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Costa Navarino Cultural Weekend – Messinia, Greece
The Costa Navarino Cultural Weekend is a new initiative which I was fortunate enough to be invited to join. There were numerous activities and events over the course of the two days and I welcomed the chance to learn more about the traditions, heritage and way of life in this remote part of Greece.
A personal highlight for me was the opportunity to participate in the olive harvesting on the first afternoon. We were only tackling one tree – green netting was laid out around a mature olive tree situated on the edge of the golf course. The expert pickers chopped some of the branches off the tree before letting us loose to beat the remaining branches with plastic bashers so that the olives fell off. Incredibly hard work but great fun! There were also long handled bashers to dislodge the olives from the branches left on the tree – totally necessary as one of our group had really entered into the spirit of things with great gusto so there were olives flying everywhere. Once we were finished the netting was pulled up so that the olives were drawn in and bundled into sacks to be taken off. It was amazing to see just how many olives there were.
The cultural weekend at Costa Navarino coincided with the first reenactment of the battle of Navarino so we were fortunate enough to be able to see the reenactment. The battle took place on 20 October 1827 during the Greek war of independence and was fought at the harbour in Pylos, the closest town to the resort. Allied forces from Britain, France and Russia decisively defeated Ottoman and Egyptian forces. It was the last sea battle fought entirely by sailing ships! The area around the harbour was crowded when our group arrived in the evening to watch the ships moving around the harbour accompanied by rousing music. The finale, an enemy ship bursting into flames, was followed by a spectacular firework display. What a unique experience – one I certainly won’t forget.
The following morning, a guided tour of the Costa Navarino art collection providing more information about the artwork displayed throughout the Westin Resort and Romanos which forms an integral part of the hotels. It was illuminating to hear about the works in more detail as I would otherwise not have appreciated the history behind them. The tour ended at the exhibition “Under the spell of Greek costume: Contemporary creations in the Benaki Museum collections”.
Moving on from the Benaki Museum we experienced a presentation of rare and authentic Greek traditional costumes from the unique collection of The Victoria G. Karelias Collection of Greek Traditional Costumes. These costumes represented the basic 3 types of traditional Greek costumes. We watched as the models were painstakingly dressed in their costumes while an ongoing commentary explained the purpose and significance of each layer of clothing. The finished results were beautiful with such elaborate embroidery.
We then visited a traditional home in Pylos for an authentic cookery class, it was great fun to get involved in making our own lunch with expert help from local women. Lunch was pasta, a very popular local dish, with courgette pie and chicken, accompanied by Greek salad and tzatziki.
The day ended with a panel discussion on “How are tradition and craft preserved in fashion in the modern era?” with fashion designer Sophia Kokosalaki, Zeus & Δione co-founder Dimitra Kolotoura and artist Margarita Myrogianni from the Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery. This was held outdoors, in a stunning location, with a panoramic view towards the Costa Navarino resorts. Fashion editor and author Tamsin Blanchard chaired the discussion. It was fascinating to hear how modern-day Greek designers take inspiration for their collections from traditional Greek drapes and materials. We were able to talk to the designers afterwards as we sipped cocktails on the patio as the sun slowly set.
We ate a delicious meal that evening at the Flame restaurant located on the edge of the resort. The starter of pumpkin soup with poached egg, parmesan and truffle oil was followed by a salad with roasted beetroots, gorgonzola and walnuts. For our main course, an extremely tasty slow cooked lamb shank with barley risotto, spinach and nuts. Dessert was deconstructed key lime pie. The whole meal was washed down with 1827 wine from the local vineyard.
One of the other members of our group mentioned how stunning the sunrise was, so I determined to take a look for myself . The next morning I got up, just as it was getting light, and quickly made my way to the beach. I was so glad I made the effort, the beach was deserted and the sunrise was spectacular.
The finale of the cultural weekend for me was the Philosophy Walk. Something I was really looking forward to, it sounded intriguing on paper! Sitting in the shade, under an ancient olive tree, we discussed the topic of aesthetics in ancient Greece, led by Dr. Eleni Volonaki, a Professor of Philosophy. I’ve never had the opportunity to experience something like this and found it truly thought-provoking.
We stayed as guests of the resort for the Costa Navarino cultural weekend, 20 – 22 October 2017 – for more information about the Westin Resort at Costa Navarino see the separate post. Costa Navarino is about three hours, by car, from the airport at Athens.
Thinking of going next year? Why not pin this post for later
Costa Navarino: Rates at the two hotels at Navarino Dunes, start from:
For the Westin Resort Costa Navarino: from €190 off-peak season, and from €345 in peak season
For The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort: from €335 off-peak season, and from €430 in peak season.
For further information and reservations visit www.costanavarino.com. Prices are for a deluxe garden view room on a bed and breakfast basis, based on availability
Aegean Airlines: Aegean Airlines offers daily flights from London Heathrow to Athens. For more information please visit www.aegeanair.com.