The tribute to Mani begins… Join us on another sweet journey!
Mani is the name of the area in the south of Laconia and Messinia, with the southern tip being Cape Tainaro (or Cape Matapan). It consists respectively of Laconian and Messinian Mani, which also have morphological differences. Laconian Mani has a wilder beauty, while Messinian is more green and cool.
Arriving in Laconic Mani we saw the famous wild beauty of the Mani landscapes and we thought about its history… We could not do otherwise, since it is one of the most historic areas of Greece. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Mani is the place that never submitted to the Ottoman conquerors! An invulnerable area, which offered a lot to the Greek Revolution of 1821. We find these characteristics imprinted in its architecture, in the towers and castles, which we will deal with a lot in the first article of our tribute.
So, in our first Mani article, we visit Laconian Mani, find out about its history and analyze its architecture, gather rich photographic material, try its gastronomy, drink refreshing cocktails and discover picturesque landscapes and beautiful beaches.
What a pleasure after the trip to arrive at a spotless, spacious room and sink into such a soft mattress that it won’t let you get up! This is what we did as soon as we entered the room of the four-star hotel Koukouri Village in the village of Kafiona, near Areopolis, after taking a warm, relaxing bath in its spacious and clean bathroom first…
Koukouri Village is a beautiful complex of buildings, built in stone to suit Mani’s landscape. It really looks like a quiet village, a place perfect to be our base!
So, after we got ready, we headed to Areopolis, to take our walk, eat and drink. Areopolis is a village of the eastern, Laconic Mani, a historical and preserved traditional settlement since it is the homeland of the Mavromichalis family and is one of the first places that raised the flag of the Greek Revolution. Its name means the city of god Ares, the ancient Greek god of war.
As soon as we arrived at the square of Areopolis, we saw a Karagiozis -traditional Greek shadow puppet theatre- show, offered by the Municipality of Eastern Mani to the children and adults of the area. It was really a very nice initiative!
After our walk in the picturesque Areopolis, we sat down for our dinner in the tavern “O Barba Petros“. There we were welcomed by the manager of the restaurant Mrs. Kati, the owner Mr. Pierros Bathrelos and his son Giannis Dermitzoglou.
We were told that the tavern is the oldest in Areopolis, since 1926, and that it is passed down from generation to generation. The ingredients used are very carefully selected and the food is of course all handmade. This is one of the reasons why the tavern is one of the pillars of tourism in the area. Their motto is that the customers will eat as well as the owners would, maybe even better! Quality tourists will definitely visit the tavern, we were told, since they recognize that everything is made with a lot of love. We tried it and we guarantee it!
They also told us a few words about the history of the tavern. This tavern was a point of reference because the grandfather traded wine and was well known for the wine, as he was the only one selling it in the area. The grandfather and grandmother supplied the neighborhood with various materials. Thus, the tavern was a hangout of the time. The father took over in 1970 and built the courtyard and terrace that we see today.
It was late at night, so it was time for a cocktail! Areopoli has a lot of night shops, which are full of people… We chose to visit the shop of Giannis Dermitzoglou, the “Bukka Home Bar“, just two steps from the tavern “O Barba Petros”. We sat under the beautiful bougainvillea, ordered our drinks and enjoyed the nice music and the warm atmosphere.
Giannis gave us their new map-menu with the list of local wines, and their new drinks and cocktails, in which Greek drinks are also used.
While enjoying our cocktails, we had a very interesting conversation with Pierros Tsatsoulis, a young farmer, who in the summer gives guided tours of the sea caves of Laconic Mani. He told us so many interesting things about the caves that we would need a whole article to describe them!
In addition, Pierros spoke to us about his certified organic crops, explaining in detail what makes them stand out. For example, in the olive grove he has used geolite, which is a natural material that improves the pH of the soil. Pierros in the winter produces olives and olive oil from white olives, Koroneiki variety and many wild olives, in an organic olive mill of his trust. A nice zero waste idea that Pierros mentioned to us is that the oil, after being used in frying, can be made into soap, as he does with his mother!
In the summer, Pierros produces the fleur de sel “Π”, which has almost 100% purity, guaranteed by chemical analysis. Another very interesting thing that Pierros told us is that salt has a chemical composition that forms a square, so it fits better in a square jar. He has also chosen such jars for his own sea salt. Also, Pierros told us that in the old days in Mani, when women got married, they would take as a dowry a piece of rock, which was the “refrigerator of the time”, since it contained salt with which they would preserve food, as they had no electricity…
In addition to olives, olive oil and salt flower, Pierros produces oregano from his fields in Areopolis, in an organic way. He also has wild capers, which he picks up from the cliffs where the salt of the sea reaches them day and night. The caper is debittered by his mother and placed in their organic oil, in order to maintain its taste. Finally, Pierros also picks sage from his fields. He told us that he wants to produce selected products, so that he always maintains the high quality he wants, and this way we closed our nice conversation. From our side we wish him the best!
Having made more new friends, it was time to return to our hotel. We took a short night walk in Areopolis and returned to Koukouri Village, for a cool and refreshing sleep in the soft bed of our room.
The next morning a surprise awaited us! Breakfast on a shady terrace with a fantastic sea view… Koukouri Village breakfast was very nice and tasty, with toasted sandwiches, bread, rusks, butter, jam, honey, omelette, cakes and croissants. We filled our bellies and got ready for a day full of new experiences!
The day was very hot and what better than to take a dip in the cool sea of Laconian Mani. So we put on our swimsuits and got in the car to head south.
The first stop of our short trip we wanted to be Gerolimenas. It is a small, picturesque, seaside village. We read that during the Ottoman rule it was a stronghold of the Mani pirates and that in the past it was a great fishing shelter.
The beach of Gerolimenas has white pebbles and impressive turquoise waters. We made a short stop before continuing to the next destinations…
We couldn’t ommit passing by a village with stone towers, churches and houses. We are referring to Vathia, a picturesque fortified settlement built in a prominent position, at the top of a hill. Just beautiful and so typical of Mani!
Searching for a few things about the traditional architecture of Mani, we found a very interesting typology for its towers, republished from the book Οι Πύργοι της Μάνης, Φρουροί από Πέτρα (2001). So, we decided to look for the different types in the beautiful landscape of Vathia and match them with the blueprints! We show with photos what we managed to find…
1. Four-sided tower, rectangular
2. A four-sided tower with a side higher than the others
3. Tower next to the axis of the rectangular house
4. Tower and house at right angles
5. Tower in the middle of a large side of the house
6. Two rectangular houses on either side of the tower
7. Two houses on the two vertical sides of the tower
8. Rare type with tower in the middle of the roof of the house
After gathering sun and heat, we had to cool off at last! We continued our southern route to discover another picturesque beach, Porto Kagio. We read that its name means “Quail Port”, as it is a passage of many migratory birds and especially quail. In ancient times it was called “Limenas” or “Psammathous”, from which comes the name “Psamathias” which is used by the older inhabitants.
We will say goodbye to you for now with a photo reportage from the routes we did for our first article, so that the images can travel you on their own for a while longer. Stay tuned… More articles about Mani will follow soon!
A small photo reportage from the landscapes of Laconian Mani:
(Click on the photos to see them in full view)