The town of Monemvasia

Text and photo VASSILIS LAPPAS
BASILIS_LAPPAS_MONEMVASIA_0019The name of Monemvasia, derives from the two Greek words » Moni» and » Emvasis», meaning «single entrance». In the mists of time the town’s name took many forms as in italian Malvasia or the nickname Gibraltar of the East or » Akra Minoa» as Pausanias, the Greek traveller and geographer referred to the site.
In ancient times the town has been one of the two headquarters of Epidravros Limiras province and it is one of the two most important Byzantine cities of Laconia and the whole Greece.
Built on a massive rock, resembles to an imposing Goddess on her throne and enchants her visitors with the first sight. She combines the serene with the hard landscape and confuses the blue of the sky with that of the sea, composing one of the most wonderful ornaments of the country.
BASILIS_LAPPAS_MONEMVASIA_0014Today the castle of Monemvasia is located 350km away from Athens, on the south coast of Peloponnissos. The journey until Tripoli is comfortable, after Sparta, however, start multiple turns and needs special attention.
To the north side of the Rock, lies the old town of Monemvasia as well as the only fjord in Greece, the fjord of Gerakas. To the south lies the Kavos Malias, Kythira and Elafonisos. To the east spreads the Myrtoan Sea until Milos and Kimolos. Finally to the west, the mount Parnonas imposingly erects his height.
The byzantine Monemvasia began to be built in the 6th century. BASILIS_LAPPAS_MONEMVASIA_0016This natural fortress was used many times as a shelter by the neighbouring regions during the raids of the Slavs.
Once someone arrives in Monemvasia worth the time to take a good look to the entrance and the walls of the lower town. Your journey in the Byzantine era begins from the moment that you begin to wonder through the narrow stone streets of the city of romance and history. The old mansions and the beautiful byzantine churches will impress you. The most important of tem are, the 13th century church of Elkomenos Christos, the 17th century church of Panagia Chrysofitissa with the miraculous picture of Virgin Mary, Saint Nicola’s church, the 18th century church of Saint Stefanos, Panagia the Cretan or Myrtidiotisa and Saint Anna’s church. In the central square you can find the cannon and the archaeological museum.
VASSILIS_LAPPAS_MONEMVASIA_0058In order to book a room in one of the old mansions that are converted into small luxury boutique hotels, known for their aesthetically high standards in hosting and their romantic atmosphere , whether the mansion is located inside or outside the castle, the visitor should prevent and book earlier due to the increased tourist traffic during all the year. The old city is not suitable for those who prefer the comforts of modern civilization, though, as the hotels strictly adhere to the old traditional style of the region.
You can taste the local specialities at the pituresque taverns, which are mainly decorated with stone and wood. It also worth the time to take a walk in the upper town, from where you will be charmed by the view of the lower city, between the blue of the sky and of the Myrtoan sea, in front of the imposing church of Saint Sofia, an octagonal domed temple similar to the monastery of Panagia Odigitria built in 1150. The upper town was inhabited by aristocrats who lived in large stone building but nowadays only a few ruins remain to testify the existence of another world.

RitsosThe poet Yannis Ritsos was born in monemvasia and his tomb is located outside the walls, at the cemetery of the Rock. And to close, as the poet of «Romiosini» says,
» This landscape is merciless like silence.
It hugs its fiery rocks tightly in its bosom.
It hugs tightly in the sun its orphan olive trees and grapevine.
It clenches its teeth. There is no water. Only light.
The road vanishes in light and the shadow of the fence wall is made of steel.
Trees, rivers and voices turn to marble in the sun’s whitewash. »