Saturday, April 30, 2011

More and more views

 The wild flowers were everywhere. These are Asphodels and they are everywhere.

Notice the ubiquitous Asphodels. The whole mountain is just covered. This is not really a mountain. It is a massive rock that is just off the coast of the Peloponnese peninsula about 50 miles away from Sparta. Even though it's not that far in distance, traveling by bus to it was an adventure. Cecil Stewart, an English Byzantinist, visiting Monemvasia in the mid 1940's wrote about it in his book, 'Byzantine Legacy.' "The rock is about a mile long and six hundred feet in height. This natural stronghold was the last to fall to the Franks and with Mystra it returned to Byzantine dominion; later it fell to the Turks with the rest of the Morea..."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Suddenly, the Hagia Sophia

Here she was, perched precariously on a ledge on top of the rock that is Monemvasia. I didn't dare venture further for fear of falling off the precipice.
 The double eagle emblem of the Byzantine empire. This is truly an Byzantine treasure.

There was this little plateau up on top. I could lean over the fortification to look down on the village and the sea. I could roam among the wild flowers to see the ruins and wonder what they were before they fell apart. I went to the furthest part to see what was beyond, it was more ruins and wild flowers. It was so wonderful, then I glanced up the hill to see what was up yonder and lo and behold, there it was, her majesty, the fabled Hagia Sophia of Monemvasia. Boy, was I excited, I was beside myself. I ran up the cobbled stone pathway throwing caution to the wind, I could fall, I could have heat stroke.... I didn't care. All I knew then was, I found her and am running up to embrace her. She was locked and we couldn't see what was inside. I tried to look around for some opening but found none. I read she has frescoes in her, badly damaged and defaced by the Ottomans but still beautiful. I was still happy to have been on her grounds. I ran down the cobbled pathway, shouting for Sophie to come up. She did eventually, then I was yelling for her to leave. Our bus is leaving soon. That was a really short visit. I wish I could have lingered....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vistas like these just goes on and on

The area is deserted. The village is down below and even so was empty. There were only a few workers in the hotel. I don't see anyone in the shops. Maybe it was low tourists season and I'm sure the locals visit on weekends. We had the whole hill or mountain or rock to ourselves. It was so incredible. There were ruins all over and the wild flowers just flourish with such abandon. We didn't even have time to recite a prayer, we were in a hurry to take it all in. There was once a remnant of the Byzantine empire living and flourishing here before they had to capitulate to the forces of history and become history themselves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wow, top of the rock

It is no wonder that visitors come, fall in love with the place and decide to stay. There has been so many instances. The author, Patrick Leigh Fermor visited the Mani ( a part of the Peloponnese) many years ago, wrote about it and eventually lived there. I'm sure it is vistas like these that tempt visitors to change their status from visitors to residents. It is absolutely gorgeous and looking at these again I'm tempted to return to change my status to resident. It would be nice to have a picnic there or some other spiritual activity like a little church service to commune with the spirits of the Byzantine empire. But the only domesticated thing we did was to pee in the bushes. We left our mark there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

view from above

It was so windy. We didn't feel safe because the climb was so steep but so beautiful. The view of the village below is so gorgeous and the sea, a perfect turquoise. High above are the old fortifications, now in ruins. Here above the village the old city of Monemvasia lie in ruins. There were piles of stones which were once a building everywhere. It can a whole day just to pore over every pile of stones but we didn't have that kind of time. We lost an hour trying to connect with the right bus. We did the best we could, taking pictures quickly and seeing most of everything. The guidebooks recommend staying the night but again we didn't have that kind of time. Soon we need to hurry down in order to catch the last bus back to Sparta....

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mt Athos, part 2

This is so incredible. While Mt Athos is out of bounds for women, there are other monasteries one can visit in Greece. The ones in Meteora being some of them. That's where I'm headed for next March.

High on the rock

 From where we were we could see the ruins up above. We didn't know what's up there. We started to walk the zig zag path up to the top, all the time hanging on to whatever we can because the strong wind is always threatening to blow us over.

After the fall in Areopoli I was scared and was extra careful but it was hard. It was so exciting. When I get excited I tend to throw caution aside. I was walking up so fast and was so curious to see what's round the corner. I had to remember what happened in Cappadocia the previous year. I was moving too fast and got sick from heat stroke. We are in the middle of nowhere and it would be impossible to get help if anything serious happened. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mt Athos, 60 minutes

If you are a woman, this is the closest to the inside of Mt Athos you'll ever see. Mt Athos doesn't allow women visitors. This piece is so beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. I'm going to watch it again. Remember Bob Simon did a piece on the Orthodox church in Turkey for 60 munutes last year. He went to Cappadocia and took some incredible footage. This piece on MT Athos outdid his previous work. Is he, like me, getting enamored with the Orthodox church? But really this piece is so incredible, I've run out superlatives.... watch it!

Mt Athos

More wild flowers

Spring is always a glorious time. Even where I live, I see the wild flowers popping up everywhere and they make for such a delightful spectacle. They say that wild flowers appear throughout the year in the Peloponnese but still the most glorious time to see them is in Spring. These pictures were taken in Monemvasia, just next to the houses. They make a wild and riotous spectacle. I wish I could stay forever. I wished I could bottled and preserve that moment. We would see more as we wend our way up the rock to the top. Where was the famed Hagia Sophia church? We were told it was closed but we didn't know where on this massive rock it was and if we would even catch a glimpse of it.