Without the possibility of a hot shower, we did the “quick wash in the sink” trick, had breakfast, paid our bill and headed for our first stop….The captivating ruins of Mystras. It sits on the topside of Mt. Taygetos just 7km away from Sparta. On the top of the mountain, sits the fortress, which is very imposing and was to guard over the village of Mystras below it. Located about half way down are the ruins of the palace. There is major renovation work going on at the palace now, so we could only see the exterior and read about the interior and how it went together. The fortress was constructed in 1249 and the people of the surrounding hills and valleys came to it for protection and jobs. Soon the whole city was built and contained in a system of protective walls. Everything but the fortress was built on a steep hillside, so the streets (we would call them stone walkways) were steep and switchback, although there were 2 main streets that crossed each other. The rest of the passageways were paths and alley ways. Small businesses were combined with their homes and some even had been set up in covered passageways. At one time, there had been upwards of 40,000 people living in Mystras inside the walls. There was also markets and bazaars held outside the walls, as it was too much to handle inside. The ruling family were called “Despots”, and lived and worked from the palace. The palace was complex of several buildings, and these were built at different times and added one onto the other. A school of “humanistic philosophy” was founded at Mystras in 1355. It lasted about 90 years before Mystras was overrun by the Turks. It was then re-established in Rome by the Romans. I think Louise and I visited 7 different churches that were in fair to good condition on the hill this afternoon. The best preserved was the 14th century Convent of Pantanassa, which is still inhabited by the nuns today. They are the only inhabitants left at Mystras… As we walked the pathways up the hill enjoying the ruins and the view to the valley below, it was almost easy to feel how life used to be here. I mean that in the simple contexts… In the “ruins” here, you still have some walls of the houses, with their windows and doorways…the location of the bathrooms and how they worked...if you had a business, and were you might show your goods or manufacture them…then the tough part…living it !!! I guess it wouldn’t have been too bad if we had been the “Despots”…they were carried through the streets in their “sudan chair”…I’ve always wanted to ride in one of those… Our next stop was to get the pictures at the olive oil manufacture, which we saw last night. I took the pictures, but unfortunately, I didn’t like them…so, no pictures.
Next stop and the last for our visit to Sparti, was the Museum of Olive & Greek Olive Oil. We spent an hour and a half there and learned a lot about olives…it was fun. Then on our way to Gythio, which is about 30 miles due south of Sparti. We found our campground and set-up right at the waters edge of the Gulf of Lakonikos.