Tag: monuments (page 1 of 2)

Crossing 600 years of history at the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

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Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The  arched stone Kremasti bridge spans a stream in bucolic countryside near the town of Agia Paraskevi on Lesvos

 

Walking back centuries: Unlike the other two tourist couples that showed up within moments of our own arrival, we did cross the Kremasti bridge when we got to it.

We couldn’t pass up the rare opportunity to walk on a hand-built stone viaduct that may have been built as long as 600 years ago. Rare for us, because bridges even just a century old are few and far between back home in Canada, so crossing an ancient span isn’t something we can do  any old day of the week.

However, walking on medieval bridges might be something those other people can do wherever they live, which would explain why they didn’t share our enthusiasm to get up close for a better look at Kremasti. The two women from the first car strode  to the edge of the olive grove at the north side of the bridge for a brief look-see, then promptly drove off in the direction of Stypsi village. The driver of the second vehicle walked only a few steps from his car to snap photos — from a spot on the road that didn’t offer particularly good views of the monument standing 30 meters distant.  His passenger didn’t even get out; she seemed more interested in something on her cellphone. Photo-taking finished, the man climbed back into the driver’s seat, made a three-point turn, and drove off the way they had come.

In less than four minutes tops, both couples had arrived and departed, probably adding a “been there, seen that” checkmark to their lists of historic sites they had “visited” on Lesvos.

We didn’t mind having the old bridge all to ourselves; we got to appreciate its elegant architecture and examine its impressive masonry and engineering without getting in the way — or in the background — of someone else’s selfie.  And on such a sunny and warm spring afternoon, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the fresh air and quiet beauty of the countryside, take a stroll through the lovely olive grove, and imagine how crucial the bridge would have been for regional travel in the centuries before motor vehicles? Oh, right — we can think of at least four people who would prefer not to! But we weren’t keen to hurry back into the car to see more of Lesvos through the windshield and side windows. We would get to do that during the drive back to our hotel in Molyvos later in the day. Instead, we took a nice, slow walk across 600 years of Lesvos history, and savored the experience of simply being there for awhile. Besides, we were on Lesvos, where rushing around just isn’t the way to see and enjoy the subtle beauty and character of the island.

 

Kremasti bridge location on Lesvos island

This Google map pinpoints the Kremasti bridge location in northern Lesvos, approximately 3 km northwest of the town of Agia Paraskevi. 

 

Google satellite view of Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

This Google satellite image shows the historic bridge and the modern-era road that carries motor vehicle traffic through the countryside of rolling hills to Stypsi village.

 

Our travel materials and guidebooks didn’t provide much information about Kremasti. Most said basically the same things: it’s “the largest and best-preserved medieval bridge in the eastern Aegean” (to quote our 4th edition copy of The Rough Guide to the Dodecanese and East Aegean Islands); it is widely believed to be have been built sometime during the period the Gattilusio family of Genoa controlled Lesvos (1355 to 1462); it crosses a stream which flows into the Tsiknias River; and it stands 8.5 meters tall at its highest point. (Curiously, no further dimensions, such as the length and width of the span, were described in any of the publications).  

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

 

When we searched online for more details on the bridge’s history, we discovered that some websites dispute the date of construction, saying architectural details suggest Kremasti may have been built more than 100 years after the Gattilusio era, most likely during the 16th Century.  Some sources also mentioned that, according to local legend, the master builder buried his wife’s body into the bridge foundations.

We didn’t have any luck learning how the bridge got its name, but we did find some insight in The bridge of Kremasti, an interesting article written by Perris P. Vougioukas and published in 2015 by the local news and information website Agia Paraskevi Only.  

Besides discussing some of the history and legend behind the bridge, Vougioukas provided some dimension statistics that we couldn’t find anywhere else. Like other sources, he noted the Kremasti arch reaches a maximum height of 8.55 meters, but he furnished additional measurement facts: the bridge opening is 14 meters, while the span’s cobblestone walkway extends for approximately 50 meters, and is 3.5 meters wide.

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

 

We had been curious about the bridge length because we wanted to know how far into the past we had wobbled along the uneven surface, where weeds and grasses sprout from cracks and spaces between the stones. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cross the entire span — a section of wire fence blocked access to and egress from the north side of the bridge. We didn’t realize this until we were almost all the way up and over the arch, having begun our crossing from the south. Clambering over or around the barricade would have been awkward and unsafe, so we wisely retraced our steps. Although it was a bit disappointing to wind up just one or two steps shy of a complete crossing, we got to spend twice as much time on the bridge, and enjoy the different views in each direction. 

