Category: Tourist attractions (page 1 of 23)

A Paris icon in the Peloponnese


Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

The 26-meter Eiffel Tower replica at Filiatra  was a surprising sight we encountered during our road trip in the Peloponnese


Oh Mon Dieu!:The most memorable “Stop the Car!” moment of our road trip through Messenia happened while we were driving through the small town of Filiatra, en route from Marathopoli to Kyparissia.

As the car moved along the clean, tidy streets, passing attractive stone houses and some cute small homes, we were chatting about where we might want to stay if we ever had an opportunity to spend all or part of a year in Greece. I remember commenting that Filiatra looked like a nice, comfortable and quiet place that might be suitable — based on what we were seeing through the car windows, at least.

Then we turned a corner and saw an Eiffel Tower looming up ahead.

 “What the … Is that what I think it is?” I blurted. “Pull over! We’ve got to check this out!”


Eiffel Tower in Filiatra

This Google Streetview image shows the Eiffel Tower replica in a wedge-shaped parkette at the northern entrance to Filiatra.


Whenever we’re on the road in Greece, we see a lot of surprising, interesting and exciting sights. However, most of the time it’s jaw-dropping scenery that suddenly pops into view, a picturesque church in the middle of nowhere, a crumbling castle or a beautiful old building, or a herd of sheep or goats gathered on the highway. We’ve seen plenty of unusual sights, too, but never anything like an Eiffel Tower — and we certainly weren’t expecting to see one on this particular morning. (It had not been mentioned in any of the travel materials I had read before our holiday.)

But there it was, rising from a landscaped parkette near the northern entrance to Filiatra on Highway 9.

We parked the car and got out for a few minutes to take photos, but it wasn’t until we were back home that I was able to do some online searching to find out why the town has a replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Information was rather sparse or roughly translated in the sources I discovered, but most said the replica was the creation of Harry Fournier, (originally named Haris Fournarakis), who had grown up in the area but later moved to the USA to practise medicine as a surgeon. After a successful career in the States, Fournier returned to Filiatra and put his artistic talents to work, sculpting his mini Eiffel Tower in the 1960s. (He also built a fairytale castle in the nearby village of Agrili.)

Fournier’s creation isn’t a true replica, however, since its design differs in a few major details. As an article on the Wonders of the World points out, Fournier used light grey metal to construct the tower, which he shaped “a little too long.” Fournier also placed the second floor of his tower too low, compared to the original, and changed the shape of the third floor. But to a tourist driving by, Fournier’s version looks like a convincing, shorter copy of the real thing (his stands 26 meters, while the Paris landmark soars over 300 meters high).

 Here are some of the photos we took of the Filiatra Eiffel Tower:


Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra


Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra


Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra


Eiffel Tower replica in Filiatra


Filiatra Greece

The small town of Filiatra is located roughly midway between Marathopoli (middle left) and Kyparissia (top left). If you’re driving through the area and want to take a look at the Eiffel Tower replica, you’ll find it at the northwest edge of the town along Highway 9.  You can’t miss it if you’re driving toward Filiatra from Kyparissia — the tower is visible from a distance outside the town.

A walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle


Methoni Castle

The southern fortification walls of Methoni Castle, viewed from the Venetian-era Bourtzi fortress (below)


Bourtzi fortress of Methoni Castle

The Venetians built the octagonal-shaped Bourtzi fortress on a rocky islet connected to the castle by a stone-paved causeway


Methoni meanderings: Day 2 of our western Peloponnese road trip turned out to be rather “monumental” for us, figuratively speaking, as our travels took us to churches, archaeological sites and castles — some more than 800 years old — plus a place where two major Greek maritime conflicts occurred.

Our drive to and through hundreds of years of history took us first to the Byzantine Church of Samarina, which dates from the 12th Century, followed by a walk around the ruins of the Castle of Androusa, which was built in the 13th Century.

Next stop was the town of Pylos on Navarino Bay, where two of the most significant naval combats in Greek history took place:  the Battle of Pylos which was fought in July of 425 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, and the October 20 1827 Battle of Navarino, the most pivotal and decisive event of the Greek War of Independence from Turkey.  Besides observing the bay from a variety of vantage points in and around Pylos, we managed to see some of the exterior fortification walls of the impressive Neocastro (Castle of Pylos), which was built in 1573. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside to tour the castle interior and see its remarkable hexagonal citadel.

Our final sightseeing stop was the town of Methoni, where we paid an afternoon visit to the majestic Methoni Castle.

