Tag: castle (page 2 of 4)

A visit to Androusa Castle

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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

 

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

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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.

 

Kyparissia

Red-roofed houses in the attractive mountainside town of Kyparissia

 

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Falling for Nafplio

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Nafplio Greece

The Old Town of Nafplio rises on the north side of a steep peninsula, directly beneath fortification walls and buildings of Acronauplia — one of three castles situated in the historic town.  Nafplio was the capital of Greece from 1821 until  the country’s Parliament relocated to Athens in 1834. 

 

Fast favourite: It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was pretty darned close.

Within minutes of arriving at Nafplio and walking from the waterfront car park into the historic Old Town area, we couldn’t help but wonder why it had taken us so long to finally visit what is widely considered one of the prettiest and most romantic towns in Greece.  In person, Nafplio looked more beautiful and impressive than it did in the countless pictures and videos we had seen, and the Old Town’s historic ambiance instantly made us feel comfortable and welcome.

As we wound our way down narrow lanes and alleys then up steep stairs to our hotel, we felt eager to drop off our luggage so we could get out and about to explore our scenic surroundings — even though we were sluggish and jet-lagged from our overnight transatlantic flight. Napping would have to wait — we didn’t want to waste any time getting acquainted with Nafplio!

After going for lunch with a friend and wandering around the town, we realized we were falling for Nafplio — in a big way. We had been there only a few hours, and yet Nafplio had quickly charmed its way into our hearts. By dinnertime, we were telling our friend how Nafplio had already become one of our favourite places in Greece. We had suspected that we were really going to like Nafplio — she had long assured us we would — but we’d never expected that we were going to love it so much, or so fast.

 

 

 

That was late May 2016 and, after more than a dozen years of island hopping holidays that usually concluded with time in Athens, we were making our first foray into the Peloponnese. We had scheduled Nafplio for the first full week of our vacation itinerary, but were concerned this might be too long. Would there be enough attractions and activities to keep us interested and occupied for seven days?

Although I had read hundreds of online travel reviews and commentaries describing Nafplio as ideal for a daytrip from Athens, an overnight stay, or a weekend getaway, I couldn’t recall anyone recommending it for a week-long stay. But we didn’t get bored for a minute, and when it came time to depart for our next destination, we realized there were still quite a few sights and attractions we didn’t manage to see.  We even felt a tinge of regret to be leaving with so much left unexplored. For us, one week in Nafplio simply had not been long enough.

Now, nearly a year later, we continue to talk about how much we loved Nafplio, and we often discuss what we would like to see and do whenever we go back.

 

That was late May 2016 and, after more than a dozen years of island hopping holidays that concluded with time in Athens, we were making our first foray into the Peloponnese. We had scheduled Nafplio for the first full week of our vacation itinerary, but were concerned this might be too long. Although I had read hundreds of online travel reviews and commentaries describing Nafplio as ideal for a daytrip from Athens, an overnight stay, or a weekend getaway, I couldn't recall anyone recommending it for a week-long stay. But we didn't get bored for a minute, and when it came time to depart for our next destination, we realized there were still quite a few sights and attractions we didn't manage to see.  We even felt a tinge of regret to be leaving with so much left unexplored. One week in Nafplio simply wasn't enough!

Behind this palm tree at Syndagma Square stands the first Greek Parliament building. Towering above it on the hilltop are the clock tower and a stone fortification wall of the Acronauplia fortress.

 

So what exactly did we like about Nafplio? It would be difficult to name just one or two main reasons, since there were so many appealing characteristics and elements that combined to make Nafplio such a perfect vacation destination for us.  But I can easily describe the Nafplio features that rank among our favourites.

There’s the Old Town, of course, which fascinates with its colourful streets and buildings, attractive parks and squares, historic sites and monuments (including three castles), and an extensive selection of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. 

We also enjoyed the long waterfront walkways, the scenic coastlines offering plenty of places to swim in the tempting turquoise waters of the Argolic Gulf, and the exhilarating views of hills, mountains, sea and sky.

I describe those features, and others, with a series of photos on page 2 of this post. Click here to see and read more about why we fell for this amazing and enchanting place. 

