Tag: castle (page 1 of 4)

Some photo highlights from our return visit to Nafplio

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Nafplio waterfront

Nafplio waterfront view to the Bourtzi sea fortress 

 

Back again: Exactly two years ago, we travelled to Nafplio for the first time and spent a full week exploring areas in and around the town. We liked it so much we decided it was high time to come back for a return visit. And here we are, enjoying Nafplio just as much as we did the first time. It truly is one of our favourite places in all of Greece.

Below are some sights and scenes from our first couple of days in the historic Old Town district of the picturesque seaside town.  I will publish more images in separate posts.

 

Nafplio street

A canopy of bougainvillea in a lane in the Old Town district of Nafplio

 

Nafplio waterfront

Cafes and palm trees along the Nafplio waterfront promenade

 

Nafplio street scene

A rustic building on a street corner in the Nafplio Old Town

 

 

cruise ship at Nafplio

The MSC Poesia cruise ship, viewed from the Arvanitia coastal promenade.  Daytrippers from the cruise gave the Old Town a lively buzz, but didn’t overcrowd the streets or make the town feel uncomfortably busy in any way.

 

Banieres swimming area of Nafplio

The Banieres swimming area on the Nafplio waterfront is a popular place for locals to sunbathe or take a dip in the sea

 

a street in Nafplio

One of the colourful pedestrian streets in the commercial area of the Old Town

 

Palamidi Castle and the Land Gate

The Palamidi Castle (top) and the historic Land Gate, the original main entrance to the Nafplio Old Town

 

Palamidi Castle view of Nafplio

An evening view of the Old Town, from a point roughly two-thirds of the way up the nearly 1,000 steps to the Palamidi Castle

 

Palamidi Castle steps

A steep flight of steps leading to the mountaintop Palamidi Castle. I counted 80 stairs on this particular stretch of the climb to the top.

 

Acropnauplia fortress stairs

It’s much easier to reach the Acronauplia fortress, one of the three castles at Nafplio, since considerably less stair climbing is involved. This is the stepped path leading from the upper Old Town to one of the Acronauplia entrance portals.

 

Nafplio coast

Coast and sea views from the Acronauplia fortress

 

Coast views from Acronauplia

Acronauplia fortress views of the sea, coast and Arvanitia beach

 

Arvanitia beach at Nafplio

Part of Arvanitia, a stone and pebble beach that’s popular with locals and tourists alike since it’s only a short walking distance from the Old Town

 

Rooftops in Nafplio

From a vantage point in the Acronauplia fortress, a view of Syndagma Square (upper right) and the first Greek Parliament building — the building with the domed roof at center left.  Nafplio was the capital of Greece from 1823 until 1834, when the Parliament was relocated to Athens. 

 

Syndagma Square in Nafplio

A quiet morning moment at Syndagma Square, which is lined with cafes, shops, restaurants and the archaeological museum (top)

 

a street in Nafplio

A street in the pedestrianized commercial area of the Old Town

 

steps in Nafplio

A long flight of steps on a hillside lane in the Old Town

 

Kapodistriou Street in Nafplio

Part of Kapodistriou Street, where our accommodations were located

 

a lane in Nafplio

A lane near the top of the Old Town’s hillside area

 

Catholic church in Nafplio

A peek at the exterior of the Catholic church in the Old Town

 

Philellinon Square at Nafplio

Philellinon Square and the memorial to the French soldiers who fought for Greece in the country’s war of independence

 

a street in Nafplio

A restaurant patio along one of the main pedestrian streets in the commercial heart of the Old Town

 

steps in nafplio

Steps in a narrow hillside lane in the Old Town

 

Bourtzi sea fortress at Nafplio

Nafplio waterfront view to the Bourtzi sea fortress

 

Bourtzi sea fortress

People can take a small excursion boat to visit the castle. The trips are offered daily and cost €4.50 per person; they include a 20 minute stop for a walkabout on the castle islet (the interior of the fortress is closed for maintenance construction) and a short ride along the waterfront so passengers can enjoy sea views of the Old Town.

 

Arvanitia promenade

The Arvanitia coastal promenade and the Banieres swimming area of Nafplio

 

Arvanitia promenade at Nafplio

A tree-shaded section of the Arvanitia coastal promenade that leads from the Nafplio Old Town to Arvanitia beach

 

Arvanitia promenade

View from the promenade toward Arvanitia beach and the Palamidi Castle, partially visible on the mountain peak at upper right

 

waterfront in Nafplio

The waterfront promenade is lined with palm trees on one side, and boats on the other

 

a building in Nafplio

A rustic corner building on a hilltop in the Old Town

 

 

An afternoon at the Old Town and castle in Kyparissia

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Kyparrisia Castle

Houses on the hillside below the ruins of the Castle of Kyparissia, which was built during the 13th Century

 

Impressive introduction: On the fourth day of our May 2017 road trip through the western Peloponnese we discovered another charming town to which we will have to pay a longer return visit sometime: Kyparissia.

