54 days ago
If you fancy a holiday in the Greek countryside, two miles from the nearest house in a luxurious poolside villa, I think I can help you. The Eco palace we have restored in the Mani will be 100 years oold this year andhas, as you can see below, been completely renovated. The pool will be warm by May and will stay warm until late October so the smart holidaymaker still has six weeks of off peak bookings available and here are direct flights to Kalamata throughout that period.
182 days ago
It was the arrival of Thomas, opening a new restaurant in what was the old hardware store that changed the dynamics of the Square in our local village of Kambos. Thomas had trained in Britain and his grandmother was Miranda, of Mirands’s fame. His restaurant was one too many for Kambos, not a tourist destination but a village on the road to places such as Kardamili and Stoupa, to bear. What was Miranda’s is now on its fourth ownership in three years.
190 days ago
Yesterday I lamented how my 250 olive trees needed a drink as it had not rained all month . As it happens it almost never rains here in the Mani in August but I am sure that the lack of rain will be attributed to global warming by the BBC’s Verify unit. On Friday, God provided a brief shower and we said thanks. Today… wow.
318 days ago
The first guests are completing their stay at the Hovel today and are gushing with enthusiasm. Then after a week’s break the next ones are due and from then it is pretty fully booked up until late September. The pool will be warm by May and will stay warm until late October so the smart holidaymaker still has six weeks of off peak bookings available and here are direct flights to Kalamata throughout that period.
353 days ago
Next year we must do something special as the Greek Hovel will be 100 years old. Maybe I shall build a stone wall as an add on up by the house. I shall consider my options. This year, between the start of April and the end of October, the place will be busy.
386 days ago
Another day and another booking. There are now just two weeks between late May and late September NOT now booked out at the Greek Hovel. The pool is open in both may and October and it is easily warm anough to swim so those cheap off peak bookings are the smart ones. But if you want the height of summer there are now just two weeks in July when the house is not used which given how lovely it is, is a crime in itself. I am off myself in a few weeks to complete the final upgrade to the road up to the hovel and to install a third lavatory. I lead a glamorous life.
404 days ago
Having restored a hovel which will be 100 years old next year into a quite amazing eco palace I’d want to live there all year round. But my young wife has a career in Airstrip One and so wer must all stay here. And so when we are not in the Mani peninsular in Sourthern Greece, the eco palace is now avaiallable to rent. The pool season is May 1 to October 31 and the nearest airport (Kalamata) is open for direct flights from the UK April to the end of October. It is less than an hour away. If you like crowds and noise this is not for you.
505 days ago
The last guests of the year arrive at the Greek Hovel today. It is October but the sun has kept the pool warm and it stays open until the end of the month. Then it shuts down until April. But you can still swim in the sea in November and it will be a lot warmer than Whitby in August. In fact, the best time to visit Greece is about now. For starters, everything from air flights to hotels (and hovels) are so much cheaper.
651 days ago
The Greek Hovel is now, after eight years, complete. No longer a hovel, it is a luxury eco palace, with a pool operational from early June to the end of September, a massive library and all mod cons. The thick stone walls keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you fancy some splendid isolation in the Paddy Leigh Fermor land of the Mani, it is the place to be. And it is now available for rent, as you can see below.
655 days ago
The Greek Hovel is now, after eight years, complete. No longer a hovel it is a luxury eco palace with a pool operational from early June until the end of September, a massive library and all mod cons. The thick stone walls keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you fancy splendid isolation in the Paddy Leigh Fermor land of the Mani, it is the place to be. And it is now available for rent as you can see below.
684 days ago
The sea might look tempting as the sun beats down, but I can assure you that, here in the Mani, it is still mighty “refreshing”. That is to say, cold. It will not heat up to a point where I would dip my toes in the water. However…
687 days ago
When he was alive, this was an annual ritual. Now Christopher Booker is in a better place, there is no reason for this to stop. The photo is of climate change, or rather, the lack of it, here in Southern Greece.
804 days ago
My late uncle Chris loved the Mani having been there on his first honeymoon and later with his family. Every year, when I arrived for olive harvesting we’d have a chat about matters including the state of the global warming. As you can see on the two photos below, if you look carefully up into the high taygettos you can see that the first snows have already fallen. In a year when the hottest summer in Greece since 1987 was wheeled out by the BBC and others as evidence of man made climate change, more global warming seems to have fallen at this stage then it has for several years.
934 days ago
Few, other than the locals, ever venture beyond the restaurant lined square beside the main road that winds through Kambos. Perhaps it is the damning words of Paddy Leigh Fermor in “The Mani” dismissing this as an ugly and boring place that spurs them on, rushing to the tourist infest hell hole that is Stoupa or Islington-on-Sea, aka Kardamili. They miss out for doing so.
