Christine and I have just got back from a relaxing holiday in the beautiful resort of Stoupa in the southern Peloponnese in Greece. At the Welcome party to provide holiday makers with information about the resort and its attractions, our host Mary talked about the fresh water springs in Stoupa. When you are on holiday in Greece you are often recommended to buy bottled water because the water in the taps has a higher mineral content and it can upset your tummy if you’re not used to it but you don’t have to buy bottled water for drinking in Stoupa because they have fresh water springs literally ‘on tap’.
Water falls on the Taygetos mountains to the north of Stoupa as rain or as snow during the winter and makes its way through the limestone until it rises to the ground surface in the resort. There are places in the resort where the spring water has been tapped and you can fill your bottles with it for free. This public amenity is both healthy for consumers and good for the environment because it avoids plastic bottles going into land fill. There are also springs in the bay at Stoupa and they look a little bit like whirlpools on the surface of the sea. When the springs occur in the sea they are known as ‘glyphathes’ (pronounced glee-far-theys). The amount of water is quite considerable and we were told that there was sufficient water to supply the whole of Messenia in the western Peloponnese. This does have the unfortunate effect of making the water in the bay a bit colder for bathers. We did hear about one spring close to Kalogria bay used by intrepid Dutch bathers who steeled themselves for the cold water in the sea by immersing themselves in the spring beforehand. Apparently if you could brave the icy flow the sea was a doddle…
Finding out about the springs and seeing them in the bay struck a chord with me because of the thematic collecting project about water at Manchester Museum and I made some enquiries to see if Mary would be willing to be interviewed about them on camera. Naturally I was delighted when Mary not only agreed but asked Dmitri at the diving school in nearby Kalogria to take part too. Dmitri had dived on the site of the springs and was happy to talk about them on camera.
Dmitri told us that the flow of water from the springs was so strong that it would push the divers back, and because it was fresh water it reduced visibility at the boundary with the salt water in the sea. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on the fish or other wildlife. As an added bonus Mary and her husband John kindly took me and Christine out in their boat to film one of the glyphathes and they really are spectacular. I’ve been working since I got back on editing the filmed interview with Mary and Dmitri and hopefully shall be able to share some footage with readers in the not-too-distant future. As far as we were concerned it was one of the highlights of our holiday and we shall certainly go back. However, until the permissions are granted what better than to watch the Greek documentary (link below). Footage of the glyphathes or underwater springs showing the divers can be seen from 5.05 on the counter.
It crossed my mind that we might expect to find archaeological material associated with the springs but Dmitri told me they were of more interest to geologists than archaeologists and that dye testing had shown the water made the transit from mountain top to the sea in about a fortnight. The other thought I had was whether seeing the glyphathes in the bay had inspired any mythological tales. That’s something to look into separately and I’ll keep you posted.