24 August 2017
During our stop in Kalamata on our way around the Peloponnese we hired another trusty Fiat Panda and took it into the high mountains that border the bay. We were going in search of the Byzantine city of Mystras. The drive was either 50 kilometres through the twisty mountain roads or 100 kilometres round them on the toll road. Both would take us just over an hour.
We opted for the toll road for the journey there and had its new bridges and tunnels almost entirely to ourselves as we circled the peaks.
Coming off the motorway at Sparta, the roads got a bit more rural as we got closer to site clinging to the side of a hill, topped by a Frankish castle. The castle dates from 1249 but the site was taken over by its Byzantine rulers in 1262 and building of the city’s mansions, chapels and monasteries begun.
The very cobbled streets were practically vertical in some places. We clambered in and out of ruined mansions, finding this medieval toilet in one!
The many chapels and monasteries had incredible views.
The Convent of Pantanassa is still lived in by black clad nuns who kept beautiful gardens outside.
The Monastery of Peribletops is built into the rock cliff and had almost complete 14th century frescoes on its ceiling.
After a long hot morning clambering up the hillside we just couldn’t make it right up to the castle at the top. We wondered how many castles we had visited so far on this journey and Frankish kastros seem two-a-penny here so we were happy to give it a miss and return to the air conditioning of the car!
Stefan fancied the mountain road for the return journey. I spent it largely with my eyes closed as we climbed up to 1500 metres through a gorge and back down again. In places the road was carved into the rock. Stefan assures me the views were stunning!