939 days ago
You will, no doubt, have seen the reports of huge forest fires hitting southern and central Greece and might just have wondered if the hovel has yet been affected. Yes and No.It is okay, its occupants are a bit jittery.
1155 days ago
The hereditary TV presenter Dan Snow, aka thehistoryguy, claimed yesterday that the EU had brought peace to Europe and Brexit threatened it. So nothing to do with NATO and the American defensive shield then? And what about the genocide at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war when EU peacekeeping troops stood idly by as 8,000 folks were massacred? Snow was talking nonsense as many of us pointed out. But rallying to his defence was my good friend, the arch Euro loon Jonathan Price, who insisted that the EU had ended war in Europe since all the previous wars were started by either France or Germany. Like the hereditary TV presenter, I fear that even Bath Spa would fail that answer.
1296 days ago
You might just remember that at the time of the last olive harvest, the great Greek smoking ban, driven by the EU, came into play. Reactions were mixed. In Miranda’s, there was a robust defiance and the air was full of nicotine, even when the Old Bill arrived to “nobble” my friend Vangelis. In the Kourounis taverna, Eleni was strict and ashtrays were allowed only outside.
1308 days ago
No not a reference to the former vocation of my Mancunian pal Dan. Instead the start of our trip to the Greek Hovel. The Mrs had booked a 7.45 AM flight which meant a 4.30 AM departure from the Welsh Hovel. The Mrs had an early night, I decided to stay up accompanied by Bradley Walsh, Suzanne Jones, John Thaw and David Suchet and to try and do a bit of work. I reckoned I’d catch up on my sleep on the flight. No-one had told me I was sitting next to Joshua.
1914 days ago
Yes I am a rabid Brexiteer. I want the country where, regrettably, I spend most of the year to be free to make its own laws, set its own taxes, control its own waters and chart its own destiny. I have faith that Britain can do that. Yet for sneering metropolitan elitists like the twit who tweeted me last night, as you can see below, that is incompatible with liking your fellow Europeans. Au contraire..
2001 days ago
Lovely Eleni was the first person the Mrs and I met in Kambos, the village closest, bit not close, to the Greek Hovel. We had landed at Athens at 4 AM and were driving to the Mani before we had even seen the Greek Hovel or thought of the idea. We stopped off at this taverna in a village whose name we did not know and asked if there was anything they could create for breakfast.
2006 days ago
So on Sunday as the Mrs sought a few hours to catch up on her important work, Joshua and I set off exploring with my young son on my back. Part two, the climb to Zarnata castle, I have already recorded HERE. part one was to head off around the back streets of Kambos and the pictures pain a mixed picture as you can see below.
2019 days ago
And so daughter Olaf has survived her first night at the Greek Hovel. She slept in the Rat Room, I slept in the Bat Room. She is even using the eco-loo without complaint. Meanwhile building work continues at pace as you can see below.
2027 days ago
If you head to a seaside settlement in the Mani right now whether it be Islington-sur-Mer (kardamili) or the Costa-del-Stoupa they will be packed with people. Head there in the winter and they are semi-deserted. Up here in the lower reaches of the Taygetos mountains, in unfashionable old Kambos, the population barely changes throughout the year. The faces I see when harvesting olives in November are, essentially, those I see now in the burning heat of August.
2059 days ago
My 32 mile walk for Woodlarks with my fellow rogue blogger, Brokerman Dan, is now just two weeks away and I am conscious that most of my training has been on the flat. What better way to prepare for the Surrey hills than to walk up a Greek mountain in the burning summer heat? And so at 8.30 AM off I set....
2088 days ago
The headline really does reflect the photos so if you are squeamish do not look any further. This trio of pictorial horrors arrived this morning in an email from George the Architect. Chief builder Gregori the snake killer has been at work.
Most snakes of this type of adder, the most poisonous of the nine Greek species that are poisonous, are 20-30 centimetres long. This one was forty centimetres in length. You may wonder what it is hanging out of its mouth…
2114 days ago
Daughter Olaf has agreed to join me at the Greek Hovel in late August but only after making detailed enquiries about sanitation. As you can seem the bat room now has a ceiling, a door to keep out the snakes and a shower! What more could a young Lady want? I shall be in The Mani by next weekend so more photos soon.
2129 days ago
As you can see there is real progress at the Greek Hovel. The new extension is now up to two floors and in the bat room the walls are plastered and the floor installed. All we need now is the shower, eco-loo, sink and a bed and I am off. I hope to be in the Mani within two and a bit weeks and at this rate I might actually be sleeping on site.
