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.