Constructed in 1209 by the Venetians, Methoni Castle occupies a sprawling site encompassing nearly 38 hectares.  The castle is so big we couldn’t explore every sector during the two hours we walked around, but we did cover a lot of ground, and managed to see the highlight attractions, including the Bourtzi sea fortress, the Ottoman baths, and the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros. (We might have spent more time meandering through the ruins had it not been so sunny and hot.)


Methoni Castle

The stone bridge and entrance to Methoni Castle


Methoni Castle

This pyramid-roofed building was apparently used to store munitions. The inner castle wall beside it is crumbling in places, but visitors can still walk on the top to get views of the entire castle site.


Methoni Castle

A curiosity inside the castle is a tall, red granite column topped with a Byzantine-style capital. Often called “Morosoni’s Stele,” the column is believed to have been topped with either a sculpture of the winged lion of Venice, or a bust of the Venetian Doge Francesco Morosini.


Methoni Castle Turkish baths

The round, domed roofs of the former Turkish baths (hamam) 


Methoni Castle

A tall, arched passageway inside the fortification walls


Methoni Castle church

One of the patterned floors inside the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros


My favourite castle features were the elegant stone entrance bridge (built by the French in 1829 to replace a wooden drawbridge), the Bourtzi fortress, the interior of Metamorphosis church, and the breathtaking 360-degree views from atop one of the main inner walls. I also was fascinated by the variety of shapes and angles that architects had chosen when designing the castle’s imposing fortification walls and the buildings they protected. These included rounded and pointed archways, square and rectangular houses and public buildings, an arsenal with a pyramid-shaped roof, the octagonal Bourtzi fortress, sloped and vertical defensive walls, and the round, spaceship-like domed roofs of the hamam (Turkish baths) built by Ottoman occupiers.

Admission cost only €2 per person, by the way — a bargain, considering the size of the castle.

Below is a brand-new aerial video of Methoni Castle that was published, coincidentally enough, right while I was putting this post together. On page 2 you can view some of the photos we shot while meandering through the ruins. If you’d like to read more about the history of Methoni Castle, click here to read a detailed description from the Kastrologos Castles of Greece website.


The grandeur and vast size of Methoni Castle are captured in this aerial video published February 28 2018 by George Magoulis



Pages: 1 2

Greek Island icons & landmarks: Shark Rock on Naxos


Shark Rock

Shark Rock is an amusing attraction on the western coast of Naxos, between Agia Anna and Maraga. We shot this photo of the grinning Great White during our first trip to Naxos in 2005.


This is the first instalment of Greek Islands Icons & Landmarks, a planned series of occasional posts about curious, unusual and extraordinary sights and places we have seen on our travels in the Greek Islands


Rock star: My first close encounter with the most famous fish on Naxos occurred in June 2005, during our first visit to the island. It happened while we were walking along the wide smooth rocks and giant boulders that line the seashore on the southern side of Agia Anna Bay.  From this point there is a sweeping, unobstructed view of the Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios beach resort areas, as well as pyramid-shaped Stelida mountain to the north, so I paused to take some photos. When I turned to continue on my way, I nearly stumbled against the snout of the island’s fabled landshark.

I didn’t know what it was initially. I thought it was just a big, long, slender rock rising more than a meter above the ground at a 45-degree angle — nothing unusual for a rocky seashore. Then I noticeda row of small stones had been arranged inside the long, narrow crack that curved around the raised end of the rock. It struck me as odd until I took a few steps back and realized someone had cleverly given the fish-shaped rock a toothy grin so it would resemble a Great White shark.  Another stone had been carefully placed higher up the rock to resemble a right eye.  It looked hilarious, and I couldn’t stop laughing.



I paid Shark Rock a visit on all of our subsequent trips to Naxos, and it still made me smile and chuckle each time. But last year I was disappointed to see a photo of the landshark that had just been shared on a Naxos fan club page on Facebook. It showed that someone had given Shark Rock a makeover by painting its belly and nose white, and its eye and gills blue. Like other members of the Facebook group, I didn’t think it was an improvement — the shark had looked much better au naturel, and didn’t need a sloppy paintjob to catch attention. The colours detracted from the subtle, creative humour of the simple stone teeth and eye.  Less is more, right?

I’m hoping that rain, wind and waves wear off the paint by the next time I return to Naxos,  so the landshark looks the way I remember. 

There are additional photos of Shark Rock, and a satellite image showing where it’s situated, on page two of this post.


Shark Rock on Naxos

Shark Rock strikes a menacing pose with Stelida mountain and the Agios Prokopios beach resort area in the background


Shark Rock

This telephoto picture shot from across the bay shows how Shark Rock blends into the rocky shoreline near Agios Nikolaos church, perfectly poised to surprise passersby. (He’s just below the trees on the right side of the hill.)



