Monthly Archives: June 2017

A SWIM-ALONG

We were lingering over our caffeine this morning, and were discussing how quiet the Gulf has been – scarcely a boat have we seen this season – when Ron said: “What’s that on the water?” I looked out at the Pag and saw three canoes, in fairly close proximity to each other, heading across in front of the house. Each canoe was escorting a swimmer.

“Must be some kind of training exercise,” I suggested. “For the Olympics perhaps?” A fourth canoe appeared around the headland to our left, with its accompanying swimmer moving along at an impressive clip.

Before too long, more and more swimmers came by, each one with his or her helper in a brightly coloured canoe. Quite eye-catching. Some of the athletes were superb – scarcely rippling the water – and beautiful to watch. Others were perhaps a little less graceful in their strokes, but all were obviously very strong swimmers. We couldn’t tell from where they’d come, but it was from some distance further down the Pelion Peninsula. Milina perhaps?

We watched for some time, moving from window to window to take photos. Raki, as you’ll note, was bored with the whole thing, and made it quite clear.

Mythos watched our antics at the window from below, but showed no inclination to join us. I think he was keeping an eye on Grappa who was hiding under a bush – he torments her horribly. He’s old and cranky and resents the youngsters.

Dolphins appeared a little further out, and kept pace for a while with the canoes and swimmers. I was expecting them to come closer – they often follow a boat – but they weren’t as curious this morning as they usually are.

I checked the local newspapers online, but could find no reference to this rather fascinating exercise. The participants must be in very fine shape for they covered a considerable distance before disappearing beyond the headland into Afissos. Marathon swimmers, I would guess.

I wasn’t asked to participate – they probably feared the competition.

PLATAMONAS CASTLE

We spent a couple of days this week in the Pieria region of Central Macedonia with friend Dave and the indomitable Tex, a Greek sheepdog rescued here in Pelion. Central Macedonia is one of Greece’s thirteen administrative regions; we are in Thessaly.

For those who might be interested in the ongoing row between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which claims Alexander the Great and wishes to be called Macedonia, I offer the following links, picked randomly among the great many that a Google tour will suggest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonia_naming_dispute
http://www.mfa.gr/en/fyrom-name-issue/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/27/AR2009072702653.html

Needless to say, I support the Greek view.

The castle, depending upon whose version of events one decides to follow, was built by the Crusaders at the beginning of the 13th century. Other sources maintain it was Byzantine, and built in the 1100s or perhaps even earlier.

Given its prominent position it was of strategic importance in controlling movement through the Vale of Tempe, which linked north and south, and in monitoring sea invasions. Pirates plundered the region repeatedly, as they did The Pelion.

Phillip 2nd, father of Alexander, marched his men along the Tempe valley on his way to Athens, and while no defensive castle existed at the time, there were certainly other structures. We don’t know precisely what, but work continues on the site and evidence is mounting that the ancient city of Herakleion was sited here.

New Tempe Tunnel Entrance

Long before Phillip, Xerxes trotted his troops through Tempe during Persia’s second invasion of Greece. Leonidas and his men fought to the death at Thermopylae in a vain attempt to stop him getting through the pass. Xerxes and his army then continued south to Athens where the Persians were decisively beaten at Salamis.

The castle was never destroyed, but has fallen into ruin over the centuries. It’s a rather fine example of medieval fortifications with all the bits and pieces one usually associates with such structures: towers, crenellations, loopholes, cannons – the whole nine yards. (Ron points out that the cannons to be seen dotted about the castle grounds are later than anything that would have been used by Crusaders.)

Defence Tower

Water Cistern

The cistern for water storage would have served the defence tower – all protected by a high wall. Presumably for a last stand?

Good advice!

 

 

 

 

 

TAGS: FYROM, Macedonia, Phillip 2nd , Alexander, Platamonas, Thessaly, Pelion, Byzantine, Crusaders, Vale of Tempe, Athens, Xerxes, Persians, Salamis, Thermopylae