16 -20 June 2019
As we prepared to leave Finikounda we realised that the white poplars had dropped sticky-stuff all over the windscreen, the opened windows and the awning. Every site had its quirks and at least there wasn’t a rookery above us – something we have learnt to look out for after our Easter break in the Lakes. We washed the windows and stowed and a friendly German we had met at Gythio came over to say goodbye and joke about Brexit & Visas, which Danny with his Irish passport found hugely entertaining.
We drove north up the coast turning off for Gialova and past a real shock, a fancy looking and obscenely green golf course! Difficult to think of anything more out of place in this water starved part of the world. A mile or so further on, set on a narrow piece of land between the road and a fine-sand beach we found Camping Navarino. Pitched up just 50ft from the sea, first impressions were not good – road noise, flies and ants. We were hot, sticky and like Queen Victoria not inclined to be amused. We needed to sleep on it.
Our first experiance of “arrival syndrome” was in Borneo when we arrived late at night to a deserted, elderly 3-star hotel and sat drinking stubbies cooled in a bowl of water alone in the dark. Turned out to be one of the best holidays we have ever had and we still remember the out-dated hotel with great fondness. Navarino Beach was classic “arrival syndrome”. Whilst it wasn’t in holiday-of-a-lifetime territory, once you tuned out the road noise – our pitch was closest to the road – we became very fond of it. The facilities were good, the beach is fine sand and gently sloping, its waters enclosed by the encompassing arms of Navarino Bay are the warmest we have experienced in Greece.
A short walk along the beach is the nice and surprisingly chic resort village of Gialova. With 3 fashion shops, a jeweller, plenty of tavernas all next to the beach with sunset views and some wine bar-type places, if it ever was a real village it forgot about it long ago. A very nice place to promenade in the evening. We had a couple of cheap-eats there and finished off with a Trip Advisor recommended waste of money at an over-priced restaurant frequented by rich Greeks where we got poor service and delicious food in very small helpings. You can’t win them all.
Our only really exertion was a day in Pylos. We got the 8am bus in to the small port town along with a lot of locals, and walked uphill out of town to the Nio Kastro or New Castle. Built by the Turks in 1572 to defend the strategically important entrance to Navarino Bay and designed to maximise use of cannons, the castle was enhanced and improved over the years by the various powers as they took it over. Its walls extend for 1.5km giving superb views over the almost fully enclosed, shallow bay and have housed Ottoman Turks, Venetians, Russians (very briefly) and, with Greek Independence, French & Greeks. Interestingly (to us anyway) in 1827 Navarino Bay was the scene of the last naval battle in the world involving sailing ships only – the hugely outnumbered British, French & Russians stuffed (technical term) the Ottomans & Egypt, a huge contribution to Greek Independence.
Inside the walls are the mosque – now converted into the Church of the Transfiguration of our Saviour :
Also the six-sided citadel on the Acropolis and a number of other buildings of which the largest is the rectangular, 2-storey Maison Quarters built by a French General and now hosting the Pylos Archeological Museum.
The Museum explains the history of humans in the area from Palaeolithic times to the Romans, and the various locations and incarnations of Pylos. Really well presented with interesting artefacts including some lovely glassware dating back to BC and with lovely air-conditioning units which Danny liked standing next to.
Other buildings housed 3 small exhibitions devoted to underwater archaeology in Greece with films, graphic displays and items recovered from shipwrecks.
We walked round the thick walls of the citadel with the emplacements for huge cannons marked out in different coloured stone, admiring the excellent views of the entrance to the bay. In the past the citadel has been used for things as diverse as a prison for warring Maniots – trying to keep them from continuing their feuds inside – and accommodation for Germans occupiers in WW2.
Back downhill in the town we explored its alleys and shops, Danny insisting that Kate bought another sundress – we ended up with 2 new frocks before lunch, a job well done. Exploring round the corner of the harbour we found a small town beach and a small strip of tavernas and a couple of hotels. With a breeze. We settled on a Trip Advisor recommendation, the Poseidon for a seafood salad and calamari – worst food we’ve had since getting here it drove us to do a review, something we generally avoid through sheer laziness.
On our last day we woke to a real surprise – the oppressive stillness had broken and been replaced by really good wind which reached everywhere (except our pitch). Very quickly our German neighbours – a youngish couple in their early 30’s with a lovely little boy of about 4 in a small campervan – had their inflatable bow-kites out and first him, then her, went out kite-boarding. They spent the whole day taking turns at it and made it look absolutely effortless and great fun The speed they got up and the huge jumps 20 feet or more in the air were amazing to watch. Suddenly the quiet bay had lots of windsurfers out and a couple of other kite-boarders but our neighbours were clearly more skilled. All great to watch.
Sadly we had to leave the breeze for a clean up operation – first the awning then the roof again, getting rid of the accumulation of sap, eucalyptus leaves and bird droppings. Danny did the windows and handed up bucket after bucket of water.
Our German neighbours found it very entertaining as they sat in the shade with their cold drinks. Finally finished we grabbed 2 cold beers and headed to the beach where we tethered the mats firmly against the wind and plunged into the water to cool down before drinking that lovely cold beer.
As we strolled back along the beach on our last night, feet in the warm waters to dodge the forts and channels dug by the children, we agreed we would return.