Living in Mani, the Peloponnese: find a four-legged companion for a day, a month or forever

For some a “living in the Mani, Peloponnese project” means staying here permanently, whereas for others it is only a matter of a few weeks or a few months. Whether you are here just to relax or to combine your work with a holiday, your involvement as a volunteer at MIAO can provide much needed help for homeless animals in the area.

I met Jo and Martin who haves lived in Mani from February 2022. Jo is one of the volunteers in the MIAO organisation. I am very grateful that she wants to share her “why the Peloponnese story” and her experience of working as a volunteer in MIAO. Right now Jo takes care of the project “The puppies from Thalames”. Fifteen wonderful puppies who need to find a home and it is Jo who takes care of socializing puppies, vaccinating and more. I met her in the beginning of May 2022 and followed her to the place where both puppies and parents are right now. All pictures in this article are from this day.

Living in the Mani, Peloponnese: Friendly. Healthy. Intriguing

living-mani-peloponnese-dogEK: A short presentation of you and Martin?

We are a couple from Yorkshire in the north of England. We are from a small town called Holmfirth – we both grew up there, although each lived in different parts of the UK before getting together almost 15 years ago, marrying and moving back to the area.
Martins career background is in hospitality, whereas Jo has always worked in Marketing. We both ran our own businesses in the UK. We both enjoy nature and music – both listening and playing. Martin plays trumpet and Jo guitar.We also have animals – we currently have 4 cats.

EK: When did you visit Greece for the first time? And what part of Greece was it?

Both of us visited Greece quite regularly as younger adults in our 20’s – back packing to explore different islands. However, we got re-acquainted with Greece about 12 years ago. One holiday here reminded us how fantastic it was and we were hooked. We’ve been coming to Greece as often as we can ever since

EK: What is your “why the Peloponnese” history?

Having spent a lot of time exploring islands we decided to explore the mainland. I (Jo) had very briefly been to the Peloponnese a long time ago, so we choose there. The first place we went to was actually the deep Mani and we fell in love with it – it’s spectacular scenery and ruggedness. That was over 10 years ago and since then we’ve travelled widely all across the Peloponnese before settling on the Mani as a place to call home. The Peloponnese offers lots of variety – from snowy mountains in the north to beautiful beaches in the south. It’s also home to a diverse mix of people, from Greeks to a wide variety of European nationals which adds to the interest. Whilst it’s a developing area it remains peaceful with a feeling of being off the beaten track.

EK: You decided to move from the UK to Mani at the end of 2021. Now you are renting a house in Thalames, a Taygetos village. Do you remember your first memories of “living for real” in Mani?

We actually decided we were going to move here several years ago, however we had to find the right time as we both ran businesses in the UK. Also Brexit has created lots of extra complexity for British people – both in getting into Europe and because of the limits it places on what we can do here. However we didn’t want to wait too long – life is to be lived and we knew we wanted to be here. Last year we put our house in the UK up for sale and planned our move

We arrived here at 2am in the morning in the middle of February. We arrived in a campervan which we had driven across Europe with our cats! Our first memory was driving up a very steep hill to a house we hadn’t seen before and which was to become our home. Our campervan was so full we worried it wouldn’t go up the hill !!

Whilst we had passed Thalames many times in the past we didn’t know it well. As a visitor it’s easy to spend most of your time by the coast. However, the mountain villages are beautiful. Thalames is a lovely place – it is very pretty, has fantastic views, has lots of great walking and a lovely local taverna. There are actually a variety of different places to eat and drink out all close to our house

EK: What is your experience of Greek culture when it comes to meeting foreigners?

We’ve found Greek people very welcoming and have found it really easy to settle in here. Easier than we expected actually. Our landlords have been very kind to us, welcoming us, helping us and introducing us to a lot of people. We also have a very friendly local taverna. Our Greek is still very limited, although we are keen to learn. Luckily lots of people have excellent language skills and where we have language barriers you can still get a long way if you smile and take the time to try to understand people.

EK: Jo, you also choose to work as a volunteer in MIAO, Mani International Animal Organisation. Can you describe more about what you do?

I have done quite a lot of animal rescue work in the past. I was a trustee and volunteer for the RSPCA in the U.K. I’ve also done some work with Greek Animal charities before, so I am aware of the issues Greece face. I knew I wanted to do more of this work when I moved here. I’ve also been recently studying for a Dog Behaviour Diploma to further help.

I contacted MIAO (Mani International Animal Association) as a local Mani based animal charity, as I wanted to focus on helping in the area where I live. I’m still new, but my role varies from hands on dog feeding to training and socialising puppies to helping to arrange the sterilisation of adult dogs that will prevent future surges in puppy numbers. At the moment we have a lot of abandoned or unwanted puppies to care for, so raising funds for their care and finding homes for these gorgeous young dogs is a big priority

EK: Can you describe in just three words how and if your lives have changed since you decided to move to Mani?

Friendly. Healthy. Intriguing