We had scheduled Kyparissia for just a sightseeing stop during our drive from Marathopoli to Katakolo, yet within minutes of stepping out of the car we were already wishing we could stay longer than just the afternoon. 

That strong first impression came from the quick realization that Kyparissia has all the key features and characteristics we find particularly appealing in a small Greek town: beautiful scenery and views; a castle and lots of old buildings that convey a strong sense of history; plenty of intriguing lanes and streets to wander and explore; picturesque buildings and interesting architecture;  inviting places to have coffee, dine, and do a bit of browsing or shopping; and a comfortable “I feel at home here” ambiance.

However, with fewer than five free hours before we would have to hit the road again, we knew we were only going to scrape the surface of all that Kyparissia and its surrounding area have to offer. Still, we enjoyed everything we did manage to see and do in our limited time, and we were glad we had included the town as one of the stops on our journey. We would consider Kyparissia to be a “must see” destination for anyone undertaking a driving tour like the one we did through the western Peloponnese, and we think it definitely deserves more than a quick look around.

 

Kyparissia main street

When we arrived at El. Venizelou Street in Kyparissia in late morning, clouds above the nearby mountains suggested we might get rained on. But most of the clouds cleared away, leaving us with bright sunshine all afternoon.

 

Kyparissia former National Bank building

We’re drawn to old buildings, whether derelict or restored, and we found the facade of the former National Bank building — now a historic landmark —  right across the road from where we parked the car upon arriving in Kyparissia

 

a building in Kyparissia

We found this once-elegant edifice near the National Bank, and spotted many more charming old buildings throughout the town

 

Upon arrival in Kyparissia, we parked briefly on El. Venizelou Street in the lower town so we could have a look around and check out a few of the shops. The road was lined with a mix of commercial and residential buildings from different architectural design eras, including elegant old buildings, some of which — like the former National Bank — were in derelict condition, and others that were either in excellent shape or appeared to have been painstakingly restored. They gave us a sneak peak of the wide variety of building design styles and construction periods we would soon encounter in Kyparissia’s Ano Poli, the historic hilltop Old Town, where we had planned to spend most of our time.

Our next stop was Eleni Chameri Street, the main road in the Old Town, where we found on-street parking close to the Memorial of the Fallen. The war monument is situated in a small square with amazing views that include the Castle of Kyparissia off to the right, and the entire town below, extending all the way down the hill to the sea.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

A view along the Eleni Chameri Street, the main road of the Ano Poli / Old Town district of Kyparissia

 

Kyparissia panoramic view

From the square where the Memorial of the Fallen monument is located, visitors can see the Castle of Kyparissia (upper right) and the town below

 

From the memorial we walked to the Castle of Kyparissia, located at the opposite end of Eleni Chameri Street. We strode through the open gate (there is no ticket booth at the entrance) and climbed steps and trails up the hillside to see what remains of the ancient fortress. Apart from the external fortification walls, only a few stone buildings still stand on the site — but none are open to the public.  It doesn’t take long to wander around and explore the grounds, but the castle is worth a stop, especially for its wonderful views of Kyparissia and the surrounding area.

 

Kyparissia Castle view

Kyparissia Castle has excellent views of the upper town  …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

…  the lower town and the sea to the southwest …

 

Kyparissia Castle view

… and the lowlands, mountains and Messenian coast stretching to the north as far as the eye can see

 

After our castle hike we returned to Eleni Chameri Street and made a beeline for Algo-rithmos Cafe Bar, where we sat in the shade at one of the tables out front to have coffees and rest our legs.  Refreshed from our coffee break, we all set out on our separate ways to explore the Old Town and vicinity. There was little traffic and only a few people out and about, so the neighbourhood was exceptionally quiet and peaceful. It was nice not having to jump out of the way of passing cars and trucks, or jostle past other pedestrians, while observing the scenery and taking photographs.  The place is probably bustling during July and August, so we were glad we got to enjoy the town’s scenic streets and lanes without hordes of tourists teeming about.