Pages: 1 2

A visit to Androusa Castle


Androusa Castle aerial view

Androusa Castle aerial view

Aerial views of the remaining walls of Androusa Castle in Messenia. The images are from an on-site information plaque that describes the features and history of the ancient castle, as well as recent restoration work by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia.


First fortress:  On Day 2 of our May 2017 holiday in the Peloponnese, we drove south from Ancient Messini, where we passed vast groves of olive trees and several small settlements before stopping at the village of Androusa to see the first of several castle ruins on our list of attractions to visit.

As I noted in my earlier post Our 4-day road trip in the western Peloponnese, the village is home to Androusa Castle, a fortress built by the Franks in the middle of the 13th Century.  It was a significant military stronghold for the Kalamata region for several hundred years, after which the castle became an important administrative center. But just as the need for a fortification in the area declined, so did maintenance of the castle, which eventually crumbled and lay in a state of neglected ruins from the early 18th Century.

In early 2012, the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia launched a €550,000 project to restore parts of the castle’s eastern curtain walls and repair its few standing towers. The work was completed in 2015.



There isn’t much on the site apart from the rehabilitated wall sections and towers, and a few small stone buildings, so it doesn’t take long to walk around the grounds and see all that’s there — including lovely panoramic views of the lush green landscape that extends to the Messenian Gulf. If you’re travelling in the area and happen to be passing through Androusa or close by, you might find it interesting to stop for a quick look, as we did. But unless you’re a huge fan of castles, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it. Within reasonable driving distance you’ll find several immense and largely intact fortresses that are much more worthwhile to visit, including the Neokastro at Pylos and the Methoni castle at Methoni.

On page 2 of this post, you can view our photos of Androusa Castle. If you’d like to see or learn more about the fortress, check out these links:

♦ the Castle of Androusa page on Kastrologos — Castles in Greece;

♦ the Castles page on Picturesque Peloponnese (you’ll have to scroll about two-thirds of the way down the page to view the Androusa section); and

♦ the Androusa page on the Castles of Greece website operated by Andrew Sawyer.


Androusa Castle

Part of the restored eastern curtain wall and tower at Androusa Castle, which was built more than 700 years ago



Pages: 1 2

Greece 2017: Our 4-day road trip in the western Peloponnese


Voidokilia beach

Omega-shaped Voidokilia, in the western Peloponnese, was one of many beautiful beaches that took our breath away in 2017


All-new experiences: Two trips to Greece in 2017 gave us opportunities to expand our horizons and see diverse regions we had never visited before, including parts of the Peloponnese, one of the Ionian islands, Central Greece and southwestern Crete.

Our first vacation, from May 22 to June 7,  gave us impressive introductions to the western Peloponnese, Kefalonia, and Central Greece. The second holiday, from October 19 to November 6, took us along the spectacular southwestern coast of Crete.

With the exception of our arrival and departure days in Athens, plus a 4-night stay in Chania (which we had seen briefly during our first trip to Crete in 2004), every place and region on our itinerary was completely new to us, offering a tremendous variety of first-time experiences for accommodations, activities, dining and sightseeing.

Our travels took us to several spots we would absolutely love to revisit, along with many more we would be happy to see a second time if we find ourselves in the area once again. As for the few places that didn’t quite catch our fancy, our mixed feelings were simply due to the time of season we happened to be there — now we know when to return to enjoy them better. Happily, there wasn’t a single destination we disliked.  



Our spring vacation began with a  4.5-day road trip, with friends, through the Messenia and Elis regions of the southwest and northwest Peloponnese. We covered considerable ground in that time, moving at a much faster pace than we usually travel, but the goal was to give us a peek at a number of different places so we could find favourites to revisit for longer periods in future. After the Peloponnese segment of our holiday, a week-long visit to Kefalonia island and six days in Central Greece gave us time to relax and to comfortably explore towns and sites on foot rather than by car. 

On page 2 of this article, I have posted photos and brief descriptions of the main locations and key attractions we got to see during our car tour in the Peloponnese.  Pictures of the places we explored on Kefalonia and in Central Greece, and those we visited during our fall holiday on Crete, will appear in separate posts. Future articles will spotlight specific destinations in greater detail, and will profile hotels we stayed at and restaurants where we dined.

Please click on the link under the next photo to continue reading on page 2.



Red-roofed houses in the attractive mountainside town of Kyparissia



Pages: 1 2

Older posts