It took three buses to get from Monemvasia to Areopolis – one from Monemvasia to Sparti, another from Sparti to Gythio and then one more from Gythio to Areopolis. We’d certainly got the hang of buses by this point! It was, of course, raining when we arrived in Areopolis, and we accepted a taxi from the bus station to the hotel we’d booked. Upon arrival I understood why the taxi driver had laughed at us – the hotel was all of 500m from the bus ‘station’, but in the dark and the rain [and without any map of the area or idea where the town was in relation to the bus stop] it had seemed a good idea. It’s safe to say we didn’t mind spending the probably extortionate €3 the driver asked for.
We’d splashed out a little in Areopolis, with little option, and it certainly felt different walking into somewhere fancy. To be fair, my definition of fancy is probably rather far from the average understanding. Nonetheless, it was very nice and we were pleased, as the weather was miserable and we decided we deserved a little luxury for a couple of nights. We settled in, and discovered that aside from the hotel there seemed to be only one option for food – the restaurant across the street. They did some decent chips.
Our first morning there, Mother got up early and went for a walk around town alone. I didn’t realise this until I woke up, and was more than a little worried that she’d get completely lost and be unable to find her way back. Fortunately, Areopolis is quite small and she did manage to return in time for breakfast.
After visiting the Diros Caves, we decided to further explore the town of Areopolis itself. It’s small, it’s quiet, and it takes all of about three minutes to be out of the town centre and wandering stone-littered fields. Roads end and paths begin, and paths end abruptly with no suggestion for moving forward.
The town itself is mostly constructed of old white stones, weathered by the years to have a rusty tinge to them. The signs are battered and faded, and cats curl up with stiff wet fur wherever they decide is comfortable. The streets were virtually empty. Most of the shops were closed, and the few we saw open were quiet. A grocer had crates of fruit and vegetables laid out in the street, but the shopkeeper was nowhere to be seen when we walked past. I guessed he or she was keeping warm and dry inside, and I certainly couldn’t blame them for that.
The town is home to a number of tiny churches, with fading, peeling paintings covering the walls and curved ceilings. The first was the Church of Taxiarhes, a small cradle-style church, devoid of people but still alive, with candles burning in the corners giving a warm glow to the tiny chapel. The icons painted on the walls were in deep blues and reds and golds, and the deep red curtains behind the small altar hung thick with dust. This church is on the southern side of the main square, the easiest in the village to find.
The second church we visited was a little larger, and a little further from the centre. This was the Church of Agios Ioannis, and beside the entrance to the church was a rope hanging from a brass bell. Mother very much wanted to ring the bell, however I managed to convince her otherwise. I can’t imagine the locals would have been too impressed. Inside this church had frescoes depicting the life of Jesus – not entirely surprising for a church, but the soft light and the traditional styling made it fascinating.
We had soon wandered out of town, and were walking by stone-pile fences and ancient olive trees, high stone walls and stone-dotted fields – demarcated, you guessed it, by stone fences. It’s a rocky area. Small shrines appeared here and there, some seemingly to children lost too young.
It rained intermittently, the stormy skies generally deciding to open up each time we thought it safe to put away our umbrellas. Mum climbed some of the stone walls to photograph the beautiful flowers sprouting from paddocks and in between the rocks themselves. The dark clouds and wet tracks only made for an even more spectacular landscape.
As it grew colder and wetter, we headed back towards the town. Some of the little streets were extraordinarily narrow for vehicles, and yet the existence of mirrors like these suggest that somehow cars do make it around these crazy sharp corners.
We were both astounded by the beauty of this small village, even in the dead of winter with the rain and the icy winds. It must be magnificent in the spring, with all the wildflowers blooming and the trees blossoming – and blue skies.