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Cultural Pilgrimage

The Greek Riviera presents the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Peloponnese, all of which reflect the glory of Greek civilisation. When visiting the Peloponnese, one finds oneself at a crossroad of cultures and colours, feels the power of history and discovers the evolutional process of thought, impact and experience. A region rich in history, whose inhabitans aren’t smug and stuck in the past. It is blessed with unique natural beauty and endless charm. A glorified place from the dawn of time. The Mycenaean civilisation settled on the Peloponnese, the first Olympic Games were held at Ancient Olympia, the first theatrical performances were held at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. A cultural heritage whose unmatched creations travelled through the centuries, revealing the splendour of the Ancient Greek spirit. According to the 2012 catalogue of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there are 951 sites worldwide. Of these, 739 are cultural sites, 183 natural sites, 29 are both cultural and natural at a total of 155 member countries. Greece signed the UNESCO treaty in 1981, agreeing to protect its monuments and world heritage sites. Since that time, 17 Greek monuments and sites have been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Six are located on the Peloponnese.

Epidaurus

In the peaceful Epidaurus inland, with its mild climate and abundant mineral springs, lies the sanctuary of the godphysician Asklepios, the most famous healing centre of the Greek and Roman world. The primary sanctuary of the small coastal town of Epidaurus, soon spread its fame and recognition quickly spread beyond the limits of the Argolid. It is considered by all Greeks as the birthplace of medicine. Its monuments, true masterpieces of ancient Greek art, are a precious testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity. They illustrate the development of medicine from the time when healing depended solely on the god until systematic description of cases and the gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience turned it into a science.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius

In central Peloponnese, at Vasses of ancient Figaleia, at an elevation of 1.130 metres, stands the eternally proud temple of Apollo Epicurius. The most famous architect of the ancient times, Ictinus, who along with Kallikrates designed the Parthenon, is known to have conceived and designed this magnificent edifice. This universal architectural gem was the first of the great monuments of Greece to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986. Vasses (ancient Bassae) was always considered sacred, ass it combrises several temples. The region’s name means “little valleys”. And indeed, the mountainous Peloponnesian land creates a magical landscape and within it rises the imposing landscape of the temple. The mountains of Kotylio, Lykaio, Tetrazio and Elaio engulf the valley of Vasses. All the gods of antiquity – Pan, Aphrodite, Artemis, and of course, Apollo, as both ‘Vassitas’ and ‘Epicurius’, that is, “the helper” – were worshipped in this natural sanctuary, and it was here that one of the greatest religious centres of the entire of Hellenic world was to be erected. Pausanias, the great traveller and geographer, who arrived in Vasses in the 2nd century AD, sand was stunned by its imposing character and majestic presence. It is speculated that the central column of the temple was designed to reflect the first rays of the summer solstice, symbolizing the eternal light of the sun god, Apollo. If this is true, then this is the first large scale sculptured work of art in the history of mankind to represent an abstract concept. The temple can be approached from Ilia, after an enchanting journey along the banks of the river Neda, or from Tripoli and Megalopolis.

Mystras

Visit the mystical tower town of Mystras – in the Peloponese – located six kilometres NW of the city of Sparta, and get captivated be captivated by this destination’s medieval splendour. Wander around the castle town and sense through the silence the city’s sheer grandeur: the Palace of the Despots (Anaktora), the Houses of the Nobles (Laskaris and Frangopoulos), the beautiful Cathedral of Saint Dimitrios and the impressive Monasteries of Our Lady Pantánassa, and of Οur Lady Perivleptos. Stroll leisurely through the Kástro (the Frankish Castle), the Upper Town and the Lower Town among dream like architecture. Imagine Frankish princes and princesses living in palatial mansions; foreign delegations arriving bearing gifts, and peasants, pilgrims or traders filling the bustling streets. Mystras’ historical importance is tremendous. In the 14th century Mystras became the seat of the Despotate of Moreas, whereas in 1448 the last emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI Palaeologos, was crowned here. A visit to the Archaeological Museum will help you get a deep insight into the rich history of the area. Come and live the dream!

 

 

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