Magazine article The Spectator

The Peloponnese

Magazine article The Spectator

The Peloponnese

Article excerpt

Island-hopping is for backpackers and binge-drinkers; if you want a real Greek holiday, the place to go is Koroni, Messenia, on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese. It's an old town - founded by the Greeks before Christ, absorbed into Byzantium , then squabb led over by Ottomans and Venetians. Its geography is ancient history: Olympia to the north, Sparta across the bay, and Nestor's Palace, Corinth, Mystras and the amphitheatre at Epidaurus all nearby. Yet Koroni feels somehow young and unbothered. Sit in one of the cafes or bars along the harbour, and it seems like a jolly seaside town from the 1970s or 1980s - unpretentious and touristic enough to be easy to enjoy, but unspoilt.

The hotels are mostly small and uncomplicated, with the recent arrival of a few 'boutique' establishments, to use the travel industry term. The taverna owners are eager for your custom, naturally, but they are not pushy or grasp ing. Vis i tors m ing le w i th friendly locals. I know a fellow called Takis - the owner of Takis' cafe - who spends all day scampering back and forth across the bay waiting on tables, and never stops saying 'Yassou, yassou' to anyone who'll listen. He might be the most cheerful fellow I've ever come across.

One eats well, too, here: usually simple, reassuringly cheap Greek fare and seafood.

If you walk away from the waterfront, down one of the narrow side alleys, you can find the 'Souvlaki Shack' - a shabby but delightful restaurant run by two slightly dishevelled brothers. …

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