Kalamata Travel Guide

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boats along the coast

boats along the coast

Bill

Kalamata is famous as the town of olive trees, and as the gateway to Mani. The airport, railway terminus, major sea port, and bus station make it a transportation hub and gateway to all the surrounding area, and a good portion of the southern Peleponese. It has ferry service regularly in the summer to Crete. It is possible to get transportation anywhere in the area, and often ad hoc tours to places off the main tourist routes. There is nowhere in the southern Peleponese that has more transportation options.

It has hotels ranging from hovels in more questionable parts of town, to four-star hotels by the seaside. It is a great jumping off place for the rest of the southern Peleponnesos, and for the Messinian bay in particular.

Kalamata Olives are featured in finer restaurants around the world, but it has other culinary distinctions. The area to the south has various honeys that have been praised by travelers back to the French Morea expeditions of the 1700's. Honey from the region is held in high regard even today. Honey was used in Roman times for treatment of hysteria and other ailments, and in the area today it has some reputation for enhancing romance.

For those with musical interests, I'll point out that the traditional "Kalamatianos" dance is, of course, named after Kalamata, and well known all over Greece. It is one of the few areas in Greece where you will find native folk songs in, for example, 7/8 time. For more sophisticated dance lovers, there is the International Dance Festival, taking place in Kalamata every year, in July, with widely celebrated participants from all over the world. In the region to the south of town, the region of Mani, there is also a tradition of funeral dirges that is unique in all of Greece, and has been covered by many books in both English and Greek (Such as Nadia Seremetakis' "The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani").

South: it has the wonders of Mani only a short drive away. The internationally famous caves at Pyrgos Dyros are located south of Areopolis, and attract tourists from all over the world. The beaches at Stoupa and Kardamili are popular with British and European tourists, and well worth seeing. The southernmost point of the European mainland, Cape Tainaron -called by the ancient Greeks as the "Gates of Hades", is about 50km south of Kalamata, and the town of Vathia with its massive stone towers is near there. The region to the south is famous for the stone towered villages that make such striking pictures.

East: it has the town of Mystras just over the hill, and it is well worth seeing, it is near modern Sparta, which isn't worth seeing).[The "hill" mentioned is Tygetos, the highest mountain in Peloponnesos, with an elevation of 2400m (7500+ feet) and everyone knows it is well worth seeing]. The route between Kalamata and Sparta is some of the most exciting mountain terrain in southern Greece.

West: Koroni (with its imposing castle) is a local bus ride away. If you go to Koroni from Kalamata, I recommend the Taverna in Ag. Andreus (Called "Petron"? Run by a published Greek Poet!) as a good place to eat as one of the only taverna with someone that speaks English on the route.) The castle of Methoni is well worth seeing also, being one of the most imposing and impressive castles of Peloponnesos, and appears on postcards sold all over Greece. One can easily spend the better part of the day exploring the ruins of the old walled city. (Make sure you take the causeway out to the island at the end of the walled city). Farther west you have Pylos, site of the most famous naval battles of the Greek war of independence and King Nestor's cave from Homer's Iliad. There you will find Nestor's palace, with one of the best preserved royal baths in Greece. [What is known as Nestor's palace is north-east from Pylos, in a place that is called Eglianos, near the village of Chora]. 

North to West: a short drive gets you to Olympia, site of the original Olympics. Even closer is the site of Ancient Messini, which has undergone major reconstruction and you can easily get a very good picture of how things were when the place was inhabited. The area also has some of the best remaining narrow-gauge railway lines in the world. For the train enthusiasts, there are truly remarkable examples of stone bridgework out on the lines, as well as the Railway Park, inside Kalamata.

As the first town you enter as you leave Mani, Kalamata had the honor of being the town first liberated during the Greek war of independence. After Kalamata was liberated, on March 23rd, a gathering of the liberation forces took place in the centre of Kalamata, at the church of Agioi Apostoloi [Apostles] which Kalamatians hold as a center of the revolution. Eight days after the Maniot declaration, the rest of Greece officially joined the rebellion. 

Kalamata itself boasts a Frankish Castle, and a railway museum-park, and all the modern conveniences (including five internet cafes). There is also the Benakeion Archaeological Museum, as well as folk art museums, and art exhibitions. The castle of Kalamata is famous in the area, and for over 10's of kilometers in any direction. There is also a Centre for the Intellect, where various cultural events take place throughout the year.

The Kalamatian manner of speech is such that the phrase "To speak like a Kalamatian" is heard all over Greece.

The determined Maniotiphile Nahatz Alekeas used Kalamata as the staging area for his famous mid 1970's expeditions to study the nearby kalderimia [the stone work roads pictured on so many websites]. You can still find people in Kalamata that can tell personal stories of these expeditions.

Those into Classical Greece will be interested in the fact that many of the nearby towns around Kalamata were specifically listed in Homer's "Iliad", and the area of Messenia was written about by the ancient writers Pausanias and Strabo. Many of the sites they describe are easy to locate and visit today. The area is no less worth writing about today. The town is surrounded by various sites of the Messinian wars with Sparta. The entire Messinian Bay (which Kalamata looks out over) is rich in the stories of Aristomenis battling the Spartans, and stories of many other local heroes.

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