Sparti and Mystras
Sparti and Mystras
Monday, 27th August, 2012.
We have hired a car for three days as the weather reports show lots of wind for a few days so we have decided to explore the coast line and see a little more of the area. After referring to the DK book we decided we would visit Sparti and Mystras which are about 6 miles apart. The only road is through theTaygetos mountains and it had a lot of hair bends but the scenery was marvellous. I can only imagine it is like being in the Rocky Mountains. We stopped for coffee and spoke to four gentlemen who were at the next table. One was visiting from America and makes the journey three times a year to his village where he has had the house rebuilt over the years with all the extras. It is amazing how many Greeks we have met who have been overseas for a great number of years and now return for holidays or have made their money and returned for good. They offered us Moon Shine which I thought was going to be ouzo! My face made them laugh on the first taste! Before we paid for our coffee we bought some of their peaches which were for sale straight from the tree outside the taverna.
This journey was approximately 80 km and took around three hours so we had to stop for lunch at the top of one of the mountains and sit on their veranda looking out across the mountains while sipping wine and enjoying the wonderful views. In winter the snow falls and the roads are impassable. The road has been chopped through some big mountains and I thought you would enjoy the photograph of the mountain overhanging the road. We noticed there is a climbing park in one of the big valleys.
We tried in vain to find the ruins of Sparti to no avail. There are no signs and even the locals were unaware of where the site is so we continued on to Mystras. Mystras occupies a panoramic view over the Taygetos range of mountains. It was founded by the Franks in 1249 to replace medieval Sparti but soon passed to the Byantines under whom it became a town of 20,000. After 1348 it passed to the Despots of Morea. The despotate acted semi-independently and become the last Byzantine cultural centre by the 15th century attracting scholars and artists from Italy and Constantinople. Inside the churches every wall is decorated with pastel coloured frescoes and reflects the Italian Renaissance influence.
The area was split into three parts, the lower town, middle town and the castle on the top of the mountain. The first church called The Mitropoli was built in 1291 and was at the entrance of the lower town and the last church built was Moni Pantanassas in 1428. We enjoyed our visit which included the museum where they have laid out clothing, jewellery and many finds. We walked around the lower town before driving up to the middle town and climbing up to the castle. The views were breath taking and well worth the effort to get to the top. We were along with a young family the only people up there and they came from Bethnal Green, small world.