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Abalinx 10 August 2020 Peter Adamis
Stranded in the old country for the past four months amidst a pandemic scenario, one works and plays within set parameters and make the best of the challenges faced. A copy of the article may be downloaded by clicking on: SUN SEA MARIJUANA OREGANO AND TOMATOES
I managed with the help of a cousin, a former marathon runner, professional photographer, electrician and farmer; to take a dip in the Mediterranean and visit the ruins of a Greek War of Independence battle site.
I must say that the salty sea water did my body a world of good. Riddled with arthritis, swimming at the Mavro Vouni beach (Black Mountain) was just magnificent. After the swim we went on a brief tour of the rugged and mountainous region of Mani. A region known for its piracy, vendettas, revolutionaries, brigands, Chieftains, and Freedom fighters.
We stopped off briefly a drink at the next seaside beach front at Vathia, small seaside village known for its hospitality, scenic beauty and sea shore. Lunch at the town of Aeropolis located in Laconia and one of the towns who rebelled against their Ottoman overlords. A beautiful and picturesque town which is a must visit for tourists.
Our intended target was a ruined village high up in the Taygetos Mountain range. A village made of stone less the wooden doors and windows. The only building intact and in excellent condition was the church, still holding fast against the elements. The village cluster of ruined stone homes stand guard as silent sentinels to remind those who dared to attempt to conquer a proud people that they were up against an ancient warrior race. These warriors ancestors were free Laconian’s and dwellers about given the freedom to settle high up in the mountains alongside the Laconian and Spartan brethren.
Due to hardships, famine, earthquakes, wandering Slavic, Albanian, Celt tribes and invaders such as the Frank’s, Venetians and Ottomans, these warriors developed into a caste of their own. A warrior caste worthy of the Spartan brethren. They were called the Maniates. They became pirates, brigands and fought amongst themselves in order to survive the ravages of time and their harsh environment. The only reason the Maniates were left to their own devices was because of the difficulty in taking them or bringing them to heel.
During the Slavic incursions, marriage between the Western Maniates located on the Messenian side became the norm while those on the Eastern side of the Taygetos mountain range in Laconia remained free of any other external blood lines. Hence those in Laconia could boast a direct link to Hellenes of a bygone era.
During the War of Independence, the Ottoman (Turkish) Sultan called upon his Egyptian vassal Ibrahim Pasha (An Albanian by birth) who had taken control of Egypt. The Sultan asked Ibrahim Pasha to quell the Greek uprising in the Peloponnese, especially those of the Mani region. Ibrahim Pasha was very successful given that his troops had been trained by the French in modern warfare techniques and with modern weapons. Ibrahim Pasha ravaged the Peloponnese taking many hostages as slaves to the slave markets of Egypt. (One wonders where their offspring’s are today).
However not all went according to plan. Ibrahim Pasha in his conquest of the Peloponnese attempted to strike deep into the heart of Mani though the village of Petrina on the Western side of the Taygetos mountain range. To achieve his goal he was required to attack the village of Poliarabas. (Many Arabs) A tiny hamlet located just below the Summit of the Taygetos mountain range. Using tiny goat tracks, Ibrahim Pasha attacked the village thinking that it was not a problem.
However to his surprise, his Army was met by a hail of well aimed bullets from his Greek adversaries who shot at them from amongst the craggy mountain passes and defiles. The Egyptian losses were heavy indeed and few survived. The day before the attack, the Greeks were informed through various networks of Ibrahim Pashas intended target and rushed reinforcements to Poliarabas.
They also sent handpicked warriors to infiltrate Ibrahim Pashas Army with the aim of assassinating him. The warriors were successful in their infiltration and slaughtered a well dressed man whom they believed was Ibrahim Pasha himself. However Ibrahim Pasha escaped the assassination attempt and eventually returned to Egypt after the Ottoman fleet was destroyed at Navarino by a combined force of English, French & Russian fleet.
On the day we climbed up towards the ruined village of Poliarabas, we took photographs of our environment and became acquainted with its location and strategic importance to the region of Mani. Just below the summit, there is a mountain spring with water sort fresh, pure and clean that it’s like cleansing ones body of any toxins. It was at this spring that a young woman slew an Egyptian soldier who attempted to slaughter her and her child. An original painting of her dead is hung permanently next to the spring.
We could see that indeed, the Poliarabas was like a gateway into the heart of Mani and had Ibrahim Pasha been successful, the whole of the Mani region would have been under threat from within. We stayed long enough to see that living must have been harsh for its inhabitants and as such it was no wonder that both men and women were strong, hardly, resilient and defiant in their brave and courageous battle against overwhelming odds.
On the way down we collected wild oregano and leaves that could be dried to create a strong and aromatic tea. We passed by many villages of which very few if any Inhabitants remained. When we met any of the villagers, we were advised that the villagers had all but disappeared amongst the nations of the Diaspora. (America, Canada, Australia and Europe).
Driving back home to Pellana (Home of Helen of Troy and her husband Menelaus – Master of the War Cry), we rang my nephew who is a policeman. We asked where we could sell the Marijuana (Oregano) in Sparta. My young nephew quick of the mark and a bright lad at that, realised we were pulling his leg. He directed us to this big building (Police Headquarters) which had uniformed guards monitoring people entering and leaving the building.
He said to take the Marijuana (Oregano) into the building and ask how much for a kilo. He said that the gentlemen would be able to look after us. The reason we rang my nephew was because we had heard on the grape vine of two Albanians who fought a pitched battle with Police after being caught growing Marijuana. Two Policemen were shot during the battle with minor non fatal injuries and the Albanians jailed waiting for a court appearance.
We chuckled at my nephew’s response and drove home in a cheery mood. It was a real beaut day and I for one planted a couple of the bushes amongst the tomatoes plants. I had been advised that they were compatible to each other. That my dear friends was our visit to the beach, the Mani region, the battle site, collection of Marijuana (Oregano) and subsequent companion planting.
Our next visit to the region of Mani is to visit the Pyrgi or tall well built stone fortresses that shielded man against man during the vendettas. I have been seduced by the harsh and cruel environment of Mani. They say that there is evidence that Napoleon Bonaparte’s ancestors are Maniates, who migrated to Corsica during the vendetta period. Warmest regards to all my mates back home. Best wishes to those with health issues, stay strong, be of good cheer and never give up.
Peter Adamis is a Journalist/Social Media Commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an Industry organisational, Environmental & Occupational (OHS) & Training Consultant whose interests are within the parameters of domestic and international political spectrum. He is an avid blogger and contributes to domestic and international community news media outlets as well as to local and Ethnic News. He holds a Bachelor of Adult Learning & Development (Monash), Grad Dip Occupational Health & Safety, (Monash), and Dip. Training & Assessment, Dip Public Administration, and Dip Frontline Management. Website: abalinx.com