 

If you haven’t been to Nafplio before, this 10-minute video will show you exactly what you would see if you were to wander the Old Town’s charming streets, lanes and squares. The film was published in February 2017 by YouTube contributor Le Monde en Video

 

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Must-see sights in and around Rethymno on Crete

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Guest post by the Cretico blog

Rethymno is the third largest city in Crete and one of the most beautiful in Greece. Byzantine churches and monasteries, renaissance monuments, caves, countless beaches and enchanting villages throughout the province, await the visitor to wander and admire them.

The Old City

Rethymno in Crete

The oriental influence of the Turkish occupation, combined with the Venetian architecture of the Renaissance, compose the beautiful picture of the old town of Rethymno. Taking a walk through the narrow streets of the historic center, you can see many Venetian and Turkish monuments. From the Venetian harbor and the famous lighthouse, you can reach the Venetian Fortezza castle. The arches of the Venetian Loggia will definitely impress you. After a while, you will have the chance to rest and drink fresh water from the Rimondi fountain with three spouts in the shape of a lion, built in 1626 by rector Rimondi.

A stop at the Historical – Folk Museum of Rethymnonn with its historical exhibits, is definitely not a waste of time. Continuing your tour in the old town, you will admire the church of San Francesco, you will pass through the Great Gate and will reach the main square where you will admire the various public buildings. The old city is the living history of Rethymno, it turns you back in time and invites you to visit it.

 

The Fortezza Castle

Fortezza Castle

Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent highlights of Rethymno is the unique Venetian castle Fortezza. This is the Venetian castle that dominates the hill of Paleokastro, in the heart of the city and is famous as the largest Venetian castle ever built.

In the same place, in ancient times, was built the citadel of ancient Rirthymna and the Temple of Artemis, which have not survived. After the city was looted by the Algerian pirate Ouloutz Ali in 1571, was created the need for a good fortification. That’s why in 1573 was built the majestic pentagonal fort, according to all the modern methods of fortification and was designed so that it could shelter the entire population of the city.

Its premises, many of which are preserved in good condition until today, included barracks, a church, hospital, warehouse, the residence of the Directors, the residence of the Rector and a luxurious and stately building in the central square of the fortress. In the fortress of Fortezza takes place, in the summer, the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno, which attracts many visitors to Rethymno.

 

The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

In front of the main gate of Fortezza is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, since 1887. It is housed in a pentagonal Ottoman building that was built for the protection of the entrance of the east gate of Fortezza.

Here are displayed findings of the Early Minoan, Middle Minoan and Late Minoan times, such as various pots, tools, weapons, pottery, jewelry, signets, and clay figurines, such as this of a female figure known as the “goddess with upraised hands”. The visitor can also admire various objects and artwork of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman period, such as gold jewelry, glass vases and collections of sculptures from various regions.

Among others, the Museum displays an interesting collection of coins from different historical periods of time.

 

The Monastery of Arkadi

Monastery of Arkadi

One of the highlights of Rethymno which deserves a visit is the Monastery of Arkadi, one of the most important monasteries in Crete, situated 23 km from Rethymno, in a strategic location on the northwest side of the mountain Idi.

The name of the monastery comes from the Byzantine Emperor Arcadius and its foundation dates back to the 5th century. The Monastery of Arkadi became known worldwide as it was strongly involved in the liberation struggles against the Turkish conquest. On November 8, 1866, the defenders of Crete who were sheltered in the monastery, blew alive in order not to surrender to the Turks. This event is known in history as the “Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery” and for this reason, this place has been characterized by UNESCO as a European Freedom Monument.

After the destruction, the monastery was completely rebuilt and restored to its original form, although the burned-out temple, and a cannon ball, wedged in a cypress, witness its history. Visitors can admire the two-aisled church in the center of the monastery dedicated to Saint Constantine and the Transfiguration of the Savior, which was built in the 16th century, the chapel of St. Arkadius, the monastery’s museum hosting exhibits dating from its inception and the powder magazine where the tragedy of 1866 took place.

 

The Monastery of Preveli

The-Monastery-of-Preveli

The Monastery of Preveli is located about 40 km south of Rethymno and is one of the most famous and respected monasteries of Crete. We don’t know exactly when it was built, but the evidence shows that the first part of the monastery was built in the late 10th to early 11th century, at a time when there was a great development of monastic life in the southern region of Crete.

