14 Jun

A history of Sparta… The name conjures up images of a military city state that was strong, hard and unwavering. Sparta was once a prominent city-state in Ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in south east Peloponnese.

In its day, Sparta rivalled what Rome would become. A city state that politicians would wish to model their own countries on  2000 years later. Sparta was solid, unified and entirely dedicated to its own citizens.

Perhaps Sparta is most well known for its heroic battle against the Persians at Thermopylae. During the battle 300 Spartan warriors and 1000 other soldiers faced overwhelming numbers of Persian soldiers. The Persians suffered massive losses but  eventually defeated the Spartan-led army.

That battle took place over four centuries before Christ was born. It is the defeated 300 Spartans who are remembered to this day rather than the victorious Persians. Spartan boys were drafted into the army at seven years of age, so it is no wonder  that they became the world’s most disciplined and fearsome soldiers.

Spartan babies which were deemed feeble were tossed from the mountaintop. There was no room for the weak in pre-Christian Sparta.

Sparta and  was an amalgamation of five separate villages within the vicinity of the Eurotas River. Nowadays modern Sparta is built among the remains of this old civilisation. It has to be said, the excavations have failed to reveal any artefacts that truly demonstrates how revered Sparta is in antiquity.

The most eye-catching remain is a Roman theatre. It is said that the Romans admired the Spartans and  upon their occupation of Greece treated the Spartans with great respect.

Modern Sparta has some 35,000 inhabitants. You may gaze at the men and wonder if they would have been a good Spartan warrior 2,500 years ago. Sparta regularly records the hottest summer temperatures in Greece so if you have the pleasure of visiting this incredibly historical place, make sure you have your sun cream, sun hat and bottle of water.

 


 

18 Feb

It’s not been an easy beginning of the 21st century for Greece. The birthplace of civilisation, philosophy and medicine has sadly been darkened by a cloud of fiscal turmoil and debt. Although it has to be said due to Greece’s unique geography and remarkable range of micro-climates, rain clouds never hang over Greece and its islands for long.

On the contrary, Greece enjoys an enviable Mediterranean climate, its sun-kissed beaches beckoning sun-seeking tourists all year round.

And it’s not just the weather and stunning beaches that attract travellers from far and wide. Let’s not forget about Greek food. With salads dripping in olive oil and fish served the day it was caught, the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet are certainly to be found in Greece.

Let’s take Peloponnese as an example. The people of the Peloponnese like their food to be above all things, fresh. Most of the food served to you in the restaurants and bars of Peloponnese will be sourced locally. As a consequence, many of the dishes of this beautiful region of southern Greece contain olive oil, lemon, fresh fish, lamb, honey and whatever vegetables are farmed here.

Tomatoes for example grow heavy on the vine, the lashings of sunshine, making it the perfect place for tomatoes to thrive. Another favourite local ingredient is the Tsakoniki, egg -plant, a long, pale purple aubergine that has delicate white stripes running through it.

The Tsakoniki Aubergine has a wonderful flavour that does not contain the bitterness of other egg-plant varieties. Around Leonidio on the East coast there is a festival every summer to commemorate the Tsakoniki harvest.

The Mani Peninsula on the southern side of Pelopennese produces many great, natural products. With all the wild flowers in the area, it is no surprise that the honey is first class in Mani. Dough fritters fried in local high quality olive oil, drizzled with Peloponnesian honey and sprinkled with chopped walnuts and dusted with cinnamon, are a favourite local sweet. Olive oil flows like an emerald river in this part of Greece as though it were the very life blood of the population.

In the springtime and particularly at Easter the artichokes are harvested. On the Mani Peninsula they roast the artichokes with lamb during the Easter holidays. Artichokes are also braised with spinach and may be served with chicken and avgolemona, an egg and lemon sauce used as a base to many local dishes.

You can never truly replicate a local area’s cuisine when you are a thousand miles away. But if you have aspirations to cook local produce whilst staying in your Vintage Travel villa on the Peloponnese, it may be worth trying a few dishes at home before you go. The simple dough fritters may be a good starting point – utterly delicious.

 


 

18 May

When “Captain” Vassillis Constantakopolous looked long and hard at the beautiful coastline in the south western area of the Peloponnese, he vowed to put his money down on the table and turn the place into a ‘must see’ holiday.

“Captain” Vassillis Constantakopolous was one of Greece’s most prominent shipowners and luxury hotel developers who passed away in 2001. The “Captain” has been accredited with establishing Peloponnese’s popular Costa Navarino – A subtle, high-end resort, which is at harmony with the surrounding nature.

