Greece - Nafplion

Greece - Ελλάδα - Griekenland

Greece - Nafplion

26 May 2017 103 109 1882
Palamidi is a vast spectacular fortress that dominates Nafplio, nestled on the crest of a 216-metre high hill above the city. It was built between 1711 and 1714 by the Venetians built the castle during their second occupation of this part of Greece. It was one of the most important and impressive ‘castles’ the Venetians built outside their own country. This fort consists of eight bastions (PiP2), each was self contained, ensuring that if one bastion was breached the others could still be separately defended. The bastions were built one on top of the other and they all connected with one wall. Yet, in 1715, one year after completion, it was captured by the Turks and remained under their control until 1822, when it was captured by the Greeks. Nafplio is one of the first places in Greece that won independence. November 29th, 1822, a group of Greek rebels overpowered the Turks in Palamidi and the next day the town could celebrate its freedom. From 1840 and for nearly a hundred years, Palamidi was used as a prison. Theodoros Kolokotronis, hero of the Greek Revolution, was one of the prisoners. His cell can still be visited. Prisoners, who were held in Palamidi, constructed the stairs from Nafplio up to the castle was built. It is often said by locals in Nafplio that there are 999 steps, but I did read several numbers; some say "only" 857, others 901 or 913. The fortress can also be reached by car. The views of Nafplio, Bourtzi Castle, the Argolic Gulf and surrounding country are overwhelming (main picture and PiP3).

Greece - Nafplio

25 May 2017 125 121 1861
Nafplio (or Nafplion) was the first capital of the newly born Greek state - after a Turkish occupation - between 1823 and 1834. It is situated along the Argolic Gulf in the north-eastern part of the Peloponnesus, just a couple of hours by car from Athens. The city with a small port is built on a small peninsula beneath the towering Palamidi fortress. According to mythology, the town was founded by Nafplios, the son of god Poseidon and the daughter of Danaus Anymone. The history traces back to the prehistoric era when soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War alike. The town declined during the Roman times and flourished again during the Byzantine times. Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors left their mark in the town and strongly influenced its culture, architecture and traditions during the centuries. It is said that Nafplio is one of the most prettiest and romantic towns of Greece. After our visit I fully agree with that. It was such a pleasure strolling through the medieval old town with its narrow streets, lined with small shops, boutiques, (art) galleries, cafés and restaurants. Well preserved mansions with their architecture and beauty were on many places full with blooming jasmine and bougainvillea. .

Greece - Epidaurus

25 May 2017 89 88 1325
The (ancient) theatre of Epidaurus is considered to be the most perfect ancient Greek theatre with regard to acoustics and aesthetics. It was part of the sanctuary dedicated to the ancient Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. At a maximum capacity of about 13.000 spectators, the theatre hosted music, singing and dramatic games that were included in the worship of Asclepius. It was also used as a means to heal patients, since there was a belief that the observation of dramatic shows had positive effects on mental and physical health. The monument shows the characteristic structure of a classical Hellenistic theatre with an auditorium, orchestra and staging building. It was built in the late 4th century BC and enlarged in the mid-2nd century AD. During Roman times, the theatre (unlike many Greek theatres) did not suffer any modifications. The auditorium has 55 rows of seats resting on a natural slope and facing the stage area set against a backdrop of lush landscape. It was divided into two parts: a 21-rows of seats part, aimed for the citizens and a 34-rows of seats part aimed for the priests and rulers. The theatre is famous for its exceptional acoustics. Any sound on the open-air stage, whether a stentorian voice or a whisper, a deep breath or the sound of a match struck is perfectly audible to all spectators, even in the topmost row of seats, that is nearly 60 metres away. For centuries the theatre remained covered by a slope of trees until the year 1881, when several excavations took place. Since 1938, when modern dramas started to be presented again in the theatre, it has hosted hundreds of plays. The famous Athens Epidaurus Festival begun in1954 and is held every summer with famous ancient dramas or modern plays.

