At the far end of Peloponnese, on the south eastern coast of the peninsula looking on to Mirtoon Sea, at a distance of 95 km form the town of Sparta, stands Monemvasia. Today a causeway bridges the gap that separates the former peninsula from the mainland and leads us behind the fortification walls into a unique, intact medieval city - state, a refuge for many artists in our own day. Apart from old mansions, it possesses a wealth of Byzantine churches - around forty of them. Among the most outstanding are Ayia Anna, a 14th century basilica, Ayios Nikolaos (18th century), the Panayia Kritikia, Ayios Stephanos in Italian - Byzantine style (16th century), and Ayios Pavlos (10th century). The most important of all is the church of Christ Elkomenos (13th century), Monemvasia's cathedral, with its four Byzantine icons and its two marble imperial thrones. The architecture of the houses betrays a strong Venetian influence, with the chimneys facing east and the balconies overlooking the sea. On the top of the rock stands the Castle itself, while the church of Ayia Sophia (13th century) stands at its steepest point. This is a rare example of an octagonal church with dome; there are a few frescoes preserved within. The new village of Nea Monemvassia lies just a thousand metres from the causeway on the mainland. It is a modern tourist resort with fine beaches. Northwest of Monemvassia, on the road to Sparta, is the farming town of Molai, where there are the remains of a medieval fortress and an early Christian church. At Halasmata it's worth stopping to see the mosaic floors in the three ruined 6th century churches there. One of the prettiest sandy beaches in the Peloponnese, Elias, is just 9 km from Molai. Neapolis, a seaside resort much favoured by Greeks because of its beautiful, long beaches, lies to the south of Monemvasia. From Neapolis it is easy to cross over to Elafonisos, a small island blessed with beaches worthy of a tropical paradise, backed with sand dunes and pinewoods. Fresh fish abound in this part of the Peloponnese. Kiparissi, to the north of Monemvasia and southeast of Sparta, is a charming coastal village which has recently developed into a resort attracting those who like «to get away from it all». It has three marvelous stretches of beach lining three successive coves. If you have time, patience and a love for the Greek landscape, Laconia in the southern portion of the Peloponnese has countless more delightful spots to reward the explorer. A distinctly shaped great rock - «capsized ship» according to Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos - rising from the sea, only a few meters from the coast is often referred as the «Gibraltar of Greece». A thin strip of land links it with the Gefyra, a fishing village on the main land. It takes 15 to 20 minutes walking from Gefyra to Monemvasia. On the north side of the bay there are a few houses consisting the small village of Palea (old) Monemvasia. Walking along the road you find the cemetery where in 1989 the famous Greek poet Ioannis Ritsos was buried as it was his motherland. After the cemetery you reach the lower town of Monemvasia which is called «the Fortress» today. A wall protects the lower town from three sides east, south and west. There are several churches around like Panagia Chrisafitissa, Panagia Mirtidiotissa, Christos Elkomenos, Agia Sofia. On the east side of the main square stands the house with a garden containing the remains of the early Byzantine church. At the west end of the square there is the «Stellakis» house as it is known, that was reconstructed giving a lot of information about the architectural details and the appearance of the medieval town. A small zigzag path connects the lower town with the upper town and it was difficult not only for the attackers but for the residents to curry their supplies using their hands or their donkeys. The Fort city of Monemvasia with the one and only gate as its name suggests, turns a dream into reality. The site on which the rock now stands was called Minoa and was probably used by ancient Cretans seafarers as a base. That was where Greeks sought refuge from Slav invaders. They fortified the site using it as a harbour. The church of Agia Sofia overlooks the region at the bleakest part of the rock and is one of the most beautiful worship spots in Greece. You will walk past a mosque converted into a museum, along an uphill path that takes you to the Fort. Old stone built mansions now used as inns and hotels form arcades over steps and greenery creating an environment of superb beauty.