It has been a very long time since I have posted anything to this blog, for a variety of reasons, mostly due to feeling depressed about the state of affairs in my home country of the USA and in the world in general and feeling bored and tired of the same news day after day here in Greece of negotiations with the EU powers over austerity measures.
But when you are feeling down, a quick trip to the lovely Messinian coast, on the far southwestern tip of the Peloponnese, is just the antidote. We had been hearing for a long time that this region was particularly endowed with natural beauty and we were not disappointed.
Navarino Bay and the town of Pylos which sits above it, is one of Greece’s little known gems–one of those places that every Greek will agree is one of the country’s most beautiful spots, but which has little fame among foreign tourists.
Despite its rather remote location, the region is easily accessible from Athens, thanks to the relatively new highway that connects the capital city with Kalamata, the gateway to the region. In three hours’ drive or less, you cross the Peloponnnese and arrive at the Messinian coast.
Pylos has more than just the beauty of Navarino Bay, which is surely one of the most “grafiko” or picturesque bays in all of Greece. It also boasts the impressive “New Castle” (built in 1573) which is the central focus of an entire complex, including a wonderful new museum (which had opened only three weeks prior to our arrival) and the lovely and completely restored Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior.
The church, formerly a mosque in the times of the Ottomans, benefitted recently from a major influx of funds, the results of which are very impressive indeed.
The castle itself is a joy to meander around, a walk along the parapets offering spectacular views of the surrounding seas and islands. In early spring, the mild climate of the zone produces a plethora of wildflowers on the site, supplemented by some lovely landscape plantings. Add to that a comforting canopy of tall trees lining the entrance to the site and you have a place that is both of great historical and cultural interest as well as a beautiful environment in which to take a springtime stroll.
Astonishingly, the local authorities have not managed to put up a sign on the town’s main road indicating where to turn off for the castle complex, but asking around, you will have no trouble finding it.
Pylos town itself is one of the most picturesque you will find in Greece, with a lovely central square shaded in plane trees and filled with tavernas and cafes. Nearby Gialova lagoon offers nature lovers even more spectacular coastal vistas, as well as some of Greece’s best birdwatching. (We went too late in the morning to see many birds, but we heard hundreds of them, as well as some extremely vocal frogs!) The profusion of wildflowers in a palette of purple, pink, yellow, and white, was a joy to behold. A lovely spot for a spring walk.
All in all, Pylos and the Messinian coast is a region well worth a visit and easily done from Athens for a night or two.