2023 Europe – Day 14 – Byzantine Mystras


Tuesday, 16 May

Dolora and I were awake early and ready for another delicious buffet breakfast. Then it was back to the room to pack. The day was cloudy with the occasional few raindrops. After driving through Sparta, the short bus ride took us to Mystras where we met George, our guide. We visited churches with beautiful frescoes. Along with telling us the history of the site, George chanted a couple of prayers. The last rulers of the Byzantine Empire lived here on a mountainside town. The Greeks say that when the city surrendered to the Ottomans , the painters fled to Europe and started the Renaissance.

Then it was back to Sparta for a group lunch at a little place. We started off with bread and a few spreads, Greek salad and then superb chicken cooked with onions and feta. A piece of milk pie, like a custard, completed the meal. On the way to the bus we passed a monument that lists all the Olympic winners from 720 BC to 2004 AD who came from Sparta listing names and events. Sparta has very little archaeological ruins to visit. The current city is built on top of the old city. While Athens explored art and philosophy, Sparta focused on military training.

From Sparta it was off to Nafplio, the first capital of Greece in the 1820s. Nafplio changed hands between the Ottomans and the Venetians several times. Ioanna describes Naflplion as Venice without the canals. The streets are narrow. Our hotel, Pension Marianna is run by four brothers who also have organic farms nearby. The hotel has many levels on the side of the mountain. After checking into our rooms we were treated to lemonade and oranges from their farms. The rooms overlook the old town.

After a short rest in our room, Ioanna led us on a tour of old Nafplio where we ended at a wine tasting at the Karonis Wine Shop Wine lead by Dimitris. We were introduced to a couple of Greek wines and then of course ouzo. From there Dolora and I stopped for a gyro and souvlaki before visiting some of the shops. Back up the hill to our room for the next two nights.

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