Γύθειο for the Greeks, transcript as Gythio, Gythion, Githeio, Githeion, Githion or Yithion for VT, is a 2,000 inhabitants seaside town 40 km south to Sparta, in the northeast of the Mani peninsula. So many spellings for such a small place!
In summer, it is overflowed by tourists and the population is multiplied by 10! It has nevertheless kept most of its character. However, if you can avoid the highest season, you will better enjoy drinking ouzo on one of the sea front cafeneion.
If you walk out of the sea front, into the upper part of the town, you will be amazed to find that even in the highest period of the high season, you will easily find passages where there are no visitors wandering. Of course, there is nothing fancy to visit but this is just Greece, quiet and sunny, as it has ever been !
Even in the high season, if you walk the quay towards the fishermen harbor, you will find them doing their job. On these two photos, one rather large (for Greece) fishing boat has just come back. They had at first put the net on the quay. They are now removing the sea weeds and whatever is stuck to it and wind it on the main boat, ready for a new sailing.
Though on a whole Mani is arid and lacks water, in some very limited places there is enough water and good soil to allow the growth of other trees than olive trees of oak bushes. In this narrow valley, I was amazed to find almost a forest of wild cypresses.
I found that this church was rather unusual as it has both a built in dome designed for housing its bell(s) and an outside tower obviously designed for the same purpose. I have no explanation about this “duplicate” as both seem to be in good condition.
There are about a dozen villages in Mani: Geroliménas, Kita, Mina, Vathia, Nómia, Lagia, Alika, Flomochori, Soloteri, Kokkaka, Kotronas, Porto Kagio, Marmari, Koroginianiki, Paliros, Kainourgia to mention some of them. Some are only a few houses, other are larger.
I have not identified the villages shown on all my photos but that does not really matter as they show what is the most typical of Mani villages, the tower-houses.
Soloteri or Kokkala, is a sea side village standing in the south east of Mani. The small chuch stands on a tiny peninsula named Taxiarhis. There is no real beach but the bottom of the bay is sprayed with pebbles and small stones.
Villages built on top of a hill allow to spot any intruder and possible enemy, coming from the sea (most likely in Mani) or coming from inland (most unlikely in Mani). This one might be Flomohori, on the south east coast of Mani. It stands on an ideal situation to cope with any hazard! The terraces seem to be well maintained and the olive trees must give good crops.
In Greece, I have always been amazed at how lanes are drawn! In the Alps, and everywhere else I know, mountain lanes are usually not very steep. When the slope is too steep, they climb as a winding path with several hairpins. In Greece, they climb strait! To prevent erosion from storm water, they are paved. This small hamlet seems to be inhabited as the windows have been recently painted in white but the terraces are not cultivated anymore and the walls are decaying.
This land had once man built terraces that allowed agriculture. They have been abandoned and the walls are slowly falling down.
Except in the middle of the photo where half a dozen walls are well maintained, with a wall on the right to protect from heavy winds and a small house on the right and close to one hundred bee houses!
Honey from Mani is excellent and pricy, given that the bees have so many aromatic flowers on which to collect pollen!
Threshing floors are a relatively common sight in many parts of Greece. However, few are still used. This round structure is obviously one of them but has not been used recently. Moreover, the “fields” around do not seem to have been taken care. Growing corn in Mani is a hard job and tourism is now replacing agriculture as a living for Maniots.
At first, I felt it was a small fort standing alone on top of a hill. Looking more closely, I realized that this structure was not alone but that, laying around it were the basement of completely ruined houses. The structure on top is made of a square tower and a rectangular building framed by two vaulted aisles topped by triangular frontons. That might have been a small monastery surrounded by a few houses but I have no mean to learn more about it.
This village is Pirgaros, or I should better say this hamlet is made of a single group of houses, stuck together. On top, there seems to stand the remains of a tower-house but the other houses have few openings and there even seems to be a wall around most of the group of houses.
An old Maniot lady walks on a stony path with a heavy parcel on her back. She is entirely clothed in black, with a black shawl, which means that she must be a widow. I took this photo from far away, with telephoto lens and it is not very good.
The church is small. The roof is covered with thick slabs of stones and large stones have been added to prevent them from flying away with the strong “meltem” (northern wind).
The second photo shows that it has an outside bell, hang in the front wall.