June 5th, 2014
We had a guided shore excursion scheduled for today to tour Monemvasia, a fortress- like city at the tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula. Monemvasia is linked to the rest of Greece by a thin causeway that once had a drawbridge. It’s name is derived from two Greek words meaning ‘single entrance’.
Monemvasia’s nickname is ‘the Gibraltar of the East’ or ‘the Rock’……..
Because it hides behind this massive rock, which protected whoever happened to be occupying the walled city.
Monemvasia is located along the sailing route from Italy and Western Europe to Istanbul and the East, offering a strategic rest and resupply stop for passing ships. As such, it was often fought over and alternately occupied by the Venetians, Byzantines, Turks, Franks, and Ottomans.
The walled city’s isolated position was easily defensible, but also easy to cut off from the rest of the Peloponnese and its supplies, thus making it easy to occupy. When the draw bridge was up, or it was cut off from the mainland, this rocky access was the only way that Monemvasia had to get supplies into the city.
For their part, the people of Monemvasia seemed to take a pragmatic approach to occupation, as long as it did not interfere with their way of life, even siding with the country which offered the ‘better deal’.
In its medieval heyday, Monemvasia was home to some 50,000 inhabitants. Now, fewer than 100 people live in Monemvasia full time. It has become a destination for honeymooners and other people looking for a cute, secluded, romantic get-away.
We first strolled through the narrow main street of Monemvasia……(That is our guide with the umbrella)
And we emerged onto the town square, with its ocean overlook.
In the square, was this little Christian church.
The rather simple exterior hid this amazing, ornate interior! The front panel altar screen is unique, in that it is carved from marble, rather than wood.
Our guide showed us to a small alcove where this original, very old icon hung. It had been cut into sections, and hidden during occupations, and thus, saved.
We strolled up and down the streets of Monemvasia, listening to our guide describe life during the city’s peak.
We could picture the families who lived here….the women who did their chores outside in the courtyards, and the children who played on these rock pathways between houses.
We stopped in at the small shops, and cafes…….Our tour group took a break, where we sampled the local Ouzo, an anise (liquorish) flavored alcoholic drink with quite a kick!
We really liked Monemvasia and found it to be charming and full of character.
It really would be just the place that we would love to come back to and spend a few days ……..