Greece - Didyma ‘craters’

25 May 2017 70 76 2146
Didyma is a small rural and very quiet village in the middle of nowhere on the Peloponnese between Epidaurus and Porto Cheli. It is (well) known for its craters or caves, which are located one kilometer west of the village in the slope of Mount Didimo. The Big Cave (Μεγαλη Σπηλια - Megali Spilia), can be seen from the main road. From a distance (main picture) it looks impressive, but once at the edge of the cave - after a short walk - I was rather disappointed, as there is no depth to the cave at all and the ground of the doline is full of debris and some shrubs growing between the rocks. Much more interesting is the Small Cave (Μικρη Σπηλια - Mikri Spilia), which is situated below ground level and is not visible from the road, as it is also surrounded by trees. The cave is only accessible through a steep stair (PiP1) is leading down into the rock towards the inside of the round doline (PiP2). There is a path going round along two little Byzantine churches: One is Aghios Georgios with its wall murals dating back to the 13th century and the other chapel built into the surrounding rock, the Metamorfosis of Sortiros (PiP3). There is still some debate today how these cave holes came into being. It is for sure that they were not caused by space meteorites, as no evidence of un-earthly rock has been discovered around the area. Most probably the holes were created by underground natural gas explosions many centuries ago, as there are more similar holes on the opposite side of Mount Didimo.

Greece - Monastery of Panagia Elona

26 May 2017 92 105 1829
We were driving from Leonidio through the gorge of the river Dafnon, when after numerous bends suddenly the majestic Monastery of Panagia Elona appeared. It is situated on a kind of hanging balcony on a steep reddish coloured cliff of Mount Parnon at an altitude of 650 metres. The history of the monastery begins in the 14th century. Shepherds saw a light in an inaccessible part of the cliff. This light, according to the legend, emanated from an oil lamp lit in front of an icon of St. Panagia. The bishop commissioned two hermits from the area to settle at the site, where they then built a small monastery with two cells. The present monastery was built in the middle of the 17th century, but it looks considerably more modern; devastating raids and fires caused that entire parts of the monastery had to be rebuilt several times. Panagia Elona played an important role in Greek War of Independence of 1821, both with money and by gathering weapons and hiding the Greek independence fighters. At the beginning of 1900 the monastery was one of the richest monasteries of the Peloponnese. Since 1970 Panagia Elona is a nunnery; during our visit in 2017 just five nuns were still living there. The white buildings with their cells seem to be stuck against the multicoloured rock wall (PiP1). The current church was built in 1809 (PiP2). Outside it looks quite simple, but inside it is stunningly beautiful. We were welcomed by a very friendly monk, who turned out to be a kind of keeper for the elderly nuns. He showed us around and told a lot about the religious artworks, like the sculpted wood iconostasis (PiP3) and the several icons. Among them an icon of “Our Lady Elona” (PiP4), which is believed being Apostle Luke’s work (one of the 70 icons that he painted).

Greece - Plaka

27 May 2017 74 78 904
Plaka - considered being the sea port of Leonidio - is one of those quaint picturesque seaside villages on the Peloponnese. Plaka has a little harbour with some (fishing) boats, a couple of small taverns, cafes and shops adjacent to the clear water and a pebbled beach. At least during our visit it looks if tourism had not spoiled this authentic fishing village.

Greece - Monemvasia

28 May 2017 63 60 1208
Monemvasia is a town, which is located on a small island - 300 metres wide and 1.000 metres long - off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The island - cut off from the coast by an earthquake in the year of 375 - is connected with the mainland by a 200 metres long causeway. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 100 meters above sea level and a rather small piece of land with the walled town itself. The town's name derives from the Greek words, mone and emvasia , meaning "single entrance". It is also called “Gibraltar of the east” The town and fortress were founded in 583 by inhabitants of the mainland, seeking refuge from the Slavic and the Avaric invasion of Greece. From the 10th century, Monemvasia developed into an important trade and maritime centre. Monemvasia - a natural fortress - was inhabited and soon became a strategic fortress claimed the Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans. The town was liberated from Ottoman rule on July 23, 1821 by Tzannetakis Grigorakis, who entered the town with his private army during the Greek War of Independence. Monemvasia became linked with mainland Peloponnese in 1971 by the causeway and a small bridge. The town has become an important touristic site with an increasing number of visitors, strolling along the cobbled streets and paths amid the mansions and Byzantine churches. Medieval buildings have been restored and many of them converted into hotels. These days, though, only around 20 people live in the kastro (fort) permanently. (I took the main picture from the Upper Town, which was home to the Venetian aristocracy and nowadays offering a wonderful panoramic view of (the rooftops of) Monemvasia and the surrounding area.)

