Travelogue: Monastery, Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

It’s been a while, but I’m continuing the series recounting a roadtrip in the Greek Peleponnese, around Easter. This was my first time exploring this part of the country, and after the trip I’m totally convinced it’s one of the best places to visit in Greece. To catch up, the roadtrip started at Ancient Olympia, with the archaeological site in all its spring glory and the fantastic Olympia Archaeological Museum. The next stop was Voidokilia, Messinia, an incredible lagoon, great for nature (and bird watching!). Nearby, the city of Pylos (formerly known as Navarino!) beckoned with castles and fantastic views. The western Greek coast was occupied, at various stages, by both the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks – so the next stop on the road trip was the Castle of Methoni, followed by Koroni Castle.

The castle of Koroni covered a massive area, and was too gorgeous for me to restrain my picture-taking impulses.. After exploring the ruined church and neighbouring cemetery, and then taking in the view from the walls, we entered the monastery of the Panagia of Koroni. Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleInside the low walls of this monastery we found only a handful of nuns, and almost as many churches. This church pictured above, dedicated to St Sophia, is so far below the current ground level you can imagine how old it must be. There has been a monastery of the site since the twelfth century. Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle

Koroni CastleVisiting this place in the spring was magical – the nuns keep an incredible garden – but it was also right after Easter so the church was decorated with red and white, proclaiming that Christ has Risen.Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleA vantage point on the interior wall of the monastery gave a better sense of the scale of the castle, as well as how strategic that location must have been. Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleWe explored the gardens, and little churches, and soaked in the view, leaving just as the sun was setting. Next stop – the Byzantine ruins of Mystras! Koroni Castle

Koroni Castle Koroni Castle

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Around Athens in January

What a month. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go, though it flew by a little fast for me. Some highlights from the first month of what will be, I’m sure, an ‘interesting’ year: I celebrated New Years in Greece for the first time this year, eating plenty of vasilopita (though without finding the lucky coin..), did a lot of wandering around a rainy and chilly city, and enjoyed some unseasonably warm days too. Time, though not enough, with friends and family, and an adventure to a botanic garden near Athens that I will devote a full post to later. Though things sometimes feel like they are spinning a little out of control, overall there’s a lot going well in my little microcosm – lots of be grateful for, but ready for February!

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Aunt’s incredible new year’s table

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A Christmas tree in the wild! 

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Sunset over Athens, view from Ymittos

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Kolonaki views

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Stumbled upon a procession for Epiphany.. 

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Brunch at Zampano!

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Still pinching myself that I walk past these sights everyday.. 

Vasilissis Sophias

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Snow in Athens! 

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Waking up to a snow-covered city.

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Snowman invasion in the National Gardens

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A rainy night in Monastiraki

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Summarises January pretty accurately I think

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New yummy discoveries in Koukaki – Fabrica tou Efrosinou

Women's March, Athens

Athens’ representation for the Women’s March on Washington

Women's March, Athens

Women's March, Athens

Women's March, Athens

Mets

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Adventures in cyber land at ‘Hybrids,’ Onassis Cultural Centre

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An adventure to the Attica Plant Park – stay tuned! 

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Evening Kolonaki colours

Feet

Rain rain.. 

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Not all grey skies! 

Alimos

End of the month walk along the sea

Alimos

Alimos Bay

Sea Alimos

Happy February! 

Travelogue: More of Koroni Castle, Messinia

Koroni CastleMaking our way to the edge of the cemetery, that we explored in my previous post about Koroni Castle, we found a path that led to the castle walls, where we finally realised the massive scale of this place. Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleNot to mention magical views..! Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleIt was almost deserted, so we could take our time soaking it all in. There isn’t much left of the massive fortification that dominated this area, or the life that used to dwell within, but there is still a little monastery with a few nuns left.. coming in the next post! Koroni Castle

Travelogue: Koroni Castle, Messinia

Koroni CastleThe Venetian castles of Methoni and Koroni are only about 30km apart, on the southwestern tip of the Peleponnese, so after a spectacular visit to Methoni, we knew we had to make a stop at Koroni as well.Koroni CastleKoroni CastleWe arrived here towards the end of the afternoon (after starting our day in Kyparissia, with stops in Voidokilia, Pylos and Methoni) so the castle was fairly empty and the light was perfect. Late afternoon is my favourite time of day in Greece – seriously, that light is unreal. Look at it!  Koroni CastleKoroni CastleThe approach to the castle was interesting – it’s at the end of a peninsula past the town of Koroni, which is traversed by a single road – in theory two-ways, but barely wide enough for one direction of traffic. At the end of the town, we found a castle-like gate, but no indication that this was indeed car-friendly or the actual way in. We drove through anyway, hoping for the best..Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleWe weren’t disappointed. Once through the gate, we happened upon a central area of the castle that was almost deserted – just a few guys hanging out in the churchyard. There was also this strange half-ruined church, which I loved taking pictures of but was left feeling very curious about its story. Even online searching after the fact didn’t reveal anything, so the mystery remains.Koroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleKoroni CastleWe wandered a little through the cemetery and churchyard, enjoyed the peace and quiet. This battered bench and resting place next to the church could have been almost anywhere in Greece. It was easy to  forget we were inside a 13th century castle, but once we headed toward the perimeter… cliff views! Stay tuned..Koroni Castle

