People have asked us, “What was your favorite of all the places you saw on cruise?”
It was Monemvasia!
(Well, okay, that's not counting Venice, which we’d seen before, but Venice is in its own special category.)
I loved Monemvasia! And yet, chances are very slim that we would have ever known about it, had we been doing land travel. The only reason I knew it existed before now was because of the research I did prior to the cruise. That convinced me that this would be a gem!
Monemvasia is an enchanting, car-free isle. We felt transported to a different time and place in history. As I walked by other cruise passengers in the town, I overheard more than one of them say, “I feel sorry for anyone who stayed back on the ship today!”
Arriving at Monemvasia (it means “single entrance”) we saw a modern town on the shore (behind us in the picture below), and a causeway leading from it to a gigantic upcropping – almost 1000 feet high. It’s easy to see why it’s called the “Gibraltar of the East” and also, simply, “the Rock.”
You can barely make out the ruins of the citadel atop the rock in the photo above. The real treasure (my opinion) is hidden from view on the other side, but first there’s a little walk to reach it, which is interesting in its own right.
Al almost immediately took the high road and climbed up to the citadel, while I continued along the main walking street (all the streets are walking streets) to where it ends at the Malvasia Hotel, 325 yards inside the gate of the city (or “castle,” as the city is referred to locally). Having featured this hotel in my pre-cruise blog of Monemvasia, I knew I wanted to sit on that terrace and sip a glass of Malvasia wine. Yes, it was déjà vu all over again (reference to the Kotor, Montenegro post), with Al climbing to the top of the mountain and me sitting below, drinking wine!
We both had the excitement of a couple of claps of thunder and light rain, but by the time I reached the hotel, the sun was shining. I felt bad about Al sweating away, climbing the hill, while I was sitting there enjoying some Malvasia wine and that absolutely unforgettable view, along with some fellow cruise passengers who were choosing to do the very same thing.
Well, I guess Al’s view was good too!
On the islands of Corfu and Zakynthos we learned that in earlier times, residents avoided areas close to the shore due to the fear of pirates. On Monemvasia, while the rock provided protection from land invasions, it took up almost the whole of the island, necessitating that most settlements would have to be near the water. So, for protection from pirates, the town was laid out in the most enigmatic web of narrow walkways, with occasional offshoots from which defenders of the city could lie in wait for any pirates who dared try to find their way around that island.
I turned my attention toward exploring twisty-turny cobblestone alleys that went this way and that – really, the pirates didn’t stand a chance!
There is such an architectural beauty about the place, with buildings of local stone, and roofs of ancient tile. Where exterior walls were painted, I can only assume the colors must have been pre-approved by a board with exquisitely good taste, because they all blend together so harmoniously.
It was time to go back “home” to the ship.