Wildflowers

One of the major reasons we like to be here in early spring is because wildflowers bloom in virtually every open space, including the beach.  Having only seen the place in high summer — when sun, drought, and heat turn even the weeds to dust — our first spring in Korinthia amazed us with its profusion of greenery and vibrant color.  An early trip to Mani a few years ago delighted us with its even more profuse wildflower display.  In summer, Mani resembles nothing so much as the surface of the moon, so the heady, urgent rush of blooms one sees there this time of year is as startling as it is delightful.

We drove down to Mani last week, and spent our hours there traipsing around as much as our legs would stand, snapping photos to reassure ourselves that we’d actually witnessed the astonishing scenery it offered.  Here, then, are a bunch of those photos.  Sadly, I don’t know the names of any of these plants — a possible area of future research for us.

Our first stop was Kardamyli where we looked up from our parking spot and were treated to this display tumbling down the cliffside before us.

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Driving south from Kardamyli, I stopped along the road to snap this arrangement of rock and floral extravagance.

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We enjoy walking the roads and trails around our b&b outside of Aeropoli.  We shot these in the fading light of our first day.

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This is the road to Aeropoli, the main village of this part of the Mani.  In summer, the road, the shoulder, and the rock walls are just shades of grey.

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The next morning, we set off to walk the Tigani peninsula.  The cliffside plateau at the tip of the peninsula is covered in the ruins of an old Frankish castle.

It took us almost an hour to get out there.

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Looking left (south) on our way down, we had breathtaking views of the Cavo Grosso, the dominant landform in this part of Mani.

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Down the hill, and ready to cross the peninsula…

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These are the ruins of a basilica within the walls of the castle.  Open tombs in the basilica’s floor, and open cisterns scattered across the castle grounds make this a tricky place to walk, especially when the wildflowers cover the footholds.

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These tiny white flowers were growing between the pebbles of the road we walked and drove to access the trailhead.

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The purple flowers growing everywhere have small, curving pedals that give each bloom the appearance of a tiny orchid.

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As much as we’d like to revisit these scenes every couple of weeks, part of what makes them special is their impermanence and rarity.  Early spring in the Mani is a precious, brief interval in the otherworldly, stark beauty of that landscape.

Stormy weather

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After a day of rain and declining temperatures, the clouds parted just enough at sunset to produce this dramatic view of Mt. Helicon, directly across the Gulf.  The sun was setting behind me, completely cloud covered, and the break in the ceiling on the other side of the Gulf was just enough illuminate the south side of the mountain and the clouds roiling above it.

Full Moon in Sikya

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We went out just now to see the first full moon of our time here. We’re used to seeing the moon rise over Mt. Gerania, to the east, so this winter moon rising directly across the Gulf was a sweet surprise.  This is just about where the sun rises in mid-summer.

Not quite visible are the clouds gathering on the horizon.  They are heralding an end to the run of gorgeous weather we’ve enjoyed the last 4 days, and are forecast to bring us cooler, wetter weather through the weekend. Good thing we’re caught up on the laundry.

καλό χειμώνα, Sikya

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Good winter, Sikya.  It’s the standard leave-taking in Greece at summer’s end.  As always, leaving is bittersweet; we’re anxious to see our family and friends in the States but sorry to leave our friends and family in Greece.  The weather this September was spectacular.  From the time we got back to Greece on 26 August until the morning we left (October 3), it was mild and sunny, warm enough for a swim, cool enough to lie on the beach without suffering.  Meals on the balcony have been a delight, and there’s been a very pleasant northwest breeze almost everyday.

The Sikya fleet maintained at least a shadow presence until the last day — a first for us.  And anglers were particularly active this September — both from the beach and in boats in the cove the activity seemed frenetic.  Our peeks at the catch buckets revealed some very nice panfish, a sea-change from the little gavros we usually see reeled ashore.  Adonis was his usual steady self, working out ceaselessly on the beach and in the sea but he, too, is different this year.  With his hair cropped short, and his beard grown out, he’s scarcely recognizable.  Susan said, “It’s like he’s had a head transplant.  I had to look at his body to make sure it was him.” Perhaps he’d take some consolation in that.  And the comedy show we refer to as The Mayor also saw a new act.  When we returned from our trip to Thessaloniki in mid September, the mayor’s boat, know to us as The Scow, was beached in the crook of the cove.  We thought perhaps the mayor had made a desperate miscalculation in attempting to save a few euros on winter docking fees.  Surely the surf would pound that part of the cove all the way to the seawall during winter storms.  But, indeed, The Scow was floating again a couple of days later, albeit a bit lower in the water.  And finally, during the last weekend, we saw a fishing boat giving The Scow a brisk tow in the general direction of the Xylokastro marina.  The mayor’s beach outpost, which grew to gypsy camp splendor this year, took on a decidedly neglected aspect, and the mayor could be spied sitting among the ruins staring disconsolately out to the spot in the cove where The Scow had formerly been moored.

