Dominating Kambos on the other side of the Village from the Greek Hovel, is a once great fortress. As you head towards Stavropoula (home to the lovely Susan Shimmin of Real Mani) it is at the top of a steep climb to your right. Naturally I am too lazy to climb up that hill so I take the easy road to Zarnata Castle, by heading through the village of Stavropoula.
As with Kambos, the tourist passing through will see modern buildings on a main road and probably speed on towards Kardamili. But as with Kambos the back streets contain some gorgeous old stone Mani houses. There are also a couple of old churches of note. At this point I got totally lost and found myself way down a dusty track but an old man gave me directions in Greek in response to the question “pu eni castro?”
Having asked the question in Greek I then tried to explain that I did not speak any Greek at all. And so he waved his hands and “catalaveno” – I understood. A few minutes later I found myself by the sort of truly hideous modern house that only the Greeks could contemplate building next to an architectural treasure. Beside it was the sort of path where you watch rather carefully where you tread. There were no signs and so I was soon off the official path and just scrambling up a hill of rocks and frigana.
But it was worth it. Zarnata was a Frankish castle during the period before the Turks failed to dominate the Mani. It would have dominated the donkey path out of Kambos towards Kardamili. Next to the castle ruins is tiny church of the same period. The views, not least of my home village of Kambos (which is included below), are splendid. This must have been a powerful fortress five hundred years ago. Today it rather resembles the Greek economy.
But as I say there it is easy to imagine what it once was. On the ground you can pick up pieces of stone, tiles and pottery. This place has not been combed by archaeologists. Nor is it troubled by tourists. It is a place to sit, touch the past and just imagine. A few shots of the castle and of the view follow…