Xenophilia à la Mazarakis
I’ve spent a few nights in the Mazarakis Guesthouse in Mystra, but I’d happily stay for a week.
It’s one of those rare B&Bs where the location is as good as the welcome is as good as the rooms is as good as the food. Yup, I’m afraid this is going to be a gushing review. Xenonas Mazarakis, to give it its Greek name, only has six rooms (at present). It sits above the town of Mystra, which clings to the steep hillside of Mount Taugetos, overlooking the plain in which the town of Sparti (Ancient Sparta) lies. It’s owned by Mr and Mrs Mazarakis, who have several good restaurants in Athens, but you’ll likely also meet the charming Mina who runs the place. Each of them have that easygoing and genuine ability to make you feel welcome that comes from 3000 years of training: the tradition of philoxenia runs deeper in Greek blood than breaking plates and leaping around with pompoms on your feet. The Mazarakis clearly also have impeccable taste, judging by the excellent rooms, bathrooms, breakfast, decorations… What a boringly positive review this is.
Most people visiting Greece for the first or thirtieth time don’t make it here—more’s the pity (for them). The Peloponnese have a wild and untouched feeling, combined with a rich past. This is a great base from which to explore either just Mystra, or the whole of Laconia (Monemvassia, Mani, Sparta). Mystra itself was a hugely important Byzantine town—it was here that the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine, was crowned. So there’s no lack of history and culture, and the icons in the ruined city’s churches are celebrated. There’s also great hiking and mountain biking. I was here in August—so it’s baking hot. We went hiking on Taugetos, where the Spartans trained their kids to be tough like walnuts. In the winter, the trails are cooler, and the now-empty gorges sing with the rushing of water coming off the mountain. Mina tells me the guesthouse is much busier then, too—full of Athenians coming for the weekend to chill out. I can imagine nothing nicer. In fact, I’m hoping to come back in November for a few days’ olive picking, to learn how the oil is made, and how the edible olives are cured. If you’re interested, give us a call—this isn’t something that the guesthouse offers officially, but it can easily be arranged.
Jack is a Trufflepig partner and trip planner based in Paris. He specializes in all things European, and can help you find some damn good olives if you shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.