2161 days ago
As you can see below, the Greek hovel sits beneath blue skies and te sun is shining in the taygetos mountains of the Mani. And real progress is being made. The first photos are of the bat room where a new floor is being laid and which will be ready for habitation by the Greek Easter in two weeks time. Elswhere you can see that the lengthward extension of the rat room is complete and the new wing which will help to double the size of the hovel is now being built up to above the first floor. Real progress is being made, as the hovel becomes an eco-palace.
2176 days ago
George the Architect has been in touch with an update on progress at the Greek Hovel and, as you can below, see there really has been progress. The rat room extension walls are underway and the new wing of the house which will double the floor space is now also starting to take shape. George says the door to the bat room is on its way and it will be habitable within two weeks. The rest of the hovel is still on track to be finished by September, after just 51 months!
2283 days ago
I realise that it is colder in the UK than here in this part of Greece, the Mani is the most Southern part of the mainland. But to those who keep saying that I hope I am enjoying the sun here are a few photos from Kalamata this afternoon.
2289 days ago
If I was Byron, seperated from Hobhouse at Zitsa, i would be dashing off some verse after last night. But I'm not. i sit alone in my Kalamta hotel looking out at roads that look like the infamous Japanese Grand Prix where Lauda retired gifting James Hunt the world championship. It all started last night with loud bangs which I worried might be a bomb or a ship crashing into the harbour next to the hotel.
2294 days ago
It is, perhaps, my favourite "office." Sitting in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos I tap away happily. Lovely Eleni keeps the coffee coming and every now and again I look up to watch the world go by, oh so slowly, on the main street in Kambos,, the village closest to the Greek Hovel.
2364 days ago
I have written many times about my Great Uncle David Cochrane who, in 1931, died falling down the mountain now named after him, opposite Delphi in Greece. He was at the time a student at Trinity College Oxford. As my father seeks to de-clutter his house a few paintings have been offered to his children and step children and feeling a stronger Cochrane link than most I took these two below.
2382 days ago
It is the 50th birthday party of the sister of the Mrs today. The sister in law is married to a bubble and we are staying in their house in his family village about 90 minutes the other side of Kalamata from the Mani. The party is on a boat so Joshua is not invited and I am showing solidarity with my 11 month old son and we are going on a road trip together.
2447 days ago
I was driving on the road that heads up into the mountains heading from Kalamata to Kambos. Of course it does not end in Kambos, the nearest village the Greek Hovel. Kambos is just a settlement, of no particular historical significance, beauty or importance, sitting on the road as one heads to Kardamili, the ghastly tourist fleshpot of Stoupa or the regional capital Areopolis. But Kambos is as far as I usually go.
2453 days ago
After quizzing George the architect, it appears that it is just one of my neighbours who is asking for 900 Euro compensation for chopping off branches on his olive trees to make way for the heavy machinery needed to renovate the Greek Hovel. In fact it is even better than that...
2468 days ago
I headed pretty much straight from Kalamata airport up to Kambos for a Greek salad at the Korounis taverna. As i wandered in a couple of old men whose names I do not know raised their hands and said "Yas." Everyone in the village knows about the snake-phobic Englishman who lives surrounded by snakes up in the hills at Toumbia. After that it was up to the snakefields and the Greek Hovel where Gregori and his gang of Greek Albanians have really started to transform the place as you can see below.
2484 days ago
There are two hardware stores in the village of Kambos (pop 537 including me) providing everything that we peasant farmers need: poisons, fertilisers, tools, plants. You name it we can buy it here. There is one store on the Square where Miranda's and lovely Eleni's Kourounis taverna provide two of the other borders. It has suffered a grave misfortune.
2496 days ago
So I find myself in London for two days. The reason I am here is surreal and I shall tell you all about it when I am allowed to. I lived in this City for about twenty years. I suppose I was younger then and its attractions were of interest to me at that point in my life: places to drink, lots of single women, a chance of to make money. I can't say that I am interested in any of the above right now and in fact London fills me with dread and horror and I do all that I can to avoid it.
2512 days ago
As one heads down the Mani towards Kardamili, the village one on from Kambos is Stavropigio. It has just a few more Brits than Kambos as it is, objectively, a bit prettier. I am thus happy to stay in plain old Kambos. As one leaves our neighbouring village a small turning off the main road to the right is the old road to Kardamili. There is now no practical reason at all to use this road and more or less no-one does.
2514 days ago
When my Uncle Chris went on his first of his many honeymoons it was to the Mani where the Greek Hovel stands. Back in the early swinging sixties it took him more than a day to get here from Athens. That has all changed. There is a super fast Motorway linking the capital to this part of the world. But for as long as I can remember it has stopped just short of Kalamata adding another 20% to your travel time as you are forced to wind your way through suburbs and back streets. Yesterday I discovered that this has all changed.
2574 days ago
Having visited murder gorge yesterday I showed my photos of the old bridge to the folks in the Kourounis taverna in Kambos and with lovely Eleni translating I asked just how old the stone structure below actually is?