(We couldn’t understand why the fence had been installed; there weren’t any signs indicating it was off limits, and none of our tourist guides warned that walking on the bridge was either unsafe or not permitted. We wondered if the owners of the olive grove simply didn’t want people like us ambling around their trees or having picnics on their property! Or perhaps they had blocked the path to prevent their sheep or goats from crossing onto the bridge and possibly falling into the stream. If any of our readers know the answer, please share it with us!)

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Our visit to Kremasti bridge took place during a day-long drive to explore sights and villages in northern Lesvos. We also could have seen the bridge by walking, since there are well-established trekking routes in the area, but we chose to leave long hikes for our next trip to Lesvos. For any of our readers who might be interested in such a scenic walk during an upcoming trip to Lesvos, here are links we had bookmarked for two websites that provide detailed directions for walking routes that pass the bridge:

Walking in the valley of Tsiknias on the Trekking Trails Network of Lesvos website; and 

♦ the Napi – Kremasti bridge route on the AllTrails website

Below are a few more of our photos of the bridge and its surroundings:

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The three photos above show the bridge as we approached and began crossing the span from its southern side

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The view toward the olive tree grove at the north end of the bridge. Even from this point, we couldn’t see the thin wire fence that blocks access to the grove.

 

Olive tree grove near the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Olive tree grove near Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

olive trees near the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The three photos above show views of the olive tree grove at the north end of the bridge. The ground was carpeted with tiny white spring flowers.

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

From the edge of the olive grove, a glimpse of the bridge’s arch

 

a man stands on the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The stream beneath the bridge is a tributary of the Tsiknias River, which flows into the Gulf of Kalloni

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Above: two views of the arched stone span

 

a man on the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The wire fence that blocks passage at the north end of the bridge is partially visible in this photo. 

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Above: two views during our walk back to the southern end of the bridge

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

One final look at Kremasti, seen from the modern bridge that carries motor vehicle traffic across the stream

Video spotlight on: Samos

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This is my island, This is Samos by Michali’s Films

 

If you ever get the chance to visit Samos, here’s a few sage words of advice: Stay for at least a week, and rent a car for either all or part of your holiday. You’ll need that time, and access to a vehicle, to see even just a few of the fabulous sites and scenic locations spotlighted in the video This is my island, This is Samos by Michali’s Films.

We spent 4.5 days on Samos during an island-hopping holiday through the Dodecanese and East Aegean regions of Greece exactly 10 years ago this month. (How time flies — we can’t believe a full decade has passed since that vacation).

We knew when we arrived that we would only be scraping the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, by basing ourselves in and near the island’s capital city, Vathy, and not having a car at our disposal.  Samos is a big island, as evidenced by the fact it boasts three ferry ports and an airport; spellbinding mountain, valley and coastal landscapes; dozens of beautiful beaches; charming villages, churches and monasteries; noteworthy historic places and monuments (including UNESCO World Heritage Sites); vineyards that produce the island’s world-famous muscat wine; scores of tavernas serving delicious local and traditional Greek cuisine; and much much more.

We weren’t stuck in Vathy the whole time, though, since we did rent mountain bikes for a day. That gave us the opportunity to take a fun ride to and from the picturesque seaside village of Kokkari, and to explore the countryside north of the city.

Still, we missed out on seeing so much, as This is my island, This is Samos made clear.

The 4-minute film shows dozens of remarkable places all over the island, and captures impressive aerial views of:

♦ the villages of Platanos, Kokkari, Pyrgos, Miloi, Irion, Pythagorion (and its striking Blue Street), Mesokampos, Posidonio, Mitilinii and Ormos Marathokampou;

♦ the beaches Klima, Potami,  Mourtia, Mykali, Proteas, Psili Ammos, Megalo Seitani, Klima, Glikoriza, Tarsanas, Remataki, Livadaki, Limnionas, and Balos; 

♦ the Temple of Hera, Ancient Walls of Samos, an ancient observatory, and other historic sites;

♦ the 2,500-year-old olive tree “Eva” at Miloi village;

♦ numerous churches and holy sites including the Church of Profitis Ilias, Agias Triada Monastery, Agios Nikolaos Church at Pandroso village, Panagia Church at Mitilinii village, the Church of Panagia Eleousa, the Church of Profitis Ilias near Spatharaioi village, the Church of Agiris Chrysostomos of Smyrna at Mykali, the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, Agios Nikolaos Church at Posidonio, the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani at Pythagoreion, and Agios Nikolaos Church at Potami;

♦ a flamboyance of flamingos at Alikes Mykali;

♦ the islands of Samiopoula, Karavopetra, Agios Nikolaos, Diaporti and Vareloudi;

♦ Mount Kerkis and the Profitis Ilias mountain region;

♦ the statue of Pythagoras at Pythagoreion village;

♦ tour boats, and more.

