality, warm climate, beautiful sea, happy people, the sing-songy language, the sunsets, star gazing, and will very much miss the food.
In our total of four weeks here, we spent 12 days on Crete Island and the rest of our time driving through mainland Greece starting from Athens and doing a loop up North through Central Greece and ending here in Southern Greece. If you’d like to check out my other blog posts on this country, you can find them here or save them to read later:
The Arcadia region is within Peloponnese, located in Southern mainland Greece. Peloponnese is the birthplace of Greek civilization and has the highest density of ancient Greek ruins with sites such as Olympia, Sparta and Corinth. We stayed in a sea town called Paralio Astros, a quiet residential area on a peninsula with few tourists. When we arrived to our Airbnb in the evening, the first thing I did was find a local taverna for supper using Trip Advisor for the first time since we arrived to Greece. (It’s hard to go wrong with food here, and half the fun is just stumbling upon a taverna because they’re all family owned. Also, fake reviews are starting to become more common, sadly, so it’s hard to tell if you can trust it).
I found a local family-run taverna just a ten-minute walk from our apartment, and when we arrived we sat down and were greeted by the Chef, who was the only person in the restaurant who spoke English (also a good sign! – he lived in Canada for several years.) Every place we are visiting in Greece welcomes us so warmly, especially when they find out that we came from America. (It is common to see American tourists in places like Athens or Delphi, but not in these remote mountainous and coastal villages that we decide to visit based on local recommendations).
We asked the Chef for a menu and he instead invited us into his kitchen to see what he was cooking. He pointed to everything telling us what it was and where it came from and asked if we wanted to try a little bit of everything. How could I say no to that! He brought us some fresh chicken grilled on charcoals and said it was on the house. We tried beef and pork shish kebabs and delicious fresh free-range organic lamb chops that would have likely cost a fortune in U.S. Tirokafteri is easily one of our favorite dishes here. It is a spicy cheese dip made of red peppers (which gives it the slightly gross-looking pale-pink color, but it’s completely natural), hot peppers, feta, another type of cheese, and yogurt. It is insanely delicious and a great dip for meats on the grill.
By the way, most animals used for meat consumption are raised organically and free range here, unlike in the U.S. where a large percentage of animals raised for mass consumption are fed a corn diet (animals don’t naturally eat corn, they eat grass!), are pumped with antibiotics, and spend their entire lives indoors, shoulder-to-shoulder with other cows in their own feces and will live their whole lives having never even stepped foot outside or seeing the sunshine. And this is the meat humans eat!! We eat what they eat. The few cows we have seen in the mountains here are the most beautiful and well groomed cows we have ever seen in our entire lives. It looks like they go to the cow spa every day and are pampered, bathed and massaged. They roam the fields and streets freely and it almost looked as if they were smiling at us when we drove past.
*end soap box rant*
Anyway, we were hoping that he wouldn’t charge us an arm and a leg for all the food since there was no menu and we hadn’t agreed upon a price or quantity. (He brought us enough food for four people) and included chicken and dessert (yogurt with quince and fresh watermelon) on the house. He could have easily ripped us off because we are tourists, but the bill came and it was €27. 😮 Sometimes it’s hard to even get a lunch for two people for that price in Seattle! Also, eating in Greece is messy. We now have olive oil stains on nearly every article of clothing. It’s inevitable even for the neatest of eaters, but that somehow makes me very, happy because it will forever be a little culinary reminder of our time here.
We returned to Chef Dimitrius’ restaurant (called Liokipos Tavern) three times for supper during our stay. As we were walking to dinner on our last night, I asked Sasha, “when else are we going to get to walk through a quiet village with a (real) castle in front of us, the sea beside us, and cicadas chirping all around, walking on a dirt road to a family-run taverna by a Greek man with blue eyes named Dimitrius who remembers us by first name?” Greece is a very special place indeed. Here’s us with Chef Dimitrius.
And the insanely tall cactus that we passed each night on the way to the tavern:
Things to do Around Peloponnese
1. Drive to Dimitsana for hiking and cute cafe culture
Located a two-hour drive from Paralia Astros, this adorable mountain village houses plenty of cafes and some interesting hiking with trails starting straight from the town. During July, stone fruits are in season and we certainly got our fill!
Puppies may chase you and try to bite your shoelaces.
And if you like kittens, then Greece is the place for you. I may or may not have gone a little overboard with the kitten photoshoot…you’ve been properly warned…
Remember DO NOT PET WILD ANIMALS! You don’t know what kind of diseases they have, as they have likely not received shots if they are wild. (As I try to get this wild puppy off my ankle in the above photo…fail.)
I recently read an article in The Guardian that said that tourism in Greece is doing really well. Last year 30 million tourists visited Greece, which is three times their population!! However, since the crisis in 2009, the rest of their economies are 30% down, so tourism is quite literally Greece’s life jacket.
2. Visit Nafplio (also known as Nafplion)
We are spoiled because we began our Greece trip on Crete Island on the beautiful Venetian Harbor of Chania, so nothing will compare to that. However, the sunsets here were epic.
Don’t forget to try some local seafood at the harbor. The fishing boats come right up to the bay to deliver the fresh catch. Bream is a popular white fish here. The photo on the right are Greek meatballs with fava bean spread.
Take a stroll along the cobblestone shops and alleys.
3. Visit the Palamidi Fortress
Nestled high atop the hill above the city of Nafplio is Palamidi Fortress. Entry is €8 per person, and what makes the entry fee even more worth it is that they have a free potable water refill station! Bring all your empty bottles and fill up!
The views are stunning. It reminded me of views from Santorini but without the crowds and white churches.
4. Visit Tiryns ancient ruins
If you have read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, this will be really interesting to you. If not, it will just be a pile of rocks without any context to understand the significance of what you’re seeing. In any case, it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
5. Visit local beaches and harbors anywhere in the area (there are plenty!)
Alas, all amazing things must come to some sort of end, even if only a temporary close. While in Russia, I learned the tradition of toasting. In Russia they don’t make just one toast for a special occasion as they do in America. Instead, it is common to toast several times throughout a meal (meals can sometimes last up to five hours!) and toasts are to anything in life and a way to give a speech about something that is important to you or the people surrounding you. Most of the time it is about gratitude. We have now reached the point in our trip where we only have two months left of this spectacular fairy-tale journey. Tonight’s date night toast by Sasha went something like this: “we are at a point in our lives where we are bride and groom to be during an exciting engagement phase. We have our health and our happiness and each other, so let’s remind each other to enjoy the little moments that make up the big picture, as soon we will get to write the next chapter of our lives together.”
We are now off to Italy for the next five weeks! The European adventure continues…