Travel: Arcadian villages - Stemnitsa and Dimitsana

Wednesday, 4 May 2011
One of the places I've longed to visit is the Arcadian villages of Peloponnese. These villages perched on mountain tops, often shrouded in mist and surrounded by olive groves. In the past, I'd tried to get there by public transportation before but it was a nightmare to coordinate the rides if all you wanted to do was to go from one village to another. One has to go all the way back to he main hub, Tripoli before catching another bus back out to one 30kms away. There are namely, 3 villages which are deemed to be the most beautiful, Stemnitsa, her larger neighbor situated only 7km away, Dimitsana and Andritsaina, the farthest point from the two.



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The car ride from Monemvasia to Stemnitsa passed some of the most incredible scenery, lush mountains with green vegetation, olive groves as far as the eye can see and quaint villages. There were mountain goats and the sheepdog was hard at work herding sheep from one field to the next. The weather had been a little capricious for the past week with cumulonimbus clouds hovering but it also brought the fresh smell of grass with subtle jasmine scent permeating the area after a downpour.

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The narrow winding mountain roads aren't meant for vans, particularly the main thoroughfare where corners are tight with cars parked haphazardly on either side. After looking up TripAdvisor, I settled on Mpelleiko pension at Stemnitsa. It has belonged to Nena's family since the 1600s. It is situated on the upper village which meant one could see the entire town from the balcony. One can't fault the spectacular view. The only problem was that all the amenities were located at the town center, right at the bottom of the little village. We tried using the shortcut through dirt tracks in the middle of the night and got horribly lost. It wasn't the best experience trying to locate the pension in the dark on a rainy night amidst abandoned houses with two young children.

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Stemnitsa




The restaurant that Nena recommended had a very limited menu with sub-standard fare served by a dour and humorless waiter who is also the town's butcher and grocer. The hospitality at Mpelleiko was decidedly forced and uncomfortable at times. My refusal to hand over our passports and taken out of the premises overnight was blown out of proportion by Nena. It didn't help matters when a busybody guest decided to join in the debate. I've done my fair share of traveling within Europe and I've never had anyone at my previous lodgings asked to keep my passport. Vital details were recorded and passports were then promptly handed back to me.


Dimitsana on the other hand, was a delight. As I dashed about taking photos, the locals would walk up to me to say hello. One suggested I took photos of his friend who was having a glass of ouzo at the local kafeneio. The taverna we went to was beautifully decorated and the food was fantastic. The service was faultless. What a stark contrast to Stemnitsa. A place can be stunning but it's the people that make a difference.

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dimitsana - taverna


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We took a little side trip to visit the ancient city of Gortys by the River Lousios. Gortys was once an acropolis and famous for its Temple of Asclepius. The mountainous karst landscape is also a breeding ground for either hawks or falcons (the locals weren't so sure) which we saw flying back and forth between their food source and nest.

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The lone monastery which hangs precipitously on the cliff.

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