Greece - Monemvasia, Agia Sofia

28 May 2017 68 59 1396
Agia Sofia is an impressive church of high architectural value, founded in the middle of the 12th century. Oral and written reports link the church to the Byzantine Emperor Andronicos II Palaiologos (1282-1328). Carvings of the church date from the 12th century and its frescoes are from around the year of 1400. It is situated in the Upper Town of Monemvasia and is one of the view buildings there that is more or less intact. During the first period of Ottoman rule many Christian people left the town, but the church was saved because the Turks decided to convert Agia Sofia in a mosque. The Ottomans converted it to a mosque and whitewashed the wall-paintings. On the return of the Venetians, the catholic doctrine church was consecrated to Madonna del Carmine. The Ottomans converted it to a mosque once again, while one of the very first things the Greeks did, when they got the town back in 1821after the Greek War of Independence, was to demolish the minaret that had been built. The octagonal domed Agia Sofia was consecrated to Virgin Mary Hodegitria. It was considered to be a faithful replica of Agia Sofia in Constantinople, the former Byzantine capital. Since then, and given that the church of Agia Sofia was the only well preserved building in the Upper Town (Ano Polis), a series of renovation works followed. The last of these were completed some years ago. It is considered being one of the oldest and most important Byzantine churches in Greece, Standing on the highest point of Monemvasia the church (and Upper Town) are accessible through a steep path with stairs and slippery stones. (More images of Monemvasia: )

Greece - Peloponnesus, Agios Nikolaos

29 May 2017 86 88 1088
We did read about the stunning frescoes in the Byzantine Church of Agios Nikolaos - 4 km from Liotrivi - and wanted to visit them. First of all it was quite a job to find this small village, because it was not very well signposted. After arriving in the picturesque village with just of couple old stone houses, we couldn’t miss the church with its beautiful architecture on the central square. Unfortunately the door of the church turned out to be closed. Although a couple of villagers tried to help, the door remained closed and we missed the frescoes.

Greece - Gerolimenas

30 May 2017 79 62 1133
Gerolimenas is a small sleepy village with some fishing boats along its shore on the Mani peninsula. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was an important harbour, from where goods were shipped to Piraeus and other Greek islands. Once Gerolimenas was one of the most remote villages in the Peloponnese and till the 1970’s it only could be reached by boat or donkey. Gerolimenas means “Old Harbour” and derives from the ancient " Ιερός Λιμήν " (Ieros Limen). In the past a fishing village, nowadays the village - with some hotels and restaurants - is a popular destination for tourists. Although during our visit it was very quiet and peaceful. The traditional stone buildings are scattered around the natural harbour and a small pebble beach.

Greece - Vathia

30 May 2017 81 68 806
Vathia - or Vatheia - is a traditional village in the southernmost tip of the Mani peninsula on the Peloponnese. The village was built from the mid the 16th century, but only in the 18th and 19th century real economic prosperity has come. At that time the village had about 300 inhabitants, who were mainly farmers and the olive harvest was their main occupation. At the beginning of the 20th century the inhabitants left the village due to poverty and at the end of the eighties of the last century there were hardly any people living there. Nowadays Vathia - often called a ghost town - is almost completely uninhabited. It has about 90 typical tower houses with the typical architecture of the Mani; most of them are empty and partly dilapidated, but in the meantime some have been renovated. The tower houses in Vathia are built like fortresses with two or three floors. The people, at one time, fiercely guarded their land and livelihoods, either from foreign invaders or rival families. The fortress-like houses provided the ideal opportunity to keep a lookout in the case of a potential invasion. The head of each household was considered to be a ‘mini warlord’, who had the interests of the family at the center of his concerns. The fierceness of the people, the rugged terrain and the strategic location of the tower houses helped keep Mani (and Vathia) free from invaders and it even maintained its independence from the Ottoman Empire.. Vathia is built on a hill top in the middle of an impressive landscape with beautiful sea views. It is located halfway between Aeropoli and Cape Tenaro.

