But before we get to Fred Flintstone I just want to add to the last blog that there are things that are different about Puglia and the Peloponnese. One noticeable one is the lack of butchers. In Puglia every town boasts a butcher on every street corner. Italians are very particular about their butchers. Most families we know have a butcher for each meat type. Go here for pork Mike, go there for lamb Mike only go there for chicken Mike, the best bombette are at that butcher’s Mike. Here we have yet to even see a butcher and in the evening at which ever taverna we eat they merely reach into a vast deep freezer, weight out a portion and throw it frozen onto the hot coals of a BBQ to defrost and cook. It probably sums up Greek cooking which has a reputation like that of the UK in 60s and 70s. My father, never a fan of Greek cuisine on our various holidays here, said one time when asked by the owner of the taverna what he thought of the meal we had just eaten ” well at least we knew the butter was fresh because I could see the cat licking it in the kitchen.”
However the Greeks do have thousands of chemists ( farmacia) almost more than the Italians have butchers whilst the number of chemists in Italy is strictly controlled by the size of the town’s population. This was to be one of Mario Monte’s many reforms that he promised Italians and the EU more chemists means more competition. Like all the other reforms they died a death as they worked their way through the labyrinth of committees that a new law has to do in Italy. What it means is that here over the counter drugs like aspirin and paracetemol are about the same price as in the UK whilst in Italy such drugs are over 10 times as much. So Monti had a point but just failed to do anything about it. He still an M.P. on a great salary here and shows no sign of wanting to quit a job he said he would only do for a year or two.
We left Kalamata to drive to Sparta home to the ancient Spartans those guys who had child rearing sorted so long ago. This is a bit of a post on it
“All children were expected to grow up to serve Sparta. The government only wanted healthy and athletic children to train. The officials put baby girls and boys through “fitness” tests at birth and if it was decided that the baby was too weak, they would leave it in the mountains to die from exposure. They thought these children would be useless to Sparta. The healthy, athletic children were taught as early as possible about their duties to the city-state. At age seven, the boys were taken from their parents and put in military camps in the mountains to begin a thirteen-year-long training, known as agoge in the Greek language. They were taught discipline, independence, toughness, endurance, survival and combat. They had no clothes or shoes. They were given only one cloak to wear for an entire year. They lived in barracks and slept on bushes. They were punished and tortured for doing anything wrong. The boys often fought each other to the death in practice battles. ”
The road to Sparta is to say the least torturous though with spectacular scenery.
However before you get up to this dizzy height you run down and around a long ravine. All along the ravine which goes for about 40 kilometres are signs warning of rockfalls and all along the road are large rocks either in the road or pushed to one side. These things are big too and we were in a soft top Suzuki . It was a little nerve racking almost waiting for some bloody great stone to come through the roof. It reminded me of The Flintstones the Stone Age family of cartoon fame ( rocks you see and stones, oh well I think of strange stuff) and we sung the theme as we waited for our bang on the head as we drove along.
Once out of the ravine I shouted yaberberdaberdo just like Fred.
Two hours and 58 kms after leaving Kalamata we arrived in Sparta having seemingly gone to the top of the world and back just like James Gagney in White Heat ( great movie).
We deserved our beer in Sparta but only after we went to to see Leonidas the warrior king of ancient Sparta
Not an ancient relic itself the statue was sculptured in 1968 but quite impressive. It is where the Spatathon road race finishes each year. This is one of the great ultra long distance runs and celebrates each year the run made by Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens. Some 246 kms of running in 24 hours on roads, tracks and then takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. This is the mountain, covered with rocks and bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan. In 2,500 years man has had no impact at all. There is still no pathway over the mountain that is swept by strong winds with temperatures as low as 4°C. The ascent is marked out by a trail of battery-driven coloured flashing lights and its challenge is a trial for human stamina and mental strength. . The runners have no sleep and those that finish are all hallucinating like poor old Pheidippides who was chatting to Pan not surprisingly . It takes place this next weekend . Good luck to them . A British woman took the women’s title in 2012 running just 1 hour behind the leading man. Fantastic.