We went to Sparta, primarily,
to visit the village were Dave's mom, Stella, had been born. Family
is still there and we wanted to meet them. We were very pleasantly
surprised, then, when we discovered the amazing site of Mystras close by.
We had not originally put it on our 'to-do' list, yet it turned out to
be one of our favorite sites. The ruins spill down the side of Mount
Taygetos. The Franks built a Crusader castle on the peak in 1249.
Less than 10 years later, they relinquished the keys to the gate to Byzantine
forces. A town began to build up outside the walls, so further defensive
walls were constructed farther down the mountain. This happened three
times to accomodate growth. Mystras grew so large and was in such
a strategic location that it was considered the effective Capitol of the
Byzantine Empire from 1380 to 1460. The Turks and Venetians took turns
squabbling over it after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. It's fabulous
history is all there as one marches down the mountain. Gorgeous Venetian
palaces mingle with Byzantine churches, Turkish baths and Crusader fortifications.