Rounding the Peloponnesian Coast

Sep 19, 2017 - Sea Cloud


The sun rose by 5:30 over Kythira and the air was fresh and the seas gentle. Today we planned to sail around the great “island” of mainland Greece named after the mythical hero Pelops, the Peloponnesian peninsula. Once the Corinth canal was completed it was possible to sail completely around Peloponnesia and hence my expression “island.” Shortly after 9 a.m. on our starboard side we came abeam of the great rock outcrop with its famous medieval village Monemvasia, meaning “one way in.” The ancient village sits atop a small rise from the sea and then gradually rises up the cliff face and at its top sits a church. Beautiful defensive walls fully encircle and protect the village and go entirely up to the church. Truly there was only one way in. It is a stunningly beautiful place and when one considers it was built a millennium and a half ago in the late 6th century, it takes your breath away. The Byzantines were being besieged in mainland and island Greece by invading Slavic and other tribes from northeastern Europe, and thus the Greek people fled here to this remote place to escape the pillaging invaders who were looking not only for gold and silver but for slaves. This small village grew in prosperity during the Middle Ages and achieved real economic wealth later in the late 16th century when it became the center of the Malmsey wine industry. They traded great amounts of Malmsey particularly with England and the local merchants made considerable fortunes.

At 10:30 the sailors went aloft and sails were reefed. Our knowledgeable Greek guides Kriton and Eleni gave an introduction to the Greek language and taught all of us that our pronunciation of fraternity and sorority abbreviations is likely wrong! Who knew that the sounds of ancient and Modern Greek were so different? Erika completed her composition of the group slide show for all to see.

Next we had our Captain’s farewell dinner, which is always festive and slightly melancholy because the trip is ending.  Eventually we all retired for the evening, and the Sea Cloud continued its voyage around the bottom of the Peloponnesian peninsula on our way to Athens. 

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan

Historian

Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Erika Skogg

National Geographic Photographer

Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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