If you’d like to see more of the island after taking this aerial tour, you’ll find nearly 20 other Samos videos to watch on the Michali’s Films channel on YouTube.

 

Admiring the Arcadian Gate and walking atop the 2,300-year-old wall at Ancient Messini

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Circuit wall at Ancient Messini Greece

A segment of the 9.5-kilometer-long stone wall that was built in 369 BC to protect the ancient city of Messini. We walked sections of the circuit wall between three of its lookout towers. 

 

Arcadian Gate at Ancient Messini

The circuit wall was built with two gates — one on the east side of Ancient Messini and one on the west. This toppled stone lintel is a striking sight at the western portal known as the Arcadian Gate.

 

Arcadian Gate at Ancient Messini

The Arcadian Gate has two entrances, each at opposite ends of a large circular courtyard. This is a view of one of the curved walls inside the courtyard.

 

Ancient Messini archaeological site

Part of the extensive archaeological grounds at Ancient Messini, which is described as “one of the most important cities of antiquity” in a listing on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites webpage.

 

buildings at Mavromati village

Mavromati is a small village that overlooks Ancient Messini from the lower slopes of Mount Ithomi. We stayed here for one night during our brief visit to the area in May.

 

Wall walking:  Suffering from jet lag and lack of sleep after a 9.5-hour overnight flight to Athens, we didn’t expect to see or do much during the first day of our vacation in the western Peloponnese region of Greece in late May.  We definitely didn’t anticipate walking around a village and historic sites for a few hours in hot temperatures and blazing sunshine. But since we had less than 24 hours to see Ancient Messini, we resisted the urge to take a nap in our hotel room, choosing instead to explore as much of the area as we could while our energy and enthusiasm lasted.

Our early afternoon arrival gave us an opportunity to wander the quiet streets of Mavromati village, admire the unique design of the Arcadian Gate, walk along sections of a two thousand year old fortification wall, view parts of the Ancient Messini archaeological site, see an historic monastery, and enjoy the fresh air and countryside before tucking into a delicious Greek dinner at a taverna near our hotel. We didn’t have enough time or stamina to visit all of the area’s fascinating attractions, but we enjoyed everything that we did get to see — and loved every minute of being back in Greece. 

Please continue reading on page 2, where you’ll see more photos of the impressive Arcadian Gate, circuit wall, and Ancient Messini.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Quietly spectacular Skyros

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Enjoy aerial views of the island’s wonderful coastal, mountain, valley and village scenery in the film Skyros 2018 by Skylens (above),  in Skyros – Cinematic Travel Video in 4K by Andre Eckhardt Films (center), and in Skyros – Greece by TreeZone (below) 

 

 

 

~ Editor’s note: This article was updated on September 27 2018 with the addition of the Skyros 2018 video, and on October 2 2019 with the addition of the Skyros Cinematic Travel Video posted above ~

 

Real deal: Want to visit an authentic Greek island that isn’t a mainstream tourist magnet like Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, or even its nearby neighbour, Skiathos? Then have a look at Skyros, the southernmost and largest island in the Sporades archipelago. Skyros has everything you would want and expect from a great Greek island holiday destination — impressive landscapes and coastal scenery, inviting beaches, picturesque villages, historic sites, good food, and age-old local traditions — without the massive crowds and commerciality of other islands that have become household names around the world.

Though it is becoming increasingly popular with visitors from around the world, and has an international airport that receives direct charter flights from several European cities during July and August, Skyros is a relatively low-profile destination that isn’t even on the radar for most tourists planning vacations in the Greek islands.

In fact, there were only 3 question-and-answer threads posted on TripAdvisor’s Skyros travel forum in all of 2015, and just 10 in total since 2010. The Skiathos forum, by comparison, had  more than 6,100 conversation threads as of mid-May 2016.

 

 

 

With so much going for the island, It’s rather surprising that Skyros doesn’t get more attention from travellers — especially considering that it gets good press whenever it’s mentioned in social and regular media.