2574 days ago
I hope the picture below conveys the sheer beauty of the taygetos mountains which tower above the Greek Hovel. I caught this shot of the snow capped peaks as I headed up for a spot of olive tree pruning earlier this afternoon.
2575 days ago
You may remember that, some three years ago, one of my fellow residents of the Greek village of Kambos hooked up with a pal in Kalamata to murder two drug dealing body builders. I have viewed it as rather indelicate to enquire as to what has happened since but it was a clear cut case. The bodies were dumped from an old bridge that crosses the deep gorge on the road back towards Kalamata.
2575 days ago
Yesterday I served up a picture of the snow capped mountains of the Northern Peloponnese to show that it is not just in the far North of Greece that global warming falls each year. I am now in the Southern Peloponnese, in fact the Mani, where the Greek Hovel is located, is the most southerly part of mainland Greece. And guess what?
2577 days ago
There will be no bearcast today as I am fully engaged on Vlach hunting in the Pindus mountains. One tearful reunion is complete but the big one will happen soon. The internet is not fast enough to transmit back to the UK from the little village of Anelion but I shall try to post a podcast tomorrow before I travel the length of Greece down to the Mani. Pro tem I guess you were wondering if Cloudtag (CTAG) CEO Amit Ben Haim has got any balls.
2594 days ago
2017 starts off, following the theme of the second half of 2016. It is another related party obituary from the rapidly thinning ranks of my father's generation. They are now the front line. I stand in the second. There is still one Great Aunt who stands in front of my father's peers but she stands alone, her line has all gone.
2643 days ago
Arriving at the Greek Hovel this morning it was damp underfoot. There had been overnight rain and the puddles in the dry river are growing and threatening to link up to form a vibrant stream, but the skies looked clear enough. I wandered down to the other side of the ruin, the lair of the snake, to trees that have gone from zeros to heros in the space of a year. George the Albanian was hard at work as was one of his women. But only one. Hell's teeth: what could have gone wrong?
2647 days ago
You find me sitting in the Kourounis taverna of lovely Eleni in my Greek "home village" of Kambos. Idle bastard, I hear you say, it is only 9.30 AM Greek time why isn't the slacker off harvesting olives. Au contraire mes amis, I have completed my second day of harvesting without injuries and honour intact. The truth is that rain (vreki) has stopped play for all of us hardworking labourers.
Almost from the moment I arrived I could hear the thunder claps.
2800 days ago
Back in the UK I sit at my desk looking out on a quiet surburban road. It is all very different to the view from the rough table at which I write at the Greek Hovel. I see people, cars and neat brick walls rather than olive trees, sheep, the abandoned monastery and the wild of the Mani countryside. Here in Bristol, I also spot in a magazine rack next to my desk a copy of Grazia magazine.
2825 days ago
I have written before about the war hero and writer Paddy Leigh Fermor. He was an all round superhero and also Mr Mani, not just for writing the book "Mani" but because he built his house here in Kardamili. There are plans to turn it into some sort of writers retreat. Those who have seen the Before Sunset trilogy with the lovely Julie Dlspy will know Paddy's house well from the final film set here in Kardamili, Before Midnight. The scene below sees Paddy ( played by an actor not the man himself) holding court.
2843 days ago
Everyone here in Kambos, the little Mani village in which I am resident, is agreed. Our trees are drowning in flowers and come late November we are going to have a great olive harvest. As is our way in this part of Greece will turn our olives into oil and we will have simply vast amounts to sell and so all the talk is of who we can get to promote our olive oil to help rescue the village from austerity. I know what we need.
Can anyone think of a celebrity who is well known for using vast amounts of olive oil? Preferably we would want a good family man or woman, known for their single minded commitment and integrity and who might perhaps help promote alternative uses for our oil? Can anyone think of a suitable person?
2846 days ago
War hero, author, all round superhero Paddy Leigh Fermor lived down the road from where I am in the Mani and is the man who made this area famous with his book "The Mani". Today in my email in box I receive a copy of issue 5 of The Philhellene, the newsletter of the Paddy Leigh Fermor Society and there is an article in it by Tom Winnifrith - not me but my father. Just to prove that one member of the family can write properly and without swearing here you are...
2854 days ago
Since most of us visit Greece only at the height of summer, the pictures we have in our mind are of a country with grass burned brown by days of seemingly endless sunshine. But as we move into mid may the land around the Greek Hovel here in the Mani is almost Alpine, a lush green dotted with the pinks, whites, yellows and purples of a sea of flowers.
2996 days ago
For most of my early December stay in Greece I was wearing a T-shirt all day although at night I needed a sweat shirt and coat as the temperatures plunged towards zero. But on the penultimate day it started to rain heavily both in Kalamata, where I was staying, and up in the village of Kambos in the foothills of the Taegessus Mountains. The photos below show what happened next.