It consists of two building complexes, the Monastery of Prodromos, in which you will see paintings of the painter Mercurius, and the Monastery of Theologos. It is worth visiting the museum located inside the monastery, which hosts about 100 pictures of priceless religious and historical value. Important exhibits such as a Gospel of 1807, a gilt chalice of 1847, a collection of embroidered vestments, a collection of various ecclesiastical vessels etc., complete the rich collection of the museum. The library of the monastery contains about a thousand volumes of books and other church documents. The Monastery of Preveli is located in a unique natural environment which is almost tropical.

 

Anogia Village

Anogia-Village Crete

The village of Anogia, in Mylopotamos, is approximately 50 km away from Rethymno at an altitude of nearly 800 m. Built on the slope of the hill Armi, with about 2500 inhabitants, Anogia have achieved a tremendous contribution to the national liberation struggle against the Turkish conquest, particularly in the Battle of Crete.

Anogia is also an epicenter of contemporary Cretan civilization. If you visit Anogia, you will be surprised by the traditional textile industry of the place, the reputed embroidery of the village and the use of the loom, which continues even until today.

The Anogians love their heritage and respect the customs and traditions of the place, keep the traditional clothing and language idioms. What remains intense in memory of every visitor of Anogia is the characteristic hospitality of the locals and the excellent care to foreigners.

 

The Caves of Rethymno

Ideon-Antron-Cave

Another highlight of Rethymno is the 800 caves that exist in the mountains of  the region, which present archaeological and folklore interest. At an altitude of 1538 meters in Nida Plateau in Psiloritis, is the Ideon Andron, a large cave, where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus was raised by Amalthea. Ideon Andron was a cult center during the Minoan years. The excavations have brought to light various findings such as gold jewelry, ceramics and various metal objects.

In the Cave of Melidoni, which was Mercury’s place of worship, the visitors can see the bones of the inhabitants of Melidoni, who died there from suffocation, as they were besieged by the Turks. Also, the cave Sfentoni in Zoniana village, with 14 halls, impresses the visitor with its stalactites and stalagmites. Accessible is also the cave of St. Anthony in Patso, with the beautiful church – dedicated to St. Anthony – located in the cave.

 

The Renaissance Festival of Rethymno

Rethymno Renaissance Festival

Every summer, in Rethymno, is organized the Renaissance Festival, an institution that has been established since 1987, on the occasion of the great development that the city experienced experienced during the Venetian conquest, in arts, literature and architecture.

The aim of the Renaissance Festival is the preservation and dissemination of the cultural heritage of the city, and the promotion of important Venetian monuments, like the old town of Rethymnon and Fortezza. So far, the Renaissance Festival has presented a variety of important plays of Cretan theater, and other important artists of the Renaissance, such as Shakespeare, Goldoni, Moliere, etc.

The music concerts, involving orchestras and musicians from all over Europe, the opening and closing ceremonies with artistic events, and events organized in various places of the city.

 

Beaches in Rethymno

Bali beach Crete

Both in the north coast, and the south, there are many sandy beaches in Rethymno which attract visitors to walk along them, enjoy the sun and swim in the beautiful waters of the Cretan and the Libyan Sea. The beach of Rethymno is a huge, 12 km long sandy beach, which starts from the city of Rethymno and ends in the region of Scarleta.

Near the Monastery of Preveli, there is the homonymous beach, an exotic place with palm trees, crossed by the river Koutalioti and considered by many as the most beautiful beach of Crete. For those who are looking for peace and mental calm, there is the secluded beach of Triopetra in approximately 50 km. south of Rethymno. Within walking distance, you will find the quiet beach of St. Paul, offered for nudism.

Plakias-Beach on Crete

The water sports enthusiasts can visit the beach in the village of Plakias, situated 40 kilometers from Rethymno, and also Bali, on the national road Rethymno – Heraklion, which is very popular. The beach in Platanes village is appropriate for a quick dip, and it is 4 km east of Rethymno. The beach of Panormo village, 16 km away, is very organized and offer many facilities to the tourists.

Of course, these are the main highlights of Rethymno, however, when you visit it, you will realize that this place offers numerable places with such beauty and long history, that will make you love this city forever.

 

This article originally appeared on the Cretico Blog published by the Cretico Crete holiday villa website, and is republished with their kind permission.

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