Thursday, 14 July 2016

Thurs 14 Jul 2016. Mystras to Kalamata to Methoni

Thurs 14 Jul 2016. Mystras to Kalamata to Methoni
Ah, its happy Bastille Day! 

Explored the UNESCO site, “Wonder of Morea”. Mystras stands on a high hill overlooking Sparta. Commencing with a fortress built in the mid 1200’s, a medieval city spread down the hilltop in layers. The site contains 10 or more monasteries with impressive names including Evangelistria, Brontochion (wealthiest), Hagios Demetrios, Pantanassa, St Sophia and the Peribleptos. Not everything was open/accessible (including one convent currently occupied) but we certainly gained an appreciation for the churches, chapels, and monasteries built as exemplars of late Byzantine architecture.  
From the bottom, looking up....

From the top, looking down...

Byzantine architecture stipulated vaulted esplanades for public thoroughfare. To facilitate traffic through narrow, cobbled, winding streets and alleyways, lower edges of buildings were often trimmed back (origin of term "cut corners"!!) 

Many of the ecclesiastical buildings were remarkably preserved, the labour of generations. 

The insides were vaulted and dark, but showed signs of ongoing use.

The Byzantine frescoes were a revelation (and joy-o-joy photos were allowed!)

In the small museum room, GirlRob was amazed to note the Annunciation of Alexander the Great, who had gone "weapon-ed" up into Heaven so he could conquer it as well!!

Monks were artisans of illustrated manuscripts  

Tomb burials inside chapels and their porches were common for the Despot's family, the wealthy or prestigious. Monks were buried in graves clustered around churches inside the walls; burials for common folk were outside city walls.

Water was critical to elevated townships - decades of hard labour must have gone into the building of wells, sluices and underground brick-lined cisterns.

By mid afternoon we were SO glad we hadn’t planned on visiting the Frankish citadel on its perch on top of the hill. By 2pm it was 39˚, none of the ever-upwards walks were shaded, and for the 3rd or 4th time BoyRob asked why we were doing this to ourselves, so we joined the line of other departing tourists! The bus driver in carpark was standing by our map, and quite enamoured of our trip - kept asking how we could afford to travel, what kind of pension were we on?

Drove gorgeous mountain road to Kalamata (quite deadly, so much was un-fenced on edges) Overhangs had simply been cut out - not a tunnel in an engineering sense! Steep rocky mountains, ravines, pine forests, somewhat cooler as we ascended, aromatic yellow gorse on hillsides. 
Watch out for my bucket...

Stopped on high plateau under shade beside watering point of continuous cold mountain water. Filled empty bottles and thermos mugs now empty of tea. Refreshed we drove on down into the hotter valley. Gave Koroni a miss – we couldn’t take any more of Southern Greece in this heat. Went "sideways" to Methoni for tonight, then we expect to head north to (hopefully!) cooler places. Turned away from the coast at one side and drove to coast at other, climbing hills. Wow, a hawk flew across road in front of us, carrying a snake. 

Pulled into Camping Methoni at 6.30pm, a tight narrow turn with people standing on the corner. We discovered too late, and knocked over, a bicycle propped against the entrance gate and protruding into the campground road. There was no owner in sight, so we booked in and asked the park owner what to do - he said it belonged to a Dutch woman and she shouldn't have parked on the road. 

Just as we were unpacking chairs the bike owner turned up and commenced a tirade demanding money. BoyRob apologised for the damage saying he didn't believe it was totally his fault, but she shouted over him and said she was going to call police. Her husband then turned up demanding double her amount for a replacement wheel and tyre. BoyRob asked to see the actual damage saying he’d pay for the repair, but bloke stormed off to call police. We couldn’t see how it was police jurisdiction as it wasn’t a public road, but also didn’t want to be drawn into police reports, damage estimates etc. At 9pm gave up waiting for further visitors, showered and went to bed -  an unrefreshing night given the heat and humidity.

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