Photo one is of an orange tree just off the main street in Kambos. As we worked in the fields picking olives in quite warm weather oranges were handed out by my friend George. They are just ripening for picking now.
The next two photos are from the Greek Hovel another 50 metres or so higher up into the Teagessus and three miles away from Kambos. Those who have seen the hovel in the summer will associate it with grass burned brown by hot sun. But, as you can see, it is now a lush green - this is the view looking back along the drive. The rains of October and November have left the place looking very much alive. The second photo
2998 days ago
If you do not speak Greek you might just struggle with this. It would be all Greek to you. But this card is for the folks in the small village of Kambos in the Mani, Greece, the nearest settlement to where the Mrs has a property needing, er, one or two repairs. And so from both Tom Winnifrith's here is a few words for Christmas.
3012 days ago
In the summer, notwithstanding the little issues that Greece faces, Kalamata is bustling. Getting a hotel by the seafront can be something of a challenge. The beaches are packed and the restaurants bustling. God knows why. The regional capital is not exactly what you'd call pretty. For me it is where the Airport is before I head out to the joys of the Mani.
In winter it all changes in Kalamata. There is still the odd hardy soul who one sees venturing into the sea. I suppose its probably warmer than Whitby in summer but rather them than me. The hotels are mostly empty and I am paying less than 40 quid a night including breakfast to stay at one of the best places in town.
The seafront restaurants are shut for the winter. I dont particularly like them in summer
3156 days ago
A bit of a difference this week as I explain the numerous reasons to book a holiday in Greece in 2015. I am serious. I then take you through two or three suggested trips which are not mainstream but offer you Greece with a difference. There is a Northern trip taking in Albania, Meteora, Arta and one entrance to the underworld. And a trip in the South taking in Napfio, Mycenae, Corinth, Delphi, Olympia and the mani. I neglected to say that the main entrance to Hades is at the foot of the Mani. And there is an offbeat island near Athens I recommend - Agistri. This is the year to see Greece on the cheap and there is so much to enjoy.
3162 days ago
It came as rather a shock earlier this year: I owed the electricity company 975 Euro for the Greek hovel she owns in the Mani region. In May the Mrs and I headed into Kalamata with our friend George the architect and established that in fact we owed 20 Euro. The former owner of the hovel, a witch called Athena, had not paid for three years and owed 955 Euro.
The electricity company should, of course, have cut her off but this is Greece and it did not. She had also not been cut off by the water despite not paying for two years but we had already forced her to pay that tab.
We paid our twenty Euro and the electricity company contacted Athena. She lied, cast some spell over the electricity folk and so we were told we would get cut off. Dam it. It is only 955 Euro, I do not wish to get cut off and I just never want to have to deal with Athena again.
My hero, Paddy Leigh Fermor famously noted in his book “The Mani” that nearly every Greek is generous, honest and hospitable in a way unmatched anywhere else. But just now and again you meet a total bastard who just serves as a reminder as to how wonderful his or her compatriots are. Athena is just such a bastard.
3224 days ago
A relatively brief Bearcast today for reasons that I explain in full. But I do cover why Coms needs to fess up on a number of matters NOW and what happens tomorrow in the General Election. I should be up and running by 8.30 AM GMT from The Mani in Greece and will be writing and bearcasting from there for the next month.
3283 days ago
I used to use AutoUnion at Athens airport but for some reason switched to Europcar a couple of years ago. It is very cheap and they pick you up at the airport and take you to a compound in the middle of nowhere. And they let you drive away however hammered you may be so all in all it seems like a fair deal. The drawback? The compound is in the middle of nowhere so when you try to return the car you have to allow an hour for getting lost.
Natch when I picked the car up on my last trip to the Greek hovel it had a few scratches but I did not care. It was 4.15 AM and I wanted to get through Athens and off to the Mani before rush hour. Anyhow it was snowing and I was not going to hang around freezing my nuts off arguing about the odd scratch.
Wind forward 12 days and I returned the car and having duly spent an hour getting lost was getting a little flustered about checking in. The man looked at the car and detected some small new scratches in four places. Driving up to the Greek hovel you go through bushes and other fauna and so I imagined he’d get a spray can and fill in the small scratches.
That will be an extra 400 Euro said the man. I should charge you 480 Euro, 120 Euro to respray each panel but I can offer you a bulk discount. WTF!
3289 days ago
The man at the hardware store in Kambos said there was no need to buy snake repellent canisters as they will not wake up till June and I’m back in May. I am not so sure about that as I distinctly remember meeting a snake on what is known as the snake veranda on my first visit to the hovel in April. But I did not argue, I said efharisto and shook his hand warmly.