Travelogue: Methoni, Messinia

Methoni CastleThe second day of my family’s Easter roadtrip around the Peloponnese continued on from a stop at Voidokilia, with a stop for cheese pies at the castle of Pylos, south to the fortress of Methoni, located at the southwest tip of the Peloponnese.Methoni CastleMethoni CastlePictures do not do this place justice at all – it looks like it should have been the site for a scene of Game of Thrones. Its strategic location meant that this area was both heavily contested and fortified – the site of struggles between pirates and Venetians in the 12th century, and then a stopping point on the European crusader route to the Holy Land.Methoni CastleThe area inside the walls itself is also huge – the entire cape is enclosed, and would have housed basically an entire town within its walls, like many medieval castles. Now there’s not much left, except the ruins of a church, it is perhaps even more dramatic. Methoni CastleMethoni CastleMethoni CastleNothing beats that view of the sea though. What have those walls witnessed? I love wonder such things in a place like this.. So atmospheric for wandering and historical daydreaming! Methoni CastleMethoni CastleMethoni Castle

 

Travelogue: Pylos, Messinia

After a bird-watching and toe-dipping break at the lagoon of Voidokilia, our Easter roadtrip continued along the Western coast of the Peloponnese to the town of Pylos, previously known as Navarino. Though I knew that Navarino was the site of an important naval battle during the Greek War of Independence, but I don’t think I had ever connected that dots to realise that Navarino and Pylos are the same place. I now know better! We didn’t spend much time in the town itself, but did pass through the central square, where we stopped for cheese pies. With provisions for lunch, we drove on and up to the castle that dominates the whole area, and provides a wonderful vantage point over the bay where the battle took place – between the Ottoman navy and an alliance of British, French and Russian vessels, who had by then intervened on the side of Greece in their struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Probably the most appropriate word to describe the castle is impressive. Though not the first castle in the town, or on the specific site, the structure that we visited was built  by the Ottoman Turks in the 1500s, and then later improved upon by the French during the War. The view from the castle is commanding, as you can see, and it dominates the entrance to the bay. Inside the castle, there was also a great short film about the Battle itself, housed in one of the rooms that were used as prison cells in the 18th and 19th centuries. Fairly foreboding. We also learned that the name ‘Navarino’ likely derives from a Venetian corruption of ‘Ton Avarinon’ – Castle of the Avars, pointing to the diverse history of the Peloponnese, especially the Western and Southern coast, which saw not only Byzantine and Ottoman periods but also Venetian and Frankish.

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Pylos

Pylos, Greece

PylosLook at that sea!

Pylos

PylosAfter our short visit here, where we enjoyed the tiropitas and took in the history and the views, we continued southwards, to find some more evidence of Venetian and Frankish rule. To be continued…!

Pylos

Travelogue: Voidokilia, Messinia

Voidokilia, Peleponnese

It’s been a while since I wrote a ‘Travelogue’ post about my family’s Easter travels. Just to catch up – we started off from Athens to Olympia, where we explored the archaeological site and the wonderful museum, before spending the night at Kyparissia on the western coast of the Peloponnese. On our way down the coast the next day, we stopped briefly at this strange sand dune-y, lagoon-like beach.

Voidokilia, Peleponnese

In early spring, it was almost completely deserted – so we had the place to ourselves to explore for a little while. Behind the beach is an actual lagoon, known for being an important wildlife habitat, and the relative quiet at that time of the year was perfect for a little bit of birdwatching. It was also perfect for the first toe-dip of the season! Chilly water, but a lovely and refreshing stop on our Peloponnesian roadtrip.

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Voidokilia, Peleponnese

Voidokilia, Peleponnese

After a little bit of exploration and a chance to stretch our legs, we dried off our feet and got back in the car. Next stop, nearby Pylos – site of the Battle of Navarino which turned the tide of the War of Greek Independence. Stay tuned!