Travels in Greece

Chlemoutsi Castle – Western Peloponnese

I had not even heard of Chlemoutsi Castle until we started looking for somewhere to go from Katakolo to do a bit of sightseeing, which is surprising since it is easily the best preserved Frankish castle in the Peloponnese and has some stunning views of the Ionian sea with the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia in the distance.

Founded by the Frankish Prince Geoffrey I Villehardouin in 1220-23 and called at various points Clermont and the Castle Tornese, Chlemoutsi has a colourful history and has passed through the hands of the Franks, the Catalans, the Franks again, the House of Palaiologos, the Turks, The Venetians, the Turks again… you get the picture, and was in continuous use up until the Greek war of independence. While the Turks made minor modifications and adaptations for artillery use, the castle was largely untouched by both the Greeks and Venetians which has helped preserve its strong Frankish character until the present day.

The Castle consists of an inner enclosure built at the highest point of the hill and a large outer enclosure spreading north and west. The outer walls are accessed through a four walled tower with three successive arched gates which feature both the classic shuttered gates and an area for the throwing of hot oil and stones on the heads of invaders. Three round towers connect the outer walls, all hinting at Turkish construction, while inside the main courtyard the ruins of a mosque may be seen along with original aqueducts and cisterns for water storage.

The inner compound features the well preserved rooms of the Prince and his company, all of them two stories in which the fireplaces used to heat them may still be seen along with their distinctive Frankish characteristics. There are plans to open a small museum to showcase the castle’s Byzantine history, although in the summer of 2008, while the room existed, the museum was not an anyway near operation yet. The Castle is usually closed on Mondays, but is open throughout the year otherwise.

After the castle, if you are with a car why not head off to the beautiful sandy beach of Kalamia which has a small snack shack and a few free umbrellas, or if you so feel right next to it a couple of all inclusive resorts which are happy to rent you their umbrellas for the right price. On the way to the beach you could also pass by the thermal baths of Kyllini featuring both Roman era baths (fenced off and basically just a few walls), an odd art deco looking building (from the 50-60’s? now boarded up) and a couple of bubbling mud holes which the locals still use to lather themselves up, there is running water to wash off with and both the mud and water are said to have very healthy properties.