3290 days ago
I was meaning to devote this postcard to what a banana republic the UK is becoming but Nigel Somerville writes about that well enough on ShareProphets HERE and so instead I discuss my drive into the clouds of the high Taygetus of the Mani and bring you a few photos. Of the Church where I said thanks having almost driven off a cliff next door, of the past (a monastery) and of the future, the ghost village. I reflect on why there will be more places like that going forward.
3292 days ago
From morning through to night you can hear gunfire everywhere in the Mani right now. Yes it is the Albanian hunting season. Only kidding. What the folks shoot are little birds – anything with wings. In the old days Thrush was considered a delicacy and at least some of the carnage was eaten. These days the dead birds are just left to rot. This is all done in the name of “fun”
The area around the Greek Hovel is deemed a good killing field and so
3297 days ago
Not only is it freezing cold but it is pissing it down in the Mani today. So in a rather cowardly fashion I have extended my stay in my nice warm hotel in Kalamata rather than catching pneumonia at the Greek Hovel. But I have popped over to make sure that I can work online here as tomorrow I am multi-tasking: writing and burning frigana. But boy is it wet.
Photo one is of a puddle – one of many I drove through – this one is at the bottom of the valley.
The next two photos look upstream and downstream at the dry river. As you can see it is not so dry and is now starting to flow across the track. Heaven knows what it will be like by tomorrow.
3297 days ago
I am greatly confused. I record from the Greek Hovel and the noise outside is a storm blowing. There is a large statue in the centre of Kambos. Tonight we celebrate the start of lent. Is it no more meat or the start of cheese week? Why dont we have paper phalluses in the Mani? I try to explain all.
3358 days ago
You may well say that this is largely all Greek to you..,a video message from my dad and I to the folk in Kambos the village in the Mani where the Greek Hovel is located.
3377 days ago
The river bed, at the bottom of the valley between the deserted monastery/convent and the start of the climb up snake hill to the Greek Hovel, sits dry all summer. It is parched and it is hard to think that it ever sees water. Even as I arrived in Kambos two weeks ago it was dry as a bone. Puddles formed on the track but the river bed was like dust. That all changed with the storm.
The ford is a ford for a good reason. The ground had been raised with concrete and across it the water was perhaps only an inch deep. Pas de problem for my magnificent motorbike.
But looking upstream the water was rather deeper,
3381 days ago
You think Greeks are lazy. That is because all you see is folks in Athens sipping coffees all day. Out here in the Mani life is hard and folks do both a main job but also work the land. So my pal Vangelis is a delivery driver for Dixons but has – I think – 600 olive trees. Nikko and Eleni at the Kourounis taverna also own trees up near the Greek Hovel – they start their harvest tomorrow. And so do I!
The lovely Eleni has put me in touch with a new group of workers. Another chap called Foti, George and his son. I met up again with George today and we start on the olive harvest at 8 AM. So no ouzo for me tonight. To give you an idea of what lies in store for me here are some photos I took last week of a man harvesting trees on the road/track up to the Greek Hovel, just above snake hill. It seems to me that it looks like rather hard work.
3444 days ago
I preface this all with some comments of Paddy Leigh Fermor in his book the Mani. Paddy has just been ripped off by a mule owner who had acted like a total bastard. Paddy reflects that this happens just now and again in Greece but is made all the more memorable because 99% of the time the hospitality of the people of Greece, their honesty and generosity is unmatched. Paddy puts it rather more eloquently but is correct. And with that preface…
The Mrs decided that during her stay with me this summer we should take some time out from the Greek hovel and enjoy a bit of luxury in Kardamili. We could not leave my guest alone at the hovel with the snakes and so she was booked into one hotel in the centre of town while the Mrs and I stayed at a wonderful place the Meletsina Village at the far end of the beach road which leads away north from the town
I cannot speak too highly of the Canadian Greek family who ran our place. It was there that Julie Despy and Ethan Hawke had stayed while filming “Before Midnight” in the town and it gets a thumbs up on all counts.
My guest was not so lucky. On the first night in town she took her laptop out to work in a restaurant and was promptly followed back to where she was staying, the Papanestoras Apartments run by the loathsome Valia Papanestoros.
After waiting for her to start snoring (which she does), those who had followed her entered her room – she had unwisely not locked her door – and stole her computer and wallet (later retrieved minus 70 euro in cash).
By 5 AM my guest was reporting this to Kardamili police who at once pointed the finger at their usual suspects…Albanians. Whilst this might seem a bit unfair I am afraid that 99% of burglaries in the Mani happen in the tourist towns and are indeed perpetrated by Albanian criminal gangs. In the non-tourist villages, burglaries are less common as the Maniots have less to steal and will have guns with which they will shoot you.
