Living in the Mani, on the Peloponnese: freedom, gardening, nature. This is how Christina and Leif Fryle from Sweden describe the reason why they chose to move to our lovely Mani. Elias and I (with Estia of course) visited them both in their well designed stone house in early May 2022. “Swedish fika” with the view over the sea and their magical garden, an enjoyable Sunday for all of us.
Living in the Mani, on the Peloponnese: freedom, gardening, nature
EK: Can you help me with a short presentation of both of you Christina and Leif?
We are both dedicated gardeners and photographers with a great interest in botany and nature. Leif is retired from his work in technical maintenance for the process industry. Christina is still working remotely as a journalist/editor.
EK: When you visited Greece for the first time? And what part of Greece was it?
We have both traveled to the islands since we were in our twenties. But twenty years ago we started going to mainland Greece instead – and loved it so much we dropped the island visits completely.
EK: What is your “why the Peloponnese” history? And you choose the Mani?
We have a history of extensive traveling to mountainous areas around Europe and the world. We love the mountains but also the sea – and Mani has both. Our small village Agios Nikolaos is lively even in winter with the grocery stores and a couple of restaurants open all year. In spring, summer and autumn there are several places for eating out or having a drink or a coffee. We built our house on the outskirts of the village close to the sea to be able to walk or bike almost everywhere. We don’t use the car that much…
EK: You decide to move from Sweden to Mani in January 2019. Do you remember your first memories of “living for real” in your house in Mani?
We immediately felt a lot of freedom as it is so easy to walk in and out in this climate. In winter you just put on a sweater and you are ready for the outdoors. We have a big plot with 90 olive trees – and our house has glass doors in every direction. It’s so easy to just slip out.
EK: What is your experience of Greek culture when it comes to meeting foreigners? What does your social life look like after the first 3 years? Is it easy to make friends?
It is very easy to make friends with people in the same situation – people from other parts of Europe who stay here permanently or part time. We have not made any Greek friends, only distant acquaintances – but they are always nice and friendly. The Greek language is an obstacle. I (Christina) have learned a little Greek – but for Leif it is very difficult.
EK: You built the house, created a wonderful garden, got a cat and chickens. And sometimes you help us with dog sitting (our Estia loves to come to you). Is everything going as you have imagined with your Greek life?
Yes, but we certainly didn’t plan to have any animals! They just happened. The gardening possibilities were the main reason for moving here. Gardening 12 months a year is wonderful – instead of 6 months in Sweden where the winters are very cold. Everything grows rapidly. You can make a new garden in just a few years.
We really love the winter here, which is the main growing season. In November-May we harvest broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach, salat, beetroots, parsley and potatoes. Then garlic and onions – and more potatoes as we grow two harvests per year. Strawberries from February into June. Sugar snap peas all year round.
During summer we have loads of tomatoes, chili, cucumber, zucchini, melons, aubergine, beans, and basil. But our prime interest has always been the ornamental plants. Here we have focused on several types of lavender, rock roses, myrtle, salvias, rosemarys and other drought tolerant plants.
EK: Christina, are you still working on your assignments in Sweden? Is it distracting to work with the sea as a neighbor?
Yes, I am still working as the editor in chief for a Swedish garden magazine. I have no problems working with the sea nearby. It is more distracting to have the garden just outside my window urging me to go out and dig, plant, water or weed…
EK: You both often travel in the Peloponnese to botanize the local flora. Your blog has plenty of photos from your trips. Can we, your readers, hope that you will write and publish a book about the vegetation of the Peloponnese?
No! There will be no book about the Peloponnese flora written by us! We will stick to the website, the blog and our instagram account @frylegarden. But we are happy to help anyone coming here to find the best places for flower spotting or take keen fellow gardeners on a stroll around our garden.
EK: Can you describe in just three words how and if your lives have changed since you decided to move to Mani?
Freedom, gardening, nature.