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Almyros is the first beach you come to after leaving Kalamata.

Seeing the long stretch of turquoise blue sea is a relief after the hustle and bustle of city life- time to pull over and have a cooling drink and swim!

Once you have forked right off the main Mani road south, keeping to the coast, the first village you come to is the largest in this area: Mikri Mantinia. It has a long, pebbly beach followed by a picturesque cove with the perfect house to live in set above (see the front cover). Just before the cove is a monument erected in memory of “those who fell in the cause of Greek freedom”.

Mikri Mantina

Half way along the bay, natural mountain spring water flows into the sea all year round, offering a free ice bath to those who need it! The derelict factory on the other side of the road was once a water-powered mill and then became an olive oil press. Although it is not open to the public, at the back of the factory is what must have been one the first “launderettes” in the Mani. The gushing spring water was funneled into a huge tub, creating a whirlpool effect so villagers would take blankets and sheets to get washed. Behind the factory, the hillside is dominated by an old tower-house, once owned by the influential Kapetanakis family (see the later section on history). The supply of fresh water must have been a major factor in determining its location. Further still up the mountain lies the crumbling remains of the old village of Mantinia. A devastating earthquake in 1944 caused the village to move down to sea-level.

Back on the coast, the square outside the old school hosts numerous festivals each year- May Day, “Clean Monday” and Profitas Ilias on July 20th to name but a few. So if you are lucky enough to be here on of these days, be sure to join in the festivities.

Archontiko, Paleochora & Akrogiali are three, small villages that seem to merge into one. So you have an easy choice of where to swim and where to spend your evenings, relaxing by the sea.

Santova

Just before you the sandy beach of Santova, you pass the dramatic Koskara gorge with the modern village of Megali Manitinia perched on the left. Back on the main road into the Mani, this is same gorge a new, modern bridge spans just before getting to Kambos.

The sand of Santova draws a younger crowd, especially at weekends. The turquoise water is often accompanied by the sound track of a variety of styles of music, throughout the day. But of course sunset and the night time are when things really get going!

The beach also offers water sports as well as volleyball and football.

Kitries

Finally, the end of the road! Kitries is a charming place. A fleet of small fishing boats, bob up and down in a sheltered harbour, where the main taverna is flanked on either side by pebbly coves. The perfect place for lunch or dinner. The final descent into the village takes you down 2 tight, hairpin bends. If you’d rather avoid this and enter in a more traditional way, then leave your car by the church, opposite the left turn up to Doli and walk down the shady, old mule-path to arrive at the harbour on foot!

See the following section on history to find out the village’s surprising past history.

History

As well as its numerous beaches, the area also has a historic importance. Being so close to Kalamata it had strategic significance in the war for Independence against Turkish rule. It was a gateway into the whole Mani peninsula and therefore needed defending- hence the memorial in Mikri Mantinia.

The first signs of this are as you leave are leaving Kalamata where, just before Almyros beach, on your left by a bridge, you will see a large white marble statue of a Maniat Warrior. Running up towards the mountain slopes from here is an old stone wall with many polemotrypes (firing loops) built into it. Higher still you will see a derelict, round tower with more polemotrypes and larger openings for cannons. The wall used to run several hundred metres further, straight up the mountain. This type of ‘linear defence’ is called a verga and hence the name of the area. In June 1826, the War of Independence was going badly for the Greeks and Ibrahim Pasha, the Egyptian general who was supporting the Turks with his army, was poised to attack the Mani. He had swept through the Peloponnese after the fall of Missolonghi (where Lord Byron had died of a fever) and seemed to be invincible. News of his approach caused the wall to be built hastily and then manned by the Maniats to thwart his intentions. He was defeated at Verga in a fierce battle that lasted for four days and then forced to withdraw to Kalamata when Kolokotronis approached over the Taygetos Mountains with a force of 2,000 men.

Kapetanakis Tower, Mikri Mantinia

The tower and adjoining house were well fortified and the elevated position dominated the potential coastal route south. The ‘klouvia’ on the tower are particularly well preserved and give it a very impressive appearance. It was owned by the Kapetanakis family, who also owned Trikotsova Castle, further up the hillside above the village of Charavgi , near Sotirianika. So this family was responsible for protecting the road into Mani through the mountains and also via the coast. If you visit both sites you will see the strong similarity between the towers that suggests that the same builder was responsible for the construction of both. More than this, there was direct line of sight between both locations and one assumes, some sort of method of signalling. The same is true with the Castle of Zarnata to the south.

Kitries

It is hard to believe that this tranquil, little harbour was once a very important anchorage and had a walled complex which was the base for five of the “Beys” (leaders) of the Mani. It was completely destroyed in an earthquake and almost no trace remains of this once extensive fortification except a large, arched gateway. A British Colonel, Colonel Leake visited Kitries before the War of Independence in 1805 and wrote,

“The tower of the Bey and adjoining buildings are large and agreeably situated on a height above the sea. Besides the Bey’s tower and its dependencies, the only buildings at Kitries are five or six magazines (shops) near the sea. In one of these I found a singular personage, a Turk keeping a shop in a country of Greeks.” Another Englishman, Lord Carnarvon visited Kitries in 1839 and recorded, “We passed the ruined aqueducts and fountains which marked the scene of much former splendour.” His host, Petrobey Mavromichalis’ brother remarked that the government “disputed him even the possession of his own house, battered as it was by Ibrahim Pasha’s guns; and his means were too low to allow him to restore the ruins.”

 
 

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