I sit above a taverna in Karavostasi, a small collection of buildings and houses in a bay at a breaking point in the formidable Taygetus just north of Areopolis. The hills flanking the bay drop steep down to the water. I remember the approach: coming down from the attacking peaks of the north, the new folds of mountains and hills running along the coast looked like a row of great sphinxes, lined up and facing out to the Messinian gulf. Their heads barren and scorched by the sun to a pale, dead brown, their legs laid down to the sea.
Four days ago I had arrived to a derelict Kalamata, wondering through the dusty streets in search of anything open. One o’clock in the afternoon on a Sunday was not the best time to arrive; a combination of daily siesta and church day saw to it that most of the shops and establishments were reduced to dented, rusting shutters covered in scribbles of graffiti, giving the impression of many years’ abandonment. I found a small hotel near the station and waited for the town to return to life as the sun released its sweltering grip on the streets.
The view down the main street framed purpling peaks shooting up in ranks to the north. The dusk light softened the jagged points and derelict sides, as if I were an ant on some great, deep purple meringue, the calm tops of sugar walling in this town at the horizon.