For instance, Skyros was cited as the best destination for alternative travel and holistic holidays in The Telegraph’s January 2016 feature The 19 best Greek islands, and was included in a piece the Independent published about Holidays for single travellers. Also in January, The Irish Examiner published A letter from paradise on the Greek island of Skyros, a journalist’s account of her writing holiday. And in 2015, Thomas Cook Airlines named Skyros as best destination for “healthy lifestyle holidays” in its profile of Greece’s top 10 islands.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Skyros hasn’t become hugely popular — that means it will remain a unique and special place to charm and delight those travellers who do venture off the main tourist paths to pay it a visit. (And that’s one of the chief reasons why Skyros is on my bucket list of islands to see.)

Skyros photo from sail-la-vie.com

Built on the steep slopes of a craggy peak topped by a Byzantine fortress and a  monastery, Chora village is a striking sight on Skyros (Photo from the Municipality of Skyros travel guide)

 

Please continue reading on page 2, where you’ll find more pictures and videos along with links to more than a dozen different websites with Skyros travel information and photos.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

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Acropolis & Parthenon shine in print & social media spotlights

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Trudeau family at the Acropolis

Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada when he visited Athens with his three sons in 1983. His oldest son Justin (standing behind younger brothers Michel and Alexandre at the Parthenon) became Prime Minister after winning Canada’s federal election on October 19. This photo made the rounds on Greek social media following Justin Trudeau’s big election win.

 

Media marvels: I’ve been seeing a lot of the  Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens this month — unfortunately not in person, but in print and social media.

Photos of the top two Athens attractions appear frequently on my Facebook and Twitter news feeds, but in the last several weeks there has been a noticeable spike in the number of picture, video and article links that have been posted about both monuments.

Most social media posts have been travel pictures that tourists shot during their autumn visits to the world-famous monuments, but some of the stand-out photos and articles have been published by international print and online publications.

Screenshot of a Boston Globe article about AthensOne widely shared link was for the travel article Glories, history live in the heart of Athens, published October 3 by The Boston Globe.  The story said the Acropolis is “the absolute must see” for visitors to Athens, and it featured a large picture of the Parthenon as its lead photo.

Another popular share on Facebook was the photo I posted above showing then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his three young sons during a visit to the Acropolis on August 30, 1983.

The picture, credited to Peter Bregg of the Canadian Press news organization,  was republished by The Pappas Post website as its Photo of the Day on October 22 — three days after the eldest Trudeau boy, Justin, was elected as the new Prime Minister of Canada. Now 43, Justin was just 11 years old when the family photograph was taken at the Parthenon.

Meanwhile, a trip to my local magazine retailer brought me face-to-face with pictures of the Parthenon and the caryatids at the Erechtheion monument on the Acropolis. 

Prominently displayed on an eye-level shelf was the October/November issue of National Geographic History magazine, which has an attention-grabbing cover photo of the Parthenon basking in a golden sunset glow. 

National Geographic History magazine cover October November 2015Inside is an informative and well-illustrated 12-page feature article describing noteworthy events during the Parthenon’s long history.

“It was built to celebrate the triumph of Athens over adversity,” the article begins, “but survival would be hard for this extraordinary building. Over 2,500 years it has been abused, plundered, neglected, and all but obliterated. Its remains now stand as a proud symbol of the endurance of Greek civilization.”

The feature includes “The day they blew up the Parthenon,” a two-page account of the September 21, 1687 artillery attack on the monument by Venetian forces.

On another shelf, the November/December issue of Archaeology magazine caught my eye. Its cover image is a photo showing three of the caryatid figures on the Erechtheion, one of the historic buildings on the Acropolis. An 8-page feature article about the Acropolis describes “the decades-long project to restore the site to its iconic past.” 

Archaeology magazine cover for November December 2015“After four decades of intensive work by hundreds of experts in archaeology, architecture, marble working, masonry, restoration, conservation and mechanical, chemical and structural engineering, much has been accomplished. Already the restoration of two of the major buildings, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike, has been completed, as has much of the work on the Propylaia and on large sections of the Parthenon,” the article notes. 

In outlining “7 keys to restoring an icon,” the article illustrates and discusses several specific monuments and elements at the Acropolis, including the Circuit Walls, the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Arrephorion, “scattered architectural members,” and of course the Parthenon.

Both magazine features are fascinating reads, whether you’ve been to the Acropolis before or not. If you’re planning a trip to Athens for later this year or sometime during 2016, see if you can find copies of the publications at your neighbourhood news outlets. You will enjoy a more informed and educated visit to the Acropolis if you get to read the articles before your trip. 

And just today (October 31), I have seen the Parthenon and Acropolis getting even more attention in a news video being shared widely on Facebook.

