It is impossible to have a Kastro looming above you and not go to explore. I don’t know how difficult it is to climb but I will give it a good attempt. Myrina Fortress is the largest in the Aegean. Having only visited the Kastro in Mytilini less than a year ago, I’d have thought that would have been the biggest – but no.
I access the fortress from the Marketplace, a pretty shopping street running from the harbourfront all the way to Platia Eleftheriou Venizelou. There are some gorgeous clothes and artisan shops here – a shoppers paradise – especially at this time of year when the sales are on.
The Kastro is signposted so there is no mistaking which alleyway to take. Just follow the road called Nefelis upwards and you will find yourself at the foot of the steps. There are two ways to access it – one from the marketplace and there is also another entrance by the harbour that will lead you to the same place.
The fortification sits on a broad promontory with one side bordering the edge of the harbour. The steps at the beginning of the climb are wide and easy to ascend. Very soon you have a good view over the harbour and Romeiko Gyalo (Roman Shore). This was so-called because this is where the Greek community lived during Ottoman rule. Similarly on the other side of the promontory is the Turkish Shore where the Turkish community lived until the Greek-Turkish population exchanges took place in 1923.
The rock formation that forms the foundation of the Kastro is unusual, probably volcanic and it is interesting to see how the fortification has been built around the landscape.
In the early 12th century the Byzantines built a castle on the site of an ancient fortification though there is evidence that a fortification has existed here since pre-historic times. When the Venetians conquered the island in the 13th century, the fortification was further developed, overseen by Filocalo Navigajiosi, the Great Duke of Lemnos. Of course, later the island came under Ottoman rule and the site was subject to further reconstruction, the remains of which you will see today. The fortification was in Ottoman hands from 1479 – 1912.
You enter the fortress through an impressive gateway protected on both sides by two tall towers. The entrance is a dog-leg arrangement with a doorway at each side.
After another short climb the site begins to plateau. I don’t know the layout of the Kastro so am just playing it by ear. What I can see immediately in front of me is what looks like a fortified tower of the keep of the castle. I decided to climb up regardless of how high it looks. Sliders aren’t the best footwear for this exercise. The path becomes a little more precarious with lots of loose shingle on a very uneven pathway but I make it.
The views from up here are spectacular. On the other side of the promontory is the Roman Shore and a view over Myrina town. The slightly overcast day makes it perfect weather for climbing and walking activities. Climbing down is a bit more dodgy than the ascent!
There is way more to this Kastro than the keep. Once back down on the plateau, I follow the site around to the right, past the remains of a mosque. This one-room square building is typical of late Ottoman mosques in Greece. The prayer niche is preserved and orientated towards Mecca. There are still signs of the existence of a cistern or fountain, essential for the purificatory ablutions of worshippers before entering the mosque.
I am now at the tip of the promontory and overlooking a lighthouse and the nearside harbour arm. It is possible to climb down to the level but I decide to leave this for another time especially as I can really feel the full force of the wind from here.
Continuing around I am now overlooking the far side harbour arm, another promontory with miniature needles going out into the sea. Further around the coast are the two small islets called Vráchos ton Nkoúnis (translated by Google Translate as Rock of the Goonies) and Nisides Diavates. It also brings me to the back of the Kastro keep and is actually a much easier and safer way to get to it! From here you have the best views of both bays on either side of the kastro.
I spend another hour or so clambering around the site. Back down at the plateau, you can walk along the edge that overlooks the Roman Shores. There is still so much more to explore here – I’ll have to come back.
Now I didn’t see any of the 200 deer that are said to have sought refuge there but there were plenty of inquisitive goats!