My original plan with Allison was just a two-day, one-night motorbike ride to Sparta and back. But the exhilaration and beauty of being back on a motorcycle . . . in mountain country . . . in Sparta . . . we fell in love with the place and couldn’t leave right away. In fact, the tiny little town of Mystras (just 5 minutes outside of Sparta) was the place that really stole our hearts. So after ditching our plans and getting lost in the Taygetus Mountains west of Sparta, we made our way back to the town of Mystras and found a place to spend the night.
Mystras is a formerly-fortified town that sits on the steep slopes at the base of the Taygetus Mountains. They still proudly fly their own, bright-yellow flag side-by-side (sometimes) with the Greek flag. There’s some great Byzantine history there, and they still pride themselves on the role they played in the Greece’s long, war-filled history. In fact, the night we were there, we were surprised to be witness to the grand finish to a half-marathon which they hold annually to celebrate their heritage, and more specifically to commemorate the death of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine Palaiologos, who ruled in Mystras until he went to war; he fought and died in defense of Constantinople from the Turks. His statue is prominently displayed in the city center.
I had a hard time sleeping that night, and after hours of trying to go back to sleep, I decided to go out for a walk at sunrise. The town was silent and bathed in golden light from the east.
My favorite part of that walk was the snap dragons (pictured above), growing right through the mortar of a rock wall. A fitting tribute to a tough, beautiful town stuck on the side of a mountain.
It was hard to leave Mystras. It’s become one of our favorite places; we’ve even remarked, since leaving, that if we ever go back go Greece it would be to stay in Mystras longer, and wander those mountains some more. But it was now Day 3 of our motorbike adventure, and we had some miles to cover if we were going to make Athens by sunset.
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