Thursday, June 2, 2011

DAY 7 – Monemvasia, Greece (Oceania Cruise)

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.”

Causeway to “The Rock,” Monemvasia, Greece

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.

Just over the causeway we passed the Lazareto Hotel along the way
to the walled town of Monemvasia, Greece.

A horse grazes on a plateau outside the city walls of Monemvasia, Greece

Another view along the walk toward the city walls of Monemvasia, Greece

The city walls of Monemvasia, Greece. Monemvasia means “single entrance,”
and this is it! No motorized vehicles are allowed beyond this point.

Al checks out the top of the mountain he’s about to ascend in Monemvasia, Greece.

How does this tree stay alive? It was nearly completely hollow. (Monemvasia, Greece)

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.

Vicki Scheck at the Malvasia Hotel, in Monemvasia, Greece.
(Weird effect, but I wanted to straighten the horizon without cropping the picture!)

Fellow Oceania Marina cruisers enjoy a snack at the Malvasia Hotel, Monemvasia, Greece

Terrace café of the Malvasia Hotel, Monemvasia, Greece

Well, I guess Al’s view was good too!

View of Oceania’s ship, Marina, from the citadel ruins atop Monemvasia, Greece

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.

The main shopping street in Monemvasia, Greece

One of my favorite pictures from the trip. I’m not even sure if this little girl
spoke English, but what a great pose for the camera!

Buildings climb the heights in Monemvasia, Greece

Window with lace curtains in Monemvasia, Greece 

Windstar cruise ship off-shore in Monemvasia, Greece

Monemvasia, Greece

Great tile rooftops in Monemvasia, Greece.
(Got the tip of my umbrella, sheltering the lens from sprinkles.)

Monemvasia, Greece

Shopping street in Monemvasia, Greece

Shop in Monemvasia, Greece

Outdoor café at Lazareto Hotel, on the island of Monemvasia, Greece

Lazareto Hotel in (Monemvasia, Greece)

It was time to go back “home” to the ship.

Lifeboat tender at the dock in Monemvasia.  Oceania's Marina is seen in the background.

CRUISE TIP re PORT INFORMATION: Oceania provided education about all the ports of call. Early in the cruise they had two or three optional meetings where they discussed several destinations at each. In addition, they put out a daily newsletter (placed on our bed each afternoon) in which, among other things, the next day’s destination was written up. There was also a closed-circuit TV channel on which the cruise director every morning gave detailed information about the day’s stop. So there was no shortage of information, though it was easy to get busy and not avail ourselves of all of it (of which many of us were probably guilty at one time or another).

SHIP INFO: We were amazed that we never heard our neighbors on the ship – not the neighbors on either side, above or below us. Well, to be perfectly honest, there was one fluke time when we heard a toilet flush, but that was it for 10 days. When in one’s own en suite, however, the flushing sound can be quite loud as it combines a lot of air, along with the water (much like an airplane toilet). Because of all the suction created, Al joked, “If I got my foot stuck in the toilet, you would never see me again!”  :)
We made it back to the ship in time to have high tea, a daily event from 4:00-5:00 in Marina’s Horizon Lounge at the bow of the ship. It was lovely.


  1. Thanks for the pictures and description. We're taking an Oceania cruise shortly that stops at Malvasia too. Sounds like you did this on your own. Do you know about the Oceania tours? How hard and long was the walk? Thanks again.

  2. Hello, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. The walk wasn't hard at all for me: I didn't go up to the citadel! I personally wouldn't have wanted an organized tour of Monemvasia. It was so wonderful just to "get lost" (you couldn't get very lost). I would love to see it again. Enjoy your cruise!

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