We’d heard tell of some show caves and we’re quite the fans of show caves so that’s where we headed first this morning via a bakery in Areopoli for the caffeine necessary to jump start our basic motor functions. Possibly should have done that before driving a car but so many people here drive so erratically I would have blended in with the locals quite nicely. It’s the parking too, they just park fucking anywhere they feel like. Middle of the road? Why not? On an actual roundabout? Fair game. Diagonally across a footpath? Well if they’re not meant to park there why’d they make it car sized? I’m loving the freedom of a motor but fuck me, it can be stressful.
Diros Caves though. You buy your tickets and you can either walk or drive down to the entrance from there. Obviously we drove. We’re paying €35 a day for this fucker, it’s going to earn its keep. Then you’re led inside and ushered onto a tiny boat which lists “tilting precariously” as one of its hobbies, then a man with a stick guides the tiny boat through a tiny hole, gliding silently over the still water, stalactites reflecting on the surface.
As if that isn’t magical enough, you’re deposited in a different part of the cave and off you fuck through an incredible network of formations. Loads of stalagmites have reached their hanging counterparts and formed impressive columns. It looks like the wall is melting in parts. Every corner you turn you’re faced with giant church organ-like structures and that Geiger-esque landscape that caves are so fucking good at. It’s absolutely amazing and I 100% recommend Diros Caves if you’re in the area.
Next stop was Panagia Faneromeni Monastery because we wanted to look at the frescoes. I mean, we’ve seen a tonne of 11th century frescoes now but I keep wanting to put them in my eyeholes just in case… yeah I don’t even know just in case what. To be fair it’s right on the side of the road, you don’t have to go hunting for it. You just go into the courtyard and open the little door to the church.
The rest of the day was mainly spent driving around the striking Mani Peninsula looking for old war towers whilst trying not to melt. I say looking for them, they’re actually everywhere. According to the Lonely Planet the local families were constantly fighting with each other so they built fortified towers, many of which remain. A lot are in ruins but many have been restored and are guesthouses or AirBNBs.
That’s all the information we had though. We didn’t find any more. We don’t know about the families, or who hated who. All we have is what’s written in our guidebook which says their only goal was to destroy each other’s towers and kill all their men. So I turned to the Internet and holy fuck you guys, they were insane! They just really liked murdering each other. There’d be no slight or insult, one day a family would have a meeting and decide they wanted to kill everyone in another family, so they’d formally declare war and that was that. Blood feuds lasting years, the only goal being the complete annihilation of each other.
We visited a couple of villages and had a stroll around, gawping at the ruined towers. Some of them are abandoned, some of them are obviously restored and lived in. Others look like new builds but I don’t know enough about it to say for sure, they could just be excellent restorations. The most famous of the lot is Vathia, probably on account of it being the most photogenic. You can park up and wander around it but the money shot is half a kilometre up the road at a viewpoint overlooking the village. It’s certainly something. Old and new buildings sit on a rocky outcrop as the Mani stretches off into the distance beyond them.
It was another utterly stinking hot day today, so much so we resorted to blasting the AC in the car just to cool our phones down whilst muttering things like, “Well it uses more petrol so we’ll have it on for ten minutes then wind the windows back down…” Then deciding that it uses little enough petrol and it’s worth having it on just so my under-boob sweat doesn’t significantly increase the sea levels and Santorini drowns.
That was enough dusty, barren landscape and murder towers for us. We headed back up the peninsula to a campsite near Gythio. We’d not earmarked this place for any reason other than the conveniently placed campsites, we wouldn’t even have come here if we didn’t have the car, and we’d have missed out. The campsite we were aiming for had a pool but recent reviews said it was out of use so we ended up at Camping Gythion Bay just up the road and it was absolutely wonderful.
Pool, bar, mini market, pool, backs onto the beach, did I mention the pool? You can sip boozes of your choice by the pool from the bar and we found out quite by accident that wine was significantly cheaper than beer. Sure, my braincells would disintegrate roughly three times quicker than if I were drinking beer but we’re on a budget here, can’t be too choosy. Basic cognitive ability would have to take the hit. We felt like we were actually on holiday rather than just scraping around for the cheapest accommodation we could find. We decided to stay here for two nights rather than the planned one night, it was too nice not too.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Mani Peninsula, Peloponnese, Greece / Χερσόνησος Μάνης, Πελοπόννησος, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Camping Gythion Bay, Mavrovouni
Useful shit to know…
- The Caves of Diros are usually €15 but as the water level was high and some areas couldn’t be accessed it cost €10 each.
- The ticket office is a little before the caves. You buy your tickets then drive or walk down.
- If you only want to see one village with towers then go with Vathia. It’s the most photogenic and the towers are close together.