Last year during my vacation in Greece, I had the pleasure of seeing, eating and drinking my way through theÂ southern peninsula also known as the Peloponnese. I traveled from Thessaloniki to Athens by train, stayed in the capital for a couple of days and then headed to Leonidio and then way down south to Sparta and the Prefecture of Laconia.
Most of my vacation is spent near the sea or a beach. I’m a Greek and I am naturally drawn to water. I am also drawn to the sea and the beach because I live in Canada, a colder climate where water is frozen for four months of the year and too cold to swim for most other months. Forgive me if I gravitate to the sea and cannot spent long stretches of time away from the sea or a beach.
Enter Gytheio (Gytheion), located 40 km. south of the city of Sparta and at the top of the Mani peninsula. There is little by way of archaeological monuments in Gytheio but Gytheio was a vital port city until an earthquake destroyed it. Ancient Gytheio (Gythium) was reputedly founded by Apollo and Heracles.legend links the tiny island of Marathonisi (Cranae) with Helen of Troy: after the abduction, Paris brought Helen to the islet and they spent their first couple of nights here together.
In Roman times, Gytheio was an important port and the export of purple dye (popular in Rome) and marble. An earthquake in 375AD destroyed the city and it was by and large abandoned. The population of Gytheio somewhat recovered when folks from surrounding small towns resettled here for refuge from the Ottomans during the Greek War of Independence. The Free-Laconia League was based out of Gytheio and after the Revolution began, the Grigorakis family (members of Filiki Etaria raised the flag of revolution on Marathonisi. In 1934, Gytheio revolted against the Bavarians who wanted to demolish the olden towers of Mani.
Today, Gytheio remains a charming port with lots of pleasure craft docked and many cafes, tavernas and lots of old buildings to make a trip to Gytheio worthwhile. I spent the afternoon in Gytheio, walking along the promenade, stopping in some shops, nothing too touristy and I could see there were plenty of places for accommodation and many a choice for a bite to eat.
I was all to happy by the sea and delighted to see fresh fish and seafood on offer and at reasonable prices. I also spotted a restaurant that offered some “Bouzopoula” (whole roast pig) but I wasn’t going to have any of that while sitting seaside at a taverna. Seafood and meze it was.
After settling on a taverna with a nice view, some shade and with some brisk business, I ordered some grilled octopus. Much like in the Cyclades islands, octopi were hanging to dry in the hot Greek sun. This method cures the octopus and dried it out, thus concentrating the flavour.
I also ordered these fried sweet banana peppers that were stuffed with cheese and served with a simple but very sweet tomato sauce. This dish reminded alot of a dish my dad enjoys alot, minus the stuffed cheese/add in hot peppers. Crusty bread is always served with your order and I also ordered a side of horta or boiled wild greens that are tossed in extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
My day in Gytheio ended too quickly but I had evening plans back in Sparta and the following day I had other firm plans. If you love seafood as much as I do, people watching, good scenery all at a taverna with affordable and delicious food, make a stop in Gytheio and spend a lazy day noshing on seafood, recharging your batteries and reflecting on just how good life is.
Look for more fabulous photos in my Flickr stream that can be found in the right column of my blog.
If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or atÂ http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.
Â© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis
. All rights reserved.