Originally posted on the Facebook page for the Greek Gateway entertainment website, the clip shows the Greek Presidential Guard participating in a flag raising ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Oxi Day this past Wednesday. A national holiday, Oxi Day celebrates events on October 28, 1940, when Mussolini’s forces demanded they be allowed to enter and occupy Greece. In response, Greek leader Iannis Metaxas bluntly said “oxi” (“no”) and refused the Italian ultimatum. 

 

Oxi Day ceremony at the Acropolis

  A screenshot from the special Oxi Day video that Greek Gateway shared on its Facebook page. Click here to view the clip.

 

 My last visit to the Acropolis was in May 2014, but after seeing all these photos and stories about it in recent weeks, I wish I could get back soon for another look around.

Greece’s top museums & archaeological sites to open 12 hours daily from April through October

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Palace of the Grand Masters

The Knights of St John established the magnificent Palace of the Grand Master of Rhodes during the 14th Century. Situated in the medieval city of Rhodes, the palace occupies a site where a Byzantine fortress originally had been built in the 7th Century. The Grand Master’s palace is one of more than 30 major museum and archaeological attractions in Greece that will operate under new extended hours from April 1 to October 31 in 2014.

 

 

Don’t rush: The Greek Ministry of Culture has some good news for travellers who like to take their time while visiting museums and exploring archaeological sites — hours of operation are being extended for more than 30 of the country’s top attractions.

From April 1 until October 31, archaeological sites including Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae and Mystras, plus the Acropolis in Athens, will be open to the public from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day.

The longer opening hours for the historic sites, and for a number of important museums in Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes and other locations, were announced this week. They are among a series of initiatives that the Culture Ministry is undertaking to enhance and update the visitor experience in Greece. The other improvements, which will be rolled out later this year, include installation of Wi-Fi networks, the design of mobile virtual tour applications, and the launch of an e-ticketing system for entrance to museums and archaeological sites.

 

Greece anticipates record tourist traffic in 2014

The extended hours couldn’t come at a better time: Greece is expecting a record number of tourist visits in 2014 — over 18.5 million, to be precise.

The longer hours will be particularly appreciated by cruise ship visitors, whose tight time schedules in the past have forced them to rush through major sites, or miss seeing them altogether.

The extended hours apply to a total of 33 sites and museums which account for more than 95 per cent of visits to Greek historical attractions. One of the monuments, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, will remain open until sunset each day.

 

Here is the complete list of attractions that will offer longer hours of operation:

 

◊  the archaeological site of the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus and the Ancient Agora in Athens;

◊  the archaeological site of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion;

◊  the Olympieion — Arch of Hadrian;

◊  the archaeological site of Epidaurus;

◊  the archaeological site of Mycenae;

◊  the archaeological site of Olympia and the archaeological museum at Olympia;

◊  the archaeological site of Delphi and the archaeological museum of Delphi;

◊  the archaeological site of the Royal Tombs of Vergina and the archaeological museum of Vergina;

◊  the archaeological site and museum at Delos island near Mykonos;

◊  the archaeological site of Akrotiri Thera on Santorini;

◊  the archaeological site of Lindos on Rhodes;

◊  the archaeological site of Asklepieio on Kos;

◊  Ancient Kamiros on Rhodes;

◊  the archaeological museum of Rhodes;

◊  the archaeological site of  Knossos on Crete;

◊  the archaeological site of  Phaistos on Crete;

◊  Cave of Psychro on Crete;

◊  the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth;

◊  the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes; 

◊  the Ancient Castle of Kos;

◊  the archaeological site of Mystras;

◊  Spinalonga on Crete;

◊  Corfu Castle;

◊  the archaeological site of Palamidi;

◊  the archaeological museum of Heraklion on Crete;

◊  the archaeological museum of Thessaloniki;

◊  the Byzantine & Christian Museum in Athens;

◊  the National Archaeological Museum in Athens;

◊  the White Tower Museum in Thessaloniki; and

◊  the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki.

 

Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion will remain open until sunset each day from April 1 to October 21.

 

 

Monuments and houses in Kos Town

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Houses overlook an historic archaeological site in the center of Kos Town on Kos island

History and archaeology buffs will enjoy visiting Kos island. In Kos Town, you don’t have to walk far to find monuments and historic ruins — they’re practically all over the place, right along residential and commercial streets as well as in the main tourist district in the center of town.

 

Pic of the day: Visiting Knossos Palace

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Tourists explore the ruins of Knossos Palace near Heraklion on Crete

Tourists explore Knossos Palace near Heraklion on Crete

 

 

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