Gialova is a small coastal village in the Bay of Navarino. The harbour is formed by a long, rocky island (Sphacteria) running along the coast.
Pylos, the lovely town at the eastern side of the bay is named after the Ancient Greek Mycenean Pylos.
The Bronze Age administrative center known as the Palace of Nestor is an important archaeological site. More info at The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project.
The site is currently closed for renovation and it may re-open at the end of 2014. There you can admire the best preserved Mycenaean bathtub, probably the one described by Homer in Odyssey, when the son of Odysseus, Telemachus went to Nestor’s Palace looking for information about his lost father.
“Meanwhile she bathed Telemachus, even fair Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor, son of Neleus. And after she had bathed him and anointed him with olive oil, and cast about him a goodly mantle and a doublet, he came forth from the bath in fashion like the deathless gods.”
[Source: Homer, The Odyssey – The Harvard Classics. 1909–14, Book III, Bartleby.com]
Nestor’s son, Peisistratus, was first to approach and took them both by the hand, and made them sit on soft fleeces spread on the sand, beside his father, and brother, Thrasymedes, so they could feast. Having done so, he served them inner portions, poured wine in a golden cup, and drinking her health, spoke to Pallas Athene, the aegis-bearing daughter of Zeus:
‘Stranger, pray to the lord Poseidon whose feast you have chanced on here. And when you have poured libations and prayed, as is right, pass your friend the cup of honeyed wine so he may pour. I expect he too prays to the deathless ones: since all men need the gods. But as he is the younger, and of my own age, I will first give the golden cup to you.’
[Source: Homer, The Odyssey – Bk III:1-50 Telemachus and Athene reach Pylos, poetryintranslation.com]
At Pylos harbour we hired a small, 4 person boat for a ride around Navarino Bay and Sphacteria. Sphacteria is also known for the defeat and capture of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War.
The naval Battle of Navarino was fought there on 1827. It was the last significant battle between wooden sailing ships.
This bloody and destructive battle was continued with unabated fury for four hours, and the scene of wreck and devastation which presented itself at its termination was such as has been seldom before witnessed.
Admiral Sir Edward Codrington
[Source: Memoir of the life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington Internet Archive]
At the west end of Gialova beach, there is Sykia pass, the narrow northern entrance to Navarino Bay. There we followed the path leading to Paleokastro Castle, a Frankish castle built in the 13th century A.D. It is a great hike and the Castle offers a stunning view!
Special attention should be taken when exploring the castle, the walls fall apart. Also inside the castle there are deep cisterns, used to collect rain water, which should be approached with caution!
At the north side of the castle we passed through an opening at the wall and followed the downhill path towards Voidokoilia beach and Nestor’s cave.
Voidokoilia was great for a dive after the hike to Paliokastro Castle. The sea was clear and shallow. As we were swimming we could see the sunset between the narrow opening of the rocks. This was a fantastic scene!
We followed the path right next to the lagoon and under the huge rocks of the castle that leads back to the starting point at Gialova beach. The mosquitos were in abundance in the wetland and attacked us with fury after sunset…
Gialova lagoon hosts a rich and varied fauna. It is an important wetland and stopover for many bird species on their way to and from Africa. Perfect for bird watching and wildlife photography!
There’s so much to see and photograph at this part of Messenia, Pylos and Gialova that I always promise myself to go back and further explore this area.