How to properly invade a castle

Here’s a piece of advice for all potential tourists in Greece: If you want to visit a place of archaeological interest keep in mind that on a Monday it might be closed. Actually, best thing to do is give them a call because there is a 50% chance that the opening hours posted online are outdated and you might find yourself climbing over fences.

Climbing fences was exactly what my friend and I ended up doing after driving one hour through winding mountain roads to get to the Venetian fortifications of Methoni. The entrance to the inner walls of the castle was sealed with a barred gate, which was not particularly easy to climb since one basically had to stand up on the top of it in order to carefully turn around and climb back down without breaking something. The fact that we were both wearing flip flops didn’t do much to help either. Long story short, I managed to get in after a couple of failed attempts, but my friend who is slightly afraid of heights was struggling a lot more. As she was clinging to the top of the gate, one foot on my shoulder, the other hanging in between bars, with the tourists overlooking our pathetic infiltration attempt, I spotted a young guy coming our way.

‘excuse me’, he said upon reaching the gate

‘do you have the keys?’ I asked jokingly, hoping he wasn’t actually the guard

‘don’t need them’

The guy was thin enough to casually pass through the bars, with the same ease ghosts pass through concrete walls in films. I told him that move was a clear provocation and he left to do his thing.

Fifteen minutes and about five failed attempts later, my friend-who has this obsession with sunsets-decided to give up and urged me to go further within the castle and photograph the sunset for her. I obliged and started exploring the space between the outer and inner wall until I bumped into the same skinny guy. He offered to show me an alternative entrance for my friend, which was on the back side of the castle, the one facing the sea. My friend would have to go down to the water level and then climb some rocks up to a ledge where we stood. Luckily, she found the alternative road much more reasonable and a few minutes later we were helping pull her up on the ledge.

The sun had already set by then but there was enough light for our new friend to give us a tour of the castle- which turned out a lot bigger than I thought. In fact, I think it might be the biggest castle I have seen in this country. As soon as we climbed down the wall we found ourselves in what looked like a field with a church in the middle and other bizarre stone constructions sticking out here and there. These, as I was told, were bath houses and at the time were too dark to enter. The main path through the field led to a part of the outer wall which had been recently excavated. Even further, outside the walls, was a path built in the water which led to the ‘Bourtzi’.

The bourtzi, like the one in Nafplio, is a small tower surrounded by water which has been used as a prison at some point. The word is derived from Turkish and literally means ‘tower’. We entered the bourtzi to have a look at the (tiny) cells and were greeted by a bat which didn’t seem to welcome our presence.

Leaving the castle was about as hard as getting in. After waiting for ages for a passionate amateur photographer to leave the front gate so we could sneak out undetected, we decided to take the back route. This meant we had to climb down to the beach and then up again in total darkness. Luckily, we all survived and to show our gratitude, my friend and I treated our guide to a bowl of ice cream. We later discovered that he and I had attended the same school and I got a much appreciated  spontaneous gift from him. The world is indeed a very small place.

Unfortunately, my Sony compact camera is about as good as a toaster for taking photos in low light, so as soon as the sun had set I was doomed. There are no decent shots of the bourtzi at all, since it was the last stop.


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