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The Mourtzinos Tower in Kardamyli in the Peloponnese in Greece

Kardamyli, a coastal settlement of Messenian Mani is one of the more remote stops on our tour of the Peloponnese in Greece. The place is an attractive and peaceful coastal resort, distinguished by a number of good sandy beaches in its surroundings and by some fine Neoclassical buildings in its centre. Kardamyli is perhaps best-known, at least in the English-speaking world, as the chosen retreat of the famous travel writer and war hero, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), who made a nearby cove his principal home from the 1960s until his death. His choice is understandable: the area is immensely beautiful.

Kardamyli is a very ancient settlement, mentioned already in Homer's Iliad, although there is nearly nothing to see of the ancient city. Instead, our visit took us to the site known as Old Kardamyli, a small hamlet just outside the modern town. Set upon a rocky outcrop, it is a typical Mani village, constructed around the end of the 17th century. It consists of a number of defensible houses, tall stone structures with few windows, illustrating the characteristic Maniot lifestyle of the Ottoman era, when every village and every home in the area was a miniature fortification, protecting its inhabitants from enemy attack, be it by Ottoman troops trying to appease the notoriously rebellious region, or by their compatriots, since Mani was also famous for internal conflict between its various clans. In the first months of 1821, Theodoros Kolokotronis spent some time here as an honoured guest, planning and organising the rebellion that was to be remembered as the Greek War of Independence.

A traditional village in the Mani in the Peloponnese in Greece

A traditional village in the Mani

The Old Kardamyli complex includes a great example of the most striking architectural expression of the era, the Maniot Tower House. The Mourtzinos Tower belonged to a powerful family of that name, also called Troupakis. They were descended from the House of Palaiologos, the last imperial family of Byzantium, and members of the family still live in the area. The tower, essentially a tall house with a single entrance at first floor (for our American friends, that's the second floor) level (now reached by a stone bridge but probably originally by a drawbridge), is a structure of simple lines and a stark modest beauty. Old Kardamyli also incorporates various ancillary buildings, such as an olive press, a smithy, storerooms and a fine - if peculiar - 17th century church dedicated to Saint Spyridon.  Today, the complex houses a small exhibition dedicated to the history of the Mani Peninsula, and especially to the remnants of its traditional and fierce lifestyle that are scattered throughout the region, with an emphasis on the architecture.

Our guests always enjoy the visit to Kardamyli, not least because of the rich beauty of the surrounding landscape, with steep slopes covered in olive and cypress trees, and all manner of wild flowers lining the paths and tracks.

To explore Kardamyli with expert guides, take a look at our Exploring the Peloponnese tour.

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