In the days that followed my guest, understandably felt angry – having lost much of the book she was writing – and violated. I wish I could say that the Old Bill bust a gut for her but I cannot.
At first the owner of the hotel was sympathetic and said that my guest could leave early and pay only for the days she had stayed. My guest took her up on that and flew back to London but because the hotel had no working credit card machine had to assure her that I would pay her in cash.
And so just a few hours after my guest left, I heard a loud knock and opened the door of my hotel room. The Mrs was sunning herself on the beach. Standing in front of me was the hotelier and an enormous and menacing looking man.
3448 days ago
Back in the 1960s my uncle visited the Mani on his first honeymoon. Oddly he and his wife were joined by another couple and within months his wife had run off with the other man. That is an aside. It took my uncle more than two days to get from Athens to the Mani so remote and cut off was the region.
Here in Kambos the dirt track to Kardamili became a road back in 1965 (two years after that fateful honeymoon), roads south from there were built later. The man who brought this peninsular to the attention of the wider world was Paddy Leigh Fermor, a truly amazing man once described as a mixture of Indiana Jones, James Bond and Gerald Durrell.
Though incredibly clever, Paddy was no academic and so after being expelled from school (issues with a young lady) in 1933 he walked through Europe to Greece. Along the way he noticed that something was not quite right in Germany. When war broken out he signed up immediately and was sent into Greece since he spoke the language fluently. His most heroic exploit was in Crete where – with the partisans – he captured a German general on the North of the island and transported him across Crete to the South where he was lifted off by British Destroyer. The film, based on the episode, has Leigh Fermor played by Dirk Bogarde
In the war Paddy’s code name was Michalis. After the war he stayed on in Greece fighting with the Royalists in the Civil war. He refers to this in his two classic books on Greece
3466 days ago
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.
3468 days ago
The Mrs is back in Bristol already sending me photos of our cats Oakley (three legs) and Tara (four) who she is no doubt hugging to death and spoiling quite outrageously. I am sure that I shall do the same when I head back in a few weeks’ time.
I was delighted when the Mrs was here but it had two drawbacks. Without her I have slipped once again into my no alcohol and one or two Greek salads a day diet. With her I was drinking and eating rather more. And so my weight loss was arrested, in fact reversed a bit. Now I am in overdrive as I have just over three weeks to finish the frigana cutting and so am upping my manual labour rate accordingly.
The other drawback is that whilst my commercial writings (shares) continued almost every day, with the Mrs here I have no time for my personal writings. I enjoy my musings on life at The Greek Hovel far more than financial writing but know that those articles don’t pay the bills. And so I have an awful lot to catch up including two murders in our village of Kambos and my own detention at Kardimili police station. And
3473 days ago
As one leaves the small Mani town of Kardamili the road starts to climb steeply. On the edge of town there are a couple of fish restaurants, some slightly newer housing including the house that Paddy Leigh Fermor built for himself. My family stayed there once as my father knew Paddy – it just happened that this was the one family break to Greece that I did not go on.
Paddy left his house to the Greek State to turn into some sort of writing school. You would have thought that after a lifetime here he would have known better. It is slowly decaying, neglected by a State that, although bankrupt, can still afford to give anyone with a couple of olive trees an annual grant of 500 Euro.
The first of the fish restaurants as one heads up the hill is the favourite of the Mrs and I. The food is great, the wine flows, the waiters are friendly and efficient and the view over the cove below is magnificent.
On one side of the cove is a small working harbour used by fisherman. At night you can see the lights on the boats as they chug slowly home. A jetty provides a breakwater for the waves although nothing much happens o it other than bridal parties posing for photos. At the far end of the cove is a concrete jetty which is totally empty. If you have seen the film Before Midnight the final scene was filmed there as it became a seaside bar for just one night.
And so the other day we wandered down to the cove along a small road with not a human in sight.
3500 days ago
I am very proud of myself. Not only have I constructed an eco-loo but I have been uber- environmentally friendly in using 80% recycled materials. For a man who came 127 out of 127 with 27% in the U4 Warwick School woodwork exam I think I have done well.
The box case is an old trunk. I took off the top with my early Christmas present to myself (an electric screwdriver) and cut a piece of hardboard (not recycled into shape). That was then reattached to the hinges and thus to the chest.
The bucket is kept in place
3504 days ago
There are different forms of guilt that I feel as I sit in the Greek Hovel. The worst is as I peer outside and see the sun shining on a glorious day. Yet I will be heading back inside soon to finish another article on shares, on Quindell or whatever.
In side of me something associate sun and the smell of a Greek hillside with holidays. What on earth am I doing spending holiday time hammering away at my PC? The Mrs makes that point every time we go on holiday and it is a fair one.
