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Monemvasia

MONEMVASIA RISES IN THE EASTERN part of the peninsula of Laconia, twenty nautical miles from Cape Maleas and eighty-four nautical miles from Piraeus. The rock’s impressive volume expands vertically from the Laconic land. Monemvasia is attached to the mainland with a narrow strip of land and a bridge 130 meters in length (cobblestoned with a maximum width of 6 meters.) The fact that this is actually the only way to get here when approaching from the mainland is the reason behind the name Monemvasia (“moni emvasis,” meaning “single passage”.)

BY CROSSING THE GATES OF THE Castle, you enter Monemvasia. You will be enchanted by the narrow kalderimia (old stone-paved roads) that run across Monemvasia from one end to the other and you will have the feeling you stepped back in time. The castle’s architecture bears the signs of all conquerors and inhabitants throughout the course of history. The people of Byzantium, Slavs, Avars, Francs, Venetians, the representatives of the Pope, Ottoman Turks, Greeks: all were astouned by Monemvasia and all yearned to reign it. Upon entering the ‘castle’ and embarking on a stroll around Monemvasia you will come across “Romiosini’s” poet Yannis Ritsos’ house and following the byzantine kalderimi, you will reach the main square. That’s where you will find the church of Christos Elkomenos (Christ in Chains) – Monemvasia’s metropolitan church, associated with Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos, and the mosque, housing the Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia. This octagonal rotunda used to be a Muslim mosque, built during the first Ottoman rule (1540-1690). Continuing your stroll, you will come across Panaghia Hrisafittisa (Our Lady of Hrisafittisa), built during the first phase of the Ottoman rule while the temple’s foundation is associated with the transfer of Panaghia’s (i.e. Virgin Mary’s) miraculous icon from the region of Chrysafa, at Lacedaemonia. Archaeological research has reported twenty six churches located at the Lower Town of Monemvasia and four Christian monuments at the Upper Town, where the church of Aghia Sofia (Hodegitria) is of great significance for Monemvasia, an octagonal “Epirotic” style temple built during the 12th century (1149-50).

WHEN IN MONEMVASIA, try the “kaltsounia” or the “saita”, a folder-shaped crust pie with greens and herbs filling – it is served with grated cheese and fresh olive oil. Also, don’t forget to have some “goges” or “gogles”, an exquisite handmade kind of pasta (try it even with a simple hot butter sauce). You will find them in several local taverns. Monemvasia is also known for its “amygdalota” sweets (marzipan), its almond spoon sweet, its honey-covered “diples” with walnuts, as well as its local Malvasia wine.

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