In fact, Constantakopolous stipulated that 90% of the surrounding nature must remain untouched and it has to be said that the buildings on the Costa Navarino have been built true to the Captain’s orders and blend in beautifully with the rugged countryside, which down the years has consisted mainly of olive groves.

As 6,500 olive trees were planted here, Constantakopolous instructed for the area to have its own brand of olive oil.

Cookery lovers will feel at home in this beautiful spot of Peloponnese as many cooking courses on offer, where you can pick most of the produce yourself and learn about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Other highlights include the nearby Voidokillia Beach, which is almost an impeccable circular shape with only a tiny inlet preventing it from being a perfect circle. In fact so spectacular, pristine and photogenic is Voidokillia Beach that it was voted the world’s number one beach by the New York Times.

Golf is the primary activity on Costa Navarino, which is home to several golf courses. The Dunes golf course was designed by the world famous German golfer, Bernard Langer.

Considering the reputation of Peloponnese as being the ‘Garden of Greece, it is difficult to understand why any developments for the Greek national tourism industry have taken so long to come to fruition in the region. Tourism will undoubtedly play a major part in the revival of the Greek economy and, as we have seen with the development of the Costa Navarino, tourist complexes and Mother Nature can go hand in hand.

In the sixties and seventies some hideous concrete monstrosities went up at European resorts and are likely to be regretted now, especially with a new worldly appreciation of all things environmentally friendly.

“Captain” Vassillis Constantakopolous did the right thing – Opening up a beautiful part of the world to the tourist trail without threatening its natural beauty.

 


 

18 Apr
Rio-Antirrio Bridge

The bridge which crosses the Gulf of Corinth is a true marvel of the engineering world. Built on time and within budget, the Rio-Antirrio Bridge, that connects mainland Greece to the Peloponnesian Peninsula, is a rare feat in itself nowadays.

The bridge is second in size only to the one in southern France at Milau, although this statistic is contentious due to the fact that the cable-stays on the Milau Viaduct are assisted at one point by bearings, whereas the Greek bridge is supported purely by cable stays.

So it is highly probable that the people of Greece refer to their bridge as the world’s longest bridge, a claim that is disputed by the French, who insist that their bridge in Milau, is the world’s longest.

Although it’s not just its huge span and sheer length that has caused the Rio-Antirrio Bridge to be deemed as being a true marvel in the engineering world.

Asides overcoming the inevitable engineering problems of constructing a structure with such a huge span, Rio-Antirro engineers would have had an additional battle with water. The water in the Gulf of Corinth is extremely deep and therefore building the bridge’s foundations would have been an enormously difficult task.

The bridge is also built on an area of seismic activity and unusual steps were taken on the seabed to help overcome this problem. The foundations are constructed upon levelled gravel beds which are designed to absorb the shocks and earth movements. Also the Gulf of Corinth is on tectonic plates and each side moves apart from the other at a rate of 30 mm per year. The platform part of the bridge contains many dampers and shock absorbers so it will not fail in the event of an earthquake.

The Rio-Antirrio Bridge was opened in time for the Athens Olympics in 2004. As the torch- bearers ran along its entire length, the Rio-Antirrio was testament to the architectural and structural expertise of Greece.

The bridge remains for all of Greece and its visitors to use and will constantly remind the people of Greece what great things they are capable of achieving.

 

 


 

29 Sep

Navarino Bay is one of the prime destinations on the Mediterranean – with reason. Located in the region of Messinia in the southwest of Peloponnese, this area remains one of the most unspoilt and beautiful on the Med that is steeped in a 4,500-year history.

Driven by values to ‘promote Messinia while preserving its natural beauty and heritage’ this stunning bay, which is part of the Costa Navarino, is committed to ensuring it remains unspoilt asides maintaining environmental responsibility.

The translucent lagoons of the bay are so inviting that visitors can rarely walk past without entering the water. The pristine sandy beaches that make up Navarino Bay and its enticing lagoons provide the perfect place to lie back, relax and listen to the therapeutic sound of the waves gently lapping the shore.

If you feel need some refreshments from such a pampering pastime, a great selection of waterside tavernas are waiting with a local friendliness that this region of Greece s renowned for.

If you are looking somewhere to stay in this touch of Greek utopia then look no further than the luxury villa in Peloponnese, Villa Divari (pictured).

This simply breathtaking three bedroom, two bathroom house is named after one of the lagoons of the Navarino Bay – need we say more?