The splendid, dreamy, ideal weather appeared to be coming to an end, however;  the rains had begun.  In the wee hours of 1 October we got a downpour which I estimated at an inch — the most rainfall we’ve witnessed in Greece.  By dawn, however, the sky was cobalt once again and a line of clouds drifted below the top of Mt. Elikonas, across the Gulf.  And the morning we left, in the dark of 4-blinking-30 AM, in a rented Suzuki SX4, I had my first opportunity in 6 months to drive in the rain on our way to the airport.

The last full moon of this year’s trip was while we were visiting Thessaloniki.  It was wonderful seeing it rise over the city but we missed sitting on the beach in Sikya, peering to the east every few seconds, until suddenly, finally, it’s there: larger and closer than we’d expected.

It feels like it’s time to leave.  Our apartment complex is virtually empty, and we’ve wished a good winter to many of our neighbors.  The plateia, so busy on summer evenings, saw only a few kids each night the last 4 weeks, and recently dwindled to none.  The silence, so fervently longed-for, now seems lonely.  We laid in bed this morning, waiting for the 3:00 am alarm, listening to the surf bursting on the beach (a rare treat), thinking of the changing seasons, of time passing irredeemably.  Time to get up and go.  Good winter, Sikia.

Sunrise, Sunset

We don’t often see the sun rise and set over the Gulf on the same day. Principally because I try to avoid the obscenely early hours but also because, from our balcony, the sun sets over the mountains behind us. Sunday was an exception because we got up absurdly early (what the coxswain on the ’03-’07 WAC crew team referred to as “the ass-crack of dawn”) so we could run before the heat of day. I grabbed this snap of the sunrise at its northern-most position on the horizon (in a few weeks, it will have moved south again and be hidden behind the building on the right).

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That evening, we went for a beer at a little beach bar in the pine forest near us, and watched clouds blow over the Gulf toward us as the sun settled below the horizon. No post-processing on this one.

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One of the things we love about this place is that we spend a lot of time outside, and on this day, that time extended from before dawn until well after sunset.

Walking around Sikia

When Sue and her sister were galavanting around Greece a few weeks ago, I took a couple of walks around the village with my camera. Nearing sunset, the light is usually great on the mountains but on at least one of these days, we had a heavy load of atmospheric dust, which produced a milky sky. These are the pick of the litter.

Walking around Sikia

This is a building on the beach that previously we had seen used only as a polling place.  Over the winter, it was substantially restored for use as a special needs school.  We passed by during the opening day ceremony and have since seen the class playing outside.  Not a bad place to go to school…

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There was still quite a bit of snow atop Mt. Parnassos (about 8000 ft.) at the end of March.  There’s still snow up there but it’s getting pretty threadbare.

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I love seeing the flowers on the beach.  They’re very fleeting, though.

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Someone put a fantastic coat of paint on this boat over the winter.

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This one and the next one were both shot in the Super Vivid setting of my camera in an effort to capture the hues of the sunset.

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This is a 20x zoom. I love the shape of this peak but it’s my photographic nemesis — it’s so far away that it always appears shrouded in haze.

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I like to take photos of the old, unrestored houses in Sikia because I’m afraid they’ll all be torn down some day.  I think the owner uses the top floor of this one as his beach house.

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This one, however, was nicely restored and it’s next door to the house in the previous photo.

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This ruin belonged to the last Turkish ruler in this area.  It now belongs to the Greek state.

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I’ve shot this one before but I liked the oars propped up in the middle this time.

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These trees are related to the Salt Cedar (tamarisk) tree we have in the States.   They flourish with their roots in salt water.

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That’s Mt. Ellikonas, about 13 miles away.  It had snow on it when we arrived in mid-March.

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Another “Super Vivid” photo.  Mt.  Gerania on the right.

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I shot the sunset from the old railroad bridge in back of the apartment.

I hope you enjoyed these snaps.  I had a good time shooting them.

addendum to A Trip to the Mani

I know food porn is supposed to be out now and we’re not supposed to be snapping photos of our meals but I still really like to look at food pix and I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of shots of the breakfast served to us in our room at the B&B in Aeropoli.

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We ordered tea, OJ, plain yogurt, and Mani pitas.  Those are the Mani pitas on the right.  They are simply fried dough and they are outrageous.  The two little cups of honey and the cup of marmalade are for spooning over the pitas.  Which I did — both honey and marmalade.  The orange juice had just been squeezed from local oranges.

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Oh, and we asked for fruit with our yogurt.

We skipped lunches, spend the 3 days walking around, and I still gained a pound.  Worth it.