Kalamata 2019 Blog 2

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June 7th 2019
Published: June 7th 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.

Wednesday 5th June. We headed directly west from Kalamata to the coast to look at Nestor's Palace; a 3,500 year old site said to be the residence of King Nestor who was mentioned by Homer in his tale of the siege of Troy. We stopped for coffee at the village of Gialova on the shore of Navarino Bay; which itself is hugely impressive; almost 4 miles long and 2 miles wide and almost completely separated from the sea by a long narrow island. It was just a short drive from Gialova to Nestor's Palace and there wasn't actually much to see when we got there. The site is not very large, just a couple of acres at most, and just the foundations of the main building are visible. However, the entire site
Nestor's PalaceNestor's PalaceNestor's Palace

The Queen's bathroom: as evidenced by the bath
is covered by a giant steel roof with an enormous skylight built into it. Suspended from the structural supports are walkways that allow visitors to walk around and view the site from above without disturbing it. Also, there are many notice boards positioned along the walkways which provide explanations (in Greek and English) of the original purpose and function of the area below. All very interesting. We stayed there for about an hour then headed back to the coast to look at Voidokilia Beach, reputed to be the finest beach in the Peloponnese. It certainly lived up to its reputation; however there was no proper parking there, just on the track leading to the beach, and no facilities: cafes, toilets, parasols etc. Lastly, the water was still bit too cold for swimming - at least for those of us of a more delicate and sensitive disposition. However, all very spectacular. Afterwards we headed back south along the coast to Pylos at the eastern entrance to Navarino Bay. A nice, quiet little town with a old harbour and a modern marina which I'm sure gets very busy in the high season. We had a cup of coffee in the tree shaded
Nestor's PalaceNestor's PalaceNestor's Palace

The throne room. The large circle is actually a hearth while the throne was located against the wall on the left by the square impression in the floor. Where would we be without archaeologists to explain things to us?
main square named for the three allied admirals (British, French and Russian) who defeated a far larger fleet of Ottoman ships (27 against 89) in 1827: the last big engagement between sailing ships. Then it was back to Kalamata and dinner.

Thursday 6th June. Today Mystra just outside Sparti was on the agenda. According to our guide book (written by a Brit who lives in Kalamata) it's a great example by the Byzantine period: "an entire city with its lanes, alleyways, palaces, castle and most of all it's churches." Irresistible. We travelled on the old road that links Kalamata with Sparti that climbs into the Taygetos Mountains on the outskirts of Kalamata. It was certainly very scenic, after climbing almost 1,000m /3,000 feet we descended via many hairpin bends into a narrow gorge and a bit further on climbed back up to the high point at 1,200m / 4,000ft before the final descent into Sparti. The journey was only 40 miles but it took us nearly 2 hours and I never got to use 5th gear and very rarely 4th gear; it was all 2nd and 3rd gear driving. Arriving at the modern village of Mystra we
Nestor's PalaceNestor's PalaceNestor's Palace

Conservation at work: modern and large scale. The building protects the site against weather damage and human traffic while and allowing visitors an unobstructed view of the layout of the palace
stopped for refreshments before driving up the hill to the main entrance to the site. When we bought our tickets we were advised to do the tour in two parts: firstly look around the lower city - museum and the monastery of Pantanassa, then go by car to the upper entrance in order to look at the castle. Very good advice as it turned out as the site is extremely steep and high. The view from the castle at the summit was spectacular and getting there from the upper car park was quite a climb: going down was even more difficult because of the steepness of the path and the slippery stones; worn smooth by countless feet. Afterwards we returned to modern Mystra for drinks and lunch. We didn't fancy the drive back through the mountains so instead took the brand new motorway north from Sparti, then south to Kalamata: just over 60 miles but very fast and easy. In fact on the first section of motorway from Sparti to the junction with the motorway to Kalamata we were passed by just a single car and we didn't overtake anyone, 45km / 28miles. A good day if rather tiring.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Voidokilia BayVoidokilia Bay
Voidokilia Bay

Reckoned to be the best beach on the Peloponnese
Pilos Marina and the southern entrance to Navarino BayPilos Marina and the southern entrance to Navarino Bay
Pilos Marina and the southern entrance to Navarino Bay

The northern entrance to the Bay at the opposite end of Sfaktiria Island is even narrower. The Bay is virtually a lake
The old harbour at PilosThe old harbour at Pilos
The old harbour at Pilos

The tree shaded square on the right is called the Three Admirals Square after the British, French and Russian admirals whose combined fleet destroyed an Ottoman fleet in Navarino Bay in 1827 and hastened the creation of an independent Greece,
Taygetos MountainsTaygetos Mountains
Taygetos Mountains

They separate Messinia (Kalamata and the west) from Lakonia (Sparti and the east)
On the road from Kalamata to SpartiOn the road from Kalamata to Sparti
On the road from Kalamata to Sparti

Near the high point on the road through the mountains from Kalamata to Sparti, over 1,200 meters/4,000 above sea level
Ancient city of MystraAncient city of Mystra
Ancient city of Mystra

Topped by the Villehardouin Castle, dating back to 1249 founded by yet another Norman adventurer
The Monastery of PantanassaThe Monastery of Pantanassa
The Monastery of Pantanassa

Still occupied by nuns, but it's not a nunnery
View from the castleView from the castle
View from the castle

Modern Mystra on the left and a massive gorge immediately below
A couple of aspiring Spartans, with Sparti in the backgroundA couple of aspiring Spartans, with Sparti in the background
A couple of aspiring Spartans, with Sparti in the background

Though they might have a little difficulty in giving up the things that life easier

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