Mystras: In an attempt to play catch up with he blog, a brief description of a day at the attraction of Mystras, which is set 5 miles west of the city of Sparta.
Overnight parking at the lower car only park is permitted at any time of year, as confirmed by the staff at the ticket office. A very quiet night in an isolated car park, no services. The ticket office staff go above and beyond the call of duty to explain the site to you before entry and are a credit to the attraction. Not sure they could afford so much time with each visitor in the height of summer, but they seemed to appreciate tourists still turn up during the winter months.
It’s generally thought the best way to ‘tackle’ this cluster of restored church’s and palace fortifications, is to park and start at the bottom and slowly work your way up to the top. We found it easy enough to climb all the way up to the castle in one go, but a less arduous method would be to work your way up to the last church (St. Sophia), then retrace the route back down to the car park, then drive up to the top car park to finish the visit with the ruined Castle at the very top.
There’s free entry on the 1st Sunday of every month, €6 pp otherwise, tickets are not date stamped, so it’s also possible to visit the lower churches one day and the castle another, as we did.
The view across the Spartan valley below is spectacular. Smells of burning wood and voices drift up the slopes to Mystras with ease. Some days you wished you’d packed a hand glider or one of those fixed wing parachute things, you could just soar around this valley all day.
The quality of paintings that adorn the walls of the restored churches are some of the best we’ve seen. This place is still a home to many practicing nuns, one of which we overheard to be from Australia! The painstaking restoration of the site has been going on since 1950. The Russians (in 1770) and the Albanians (in 1780) did their best to burn the place down, what was left was stolen then the place was torched by (good old despot) ‘Ibrahim Pasha’ in 1825, then left a s ruin for at least the next century. Now given the gold stamp of UNESC protection & one of the most treasured sites in Greece.
The palace is still under construction and so out of bounds at the moment, but there’s still loads to see and at less than a fiver is worth every penny. Unfortunately I think it would be almost impossible to visit with a buggy or wheelchair, as most are these type of attractions are in Greece, but a great day out for the able bodied and not to be missed.
Its not often I’m negative about a place without good reason (ahem!) but I just can’t see the fascination with a little sea-side port of Gythio. We’ve met a few folk on-route who have spent weeks there & rave about the place…I’m not going to knock it…it just didn’t tick any of our boxes, does anywhere look good in the rain? …hay-ho…next!
Coast road to Skala:
The road that hugs the coast from Gythio to a medium sized town called ‘Skala’ hides some superb beaches, some of the best sandy beaches we’ve seen in Greece, one of which has an old wreck rammed up onto the sand, the story behind this it still unknown to me, but the beach car park makes for a great stop & we used it, twice.
Collecting shells: So we’ve all done it, as you stroll down the beach, you spot an interesting, unusual (unusual for the UK anyhow) shell. Instinct tells you to pick it up and have a good look at your interesting new find, perhaps if their seems to be no current inhabitant of your newly found prize, you may pop it into your pocket & add it to your little box of souvenirs. All very innocent. For hours later, the TV is on, and were both engrossed in the latest episode of (Sir) David Attenbough’s ‘The Planet II’ when there a little ‘tap-tap-scratch’ noise. At first you dismiss it. Thirty seconds later…there it is again, ‘tap-tap-scratch’. I look down to the table and see our new souvenir had warmed up and grown several new legs and is now having trouble getting away gaining a purchase on the shiny melamine table surface! It was lake one of the final scenes from Terminator 1, where Arnie’s down to one arm and half a torso, trying to drag his body across a metal floor.
I placed him back on the beach more or less where I found him.
Have a great weekend XX Wayne.