Where Greek Legends come alive

I have a lifelong  affinity with Greece.   Known as the cradle of western civilization it is a country of myths and legends.  In bygone years it was considered to be one of the world’s original seats of learning.  It is a land surrounded by blue seas and blue skis and a very attractive temperature.  At the tender age of 19, along with 5 similar aged friends I visited Greece and found myself in some out of the way spots. I can even boast that our group were the first Irish people (on the authority of the locals) to visit the tiny islet of Moni, which is adjacent to another small island called Aegina, about a two hour boat ride from the port of Piraeus near Athens.  Therefore I consider my Greek credentials to be excellent.

Another out of the way spot that I visited more recently is The Kyrimai Hotel in the Mani region of the Peloponnese.  It is most definitely off the beaten track. Getting to this hotel requires a certain amount of endurance as it is approx. 4 hours drive from Athens. If coming from Kalamata airport the journey is half that time.

The landscape is rugged, stony and the hotel is situated at the southern tip of the finger shaped Mani peninsula of the Peloponnese.  As you drive through the small village of Gerolimenas your next stop, if you don’t put the brakes on, is the sea.  Do not under any circumstance be put off by how long it will take you to get there.  Also by the fact that it is not far from where the Ionian and Aegean seas join forces and the mythical gates of Hades lurk nearby.  This only adds to the mystery and excitement.

Here you will discover a strong fortress in an remote landscape.  The local Maniots (as they are called) built house towers and fortified villages to withstand many an invasion over hundreds of years.  It is here that you will see a 19th century converted tower which has been renovated into a successful hostelry, the Kyrimai Hotel.  In the same ownership for several generations it embodies a story of resistance and persistence in a region decimated by decades of emigration.  It is a beacon for prosperity and hope for future generations that is grounded in this unforgiving landscape.

The Kyrimai Hotel, where the interiors walls flamboyantly display their natural buff coloured stones, offers a strong sense of protectiveness to guests.  Doors and floors also show their longstanding traditional durability mirroring the rugged landscape.

Restaurant:  The hotel’s Restaurant serves mostly locally grown produce, eked out from small fertile patches of soil embedded in this stony landscape.  Maniot olives, a local speciality, along with fish caught from the abundantly fertile seas compliment the Menu.  There is a beautiful swimming pool offering guests more than hint of prosperity.  However, my own preference is to jump from the small pier into the calm transparent sea water protected on three sides making it a natural swimming pool made by nature without manmade intervention.

Bedrooms: There are 23 bedrooms in the Kyrimai Hotel and all of them distinctive in size, shape and furnishings.  They are particularly welcoming with their low wooden beams offering a feeling of safe cosiness.  Here you are guaranteed a good night’s sleep with the nearby sea lapping gently outside your bedroom window.   The Loft Suite is particularly spectacular being 40 square metres in size with its own balcony and situated only 25 metres from the sea.

Swimming and other outdoor activities are high on the leisure menu. The hotel offers lessons in  scuba diving in the sheltered bay along with biking, hiking and seeking out hidden caves.  History buffs will enjoy exploring the many archaeological sites for which Greece is famous.

The only omission from my previous visit was not having the guts to go down to the end of the little pier and shout so that my echo could bounce off the surrounding steep rugged hillsides.  That pleasure awaits me on a return visit.

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