When I last left the Thursday Door crowd, I was back in the Greek town of Napflio, looking at the door at Number 13 Vasilissis Olgas enroute to the Mani. The Mani is a mountainous peninsula jutting out into the Aegean Sea, south of the main land mass of the Peloponnese. The coastline along the peninsula is mainly a rocky one, an isolated and wild area where Patrick Leigh Fermor was drawn to after serving in Greece for the British SOE during WWII. In addition to his heroic (and colourful) exploits during the war, he had built a reputation as a great traveller and travel writer. He had a wide range of artistic and literary friends to whom he was affectionately known as Paddy. He also had a depth of knowledge and love of Greece and its people. It was no surprise that he chose to settle in Greece, particularly the wild Mani, near the village of Kardamyli. Here he built his wonderful, quirky, sprawling house on the steep slopes along the west coast. At the time it stood alone, but within the last few years, more houses – and a few boutique hotels – have cropped up. The roof of Paddy’s house is just visible among the trees – cypresses and olives which he built the house around. On his death in 2011, the house was gifted to the Benaki Museum who have since restored and maintained the house.
The house and its grounds are surrounded by high walls. The gateway in the wall has simple, but solid doors, not even hinting at what lay within.
The compound consists of a sprawling main house and a separate writer’s study set in a landscape of olive and cypress trees, scented herbs and climbing vines. The house doors are like those of the gate – simple, solid, concealing.
One of the first things you see when entering the house, just by the door, is a painted plaster lion head embedded in the wall. Could this have been a genius or guardian spirit of the house? It was sculpted and painted by Paddy’s friend, the gifted Greek artist, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas.
The arched corridor that lay beyond was said to be modelled on a cloister of a Mount Athos monastery. It was lit with hanging lamps from Morocco.
Along one branch of the arched walkway lay the Great Room. The interior doors here are beautifully restored wood with a diamond pattern.
The Great Room, itself, is spacious, lined with books and had a most magnificent window seating area looking out at the rocky coast beyond.
The room leads out to an upper paved garden area though a back door with an interesting star patterned window above.
Just to the left after exiting, is an outdoor viewing/seating area similar to that inside. Again, a view over the rocky coast and sea below.
Further along are steep steps down to the coast.
But, around the side, is a lower secluded pebble cobbled courtyard with a central olive tree.
On this lower level, there is access to the basement area through a narrow door.
Through the basement, up the stairs is the kitchen. It’s stable door is very reminiscent of British country kitchens.
Back along the arched corridor, along one wing where the bedrooms are located, is the way back out.
Through the door and back outside… We leave the property having felt we saw something special, a slice of history along this rocky coast of the Mani.
Have a look at Norm’s blog, Thursday Doors for more stories of fascinating buildings and their doors.