Monday, February 20, 2017

A Month in Greece: Kalamata

At the beach in Kalamata, Greece

This is post number 3 about my travels in Greece, following Meteora and Thessaloniki. As I mentioned before, Thessaloniki is located in the north of Greece, so getting from there to Kalamata, which is located in the southern Peloponnese region was quite the trek. We broke it up into two days by stopping for one night in Athens and continuing on the next day.

It was absolute worth the long journey to get to the beautiful beaches and sunshine that were waiting for us in Kalamata. Anna and I wanted to stop for awhile in one place where we could relax and do artsy things - I focused on my writing (thus the storm of blog posts that emerged in December) and Anna worked on her illustrations. Kalamata was absolutely the perfect place for this.

View from our balcony in Kalamata

Our apartment in Kalamata, the best Airbnb I've stayed in yet

It's a very relaxed place, where everything seems to move a bit more slowly than in Thessaloniki or Athens. You may have heard of Kalamata olives before, which are grown in the countryside surrounding the city. In fact, there were olive groves in the city as well, and we even had a view of one right below our balcony.

Our Airbnb in Kalamata was one of the nicest I've ever stayed at. The apartment was beautiful and clean, with great scenery from the balcony, and the owners were really nice. They even stopped by the first day we arrived and gave us some amazing Greek pastries. The guy's name was Yannis, and the name of the listing on Airbnb is "Relaxing studio close to the beach and city center."

Excuse me as I wipe this drool off my face...

Despite being the beginning of December, it got warm enough in the early afternoon most days that we went swimming in the ocean. The locals were out swimming practically everyday as well, since there are great beaches along the waterfront in Kalamata. I imagine that it gets very crowded in the peak season, so I really don't understand why more people don't come in the off season when the weather is still fantastic.

Going for a swim in December

The beach in Kalamata

The city has a few interesting sights, like a very old church located in a plaza in the older part of downtown.

A Byzantine church in old downtown Kalamata

Right next to the church is an archaeological museum dedicated to the various regions of the Peloponnese and has a good collection of artifacts found in and around Kalamata. 

Near the bus terminal is a small hill and on top are the ruins of the old castle. There's not much of the castle left, but it's still worth a visit as the grounds have been turned into a nice, peaceful garden with good views of the city.

Entering the ruins of Kalamata castle

View of the city from the castle

One of the largest churches in the city is just below the hill, and has an interesting line up outside of busts of Orthodox priests. They are actually Metropolitans, which are regional leaders of the Orthodox church. There's a pretty impressive array of bushy facial hair on display.

One of the largest churches in Kalamata

A row of busts showing the church Metropolitans

This guy had the most impressive bushy eyebrows and mustache, in my opinion

Once again, the food was amazing. We picked up some nice fresh produce and fruit from the marketplace near the bus terminal, and ate an endless amount of olives and feta and baked goods. The thing that impressed me the most about Greek food was the freshness - everything just seemed to taste better, like the tomatoes and onions and olives all had more flavor than what I'm used to eating.

There were a lot of young people in Kalamata and the city had a bit of a college town vibe, especially if you went out to the main nightlife area. There were a lot of nice cafes, bars and restaurants, although one problem that we had the entire time we were in Greece was that we wanted to eat much earlier than the Greeks, so we were always eating in near-empty restaurants. The Greeks (similar to Chileans) like to eat late. From what I observed, most people like to sit and chat over coffee in a cafe for much of the afternoon, eat dinner around 8 or 9pm, then eventually make their way to a bar or club probably around midnight or later. Sadly, that schedule didn't really work for us (maybe we're getting too old??)

Kalamata in the off season was really the perfect place to stay, with its food, great weather and lovely beaches. I can't imagine finding a better place to relax during the winter in Europe.

This is my new favorite way to spend the winter

More posts about Greece: 

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