Kalamata 2019

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June 4th 2019
Published: June 5th 2019
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Reminder: the panoramic photos at the start of the blog change every 7/8 seconds and give a larger and clearer image than when viewed with the other photos. Also, there are more photos below the text if you want to skip the diary details; and if you double click on any of the photos you will get an enlarged, clearer image. You can return to the text anytime.

Sunday 2 June: after a very early (7.30am) and surprisingly comfortable flight from Birmingham we arrived in Kalamata at 1pm local time. It's a small terminal at Kalamata Airport and they were handling just one plane at a time. So we breezed through Immigration and Customs and, as the Hertz desk was next to the exit from Customs, we were on our way quickly and efficiently. Our hotel is on the far side of the town to the Airport but using the satnav we negotiated our way safely through the town and on to the hotel; which is located about one third of the way up a steep mountainside overlooking the bay. Again everything went very efficiently and we were in our room and enjoying the fabulous view in no time at
Nice view to wake up toNice view to wake up toNice view to wake up to

Kalamata Bay from Belvedere Hotel
all. After settling in we decided to go for a walk and headed directly downhill to the seaside for a cup of coffee at a beach cafe. The plan was to get a taxi back up the steep hill to the hotel but there weren't any. So we had a retrace our steps, slowly, back up the hill taking 40 minutes to do just over half a mile. As we didn't know where to eat we had dinner at the hotel, which was hopeless: limited choice and tasteless. Not the perfect ending to what had otherwise been an excellent day.

Monday 3rd June. up early and after a good breakfast we went into Kalamata town to have a look around. The 3 mile drive was easy enough and we were lucky to find a parking space near the centre. The town (pop 55,000) is laid out in a gridiron fashion so it was easy to find our way round. We walked about a mile down the main street towards the port and the disused railway terminus; which has been converted into a rather nice park; complete with old steam locomotives. By the time we got back to the car it was raining heavily so we headed back in the direction of our hotel to look for somewhere to have a late lunch. According to Tripadvisor there are some good cafes/restaurants along the seafront road so we headed there and after a couple of enquiries found one that offered fresh vegetables. The seafront appears to be the only area of Kalamata that's geared towards tourism; and even then towards domestic rather than foreign tourists. After lunch we drove along the eastern shoreline of the bay, past our hotel, to see what was there. Not a lot as it happens, just a few small hamlets with pebble beaches. In the evening we returned to the restaurant on the seafront where we'd had lunch and enjoyed a good meal of fresh veggies which brought back happy memories of Cretan restaurants.

Tuesday 4th June: the first big excursion, to Messene the ancient capitol of this part of the Peloponnese. We headed north along a brand new motorway, then turned off west through pleasant countryside before starting to climb into the hills. Our guidebook had recommended approaching Messene from the north through the Arcadian Gate rather than the usual more direct approach from the south. Good call as the Arcadian Gate and city walls were very impressive. The modern road still passes through the gateway. We next stopped at the Archaeological Museum to have a quick look at the small collection of statues there and to buy tickets to access the main archaeological site. The site is very large covering the entire floor of the valley with many well preserved buildings and concourses; the most spectacular being the stadium at the lower end of the site. After an enjoyable couple of hours pottering around the site we went for lunch at a taverna in the modern village of Mavromati overlooking the ancient city. As it was only early afternoon we thought that we had time to head back to the coast and then along the western side of the bay to take a look at Koroni at the far end of the bay. Fortunately the road was good and there wasn't much traffic so it took us just over an hour to get to Koroni. It's a pretty little seaside town overlooked by an impressive Venetian fortress. Also, it's the first place that we've visited that seems to be geared towards foreign tourists
Railway Park KalamataRailway Park KalamataRailway Park Kalamata

The last trains will never leave the station
as most of the signs in the shops, cafes and restaurants were in English as well as Greek. We went for a walk along the coast path below the imposing fortress and saw that some gigantic slabs of the wall had sheared off, presumably in the 2017 earthquake as the cliff face exposed by the fallen masonry had been stabilised with what looked like spray-on cement. The drive back to Kalamata was uneventful and after a quick shower and change it was off to what's now our favourite restaurant on the seafront for dinner.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Ancient MesseneAncient Messene
Ancient Messene

City walls and Arcadian Gate
Arcadian Gate MesseneArcadian Gate Messene
Arcadian Gate Messene

NOT channelling the Burt Reynolds centrefold from Cosmopolitan circa 1970 but indicating the size of the capstone (15 tonnes?) and the engineering required to position it perfectly 2,500 years ago
 Displaced lintel stone at the Arcadian Gate Displaced lintel stone at the Arcadian Gate
Displaced lintel stone at the Arcadian Gate

Still massively impressive despite having fallen from the original gate
Messene city wallsMessene city walls
Messene city walls

The city is in the valley on the left of this photo
Theatre at MesseneTheatre at Messene
Theatre at Messene

The extensive ruins of the city extend below the theatre
Messene market placeMessene market place
Messene market place

Grain measures: each of the carved bowls is a different size and has a hole at the bottom; so if the hole is plugged and the bowl filled to the brim, the plug can then be removed to deliver the exact measure into a basket below the bowl.
Messene stadiumMessene stadium
Messene stadium

The Romans closed off the further part of the original Greek stadium to make it into an arena. Even so the original design is very clear
Messene stadium, Roman engineeringMessene stadium, Roman engineering
Messene stadium, Roman engineering

Where spectators would head to if they were caught short. There's a gutter 6/7 feet below the seats, connected to a stream running down the hill to function as the flush. The stupa shaped building is a Roman era mausoleum, recently restored
Messene stadiumMessene stadium
Messene stadium

Looking towards the upper city and the modern village of Mavromati. The city walls extended up both flanks of the mountain, Mt Ithome
Messene stadiumMessene stadium
Messene stadium

A commoner usurping the VIP seat. Another mausoleum in the background
Messene from MavromatiMessene from Mavromati
Messene from Mavromati

View from the taverna
Koroni CastleKoroni Castle
Koroni Castle

Collapsed section of the walls.The chunk that fell off is virtually intact, a testimony to the strength of the mortar that bound the rocks, stones and pebbles that were used in the construction of the walls

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