Published June 10th, 2011
The great Anglo-Irish writer and bookish wanderer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who died on June 10 at age 96, fell in love with Kardamyli, happening upon the isolated village in a long-ago tramp across the mountains from medieval Mystra. Though today Kardamyli has a resort and weekend villas, the population is still only 400 and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s former housekeeper Lela runs the Taverna.
Here’s Patrick Leigh Fermor, from his marvelous 1958 account Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese.
“The bus rattled us along a switchback road above the Messenian Gulf. Twice everybody had to dismount and negotiate bad bits of road, until, after an hour, we came in sight of Kardamyli, a castellated hamlet on the edge of the sea. Several towers and a cupola and a belfry rose above the roofs and a ledge immediately above them formed a lovely cypress-covered platform. Above this the bare Taygetus [mountains] piled up.
It was unlike any village I had seen in Greece. These houses, resembling small castles built of golden stone with medieval-looking pepper-pot turrets, were topped by a fine church. The mountains rushed down almost to the water’s edge with, here and there among the whitewashed fisherman’s houses near the sea, great rustling groves of calamus reed ten feet high and all swaying together in the slightest whisper of wind. There was sand underfoot and nets were looped from tree to tree. Whitewashed ribbed amphorae for oil or wine, almost the size of those dug up in the palace of Minos, stood by many a doorway.”