Journey through Ancient Greece

Pylos

Pylos is a pretty little town in a magnificent setting between the beautiful Bay of Navarino and the surrounding hills. Large cargo ships are usually at anchor in the bay and small fishing and pleasure boats in the harbour. Across the bay, almost forming a lake, is the island of Spakteriawhere the Spartans were besieged by the Athenians in 425 BC.

The town was designed in 1829 by the French who occupied the kastro after the end of the Greek War of Independence. Elegant neo classical buildings and colonnades surround the central Plateia ton Trion Navarkhon (Three Admirals Square). In the plateia is the monument to the battle of Navarino, an obelisk, set between palm trees, with busts of the three admirals, the French de Rigny, the Russian von Heyden, and the British Codrington in pride of place facing the plateia and the sea. There are several cafes and bars in the shade of large plane and lime trees, a lovely place to watch small children play in the evening over ouzo and mezes! There are also phone boxesand a letter box here and a periptero (kiosk) where you can get drinks, postcards, sweets etc.

On the north side (opposite the Galaxy hotel) is the Atlantik supermarket (open 8-9), a good book and map shop, a green grocer, the tourist police, and a chemist. More shops, including a good bakery are up the staircase to the right. On the west side is another nice bakery. There are at least three banks!

Along the quayside and round past the car park are several tavernas. (There is also a tiny 'beach' here where it is possible for the brave to swim!)

To the north of the plateia are more tavernas including Gregoris which has a large indoor area and big terraced garden at the back (with water feature). You choose the food in the kitchen here and local wine is €1 for half a litre!

Neo Kastro (new castle) open 8.30-3 Up the road past the museum.

The kastro was started by the Turks in 1573 after their defeat at the battle of Lepanto. It was occupied by the Venetians from 1686 to 1715 when it was recaptured by the Turks. It is not visible from the town but (apparently!) its extensive ramparts are very conspicuous from the sea. It is in a lovely setting of pine trees and palms with cobblestone paths. The citadel is hexagonal with, six bastions a wide ramp and a huge moat. Don't miss the steps up to a tiny arch leading to the battlements from which there is a stunning view of the bay.

On the left of the entrance is a museum with interesting pictures of the battle of Navarino.

To the right is the church of the Metamorphosis, a mosque converted into a church (closed for restoration last visit).

The Battle of Navarino

After the death of Byron at Mesalonghi, public opinion persuaded the government of Great Britain to try to help the Greeks to obtain independence by diplomacy; France did not wish to lose influence in the area to our country and joined with us and Russia (whose access to the Mediterranean was hindered by the Turks), in the Treaty of London, which proposed to guarantee the autonomy of Greece under the suzerainty of Turkey.

In October 1827 a combined Anglo-Franco-Russian fleet under the command of vice Admiral Codrington sailed to Pylos to persuade the Turks to accept mediation and to cease attacking (or defending themselves from) the revolting Greeks. The Turks had a large fleet and were assisted by a large Egyptian fleet The Allied Admirals met Ibraham Pasha the Turkish commander, informed him of the offer of mediation and withdrew outside the bay where the Turks and Egyptians were anchored, for their offer to be considered. Some Turkish ships moved to block a small Greek fleet entering the bay, The allies entered the bay to block the Turks who turned back; other Turkish ships moved and gunfire was heard spreading round the bay. The Turks and Egyptians lost 5000 men, the allies less than 200. Greece was free! Codrington was temporarily in disgrace, the French Admiral was promoted and Greek pirates attacked British and French cargo vessels!

Museum open 8.30-3, on road to Methoni, entrance €2 & €1

This small museum is well worth a quick visit, it only needs 15 - 20 minutes.

The exhibits are from a variety of local tholos tombs and cemeteries.

The Mycenaean room has some nice vases, including pithoi and kraters, a pyxis with very primitive/childish animals and birds and some lovely seals.

Tusks of a Mycenaean helmet with a photograph of a reconstruction (like the one described by Homer in the Iliad).

One of my favourites is a superb terracotta bath with handles.

In the Hellenistic room there are two enormous funeral pithoi, two very primitive bronze statues, three glass bowls, a clay pan with holes like a colander and a barbecue.

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