Cafe tables under olive trees, medieval villages and swimming in turquoise waters: Why writer HARRY MOUNT is dreaming of Kardamyli in Greece during lockdown
- Harry Mount recalls swimming across the 100-yard channel between Merope and Kardamyli in Greece
- Old Kardamyli is a preserved medieval village of fortified tower houses leading to the Taygetos foothills
- The Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos in Chora is where travel writer Bruce Chatwin’s ashes were buried
Let’s start with a challenge — I’m trying to swim round Africa. Well actually, it’s a tiny Greek island in the shape of Africa, called Merope.
I’m swimming across the 100-yard channel between Merope and the little town of Kardamyli in the Mani area of the underrated Peloponnese peninsula.
The sea ahead is sunlit turquoise. Behind me, in the shadows cast by the cypress trees, it’s royal blue.
The Daily Mail’s Harry Mount recalls swimming across the 100-yard channel between Merope and the little town of Kardamyli (above)
Last night, when I had a dip after the half-hour drive from Kalamata Airport, the water was deep purple — ‘wine-dark’, as Homer, who mentions Kardamyli in the Iliad, called the Mediterranean.
I’m working up an appetite for lunch at Elies Restaurant, a five-minute drive along the coast.
Its simple cafe tables and rush chairs lie under olive trees and a building made of limestone flecked with gold and copper, from the Taygetos Mountains above Kardamyli.
I have a Mythos beer, calamari and a choriatiki — a Greek salad. After a doze on the beach, I stroll through empty Old Kardamyli — a preserved medieval village of fortified tower houses.
Then it’s time to tackle the winding path up into the Taygetos foothills. Beside me is the plunging Vyros Gorge, a thunderous river in winter, but today its bone-white stones rise from the riverbed.
After an hour I reach the tiny Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos in Chora, where Elizabeth Chatwin, widow of the travel writer Bruce Chatwin (1940-89), buried his ashes under an olive tree. I identify an old, gnarled olive tree and declare it to myself as the right spot.
Old Kardamyli is a preserved medieval village of fortified tower houses leading to the Taygetos foothills
Retreating down the hill, I have a 6pm appointment at the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre, the enchanting house designed by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), the British travel writer and war hero.
On the terrace, his old housekeeper, Elpida, produces fresh moussaka as I look down on Merope.
Leigh Fermor swam round it every day in his 80s. It took him an hour. I didn’t get all the way today — I’ll try again tomorrow.