I have not fully made the mental leap that this is not a holiday. The Mrs has bought a house which is one of our two homes. The nature of my work means that sometimes I will live in Bristol and sometimes I live here in the Mani, Greece. This is my home and just as in Bristol I am working from home. And so gradually the feelings of guilt about now being down at the beach or just lazing around doing nothing are going.
As it happens
3594 days ago
It is that time when I have to hope that I have not lost my passport, boarding pass and other documents. And by a stroke of luck I rummage away in my computer bag and they are all there. I have even been efficient enough to book a ticket for a bus back from Gatwick and all being well I shall be in my bed in Bristol by 3.30 AM on Sunday Morning. But it will not be a long stay in England.
All being well I shall be back in Greece on July 1st preparing to spend three months working both online with my writing (tough luck Bulletin Board Morons if you thought I was retiring) but also on a building site. That is to say, the Mrs appears to have bought a property in the Mani which er..needs a bit of work. In fact it needs a total overhaul.
Taking advice from an Irish pal, working on a building site in the summer heat is a great way to lose weight. And I need a new challenge and learning how to rebuild a house seems like a good one. Greece being Greece nothing is done until it is done but, fingers crossed, the retirement home in the olive groves half way up a mountain has been located. There is a good amount of land with the hovel and a local worker (Albanian natch) and I have done a deal on the numerous olives it produces: He picks and the Mrs gets enough of a cut to pay Greek property taxes and for a few flights.
Anyhow that is all for the future. For now I can think of installing eco-loos ( more on that later) and on grand redesigns, the hard work – I hope – starts in July.
3606 days ago
This week’s video postcard comes from the Mani, the region which is at the southernmost point of mainland Greece. But do not be fooled into thinking I am lounging by a swimming pool it is frigging friezing here.
It is however gorgeous. Everywhere one goes the mountains stare down at you. Some still have snow on them, most seem to be covered in rain bearing clouds.
The history of the Mani is fascinating. It was here that the flag of revolt was first raised at the start of the Greek war of independence from the Turks. The Maniots, like the fellow below, are a fierce lot.
My video postcard covers some of the history of the Mani but then moves onto how the local and wider Greek economy is "recovering". I think any recovery is illusory and explain why as a long term bet Greece is buggered.
My weekly financial postcard covers short term stock movements and how tipsters are irrelevant. It can be viewed here
3606 days ago
In our wicked English way we always have a little fun at how the foreigners mangle our language. In that vein I bring you a sign from outside what brands itself as one of the top cake shops in the Mani region thanks to its superb cook. Well he is clearly the boss anyway.
3613 days ago
In a couple of days I shall be on the road again, picking up the Mrs at Athens airport and heading off to the Mani. It is three hours to Athens, an hour to get lost in the City and then five more to the Mani. The Mrs will, no doubt bring CDs so for the last five hours it will be a mix of Nashville with the odd George Michael track (her choice not mine). But until we meet up I will listen to the radio as I love Greek pop.
The beat and some of the strains clearly have a Turkish influence (I hope no-one here is reading this) but there are also very European themes and so I am a big fan. Perhaps that is in part because I do not understand very much of what is being sung.
With English pop I know that 99% of the lyrics are inane piffle. With Greek pop I am sure that the same is true but I can kid myself that the pained lyrics are about the struggles of the War of Independence, the misery of 58% youth unemployment or the tragedy that has been joining the Euro. I know I kid myself but it makes for great listening. Sadly as I start to learn Greek the cost will be that I can no longer kid myself.
The track below from the High Queen of Greek pop Despina Vandi was one that the Mrs and I had on our wedding play list last year.
3624 days ago
A little bit of a misunderstanding with the Mrs and the alarm clock saw me still soundly asleep as the 4.47 AM pulled out of Bristol today. In the end I had a pleasant lie-in, worked in the morning and just after lunch (an apple) kissed goodbye to the cats and the Mrs and headed off. Now in London I will not see Bristol, or the cats, again for more than a month.
The Mrs is heading up later in the week for her Birthday and the UK Investor Show on Saturday where she will be personfully ( you see dearest, I can be PC if I try) looking after speakers in one of the breakout rooms and then wandering around with her parents who are also attending. Tes, the mother-in-law is coming to the show. Be very afraid. I am. I guess I won’t be swearing all day just in case she hears and gives me a scary and dirty look.
And then a few farewells and it is off to Greece on my own at first as I try to find the grave of my great uncle David. Thereafter the Mrs joins me as we spend a couple of weeks in the Mani where – I warn you – the internet connection can be patchy. It will be early May before I get back to Bristol, the cats, a new kitchen sort of designed by me with a lovely new Range Cooker. It seems like a long time away but I am sure that time will fly.
Anyhow my battered and well-travelled rucksack is packed and with me as we prepare to go hill walking in Greece once again. I really cannot wait.