My Messinia

Voiceless tales of the Old Castle

DSC_0148otvOne of the most evocative pleaces in Messinia is The Old Castle of Navarino, simply known as Palaiokastro or Paliokastro (in Greek: ” old castle”).

If you have some time to spare use it to enter the crumbling gates of the hilltop castle and find yourself in a parallel enchanted dimension. Your “crossing” begins way before those gates, at the very minute you turn from town’s commotion (sic. Gialova) into the lagoon entering an unrelated world of quiet and nature. You will follow the long and narrow stretch (called Divari) which balances between two opposites: (entre dos aguas!!!) the sweet waters of the lagoon and the sea waters of the bay, finally reaching a spectacular point where your ascend will begin.

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From this point on you will travel only on foot and there are two paths to reach the castle….dsc_0011otvdsc_0021otvOne is to the right facing the castle, walking at the foot of the hill and around the lagoon and reaching Voidokilia beach and from there climbing to the south gate. This route has some steep spots especially after the passing of an impressive cave, known as Nestor’s cave, in the midway distance to the castle. The other way is not as abrupt ascending stone path running through rock formations and shrubbery hinterland and reaching the castle on the east side…and this is my path for today…dsc_0023otvdsc_0291otvdsc_0027otv

The castle sits atop an imposing 200-metre (660 ft) rock formation on the northern edge of the bay, flanked by sheer cliffs; the naturally defensible site has probably been occupied since classical times.*dsc_0032cotvThe walls of the castles have been raised around 1280 by the Franks who were then in control of the area. They have built the fortress for guarding the strategic Navarino Bay. By 1420 the Venetians seized the castle holding to it through the First Ottoman Venetian War (1463–79) but losing it during the second confrontation (1499–1503) following the Venetian defeat in the Battle of Modon in August 1500. By the late 16th century, the Old Castle had only a token garrison, and it became increasingly dilapidated and partly ruined as the Ottomans moved to a newly built modern fortress which was built in 1572-73 on the opposite side of the Navarino Bay soaring over the town of Pylos which the Ottoman called Anavarino. After the completion of the new fortress the whole town was commonly referred as Neokastro (Νεόκαστρο or Νιόκαστρο, “new castle”) among the local Greeks, while the old Frankish castle became known as Palaiokastro (Παλαιόκαστρο or Παλιόκαστρο, “old castle”).DSC_0279otvDSC_0057otvFor her first 300 years the fortress has been in constant use…then for the following four centuries leading to our time it has been inhabited sporadicly when needed as a watchtower and stronghold for forces trying to take or regain control of the area: the Venetians, The Russians, The Greeks, the Ottomans with the last garrison being of the Ottoman-Egyptian alliance, residing briefly till forced to hand over the fortress in spring of 1828 after the Ottomans’ defeat at the Battle of Navarino to the winning alliance of the Greeks, French, British and Russians…dsc_0273otvdsc_0213otvDSC_0233otvDSC_0106otvdsc_0199otvdsc_0210otvdsc_0182otvdsc_0239cotvdsc_0157otvMany stories must have resounded among the walls of this fortress…stories of longing told in so many different languages by garrison lads of the watch…

dsc_0125otvdsc_0271dotvdsc_0131cotvdsc_0252c2otv(…well some “stories” have been carved in stone….)dsc_0197otvNow the fortress “found its peace” and has become the loveliest of homes to wild animals and birds embracing the spectacular fauna of the Gialova wetlands….dsc_0158cotvdsc_0172otvdsc_0166otvdsc_0230otvdsc_0190otv…For us who live so close by and know the castle well it has become a perfect spot for picnic and lecture…dsc_0223otvdsc_0262otvdsc_0204otv* Please note: Although there are no physical barriers to access, officially the castle ruins have been declared “closed” because the structure is considered dangerous. It has to be visited with caution. Don’t forget taking bottled water with you and wear hiking shoes. The hike towards the castle takes 30-40 minutes.

Comments (5)

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    1. Klaudia Delmer (Post author)

      Thank you so much! The comment will not appear till I approve it as there are many spams sent to blogs. Yet your previous long comment has not appeared in my mailbox so it must have gotten erased somehow…Plese share your views with me if you still have patience…All the best from “My Messinia”!!!

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    2. Klaudia Delmer (Post author)

      Thank you so much! The comment will not appear till I approve it as there are many spams sent to blogs. Yet your previous long comment has not appeared in my mailbox so it must have gotten earased…Please share your views with me if you still have patience…All the best from Messinia!!!

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