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The Peloponnese (Southern Greece)


Exploring Southern Greece
The Peloponnese is a peninsula in the south of Greece, separated from the rest of the country by the Gulf of Corinth.Lonely Planet voted the region first place in its 'Best in Europe' category.

Nafplion on the East Coast was the first capital of the new Greek state.In October 1827 the sea Battle of Navarino off the west coast effectively ended Ottoman rule in Greece. Throughout modern Greek history generations of political leaders have come from this region.Peloponnese means the Island of Pelops. Mycenean civilization dominated here at Mycenae from the Bronze age until the end of the second millennium BC when it mysteriously collapsed. The first Olympic games were held at Olympus in 776BC, and this is considered the beginning of classical antiquity in Greece.The city-states of Argos, Corinth, and Sparta, are located in the Peloponnese. However when the Romans conquered the area in 146BC, the remained prosperous, but a backwater of the Roman Empire.

Both in the War of Independence, and the civil war that immediately followed the second world war, the peninsula was ravished by conflict.In the modern period economic isolation and industrial farming techniques led to mass immigration to other parts of Greece and the U.S. Now tourism (as with the rest of Greece) is the mainstay of the local economy. Since Greece well publicised financial problems tourism declined, but that also meant that prices for hotels, restaurants, and virtually everything else also fell.Now the visitor can find real bargains.

The Peloponnese has a very diverse topography: mountainous in part, endless tracts of fertile arable farming land, and pine forests and olive groves, that morph into golden sandy beaches, with shimmering blue water.And then there is the archeology of antiquity.Temples, auditoriums, ruined cities and mesmerizing Byzantine churches often cheek by jowl with modern cities.
The best way to see any ancient site is by joining an organized tour.These can be booked from your hotel. However, most major sites have resident guides with tours on the hour. For readers benefit here are just a few of the hundreds of sightseeing treats:
Bassae ( an ancient town including the temple of Epikourios Apollo).
Corinth (an ancient city within a modern one) There are beautiful beaches, pine and olive trees and grape vines in proximity. The Corinth raisin is world famous. In the contemporary part of the city, there is much to see.The seaside zone, especially around the El. Venizelos Square has the impressive statue of Pegasus and the small port of Floisvos with its marina. Close by, you will find Kalama, an extensive and established pebble-strewn beach, featuring many coffee shops and taverns.

The pedestrian walkway, on Pilarinos Zografos Street, is a traditional gathering point for residents with stores, coffee shops, and bars.The central Perivolakia square has a park with coffee shops, and restaurants, the ideal location for stopping and resting.Across the road (on Ethnikis Antistasis Street) is the city’s impressive Court House, while the statue of Archbishop Damascenus (1890-1949) stands in the small square in front of the Court.

The Apostolos Pavlos (Apostle Paul) Metropolitan Church, on the street of the same name, built after the 1928 earthquakes. St. Paul, the “Apostle to the Nations” lived and taught here for a short period, and is the city’s patron saint.The Historic-Folklore Museum (close to the El. Venizelos Square), has 3,500 18th and 19th-century costumes from all over Greece.

The Ecclesiastical Museum, established in 1973, contains important religious exhibits (manuscripts, high priest vestments, portable icons, gospels, photographs, etc.).The Municipal Lending Library (84 Pilarinos Street), has important book collections and the Municipal Art Gallery (4 Kolokotroni Street) contains some fine art.

Epidaurus. An ancient religious and healing center.

Koroni. A medieval seaside fortress, and the old city walls.

Kalamata Acropolis. A medieval acropolis and fortress located inside the modern town of Kalamata.

Messene (ancient city)

Methoni. A medieval seaside fortress, and old town walls.

Mistra. A medieval Byzantine fortress-town near Sparta and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Monemvasia (medieval fortress-town) nr Laconia, and areas of exceptional natural beauty, such as the Diros Caves and Cape Tainaros.

Mycenae (fortress-town of the Mycenaen civilization)

Olympia (site of the Ancient Olympic Games)

Sparta. The leading military state in ancient Greece.

Pylos (the Palace of Nestor, and a well-preserved medieval/early modern fortress)

Tegea ( an ancient religious center)

Tiryns (ancient fortified settlement)
Getting there
Despite being at the southern end of the Balkan peninsula, there are numerous ways to get to Greece. Obviously flying is the easiest way with an abundance of airports.Athens is the main international hub, Iberia, Turkish Airlines, Swiss and British Airways fly from the States (current bargains are $814 return from New York JFK on payless flights), but there is no regional airport in Corinth.However, trains in Greece are clean, cheap, and efficient. The journey from Athens to Corinth is just one hour twenty minutes and departs three times per hour. Check out http://www.paylessflights.com