"This is Sparta!" - A phrase that everyone knows, just as the story of a proud and valiant nation of Spartans, who in the V century BC gained hegemony in Hellas. How does Sparta look today? What’s left of the proud nation?
In cinemas you can watch another part of the movie about the brave Spartans. Legends of cruel, yet fascinating nation of warriors have intrigued people for hundreds of years. Some define Spartans as Barbarians, others admire their skills of fight and love for their country. What is today's Sparta?
Little was left of the proud past of the city - only picturesque ruins. Times of former glory are evidenced mainly by tales written on parchments of conquered peoples. Modern Sparta is a small town, which is the capital of the prefecture of Laconia. We can find it on the island of Peloponnese, in southern Greece.
Sparta now and then
Within the borders of Sparta is located Byzantine and medieval town of Mystras, extremely popular among tourists. The town is located in a close proximity to the large mountain range Taygetos, which only makes it more charming, and noble architectural site (fortress, monasteries, churches and palace) that was enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The oldest church in Mystras is cathedral Mitrópolis. It was founded in the XIII century, initially as a building with two side aisles and nave with a barrel vault. The oldest frescoes depict the martyrdom and the entombment of the patron of the church, St. Demetrios, while the paintings depict the preparations of the Throne Judgment.
It’s worth to see the remnants of the old monks’ wards in the monastery Vrondochión, which was the cultural and architectural center of Mistra in the 15th century. In turn, the city’s best preserved frescoes are located in the 13th century monastery Perivléptos, partly hewn in the rock.
Another, equally big attraction is the monastery Pandánassa, which is currently the only inhabited building in Mistra. This is the last temple built in the city. It houses frescoes from various periods – most of them were created at the turn of 17th and 18th century.
For the adherents of mountain hiking - Taygetos
But coming to Sparta doesn’t only mean strolling among relics of the past. You should also explore Taygetos, a beautiful and geologically rich region. It has a magnificent view of the surrounding area - particularly in the southern part, which cuts sharply into the sea, forming Mani Peninsula. Taygetos is built mainly of limestone and marble, which creates a mountain framework hardly accessible for less experienced hikers. There is no lack of steep slopes and the ridge is sharp and toothed.
The highest mountain range of Peloponnese keeps snow cover on the upper parts until May. Taygetos is rich in water, thanks to what fans of mountain streams and rivers will be delighted with the breathtaking landscapes. In the lower parts of the mountains, between the spruce forest, runs many hiking trails, and one of the ridge’s pass is also available for cars. There’s a monastery of Panagia Giatrissa, which can be admired only from the outside.
Visitors mostly appreciate the charms of Taygetos in April and May, when the local tourism infrastructure is much cheaper than in the peak season.
Under the Spartan sky
If someone would like to spend a day or a few in these beautiful areas, may check the offer of Castle View camping. It’s located in Mistra, surrounded by mulberry trees and olives. The location at the foot of Taygetos, in a close proximity to the historic part of the town and approximately 6 miles from Sparta, allows guests to fully enjoy all the attractions of the area.
It’s not only beautiful – the stay at the campsite has nothing to do with the proverbial Spartan conditions. There’s a restaurant with tempting prices and extensive menu (including grilled meats, fish, salads and a large selection of wines), as well as a large swimming pool. Visitors have an access to wireless Internet. Per night of stay an adult will pay 6 EUR, the price for a place for motorhome is the same, while the accommodation for a child costs 4 EUR.
The view of the majestic mountains, the smell of olive trees and the memory of the past. Being in the south of Greece, it’s worth to visit the city in which hundreds of years ago lived the Spartans. Today it's quiet and peaceful, but in the past it was a place of war practices. Let’s sit in the shade of tress and enjoy the beauty of the Peloponnese.