Piles of Old Stones
01 November 2017 | Kalamata - 6,606 NM
Cooler and Changeable
Every Saturday is market day in Kalamata and it's huge. We spent most of a morning exploring the produce and buying our food for the week. We love markets!
Later in the day we drove off in the opposite direction to our last outing, without much of a plan. We eventually found ourselves in Kardamyli which isn't far away but the coast road was very narrow and windy and so it took ages. We hadn't done any research but it looked very pretty. We parked next to a sign to the ancient town - always a good start. The path led us to a renovated Mani Tower and defensive settlement of which, we would later discover, there are hundreds dotted all over the peninsula. The Maniots (from where the word maniac comes) are supposedly descended from the defeated Spartans and each family built their own defensive tower as they continually fought each other. They also each had their own church as they couldn't possibly worship with anyone else! It was our first and very interesting as we followed the cobbled streets through the old town to the very pretty little harbour.
The next day we drove through more narrow windy lanes over beautiful hills covered with olive trees providing the famous Kalamata olives and oil. We were heading for Ancient Messini - more piles of old stones! This site was much less crowded than some others which made it much more pleasant and was just as amazing. It goes back to the Myceans (1500-1800BC) but was later taken over by the Romans which is most of what you see. It's a huge area including the usual theatre, temples, markets, baths and a few villas with mosaics, but the most impressive has to be the stadium and gymnasium surrounded by pillars and seats with a stunning backdrop. While driving to the site we drove through the very imposing old city walls which were quite a way from what's left of the city showing how big it must once have been. We finished off with lunch in a restaurant overlooking the site so that we could continue to ponder what it must've been like.
Then followed a couple of stormy days and so we stayed local and explored the shops and the archeological museum. We don't do many museums as we find they make really interesting things seem very dry and boring but this one was quite small and really showed the amazing history of Messenia. It really is the place of legends with the Spartans, Jason and the Argonauts, Paris and Helen of Troy as well as other references from Homers Iliad. There were clearly lots more piles of stones to see!
The next pile was the Palace of Nestor which dates back to1800 BC. Again, the palace is in a spectacular position but there isn't a lot left other than foundations as it burn't down in 1200 BC but the fire did preserve some interesting things including lots of jars for storing oils etc and a detailed archive of life in the palace. Scribes we're employed to record daily life on clay tablets using an Ancient Greek language and, of course, the fire baked them saving them for the future, and leaving an amazing insight into life 4000 years ago. There is also a tomb near the site and we stopped to see others near by - there are lots dotted around!
Our next trip took us on a spectacular, if very windy, drive over the Taygetos mountains, which form the back drop to Kalamata, to Sparta. Sparta is now a modern city but a little remains of the ancient city which we had to explore before heading to Mystras, a ruined Byzantine city which was occupied into the 1700s. The city is spread over the steep side of a mountain topped by a castle and the ruins of lots of houses and cobbled paths leading up to it. These ruins were hard work but definitely worth it.
Phew! There's so much to see! Not so many piles of stones the next day but we did stop at another tomb on the way to some very pretty waterfalls at Polylimnio which tumbled down a gorge through autumnal trees into deep turquoise pools. There was a bit of rock climbing and clambering involved as well as a steep walk but very enjoyable.
The link to our map seems to be stopping people leaving comments on the blog, so I've removed it from these posts for now. I will be keeping it up to date so simply go to one of the special map only posts and click the link there to see it