Mystras, Peloponnese, Greece 1/2014

May 29, 2014

Leaving Olympia we were headed south to Sparta via Mystras. It was raining. Coming down a long hill overlooking the large perfectly shaped bay towards Pylos, we passed a sign: “Nestor’s Palace”. It suddenly dawned on us that this was “THE King NESTOR” who is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. Gary had just finished reading about it. Odysseus’ son Telemachus was searching for his father and had sailed to Pylos. Nestor loaned Telemachus a chariot and insisted that his son accompany him to Sparta. We were traveling along this same road!

We bought fresh oranges and other produce at one of the roadside stands before heading up an absolutely beautiful mountain pass with amazing vistas. If it’s not already, it should be listed among the “to drive once in your lifetime” roads. If it had been a little narrower, it could be compared to Bolivia’s “Road of Death”. Few guard rails, sheer walls on one side and hundreds of feet straight drop to the bottom of the Laghadas gorge below. We stopped for lunch at the pass and it started to snow! Not wanting to dig out our Pewag chains, we locked the hubs and headed down, still in awe of the amazing road we had just driven.

After many S-curves, (some lock-to-lock), we arrived at the upper entrance of Mystras, a very important fortified town during the Byzantine era (14th/15th century), also occupied during the Ottoman era. A few families still lived in Mystras until 1952. Today, there are only seven nuns and their many cats left in one of the monasteries.

Mystras was the last center of Byzantine School of Frescos. Neo-Platonist philosopher George Gemistos Plethon lived here until his death in 1452. Interestingly enough, he and other scholars based in Mystras influenced the Italian Renaissance after he accompanied the emperor John VIII Palaiologos to Florence in 1439.











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