Leonidio, a small town in the middle of the Greek Peloponnese peninsula is establishing quickly to be a popular climbing destination on this globus. What could be worse than doing all the things wrong there because you didn’t know…?
Nima & Steve , Mandy and I (we are travel and outdoor bloggers) spent some time in Leonidio to climb and fledding the winter in central Europe. If you are preparing yourself for the trip soon, we’ve put together a few things which you shouldn’t do, while you’re in town:
1. Don’t bring your gingerbread or your groceries to the Peloponnese
The peak of the season in Leonidio dwells during the Christmas holidays. If you’re going to spend Christmas here, you might think you’ll find yourself in a ghost town with shops closed and probably miss out a chance on the yearly gingerbread cookies and pack them along in your luggage.
The good news is – all shops are opened! Leonidio is a bustling little village that has everything. There are at least 3 confectionaries in Leonidio selling the most delicious, nuttiest cookies in the world. Many of them gives you a hint of Christmas, months way before you’ve even gotten into the Christmas spirit!
If you are looking for fresh bread, there are numerous bakeries baking the finest and freshest bread. One of them brings you goodies directly from a wooden oven!
2. Don’t plan your Rest Days while you’re climbing here
We climb usually in a 2:1 modus. 2 climbing days to 1 rest day. So the plan. The best climbing time of the year is between November and March. It is also a time where rain accumulates the most. 15 rainy days in December according to the climate graph isn’t very optimistic. It would mean climbing on a 1:1 basis. So the theory.
While in some years you may be lucky with a good, long dry period, other years might bring loads of precipitation putting all your climbing routine and plans to a mess. We had loads of rain this early winter. The next day, everything was drenched. It got us very worried.
The good news: Leonidio in the Peloponnese enjoys a microclimate that pushes the grey clouds away quickly during bad weather. While it’s raining or snowing cats and dogs 10 km away in the valley, the town by the sea is a few degrees warmer than anywhere else and enjoys less rain. These walls dries up quickly after 1-2 hours of sun. Forget the forecast, it was never right – let the weather visually decide for you when to make your rest day. Enjoy the sun while it’s there.
3. Don’t ask for milk to go with your greek coffee
Really? Drinking coffee belongs to part of this Mediterranean country’s cultural identity. By spending a few minutes in the morning to drink a good greek coffee, you will realise that many of the locals comes in to just have their favourite cuppa and continue with their routine a few minutes later. Of course, those with much more time in their hands will probably be spending the whole morning infront of the cafe, watching everyone passing by or talking about life with their companions. Cars and little trucks passing by will either greet or stop for a quick chat before moving on. There must be a reason for putting those chairs and tables infront of the kafenio and across the road as well!
When ordering a greek coffee, please never ask it to go with milk or cream. I did that. And was instantly told politely with a grin that greek coffee just doesn’t taste good with milk. Greek coffee should be enjoyed black and with some sugar or time. Time? After being served, wait a few minutes so that the ground coffee can sink to the bottom. Otherwise, you will be choking on your coffee before you know it. The traditional greek coffee is usually prepared in a briki (coffee pot). Roasted coffee powder, sugar and water goes all into the pot. Once done, the whole thing is poured into the cup. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you insist on milk, you’re probably better off ordering a cappuccino, or frappe (cold coffee) instead. There are three big traditional greek cafes situated on the main road in Leonidio.
4. Don’t expect NO traffic jams on the road
In one of your journeys through the valley, you will definately come across the herds of goats that goes a wandering along the streets to whereever they want to go to. Everyday, they are allowed to get out of their pens for a few hours before returning in the evening. They are the only cause of traffic jam in this valley. If you want to take photos of this phenomen, make sure first that the herding dog is not anywhere near you, otherwise you might bring home a painful souvenier in the butt.
If you see the shepherd, be friendly. You will want him to be on your side and not send the dog to you.
Nima & Steve from Abenteuerunterwegs travels permanently across Europe in Horst, their striking red bus. Together with their furries – Merle, Jule and Luna, they tell their van-life adventures as they travel. These are their tips:
5. Don’t buy orange juices from the package in Leonidio
That’s a sin! In Leonidio, you’re sitting in the middle of an
gold mine orange source. Press out the freshest and juiciest oranges yourself. It doesn’t only taste so much better, it is also good training for the biceps
6. Leonidio is a world on it’s own.
Everyone knows everyone and everyone greets each other. Social interaction and engagement are an important gesture in the daily life of these locals. Don’t run through town with a sulky face. Instead , brace yourself with the most important greek words in your pockets and smile:
- Kaliméra = Good Morning/Day
- Ya sas = Hello! Something you can use around the clock
- To kanis / ti kanete = How are you?
- Efcharisto = Thank you
- Parakalo = You’re welcome
Leave behind your stressy daily routine at home and enjoy the greek composure. Oh, here’s two more words for you:
- Siga, siga = take it easy!
7. Don’t be surprised.
About what? Well, see it this way … the Leonidiens are exceptionally cordial and it can happen that they will offer you a gift. It could be oranges, fresh oregano or a few cookies, cheese or cake.
This kind of hospitality is part of their culture. So don’t be surprised, instead accept it with a smile and give in return your time.
Mandy from Movin n’ Groovin
is a lone traveller travels with her VAN-dog Marko. Freedom, Vanlife and Blogging are just some of the things she loves most as she moves from one country to the next. How to recognise her? Well, she has this dusty, grey-blue van with a big bump at the back and a crushed step thread under the door. As long as this box with wheels still runs, it’s really fine with her. These are her tips:
8. Don’t come to Leonidio in Peloponnese and not climb as a climber.
The areas around Leonidio in the Peloponnese has a huge amount of diverse rocks to climb on – not only for hard movers! Even beginners like me could get suddenly hooked to this sport. Try it out for yourself! There are plenty of easy routes to lay your fingers on and if you are desperately looking for a climbing partner, check out the next tip:
9. Don’t miss paying a visit to the Panjika Cafe
Climbers climbing in Leonidio will find many other climbers at THE Panjika Cooperative. Panjika is a Cafe, Gallery and climbing shop (another venue) in one. There are Live Jam sessions every Saturday. They also have a black board where you can put up your offers and requests for diverse things e.g. climbing partners, physiotherapie, gear, etc.
Oh, in case you need a nightcap, try the delicious “Rakomelo” (hot Raki with honey and herbs) Many things on their menu is vegan friendly.
10. Don’t miss the weekly Market
Every monday, is market day in Leonidio. You will find fresh fruits and vegetables from the region (and village!) at a fracture of the usual price. Most of the vendors speaks english, and to those who don’t, you should put your hands and feet to use. By trying to use the few greek vocabs you have learned by now, you might get a few oranges as a reward.
Tip: Take along your own shopping bag to avoid using heaps of plastic bags for each vegetable or fruit you purchase.
What are your tips for Leonidio? You have more to say on top of these few? Leave them here in the comments.