Irrevocably in-keeping with the bucolic surroundings it inhabits, Divari is blessed with fertile gardens, bursting with colour and life. Similar to all of Vintage Travel’s properties, Divari has a splendid private pool, encircled by both open and covered terraces with a barbecue area, perfect for dining in a calm Peloponnese evening under the stars, watching dusk slowly cascade around the Bay of Navarino.

For additional seaside rapture, Golden Beach is just two kilometres from Divari, a 3.5 kilometre stretch that has been cited as being one of the best beaches on the Mediterranean.

Having been shaped by more than four and a half millennia, the area is naturally steeped in history and sites that would satisfy the most discerning of Greek culture vultures, such as the magnificent castles of Methonoi, Koroni and Pylos, as well as the nearby Nestor’s Cave and Palace.

With the weather refreshingly cooler and the crowds having dispersed, October can be a particularly great time to experience this exceptionally special corner of Greece.

 


 

25 Jun
Strofilia Forest

It has been cited as being a ‘land blessed by the Gods’. This densely pine populated area of intense natural beauty that separates Prokopos Lake from the Ionian Sea is known as Strofilia Forest.

Strofilia Forest and its almost mind-boggling beauty can be found in the north west of Peloponnesse, which together with Prokopos Lake and the Kotychi Lagoon, makes up a 2,200 hectare national park. Due to its outstanding beauty and ecological importance, this huge national park is protected under the Ramshar Convention and the Natura 2000 network.

Pines of practically every species can be found here, positioned blissfully next to the soft and flawless sand dunes sculptured by centuries of carving by the merciless Ionian Sea. Being a natural amalgamation of sea, sand and pine forests the Strofilia and the national park in inhabits, a diverse amount of rare and impressive wildlife can be found here, including foxes, jackals, owls, kingfishers, moorfowls, sea and land turtles.

Walks in the Strofilia are naturally outstanding. The sweet scent of cedar, thyme, myrtle, sage and pine fill the air. Paths meander through hectare after hectare of pine-laden hills and meadows and eventually descend towards the sea and those magnificent sand dunes.

A full day’s exploration of this breath-taking region of Peloponesse is thoroughly recommended, which would give you the chance to fall upon Stofilia’s third lake, the “Papa’s Lagoon”. The word ‘lagoon’ generates all sorts of beautiful and stunning images in the mind, images that if you were to visit “Papa’s Lagoon” would be likely to be surpassed by the actual beauty of the lagoon.

This lucent tarn of tranquillity and aesthetical splendour is also a haven for fish life, with eels, sea bass and gilt-headed breams darting within the water.

If you find yourself in north-western Peloponnesse you simply have to venture into the Strofilia Forest and if you do, just don’t forget to do one thing – take your camera!

 

 


 

13 Jun
Corinth canal

Greece has many famous sites, landmarks and vestiges and none more so than the Corinth Canal, which separates Peloponnese from mainland Greece, connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf.

Although the dream of having a canal that linked continental Greece with Peloponnese was a vision of Greeks more than 2000 years ago, Corinth Canal was not completed until the late 19th century.

Asides the canal that divides the large peninsula of Peloponnese with mainland Greece, there is a narrow strip of connecting land that is known as the “Isthmus”. At its narrowest point the “Isthmus” is just 4 miles wide, ironic when you consider that before the Corinth Canal was built, boats had to travel some 185 nautical miles, taking several days to complete the journey.

According to reports, it was Periander, the second tyrant of Corinth in the 7th century BC, son of the first tyrant, Cypselus, who first envisioned the Corinth Canal.

When upgrading Corinth port, Periander is said to have built a ramp across the Isthmus so that ships could have been dragged across to Peloponnese and avoid the lengthy sea route. This ramp became known as the ‘Diolkos’ and the money gained from it enabled Periander to abolish taxes in Corinth.

The Corinth Canal is almost four miles long, eight metres deep and, at its widest point, is almost 24.5 metres in width, and is still in use today. While impassable for larger vessels, the canal is used mostly by smaller ships and cruise ships. Organised cruises through the Greek islands and Istanbul take guests through the famous Corinth Canal, which remains one of such cruises highlights.


 

01 Mar

With paths meandering alongside a coastal periphery of rocky cliffs, dense woodland and meadows luxuriant with colour and life, with 1000-year old mule trails running next to gorges tumbling down into mighty rivers fringed by wild flowers and exotic plant life, and with tracks climbing magnificent mountain ranges sporting views unsurpassable almost anywhere in the world, one can safely say the region of Peloponnese is a haven for walkers.

