The age –old name Peloponnesos means the island of Pelops, and Pelops is the legendary hero of Phrygian or Lydian origin who became the founder of the Pelopid dynasty at Mycenae.
Until 1882 the area was almost an island, a peninsula whose physical connection to Central Greece was a narrow piece of land. During 1882-93 the Corinth Canal (Isthmus) cut through, thus Peloponnesos became a true island. However it is always considered as the southernmost region of Greek mainland. Peloponnesos has also another, more recent, name: Morias or Moreas. It was attached during Crusades because mulberry trees (morea, mouria) covered its north-western area.
Driving southward to Finikounta through Arcadia, a visitor experiences the feeling of Greece’s worst fire that broke out on August 2007.
The mountainous land of Arcadia has been identified with the romantic idea of the paradise on earth, where hospitable, innocent shepherds, lovers of music, wait for the return of Golden Age and the union with the devine.
This idea was born in the work of Greek Theocritus, creator of pastoral poetry (ca 300-260 BC), but in the work of the Latin poet Virgil it acquired the name Arcadia forever. In 16th century, the allegoricArcadia inspired the literature of Italy, France, England, Spain, German and Holland, the new-born landscape painting and opera. It served as a shelter for sensitive artists and writers in the world of religious fanaticism but also became an apocryphal motto: et in Arcadia ego.
Today, a big part of Arcadian forests has been reduced to burnt branches. We saw the same thing travelling to the south–west. Messinia’s natural beauty and olive groves will take years to recover.
Our final destination was the camping in Finikounta beach, next to the fishermen village.
Ancient ruins can still be seen scattered around. Pausanias mentions the settlement as ‘Limin Finikous ’ (Finikous port); The ancient Greek name Finikous derives from the word finon or finikon = the liquid purple-red colour which was prepared from murex frunculus shellfish. Purple colour was the most important product of the coastal area, and was largely exported through Finikounta. Spreading along the coastline are four islands: Sapienza, Agia Marina, Schia and Venetiko. The islands are inhabited by small game, wild goats and sheeps. South west of the island of Sapienza there is the abyss of Inousses which is the deepest point of the Mediterranean with a depth of 5.121m.
Finikounta lays 10 km southwest of Methoni. Slavic incursions from the north into the middle uplands of Peloponnesos in the Middle Ages depopulated countryside and drove its habitants towards the port towns. Their consequent growth led to increased maritime and commercial activity. This is the case of Methoni. Its fortress, built upon ancient walls is one of the largest and best preserved in the Mediterranean.
For breakfast, we had cheese pie and an orange cake. We also had two types of jams made the day before: a strawberry jam and another one made with a combination of aprticots & small peaches.
To 700 gr of fruit I added 300 gr of crystallized sugar and the juice of one lemon. I left small strawberies whole and cut the big ones in halves. For the peach & apricot jam, I cut fruits in quarters. Then I put them together with the sugar and lemon juice in two bowls and left them overnight. The next morning I put the mixtures in two saucepans and let to boil for 7-9 minutes. The jams were not very concentrated or very sweet but we could bite into each piece of fruit and feel its fabulous aromatic flavour. They were wonderful on bread, with yogurt or over a piece of feta cheese.
Having mezédes instead of lunch was the best option:
Greek salad and fresh bread; orange flavored sausage from Messini (Messiniako loukániko);
minced goat meat cooked with eggs and flavored with salvia, garlic and wine;
fresh anchovies fillets marinated in a mixture of vinegar lemon juice, onion juice and tomato juice (gavros marinatos);
feta cheese (Peloponnesos is an excellent source of it) and sharp kefalograviera cheese;
sfela cheese soaked in ouzo- the aniseed Greek spirit- dredged in flour and fried on both sides in olive oil.
Though wild she- goat is a delicacy, and the wider area is well known for the spit roast female pigs, the high point of Finikounta and Methoni is the outstanding fresh seafood.
It is difficult to grill a large flying squid (thrapsalo) and keep it just right, tender. We had it twice at Elena’s taverna and never came away disappointed. Its flesh was lightly scented with fresh wild oregano, olive oil and lemon juice.
Grilled sardines, stuffed with garlic and parsley.
A variety of the best-barbecued seafood we’ve ever had. Flying squid, shrimps, rays, sardines, smooth-hound, curled octopus and lightly garlic- flavored potatoes sprinkled with fresh origano.
The full moon of the EU election night….
….we went to the beach to celebrate the moonlight.
Later we had dinner in the village:
…Fish soup (psarosoupa).
Its taste depends on the fresheness and combination of fishes. Scorpion-fishes and rofos had been used in this soup. Zucchinis, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, some olive oil were boiled together before adding the fish to the stock. The broth was served with small pieces of boned fish and vegetables in.
…. Spaghetti cooked in tomato & olives sauce.
The name of Peloponnesos seems to be bound with olives, wine and currants, with the olive trees more widespread than vines. Kyparissia, Leonidion and Sparta produce exceptional olive oil, Kalamata and Nafplion famous olives. The blackish, almond shaped Kalamata olives are harvested before full ripeness and cured in about 10-14 days. For this regional spaghetti dish, which is called Kalamatiani, the pasta and a generous portion of sliced Kalamata olives are cooked in tomato-garlic sauce and seasoned with red hot pepper flakes. Crumbled feta cheese is spread on top before serving.
To finish off dinners, there was superb revanì. It is found in the cuisines of the eastern Mediterranean under a variety of names and ingredients. Turks call it revani and Greeks revanì or ravanì.
Revanì or Ravanì
For the cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup fine semolina
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
1 cup orange juice
8 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter, melted or extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs grated orange rind
1 tsp grated lemon rind
For the syrup
2 ½ cups sugar, 3 ½ cups water
a small piece of lemon peel, a small piece of orange peel
To make the syrup, mix the sugar with the water and peels and bring to a boil. Simmer 6-7 minutes. Remove from the fire and let syrup cool.
Mix flour, baking powder, semolina and salt together.
Stir orange juice into the mixture to form a paste.
Cream sugar with butter until fluffy. Beat the yolks with grated lemon rind and grated orange rind until they are creamy and add into the butter mixture. Beat in the flour-orange mixture. Beat the whites until stiff. Fold them into the mixture. Grease a baking pan and pour the well-mixed dough into it. Bake in preheated oven (180ºC) for 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the cool syrup, little by little, over it. After 30 minutes pour off all surup that has not been absorbed. Let revani cool and cut it into diamond shapes.
It is better if eaten 24 hours after preparation. During summer it is excellent when is served cold with a portion of vanilla ice cream.