It is a twenty five minute walk from the Greek Hovel down snake hill to the spring and up past the deserted monastery and a stretch of olive groves to the village of Kambos. But it is where my nearest neighbours live and I now know enough folks to say yassas to many of them as I bike in, although no-one other than wonderful Eleni, the taverna owner speaks any English. One of the joys of Kambos is that absolutely nothing ever happens there. Me falling off my motorbike at 3 MPH in front of Eleni’s taverna was the big news of the summer. That was until we had the murders.
The first I heard about was when I was walking back from Kambos one day having carried my strimmer into town to get it mended. Eight foot long and weighing more than a bit I was unusually sweaty when I arrived. And a bit irked as well as embarrassed when the nice man at the Garden shop – where I buy my snake repellent kit - fixed what I had thought was a terminal problem in about ten seconds.
And so I started to wander home towards the monastery, shifting the strimmer from side to side as it bit into my shoulders. I felt a bit like the fat guy in WW2 movies who is always made to carry the heavy machine gun. Why me? And then suddenly a car pulled up sharply alongside my heaving sweating body. The window rolled down and a woman with too much make up on who looked like she drank and smoke too much gabbled at me in Greek. Her driver, an unshaven man, who also looked as if he had been out on the lash the night before, stared at me. “I am sorry I do not speak Greek” I said, hoping that they understood.
The woman answered in good English “we are journalists from Athens do you know where the bodies are?” My mind flashed back to the 50th Birthday Party of Paul Raymond’s son Howard when a thoroughly hammered tabloid hackette who Howard had shagged many years previously told me with enormous pride her greatest tales of door stepping the relatives of those who had just died. She was Glenda Slag of Private Eye fame. And now I was meeting her Greek equivalent.
I directed her to wonderful Eleni who knows everything and wandered on pondering who these bodies were.
That evening I was naturally enough sitting in Eleni’s tavern and oddly enough the news (in Greek) was showing pictures of Kambos. I seems that two body builders from Kalamata had been lured into the mountains for failing to deliver 800 Euro of steroids and shot. Their bodies had been dumped over an old bridge across a ravine a few miles outside of town.
The murderers were a young man from Kalamata and his mate from Kambos. Indeed the mate lived two doors down from Eleni’s and no doubt I had brushed past him on many occasions.
Since you need to show your passport to get a mobile phone in Greece and since the Government shows an efficiency not normally associated with Greece in tracking all calls it had taken the Police only a few hours to check the last texts received by the dead men and to arrest the assailants. The murderers were generally agreed not to be the brightest sparks in the Universe had left their bloodied clothes in the garbage waiting for the dustmen. They did not cover their tracks well and had quickly ‘fessed up to their crimes.
In the old days of the Mani a boy when born was known as “ a gun” because by the time he was 12 he was able to fight in the blood feuds that dominated this region. The only time blood feuds were halted was when the Maniots joined together to fight someone they hated even more than their neighbours, that is to say the evil Turks.
In a sense the gun culture survives but only for hunting and just in case the Turks try it on again. I am considered a little eccentric in that I do not own one. Yet. More or less everybody else has one and often two in case of emergencies. That is normal. But the murderer from Kambos appeared to own twenty guns. It is generally agreed that this was a sign that he was not quite “all there.”
Guns do not kill people. People kill people. Here in the Mani murders are incredibly rare. Until a few weeks ago, Kambos has not seen a violent death since the Civil war in the 1940s. Robberies are also very rare in truly Greek villages since if you break into a house owned by a Greek you might get shot. If you are a member of the burgling community – or as they call them here, an Albanian – you rob a summer home owned by a Northern European in somewhere like Stoupa as they will be richer than a Greek and will not own a gun.
After about a day the excitement died down. We do not speak about the incident in Kambos. For all the bloody history of this region the folks here are rather embarrassed that one of their own has gone so badly off the rails, has got mixed up in drugs and murder and will not be leaving prison until he is an old man. I suppose when the trial happens folks will talk again but generally it is something the people want to forget.
Snakes aside, I have never felt safer or more secure than I do here. Kambos is a haven where folks look after each other and look out for each other. The double murder does not change that.