Castle of Methoni

We traveled to Methoni, a little seaside town on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnesus. Our main purpose was to visit the legendary Venetian castle of Methoni. It was built by the Venetians in the 1300s and rebuilt by the Ottomans in the 1500s with modifications to withstand artillery fire. It encompasses a large area surrounded by fortified walls, a moat, with a central gate and the “Bourtzi.”

The Bourtzi was a prison and a guard tower used to survey the harbor. It was easily the most striking building inside the walls of Methoni. In order to access the Bourtzi, one has to cross a bridge to reach a stone castle surrounded by crystal-clear blue sea. According to local legend, the prisoners and execution victims spirits lurk in the Bourtzi and can be heard screaming at night. While walking around the prison, there were several eerie cells which were little more than holes in the wall. Although from close it was spine-chilling, from a distance the sight looked like a postcard with a picturesque castle surrounded by pristine ocean.

Historically, the castle represents the Western and Eastern influence in Greek culture. The Venetians and Ottomans each controlled this area at various points in time. One of the distinctive features of this cultural mélange is that the architecture is neither Western nor Eastern but rather a blend of both with some unique features. Greece has a geographical position as the focal point between the East and West. This idea was introduced to me by a McGill Greek history course, and as I was travelling in Methoni I realized that this fusion can be seen in the cuisine, language, architecture and culture.

The castle of Methoni brought out my McGill academic knowledge in a practical manner by giving me new perspectives on Greek culture. As I was speaking Greek and eating moussaka in Methoni after a long trek, the magnitude of outside influences on Greece began to dawn on me. One of the miracles of Greek culture is its ability to positively absorb outside influences while retaining its Hellenic core.

The film, “Politiki Kouzina” (or A Touch of Spice) portrays the intertwining of Greek and Turkish/Ottoman culture and history. In this film, various similarities in the culture’s foods and languages can be observed.

Another film, “America America” portrays an example of Greeks who lived in the Ottoman empire, and left their home for a better life. This is reminiscent of the 1923 populations exchange where over a million Greeks left their homes in Turkey and brought their Eastern habits  to Greece.

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