Friday, May 25, 2018

2018 Eastern Mediterranean Trip - Day 31, Pylos and Methoni

It is our last day with our great guide Ioannis (pronounced Yanni like the singer...but as he sadly said without the money). Ioannis has probably been the best guide we've ever had. His knowledge of the history of the area is encyclopedic and he has listened to our desire to NOT go to the A-List sites, to find the exciting lesser known sites and to give us full rein for our photographic impulses.

After two full days in the mountains, we needed a change in venue so he changed our itinerary and we went to the two historically significant towns of Pylos and Methoni on the western most of the four peninsulas that spread out of the Peloponnese like fingers from a hand facing the Ionian Sea. This area is in a particularly strategic position right along the sea lanes that connect the Western Mediterranean with lands to the East.

Pylos (whose antecedents date back to the days of the Mycenaeans) was the scene of two historic sea battles. The first was between the Athenians and the Spartans during the Peloponnese War. Athens won and had Sparta on the ropes for a time. Centuries later during the Greek War of independence in the 1820's, the battle of Navarino was fought just outside the harbor of Pylos. A combined British, French and Russian fleet defeated the combined fleet of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt, a major blow to the Ottomans trying subdue the Greeks.

Methoni has an even more complicated history. First mention by Homer in the Iliad as one of the seven cities given to Achilles to mollify him and keep him in the war, it was a fortified town and harbor through Ancient Greek and Roman times. A Byzantine fortress and town was there as well. But the current fortifications took shape under the Venetians who conquered during the days of the Fourth Crusade when the Crusaders took control of Constantinople from the Byzantines. For three hundred years, the city and castle prospered. But in the 16th century the town was finally taken by the Ottoman Turks. In the late 17th century, the Venetians returned a second time. This second Venetian period was to last only 30 years until 1715 when the Ottomans again took control. During the Greek War of Independence, this was on fortress that was never captured by the Greeks and their allies but it was turned over once Greek independence was achieved. By this time the fortified town and castle had deteriorated substantially. Even the Germans in WWII made use of this location and were bombed in turn by the RAF.

What does this have to do with anything?
It was a place we passed on our way out of Kalamata
I have subsequently learned that the local specialty is Gournopoula - roast suckling pig
Not sure if we're going to be able to get any with just one day left
 We continue our attempt to get on the official 'Greek Tourist Postcard' list with pictures of Pylos harbor

On to our main attraction, Methoni Castle
Here is what it looks like in total if seen from the air

Our intrepid guide Ioannis bringing knowledge to us
Lions of St. Mark
The Emblem of Venice
This piece has an unusual story
It is Egyptian...Ancient Egyptian in origin
It was looted by the Romans who took it to Caesarea
Then the Crusaders looted it where it ended up here
Road from the entrance to the famous tower known as the Bourtzi

Intrepid guide and Wife on the road to the Bourtzi
Ruins of the Byzantine Church of St. Sophia, which became a mosque, which became a Catholic church, which became a mosque....
There are two ruins of Ottoman bath houses
One comes from the first Ottoman period and the other from the second
Can you tell which is which?

I can't

Now on to Bourtzi-mania
It is one of the most photographed sites in the Peloponnese
I have added to that record

And looking back the way we came

Other shots from around that area

Why this?
Because I was marveling at the fit of the stones and asked Iaonnis when it was done
It is modern
We don't have this skill set back home

The castle still is invaded!
Looking over the site and town from a bastion on the far opposite end from the Bourtzi

The full panorama

We finished our day by trying to find the waterfall
However it turned out it was going to be too steep a hike and we bailed
But there was this coffee shop (in the middle of nowhere)
Run by a guy who was born in Toronto but whose family moved back to Greece
So we had coffee and enjoyed the scenery before heading back

1 comment:

alexis said...

I would travel to Greece for that coffee