Greece - Mystras, Mitropolis

31 May 2017 77 75 950
The Mitropolis (Cathedral of Agios Dimitrios) is considered being the most important church of Mystras ( ). The church is part of a complex of buildings enclosed by a high wall. The original church was founded in the late 13th century as a wooden roofed basilica. The cathedral has a mixed architectural style: it combines the groundplan of a Roman basilica with a Greek domed church, which was added in the first half of the 15th century. The church - the oldest of the surviving churches of Mystras - stands in a courtyard. Its impressive ecclesiastical ornaments and furniture include a marble iconostasis, an intricately carved wooden throne, and a marble slab in the floor featuring a two-headed eagle (the symbol of Byzantium) located on the exact site where Emperor Constantine XI Palaeologos was crowned in 1448 (PiP 5). The church also has some fine frescoes, dating back to late 13th and early 14th centuries. Next to the cathedral is a small museum, depicting fragments of ancient cloths, buttons, jewellery and other everyday items.

Greece - Mystras

23 Aug 2019 98 90 977
In the year of 1249 the French crusader “Guillaume II de Villehardouin” built a fortress on a spur of Mount Taygetos, that came to be known as Mystras. At the foot of the fortress the inhabitants of Sparta soon settled - counting on the protection of the bourgeois - creating a new town. Ten years later “De Villehardouin” was captured by the Byzantines and as a ransom he had to hand over his possessions in the Mórea - as the Peloponnesos was then called - to Emperor Michaël Palaeologos. Mystras came under Byzantine rule and the city expanded rapidly. In its heyday there were 42.000 people living in the walled city. From 1350 to 1460 it was the residence of the Byzantine governor - called the despot - who was always the son or brother of the reigning emperor. The despots of the Despotate of the Morea decorated the city with churches, monasteries and palaces and made Mystras a centre of culture, where the decline of Constantinople was followed at a safe distance. In 1448 the last emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI Palaeologos, was crowned here. From 1460 to 1687 the Ottomans ruled, then the Venetians (1687 - 1715) and then again the Ottomans (1715 - 1821). The city had to endure several sieges, but the fatal blow came in 1770. During the chaos that followed the Orlofika - a Greek uprising on the Peloponnesos against Ottoman rule - the Turks sent out unregulated Albanian hordes to teach the Greeks a lesson. These looting gangs also entered Mystras and destroyed the city. This looting and the devastation during the Greek War of Independence meant the end of Mystras. Most of the inhabitants then moved to (new) Sparta, which had been built by order of the first Greek king Otto I. Nowadays Mystras is a late Byzantine ghost town, although it also has a monastery where still nuns are living. The palace and quite a lot of churches are beautifully restored and without any doubt worth a visit. In 1989 the ruins, including the fortress, palace, churches, and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Greece - Mystras, Hodegetria church

31 May 2017 84 63 985
The Hodegetria church was founded by abbot Pachomios of the Brontochion Monastery in Mystras ( ). It was built between 1310 and 1315 as the katholikon (main church). The monastery acquired many resources in the area of Sparta and elsewhere in the Peloponnese and was so wealthy that the new church was referred by the local people as the Aphentiko (“head man” or “boss”). A new architectural type, the so-called “Mystras mixed type”, was created for the first time in this church. Its ground floor takes the form of a three-aisled basilica, while at the gallery level it has features of the more complex five domed cross-square church. The church also has a fine bell tower. Beautiful frescoes, comparable to frescoes in Constantinople, decorate the church. A Hodegetria or Virgin Hodegetria, is an iconographic depiction of Virgin Mary, holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for humankind. In the Western Church this type of icon is sometimes called “Our Lady of the Way”. Hodegetria church is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras.

Greece - Olympia

02 Jun 2017 72 63 644
Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympic Games, which were celebrated every four years, starting in 776 BCE. Olympia is situated in a valley in Elis, in western Peloponnesus. The site was not a town, but only a sanctuary with buildings associated with games and the worship of the gods. The sanctuary - originally known as the Altis - was a level area, about 200 meters long by nearly 180 meters broad. It was walled on each side, except to the north where it was bounded by Mount Kronos. The Altis consists of a somewhat disordered arrangement of buildings, the most important of which were the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Zeus, the area of the great altar of Zeus, the votive buildings and buildings associated with the administration of the games. The Philippeion (main image and PiP1) - the only structure inside the Altis dedicated to a human - was a circular memorial for king Philip II of Macedonia. Outside the Altis were the stadium (PiP2) and the hippodrome, where the Olympic Games took place, the palaestra/wrestling school (PiP3), the gymnasium, where all competitors were obliged to train for at least one month and the leonidaion (PiP4), lodging place for athletes taking part in the Olympic Games. Excavations of the archaeological site began in 1829 and many valuable objects were discovered, which can be seen in the nearby museum. According to UNESCO’s World Heritage website, there is probably no ancient archaeological site anywhere in the world more relevant in today’s world than Olympia. The Olympic flame - a symbol of the modern Olympic movement, introduced for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam - is lit in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia (PiP5).

