.….the Heart of Messinia…. Beats in Kalamata
This city boasts the fragrance of sea breeze and olives. Sweet smells pour up from the castle and the bell tower of the Church of the Presentation, pass over the tiled roofs of the Old City to the narrow streets and squares with the lively pulse of the entertainment, and reach the port and the cosmopolitan marina.
Kalamata is the city of bicycles, pedestrian streets and culture.
It seduces you and makes you its faithful fan forever!
Beach Life: The coastal Navarinou Street is ideal for endless walks, while on the 2.5 km long beach full of beach bars, umbrellas and sunbeds, one can take a bath without leaving the city.
Shopping: in the pedestrian Aristomenous Street / Alternative proposal: Buy silk shawls from the Nunnery of Kalamata.
Night Life: café-bars, clubs, nightclubs, winter and summer haunts – here you can find everything.
Yachting: marina of European standards, where you can berth your boat or rent one for mini cruises.
Accommodation proposal: stay for the night in the historic Rex Hotel – the oldest one in Kalamata. Now it is completely renovated, belongs to the 4 star category and adorns the city with its neoclassical beauty.
Kalamata – Walking around
The point of reference par excellence in the city of Kalamata is the legendary “castle of Isabeau” where the renowned International Dance Festival takes place annually. It is amphitheatrically constructed on the site of the Farai acropolis offering a bird’s eye view of the city. Constructed in the 13th century by William Villehardouin, it underwent subsequent additions and conversions by the Venetians and the Turks. Nowadays, it is an ideal open air venue for theatre, music and dance shows.
No less beautiful is the exquisite Palia Poli (Old City) at the foot of the Castle. The wider region boasts the Metropolitan Panagia Ipapanti church (1873), the patron saint of Kalamata celebrated on February 2nd, the 12th century Kalograion Monastery with the renowned silk weaving workshop, and the Byzantine churchAgioi Apostoloi (13th century) with the brick enclosed masonry. The area is the hotspot for the city’s youth, for it is the beating heart of the nightlife in Kalamata and by no means will it be still!
– The City Hall.
– The Modern Greek Art Gallery, with paintings, sculptures and carvings.
– The Benakeion Archaeological Museum (housed in the neoclassical building of the old Municipal agora) with findings dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period.
– The spacious central Vassileos Georgiou (King George) square with many coffee shops, meeting places and strolling venues for residents and visitors. The pedestrian walkway of Aristomenous Street starts here with many stores and coffee shops to populate it.
– To the west of the square the neighbourhood unfolds around the picturesque railroad station with a network of pedestrian ways, small coffee shops, bars and tavernas.
– The Folklore and History Museum, which is housed in the Kiriakou mansion, with traditional objects and relics from the 1821 Greek War of Independence.
– The Municipal theatre.
– The Railways Park with exhibits of old motorcycles and railway wagons.
– The seaside road in front of the city’s extensive beach (4 km length with marvellous waters). On the seaside of Kalamata, people can swim in crystal clear waters and enjoy lace-like beaches, which have been granted the Blue Flag award of quality. Along the seaside, there are several tavernas, ouzo restaurants, cafeterias, bars, clubs, whereas beach aficionados can enjoy all kinds of water sports.
– The western beach with the city’s marina connected to the city centre via a cycle lane too.
– The beaches at Verga (8 km E), Mikri Mandineia (10 km SE), Avia (12 km SE) and Kitries (17 km SE), which in recent years have developed into resorts with significant tourist facilities and a vibrant nightlife in the summer.
– The small town of Messini (11 km NW) with the Byzantine church of Agios Dimitrios, the prominent Municipal Mansion (1870) and the Τ. Katsoulidis – Museum of Carvings.
– The mountain villages on the Western slope of Mt.Taygetos, on the road to the city from Sparta, which is one of the most beautiful roads in Greece.
– The revival of the impressive “saitopolemos” (dart-war) custom at Easter, on the eve of the Resurrection (Western Beach Kalamata – Old Abattoirs).
– Cultural events, theatrical performances and concerts at the Castle amphitheatre during summer.
– The Carnival events with the traditional “gaitanaki” (maypole dance) in the city’s central square.
– The International Dance Festival in summer (www.kalamatadancefestival.gr).
– The International Documentary Festival.
– The major carnival in Messini on the last Sunday of the Carnival (Apokries) with the customary happenings culminating in “the hanging of the old lady” on Ash Monday.
– The horse racing events at the town of Plati (16 km NW) on Easter Monday.
Castle of Kalamata
The castle of Kalamata, the center piece of Angelos Terzakis celebrated novel Princess Isambeau, has become integrated into the citys urban fabric and is typical of the castles built by the Franks in the Peloponnese in order to rapidly assert their dominance.
The castle has been attributed to the Villehardouins, the historic family that established the Principality of Achaea. Over the centuries, however, the castle often found itself at the heart of conflicts; it was seized by the Byzantine armies, Franks, Albanians, Venetians and Ottomans and played an integral part in the citys history all the way through the 19th century.
The current fortifications around the hill that are still visible today were mostly created during the period following Frankish rule (early 13th century). According to The Chronicle of Morea, when the Franks occupied the city, the castle was a scraggy, insignificant Byzantine fortress which had been converted into a monastery, and fell easy prey to the knights of the Fourth Crusade. The castle of Kalamata was offered by William of Champlitte to Geoffrey I of Villehardouin, prince of Achaea, as his personal fiefdom. He renovated, expanded and fortified it. Construction work was completed during William IIs reign.
In 1293 the castle was seized by the Slavs of neighboring Yiannitsa, who stormed straight up the stairs to the top of the main tower. Once it was re-occupied, by Florent II of Hainaut, husband of Isabelle Villehardouin, the walls were made higher in order to thwart similar attacks. A part of the Frankish castle was demolished by the Venetian conquerors of Francesco Morosini (1685), to be rebuilt considerably stronger.
The present-day appearance of the castle is the result of additions made by the Turks during the first period of Ottoman rule, by dilapidation suffered in 1658 and 1825 and also because building material was removed to construct the houses and schools of Kalamata.
Today visitors may still make out traces of the outline of the Frankish castle dotted around the hill, while a row of fortifications runs north-to-south along the hills plateau. A second defensive front was built along the vulnerable eastern flank of the hill. Both walls follow the curvature of the natural landscape and are built perpendicular to the ground. No battlements survive. The castles keep (or donjon), built on the most precipitous part of the hill in the north-eastern corner of the inner courtyard, is still visible today.