Sunday, June 23, 2013

Monemvasia - A Singular Experience

Among the most spectacular villages to visit in all of Greece -- I know, what a set-up -- is Monemvasia. And the most spectacular methods of discovering this ancient fortification is by sea.

Fetching Monemvasia in the morning hours after an all-night sail from the Cyclades.
A closer view of Monemvasia as we passed by on the way to the harbor.
After reading this blog, click on the photos and enjoy them in more detail. One reason we went to visit this place is because it was so highly praised by our sailing friends Heidrun and Berthold. Luckily, I was dazed by the all-night sail and had forgotten what was expecting us. So coming upon this village was a splendid surprise.

This island, attached to the mainland by a causeway was
geographically destined to become a fortified city.
In the map above, you can see that our harbor provided us with a terrific view of the island while we stayed there to explore it. In days of yore, the causeway was protected by a huge fortified entrance and a drawbridge. The name Monemvasia means single entrance.

Jennifer paases unchallenged through the remaining single entrance.
Despite its seeming impenetrability, Monemvasia was occupied by the usual succession of imperialists over time. Greeks eventually had no need for its protection in the 20th Century and began to abandon it because of the difficulty in accessing it on a daily basis. After WWII, a new village was built on the mainland right by the causeway. We met a sailing couple who visited Monemvasia 20 years ago and said it was completely undeveloped and abandoned. Since then, it has been restored as a tourist destination.

The main road leading from gate to square inside the walls. Barely
wide enough for two mules to pass each other.
Inside the village walls, the alleys are narrow and much more convoluted and labyrithine than it appears from sea.

Stairs under arches. Houses built terrace style almost on top of each other.
New meets old. Both the stone and the electricity.
All the restoration is driven by tourism.
Most of the restored buildings have become hotels.
A hotel lobby inside a domed, cavernous space, surely a barn at one point.
The village sqaure.
Large parts of the lower village are still in ruins.
After exploring the alleys, tunnels, stairs, archways, and paths of the lower village, it was time to climb the stairs to the upper village. The whole plateau of the island comprised the upper village and became entirely developed. It too only had one entrance.

The switchback trail up to the upper village.
At the top, this stone road leads to the abandoned church.
Nothing more of recognizable form remains of the extensive citadel
which once capped this island.
Going down is almost more formidable than going up.
It is my wont to pontificate at this point. Perhaps ask a question about whether we all have a sole entrance to our most protected self. But I will just leave this post with a scene of the sun setting on this ancient fort.


Unknown said...

Truly a hidden treasure! Fantastic! Thanks for sharing all these wonderful pics. :)

Anonymous said...

Let me pick up your thread there:
There has never been a wall, no matter how thick or tall, that has not at some point been overcome. So the intended purpose of protection is an illusion. But the idea of there being no such thing as total protection is so scary that every time the wall is penetrated, not the use of the wall itself is questioned, but only its quality and so it is fortified more and more until you get this absurd example of a city that has protected itself so much, that it has become its own enemy. Why do people keep doing that? Because they build cities no differently than their personalities. So instead of trying to perfect our protection, we should constantly examine our walls until we see them as they are: an illusion.