 

Kyparissia Old Town

The Old Town’s streets and lanes are lined with a fascinating mix of meticulously maintained houses …

 

a church in Kyparissia

… a few beautiful churches …

 

a building in Kyparissia

… and numerous derelict or dilapidated buildings bursting with charm, character and — in many cases — tremendous renovation potential

 

We regrouped back at Algo-rithmos for another coffee break a couple of hours later, then did some souvenir shopping across the street at Messinia Gi, a store which carries an extensive selection of food, beverage, fashion and souvenir products made locally in Messenia. After more walking around, we all agreed it was time to call it quits on sightseeing, and find a nice spot for lunch. We chose Palia Agora, which is located just a few doors down the street from Messinia Gi, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed a variety of delicious mezes. I will tell you more about Messinia Gi and Palia Agora in a separate post.

The fabulous meal brought our brief Kyparissia visit to an end on a high note. We reluctantly piled back in the car for the drive to Katakolo, where we would spend the night before heading to the port at Kyllini to catch a ferry to Kefalonia. We’ll go back to see more of Kyparissia another time. We’ve got to — it’s exactly the kind of place where we enjoying spending vacation time.

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted more photos of the Old Town and castle, as well as a video of the castle and its views. 

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Crumbling walls, perilous terrain & postcard views: Our climb to the old Castle of Navarino

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Navarino castle

Walls on the southern side of Palaiokastro, the Old Castle of Navarino, which was built in 1278 near the town of Pylos in the Peloponnese

 

Old Castle of Navarino

Though parts of the castle walls have collapsed, you can walk atop some of the remaining sections, such as this one high above the Ionian Sea

 

Old Castle of Navarino

Walking inside the walls can be difficult — even perilous in places —  if you stray off the main trail or try to take a shortcut from the west wall to the east, as we did. The castle’s south yard is overgrown with shrubs and prickly bushes, and the ground is covered with loose rocks and stones that wobble and roll underfoot.

 

Old Castle of Navarino

The big payoff for those people who make it all the way up to the northeastern corner of the castle: The incredible views of the Ionian Sea, Navarino Bay and the beautiful Messenian coast …

 

Voidokilia beach

… and, most impressive of all, the stunning Voidokilia beach

 

Scenic trek: Built 740 years ago, the Palaiokastro / Old Castle of Navarino is certainly showing its age.

Its hilltop exposure to the elements, plus hundreds of years of neglect, have taken a severe toll. The outer walls are crumbling — some sections have collapsed, while others appear ready to tumble anytime  — and only ruins remain of the buildings that once stood inside. Those structures have been reduced to rubble; the former walls and foundations are now boulders, stones and rocks scattered across the ground. The two castle yards are almost entirely overgrown with shrubs, prickly plants, tall grasses and trees that obscure most of the fortress’s interior. It’s possible to walk on some of the outer walls, and dirt paths wind through parts of the grounds, but it can be dangerous to step off the main trails —  the  rocks underfoot tend to shift and wobble as you walk over them, so there’s a constant risk of slipping and falling or twisting an ankle.  

Because of the ancient castle’s derelict condition, plus the ever-present possibility of loose stonework falling from its weathered walls, the Palaiokastro is supposed to be out of bounds to visitors. There’s no fencing to keep anyone out, and no security guards to stop people from entering — just a solitary sign warning that “The Castle of Navarino is closed due to serious danger.” But that doesn’t deter thousands of tourists from visiting the site every year. 

For most, it’s the breathtaking “must see” views that attract them — especially the castle’s unrivalled vantage points for photographing the incomparable and immensely Instagrammable Voidokilia beach.

That’s the main reason why I climbed up to Palaiokastro during our trip through the Peloponnese in May 2017  — I wanted to experience, in-person, the outstanding Voidokilia beach views that had fascinated me in many travel photographs and videos I had seen over the years.

 

 

To be honest, I didn’t know the castle was closed, and I also didn’t see the “danger” sign at the bottom of the access path. (My hiking companions did, but they never mentioned it.)  I had read about Palaiokastro on a few travel websites, and knew that it consists mainly of defensive walls enclosing crumbled ruins, but none of the articles had said anything about the castle being closed or possibly dangerous to visit. Some sites even described it as a not-to-be-missed historical attraction. I figured it would take some effort to reach, since it’s situated atop a craggy hill a few hundred meters high. But once up top, I expected that it would be relatively easy to walk around, like the marvellous Methoni Castle which we had visited just the day before (see my post: A walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle for an account of that.)  So when we found the castle access path at the northwest end of Divari beach, I was eager to head up for a look around.

To continue reading and to see more photos of Palaiokastro, please click on the link under the video below to turn to page 2.

 

This video by AllMessinia takes you on a short flight above Palaiokastro, while subtitles provide historical information about the monument

 

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

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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

 

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