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From the top of Niokastro

After spending a few hours trawling around the back-alleys of Pylos (why? ‘Cause it’s what I do. I dunno…I’m THAT guy) I make my gradual way up to Niokastro. Tentatively, I poke my head around the ticket takers box, wondering if anyone is going to enforce the whole 3 Euro entrance fee to what is, essentially, a giant park surrounded by fortress walls. But the bored Greek woman aimlessly walking the rounds calls out to me.

Busy day in Pylos

Busy day in Pylos

 “Sunday,” she says. “Is free.”Beautiful. Or, even better in Greek, orea.
Niokastro is a sixteenth century fortification built by the Ottomans, according to the plaques I find inside. They held it until the War for Independence in 1821, except for a brief period from 1685 – 1715, when it was occupied by the Venetians. The fortress sits on top of a steep incline just south of the main city center, and from its height commands a perfect view of the town below and the bay itself.

 

 

 

The walls of the citadel of Niokastro

The walls of the citadel of Niokastro

By 10am, I’m perched on a small space between the crenellations of the interior citadel. To my left is the southern end of Sphacteria, which ends in a dramatic, vertical cliff. Nor more than 50 meters south is a smaller island, the name of which I don’t know, but which rises out of the bay like a warship, all vertical lines and severe-looking rocks. Below, within the walls of the fortress but outside the citadel, sits a Byzantine church, Ottoman architecture from its original role as a mosque, a crucifix hastily added to the top of its dome to signify the violent change in management that occured in 1821. The remains of several interior walls no more than a meter high now, jut out stubbornly from the ground. In the bay, boats float silently, placidly south, out to the Ionian Sea.

The view from the citadel, overlooking the bay, abandoned church to the right

The view from the citadel, overlooking the bay, abandoned church to the right

 

 

 

The cannons that would have stood along these walls would have cut off any naval incursion from the south. A perfect bottleneck. The Ottomans and Greeks who spilled so much blood to take and hold this fortress surely understood the concepts of vital national interests, of naval superiority, real politik. Now, Greek tourists take baby strollers up to the battlements, enjoy a mild breeze, and dutifully video the calm waters on their way to enjoy a frappe in the platea.

 

Close-up of same from above

Close-up of same from above

The juxtaposition puts me in a poetic mood, and I begin to wax Byronic on the inevitable fate of empires and the vanity and futility of power. I write a few lines in free verse to celebrate my own pretensions, lines I plan on inflicting on y’all here in a future post, so duck and cover, poetry lovers. But I’m feeling magnanimous tonight, so I’ll leave you with this silly picture instead.
 

 

I was REALLY excited to find this handle

I was REALLY excited to find this handle

Also, apropos of nothing, my friend Leena managed to get a shot of the sun setting behind Sphacteria, the shot I’ve been trying and failing to get for three weeks. Nothing to do with today’s update, I just like it.

 

Pretty

Pretty

In the meantime, it’s 2:30 EDT, have you eaten your lunches yet? If not, try the chicken salad from the food court at Grand Central, it’s surprisingly good.
 

 

Vagabond
 

 

 
 

 

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