Tragedy, in the home of tragedies

This summer I went to Epidaurus (/ ˌ ɛ p ɪ ˈ d ɔː r ə s /; Ancient Greek: Ἐπίδαυρος Epidauros) was a small city in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula at the Saronic Gulf, because I always wanted to watch an greek tragedy in the ancient Greek open air theatre.

I picked the play Elektra because it is a classic and a true tragedy, set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan War, it recounts the tale of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon.

The play was directed by a relatively new director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, who has found increasing attention, in a relatively short space of time, and in a very competitive genre.

I really loved the drive to Epidaurus, in the late afternoon, nearing sunset, travelling through the mountains with many other thousands, for the one purpose, to be at this venue and watch an ancient play. My expectations were close to none, as it would have been my first experience. I only assumed, Elektra would have been translated into a slightly more modern version, as many other cultural references and movements in Greece nowadays do.

I only realized the enormity of the crowds gathering there when I saw the size of the carpark and the queues when we got to the theatre gates. The ancient stone carved and built space welcomed us with a stage made in the same shape of its roundness, all in white with a round hole cut out on the white backdrop, linking the stage with the backdrop, by steep dramatic steps.

Epidavros

The tragedy begun and it was a disorienting and confusing experience. There were women covered in see through cloths, moving effortlessly like on-screen ghosts from the 70’s era. They reminded me of Catholicism and that became even more apparent as the play evolved. They were judgmental and backbones-less. The main character squeaked and screamed in unconnected personas making it even more uncomfortable. Yes she was going through a huge trauma however she did not need to be portrayed in such a misogynistic way. She was neither a woman, nor a devil. She was bitter and lost but the character portrayed was uncharacteristically poltergeisted for the pain and revenge she was planning. The whole lot of the other characters played out the same, they were either too weak or a copycat of Dracula like comicon characters that lacked dimension – this was a huge disappointment. The director could have played out the roles much more and did not think about their human element. It felt like he imposed his impression of the story on the actors. This left me with the impression the actors did not connect with the Director, and that is was pretty obvious he had made little effort to collaborate them even between them.

At the end of the tragedy, a bigger one happened. As the actors were bowing to their audience and receiving lots of thanks, the director, Thanos Papakonstantinou, went to the stage, dressed in an outfit resembling a German soldier outfit from the 2nd world war.

I did not find that funny or creative. I understood well his tendency to associate with the dark wave movement in Athens, after all I once was part of it too and remember al the boys getting excited with memorabilia, only to find themselves very isolated in the end. His choice was distasteful and inappropriate given we are at the verge of fascism all over Europe.

Thanos Papakonstantinou, failed on all fronts. It sounds like someone is pushing him to the front stage, however unqualified.  The Greek economy may be small, and opportunists like him can get attention and success, however Greece doesn’t deserve people like him mocking the situation (this is not a creative license, whatever he may come up to say) and fueling the division in our society further.

I wish to not see Thanos Papakonstantinou getting opportunities any day soon and for greek stages to host the original grassroots talent that exists but doesn’t try to buy in their way, through controversy. This is not USA, and there is no reason to be wearing an offensive outfit, not un-similar to Melania Trump’s ‘I don’t care’ outfit as she visited the children immigrant detention centres.

Messene western Peloponnese from Methoni

So here I am, baggage dropped off at our spacious apartment at Ilias apartments on Methoni beach and I find myself having late lunch on the seafront at the brilliant Varka Bay restaurant (biggest portions of homemade delicious Greek cuisine around at incredibly reasonable prices) in camping Methonis, reflecting how I got to decide what brought me here given I have no family connections, neither special recommendations by friends or acquaintances.

Earlier in the year, late in the heavy British wintertime, I was trailing Google maps for the perfect spot on the beach. I sought the experience the Ionian sea following the many summers I have spent riding ferry boats for hours to the beautiful yet overpriced cycladic islands.

This time I was looking for a shorter journey time from Athens, and a solid mainland vibe of Greek culture, with a smallish village for the ultimate necessary ice cream and souvlaki supply. And I got my dream in Methoni.

In my blog I will talk about the best bits of my holiday here and highlight a couple of things worthwhile your visit in the region of Messene.

Methoni is a village on the west coast of Peloponnese featuring a brilliant castle from 14th century. The village has an array of corners and squares connected by two main roads the upper and lower streets. It is truly homely and unpretentious.

On the seafront there’s a castle built on the contrasting, to the sandy waterfront, rocky outpost. Methoni Castle is the perfect afternoon walk offering unique views over the sea with plenty of areas for exploration in the castle grounds. You can also walk around it on the clear water beach to the fishing boat pier moorings, and on its other side for dramatic views over the rocky landscape, the Ionian sea and the sunset. It costs a mere 2 euro.

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My friend turned up from his archaeological work at Nestor’s Palace to join us for kayaking and drive us to more unique finds in the region.

Nestors palace

We went to Voidokilia, the whale tail water shaped beach where surfers have the safest low surf. The water is warm but do bring an umbrella or visit in the afternoon, the trees are far and few, but there’s cold coffee delivery from the turn up the road a few miles up, so do bring a phone!

Voidokilia

My friend also talked of the Griffin Warrior. An unidentified man of leading importance in the region excavated from his tomb recently alongside thousands of mycenaean gold and bronze swords cups, boar tooth helmet parts, body armour and all sorts of antiquities. I’m waiting on edge to find out more about this man and it will only be down to the work of scientists.

Please donate here http://griffinwarrior.org/griffinwarrior-excavations.html without them we would be in the dark about our history or even worse the looters could have gotten to it before us.

In Methoni town h Palia Istoria restaurant and Nontas souvlaki are my favourite eateries in the village. The decor in the form has rainbow umbrellas so I guess gay friendly, and an outdoor nursery space so kids can do their thing out of your way.

Palia Istoria restaurant in Methoni

On the beach, Kotronakia cafe is the ultimate bohemian oasis. Hanging off the rocks above the beach you get the best sea breeze under the shade and beautiful views across the bay to the castle.

In front of the Kotronakia bar
Messenea is rich in ancient history. Nestor Palace is a must historic place to check out. It was discovered in 1950s and recently got a canopy for our enjoyment and its protection out of the sun.
On our way back we stopped at the Kookoonari beach cafe bar where you can use the kayaks for free or play beach volleyball up the walkway. I really loved my time at this place. The vibe of the staff there is as cool as it gets.
Kookoonari beach bar

In the evening, we headed to Finikounda, a young family haven built off the pier with restaurants patisseries bars and shops lay on the paved high street, the central walk to spend time. A mile away are camp sites and wide pavement makes cycling back and forth fun to any time of the day. Boat trips are on offer to explore more of the region by the sea.

Finikounta

Staying in Methoni is the perfect holiday choice. The sea is clear and shallow and the length of the bay offers light busy and really quiet spots overlooking the two islands of Sapienza and Schiza.

Methoni beach view

The locals are friendly as you get and you run no risk of being overcharged. If your idea of a beach holiday is to spend peaceful hours swimming, tasting many greek dishes in very reasonable prices and discovering greek history, you have

arrived at your destination.