Our next stop was only five miles down the coast. Methoni is tucked behind a small headland with a large Venetian fort and Turkish tower dominating the village. The Venetian fort guarded the shipping route around the Peloponnisos and there is a ‘sister’ fort in nearby Koroni. We anchored off the village in the early afternoon alongside Dulcinea, before taking a walk around, then returned ashore the following morning to visit the fort.
The Fort of Methoni dates from medieval times and is protected by the sea on three sides. A deep moat separates it from the land and an entrance bridge stretches across the moat. Inside the walls there are ruins of houses, a Turkish bath, a church and parts of Doric pillars including a monolithic granite pillar which is supposed to have originally supported the ‘winged lion of Saint Mark’, the symbol of Venice, or the bust of Morosini. The Lion of Saint Mark is the protector saint of the Venetian Republic and there are 15 representations that have survived in Methoni.
On the south part of the walls there is a spectacular sea gate which has recently been restored. A paved pathway leads over a small bridge to the islet of Bourtzi and the small octangonal sea fort where the guards would survey the harbour. This is apparently is where many soldiers and inhabitants of Methoni were slaughtered when the Turks occupied the fort in 1500.
Madness onboard! Sometimes life onboard gets to us!!!
Our next stop was Kalamata 40 miles south – yes, the olives! We were welcomed to the Town Quay by a ‘local’, 30 yr old Yanis, who took our stern lines and helped us moor up safely. Judith offered him a beer and he promptly replied that he would come back later. Come back later, he certainly did! We could not get rid of him, he even joined us for dinner! and social distancing was not in his vocabulary. During the afternoon we mentioned to him that we needed our ‘bottom’ (& prop) cleaning and he offered to go and collect his diving equipment and do the job for us. He asked to borrow one of our bicycles and disappeared for nearly an hour before we were able to breath a sigh of relief when he returned carrying all of his equipment. To be fair, he carried out the job well and charged a fair price for something that we would have struggled to do ourselves.
The ‘crew’ of Dulcinea & our new friend Yannis joined us for dinner!
Kalamata is the second largest city of the Peloponnese peninsula after Patras. It exports local products including raisins, olives and olive oil and during our stay we visited the local market where we purchased a kilo of the most beautiful olives - we have been unable to find any which taste so good since!
Not far from the (free) Town Quay is the Municipal Railway Park. The only open-air museum of its kind in Greece, it was founded in 1986 but due to a devastating earthquake in Kalamata in 1986, it was not completed until 1990. It occupies a total area of 54,000 sq m and we enjoyed riding our bikes through the park and looking at the various exhibits housed there.
We spent two nights in Kalamata before moving on 25 miles south to a very ‘rolly’ anchorage in Limeni for a night. The following morning we left early and anchored in a bay 7 miles further south where we visited the Diros Caves. The exploration of the biggest cave, Vlychada started in 1949 and has yielded fascinating finds including a hippopotamus from around 32,000 years ago as well as evidence of panthers, lions, spotted hyenas and seals. Exploration continues in another cave in the complex but this is not open to the public. A couple aged 5,800 years old, locked in an embrace have been found at the entrance to this cave, their grave was part of one of the biggest Neolithic burial sites ever found in Europe. We were first taken in a ‘punt’ like boat and then walked through the remainder of the cave with its beautiful stalactites and stalagmites Having visited caves on the Northern coast of Spain that were carefully preserved and protected from damage from public and light, we were a little disappointed with our tour of Diros when comparing the two, but would say, ‘ it is worth a visit if you are close by’.
Money Penny Dulcinea
As we had visited the Caves early in the morning, we decided to try and catch up with Dulcinea who had moved ahead of us yesterday and rounded Cape Matapan. Our original plan was to round the Cape and head slightly North for Porto Kayio for the night before crossing the Gulf of Lakonika the following day. The wind was perfect for us to cross the Gulf that afternoon so we set our sails and sailed the 48 miles directly to Elafonisos an island on the north side of the channel between Nisos Kithera and the Peloponnisos. We arrived at 18.30 and dropped anchor just in front of Dulchinea, who was already there, in the most amazing clear emerald coloured water. We could have been in the Caribbean!
There is a sand bar between the mainland and the Island which gives two horseshoe bays. Just before our departure from Port Napoleon, s. France, we had briefly met a New Zealand couple, Jeremy and Chrissy who were travelling on their boat Fernweh. We had been watching them on AIS and messaged a couple of times but had not managed to catch up with them over the previous year. Today they were anchored in the opposite ‘horseshoe’ bay. For fear that they may leave early the following day and that we would miss them again, we swam out to Fernweh almost immediately after dropping anchor. We were promptly invited on board for G & T’s and sat in our wet swimsuits exchanging stories from the last 14 months. The sailing community is a very close one and friendships are made quickly and intensely with people from many walks of life that one may not always come across back at home. We have met and still keep in touch with many wonderful likeminded people.
We spent the next day swimming, paddle boarding and walked to the top of the small island to take in the view and after a second night in this beautiful bay we moved on.