Finding that piece of pureness and authenticity has become the raison d’être du jour for many. Greece is one of the last bastions of that elusive authentic lifestyle. Some of that can be experienced in one of the many islands. However, venture out the beaten path and out into the Peloponnese and you’ll realize that the islands have nothing on it. If anything, the Peloponnese soundly comes out on top on many of the main indicators. What’s more, if you travel in the shoulder season, say autumn, when temperatures are still warm (cheers, climate change!) the full spectrum of colours, sounds and smells come to life.
The Peloponnese is stacked full of quaint villages that have been lost in the midst of time. The population here is such that you rarely find other tourists wandering the hillsides and beaches. Apart from shepherds and old men playing backgammon in the village ‘kafeneion’ you’re unlikely to come across many other people.
PLACES TO VISIT
Some of the charming villages and towns have been turned into guest houses and some have been turned into wineries. Take the village of Dimitsana for instance; it is relatively large by Peloponnesian standards, but it retains every ounce of its yesteryear charm. Its stone cobbled streets and traditional stone houses mesh into the rolling slopes of Mt. Mainalos naturally. Autumn is the best time to visit, as the range of activities fan out in every direction. You could raft down the Lousios River one day and go hiking up the snowcapped peaks of foggy Mainalos the next.
The village of Stemnitsa is equally beguiling. It’s even home to one of the most storied jewelry/silversmith technical schools in Greece, thus sustaining a considerable amount of young students throughout the year.
If you want picturesque and instagrammable, then you want to be heading to the medieval town of Monemvasia on the coast. Essentially a huge fortified town that is only accessible by a causeway, Monemvasia is a photographer’s dream (Boyfriends of Instagram, rejoice!). The town has huge historical significance, too, as it was one of the first rebel strongholds during the Independence War.
Of course, history is all around you in the Peloponnese. Nowhere is that more evident than in the fabled Mycenae. The ancient city of Tirinth built inside the Cyclopean Walls is one of the most exciting places of Greek antiquity. The mechanics of the walls are no more close to being explained than that of the Parthenon or the Pyramids. How they managed to carry those gigantic boulders remains a mystery.
The Peloponnesian wine, on the other hand, is no mystery. The lid has been lifted and the secret’s out. Peloponnesian wine is back in full force (after several millennia, but hey) and its wineries are the toast of the wine world. And there to shout it from the top of the mountain is the Nemea Wine Festival. The flagship festival for the peninsula is gathering a faithful set of wine lovers. From the end of August to the 2nd of September one can sample all the several varieties accompanied by philharmonic orchestras and traditional folk song and dance.
Greece is one of the most diverse countries in Europe, and the world, by extension. You may know it by its summer name, but come Autumn Greece is a whole new ball game.