The people of Brasiae add that Ino in the course of her wanderings came to the country, and agreed to become the nurse of Dionysus. They show the cave where Ino nursed him, and call the plain the garden of Dionysus.
Pausanias III 24.4
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we could not travel for almost 2 years. But in July, we finally received our vaccination… and we couldn’t wait to visit Greece, again. Being aware, that herping in summer would be rather impossible, we planned a mix of beach & mountains. And the Leonidi area at the foothills of Parnon Range turned out the optimal destination: Being remote of the major tourist spots, it has calm beaches as well as lonely mountains. Our accommodation was at Leonidi, which is situated close to the ancient Laconian town of Brasiae. This area with its scenic limestone rocks and the fertile plain at the coast had been called the “garden of Dionysus”. Here, according to the legend reported by Pausanias, this god was nursed in a cave.
But back to nature: As expected, we hardly noticed any herptiles in the hot and dry low altitudes. But in the mountains, we still came across some lizards. In particular, at places with water such as fountains and sources there still was plenty of life with a lot of insects and flowers.
Kosmas in the southern slopes of Parnon is a popular tourist destination: At 1100 meters, people escape from the heat and enjoy their meals under the plane trees of the village square. The surrounding fir forests (Abies cephalonica) were the right place for us to escape from civilization. Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus) and Greek Rock Lizard (Hellenolacerta greaeca) were omnipresent, and we also encountered some juvenile Balkan Green Lizards (Lacerta trilineata), whereas the adults were hiding in the dense vegetation. Beautiful hours in forest solitude…
Hidden in the forests there are the headwaters of the Agiorgitiko river, which has dug a scenic canyon into the limestone rocks. Crossing this karstic area, the river falls completely dry in summer. However, close to the village of Platanaki, one of the headwaters passes some schist rocks for about one kilometer and in this section, there is water running all-the-year. A magic place with even some amphibian life in summer. And the Platanus orientalis trees give shade forGreek Algyroides (Algyroides moreoticus).
The village of Kastanitsa is located just below the Parnon peak. From there, a forest road leads up to 1500 meters: cool fir woods, temperatures below 20 °C – the perfect place for Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis). Also Hellenolacerta graeca was found up there and, a little bit lower, Podarcis peloponnesiacus. No people around – just nature…
As said before, the sunburnt hills of lower altitudes weren’t the most rewarding naturalist places. However, in the aforementioned dry river bed of Agiorgitiko, aquatic life concentrated on a few deep cracks with standing water: refuges in the baking oven of the dry phrygana. And finally, also the coast had enough humidity for at least some lizards (Hellenolacerta graeca, Podarcis peloponnesiacus).
Greece is always beautiful – even in hot summer. And we were grateful to visit this country after a long period of pandemic shut-down. Thanks for having us!