With more than 25 years’ experience ambling across Peloponnese, the Peloponnese Walking Tour Company, known locally as Pelops Walks, is a highly experienced and Specialist Company dedicated to touring, hiking, walking and trekking in this naturally stunning region of Greece.

This well-established organisation provides both guided and self-guided Peloponnese walking tours of various durations, scales of ability and journeys.

All the walking programmes Pelops Walks provide include information and recommendations about sites of interest, best places to swim, nearby picnic spots and the best tavernas.

Most of the Peloponnese walking tours provided by Pelops Walks are on well-marked footpaths, and often follow the ‘kaldaremi’ – old cobbled mule tracks.

As Peloponnese is blessed with many rocky jagged peaks that dramatically ascend and descend creating a vivid and almost theatrical landscape, many of the walking tours are quite steep and therefore fairly demanding, often taking walkers to between 400 – 600 metres above sea level, with the highest point of all the tours being 1000 metres in altitude.

Although not all of Pelops Walks’ tours are so demanding and walkers can choose from a menu of routes of varying degrees of difficulty.

Whilst the duration of the Peloponnese walking tours vary, walkers can expect to be on the move for between three and five hours a day, although as most routes are deliberately directed through ancient hamlets, quirky villages, and past plenty of great tavernas serving delicious local cuisine, many walkers feel compelled to take some time out of their walking itinerary to discover Peloponnese’s history, architecture, culture and cuisine, at its best.

More information on Pelops Walks can be found at pelopswalks.com. You might be interested in Vintage Travel’s Luxury villas in Peloponnese too!

 


 

23 Jul

“The slight botanical variance is nothing compared to the bewildering variety of imposing ruins, situated in equally varied and beautiful scenery – massive mountains covered with low evergreen, oak and pines surround coastal valleys and loom above rocky shores and sandy beaches,” is Fodor Travel’s description of Peloponnese.

The region of Peloponnese in southern Greece invites visitors to witness ancient civilizations in the most stunning of surroundings.

We explore some of the best ancient sightseeing attractions in Peloponnese, this unspoilt region of Greece.

Mycenae

The ancient ruins of Mycenae have been described as being “one of the most distinguished archaeological sites in Greece.” This site is laden with significant ancient relics, such as a prehistoric acropolis with Cyclopean walls, tombs of the Atreides family and the tomb of King Agamemmnon. Although the most famous remain found at Mycenae is the golden Death Mask of King Agamemnon, which is now on display at the Archaeological Museum in Athens. This mythical Greek city became the setting for many a classic Greek tragedy.

Ancient Olympia

For anyone who has visited the original location of the Olympic Games, they will be sure to tell you that the feeling of standing in the ancient stadium is somewhat overwhelming. The Ancient Olympia site includes an Olympia museum, which contains some of the most remarkable artefacts and sculptures from the ancient and legendary era. Not only in Ancient Olympia a history-lovers’ paradise, but, being surrounded by intense natural beauty, anyone with a love for utopic scenery will be enchanted by this mesmerising place.

Mystras

Built in 1249 by William de Villehardouin, the remains of this Greek ghost town are as impressive as the panoramic views the castle on the top of a hill at the site, both of which are so spectacular it is hardly surprising that Mystras is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amongst the ancient cathedral, churches and palaces, nuns still live here, producing and selling beautiful and intricately-detailed embroidery.

And if you need somewhere to stay, Vintage Travel has some amazing luxury villas in Peloponnese, like the wonderful Petrino.


 

06 Aug

The Peloponnese is a huge peninsula on the southernmost tip of mainland Greece. It has a history that dates way back to the Bronze Age and is an incredibly popular destination for those of you looking for a little ancient culture. It was once the heart of Sparta and is home to a large amount of ancient ruins, some in better shape than others… but none the same, still incredibly interesting places to visit. Here is our top 5 things to do in The Peloponnese (in no particular order).

Mystras, Sparta

This is an ancient Byzantine site that is deffinately worth a visit. The adventure starts before you even get there as you’ll no doubt drive through the breathtaking gorges of the Langhada Pass, and impressive Taygetos Mountain Range – just keep your eyes on the road if you’re driving!

You’ll know when you have arrived as you’ll see the grand Fortress Gate to the upper city. Park up and give yourself a good few hours to get around the upper, mid and lower parts of this ancient city. It is literally like stepping back in time as you stumble across the stunning byzantine religious art within the abandoned churches.

Mystras, Sparta

Make sure you take some food and drink with you as facilities are limited – there is one restaurant by the Lower Gate called Xenia, which serves traditional dishes but is a little expensive.