Greece - Pylos, Neokastro

01 Jun 2017 89 77 685
Neokastro (also called Niokastro or New Navarino) is a fortress built on a hill above the town of Pylos. It was built in 1573 by the Turks, who kept it under their control for more than a century. The construction of the fortification started immediately after the defeat of the Ottoman fleet in the Naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Ottoman dominance was followed by Venetian rule (1686-1715). The final liberation came with the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Neokastro was built in order to guard and protect the southern entrance of the Bay of Navarino and defend the port and the region. The castle was highly developed and equipped compared to the old castle, intending to fully exploit the cannons, while simultaneously ensuring the greatest possible protection of the inner settlement and the fortification itself from hostile fires. The robust fortress is considered being one of the best preserved castles in Greece. An abundance of architectural elements and the buildings themselves that are enclosed in its walls. Among others it features structures added during Venetian rule, traces of the 1821 Greek War of Independence and reminders of its use as a prison during World War II. The church of the Transfiguration of Christ was constructed in the 16th century as a mosque, but served as a church both during Venetian rule of the city and then again since independence. The acropolis of the castle has six walled sides and ramparts, offering a magnificent panorama of the Navarino Bay. Nowadays the complex houses Pylos' impressive archaeological museum in the former General Maison barrack and interesting displays on underwater archaeology.

Greece, Stemnitsa, Prodromou Monastery

03 Jun 2017 94 78 2273
The Prodromou Monastery (Moni Timíou Prodrómou - Μονή Τιμίου Προδρόμου) is one of the most famous monasteries in the Peloponnese. The particularly picturesque and visually stunning monastery is situated on/against the eastern cliffs of the Lousios River Gorge with its stone buildings and ramshackle wooden balconies, seeming to hang from the overhanging cliffside. The three-storied east and south wings and the two-storied north wing contain cells, storerooms, and service areas. It is said to date back to the year of 1167, but reliable sources estimate the foundation somewhere in the 16th century. The monastery is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, who in the Orthodox tradition is usually called Pródromos (the Forerunner, meaning the one who came before Jesus). The monastery houses a literally hidden gem: a very small (2.25 x 4.90 m) domed, rock hewn church (PiP 3) with an iconostasis from the 16th century; frescoes were painted directly on the rock walls (PiP 4) outside the church. Due to its inaccessible location Moni Prodromou played a large role in the Greek War of Independence in 1821 as a medical and supply station for the Greek soldiers and as refuge for civilians. The original door is still intact and the bullet holes are indicative of the fighting that occurred in this area. The monastery still houses a monk community and during our visit we were welcomed by one of them with Greek coffee, water, bread and honey sweet loukoumia. It can be reached from the main road between Stemnitsa and Dimitsana through a 7 km long particularly steep, winding and narrow road and a 15 minutes walk.

Greece - Thessaloniki, White Tower

24 May 2018 87 72 1181
The White Tower is the most well known monument of Thessaloniki and a famous landmark of the city. The tower, which once guarded the eastern end of the city's sea walls, was for many years attributed to Venice, to which the Byzantines ceded Thessaloniki in 1423. It is now known that the tower was constructed by the Ottomans sometime after their army captured Thessaloniki in 1430. The Tower was used by the Ottomans successively as a fortress, garrison and a prison. In 1826 here was a massacre of the rebellious prisoners. After that the tower acquired the name "Tower of Blood" or "Red Tower". When Thessaloniki became a part of Greece in 1912 the tower was whitewashed as a symbolic gesture of cleansing and it was named “White Tower”. The Tower has now a buff colour, but has retained its name. The tower is located on Thessaloniki's waterfront boulevard at the Thermaic Gulf. Nowadays it houses a museum dedicated to the history of Thessaloniki.

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