I was fortunate to spend a week at the beginning of June with Sarah Bower and Carol McGrath at a house that Carol has taken for a year in the Mani area of Greece. Stoupa is a delightful village with a harbor and sandy beaches at the south of the Peloponnese, quite the best spot for a writing retreat owing to the literary connections. A little way along the coast at Kardamyli is the home of Patrick Leigh Fermor, which was bequeathed to the Benaki Museum following his death. Patrick was made an honorary citizen of the village following his participation in the Cretan Resistance during World War 2. He wrote about the area in his book titled Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese and he is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest travel writers.
Bruce Chatwin is the other notable writer with links to the Mani. He finished writing The Songlines while staying at the Hotel Kalamitsi in 1985. The book records his experiences of traveling in Australia and his ideas about the necessity of walking to human development. For my undergraduate dissertation I wrote about the works of Bruce Chatwin and I’ve always felt that he had a hand in securing me a first-class honours. So, when the opportunity came to visit the place where his ashes are buried, I was delighted.
Most references to where Chatwin’s ashes are buried refer to a tiny, Byzantine church in the mountains above Kardamyli. Some name Exochori as the nearest village and others refer to Chori. Without definite directions, we set off early in our search, visiting several villages situated in the Taygetos mountains that provide the backdrop to the glorious coastal area. The road took us into Chori where there was a white-washed church beside the road. From there we looked across to the golden stones of a church perched amongst olive trees. We found the path that took us alongside residential houses and out onto a grassy strip of land. The view from the church showed the wide expanse of aqua sea and the land spilling down from the mountains. An ideal final resting place for Bruce Chatwin, someone who loved broad horizons.
After the excitement of this discovery and the time spent absorbing the atmosphere and the wonderful views, we headed for Kardamyli. At a restaurant beside the beach we enjoyed a mezze of salads for lunch.
Cheers to Carol and Sarah for your great company and a big thank you to Carol for being such a brilliant host.