If you would like to spend some time exploring interesting and historical places on mainland Greece, consider Messolonghi. Not only will you be visiting a town declared “sacred” by the Greek government in 1937, but you will be following in the footsteps of the English poet, Lord Byron.
In central Greece, Messolonghi rests sleepily in the arms of the rivers Acheloos and Evinos at the northern end of the entrance to the Gulf of Patras, much as it did in ancient times. When the town stirs, the shallow waters languishing by its alluvial islets flow gently against the shore. The islets form lagoons circled by lush growth and crowned by flocks of exotic seabirds. In the waters below, species of perhaps some of the best fish in the world share an aquatic sanctuary, a habitat so rare it is protected by a treaty.
Messolonghi is moody and mysterious, a serenely placid place where the morning and evening skies are as quiet and as still as the water. It is a town where one is struck by the unruffled repose and dignity of the more mature residents and the budding pride in the young.
Because historians called the story of Messolonghi “glorious,” in 1937 the Greek government declared it a “sacred town.” This designation recognizes the two sieges, one in 1822 and the other in 1825, during which brave residents of Messolonghi fought for freedom against the Turks, who outnumbered them ten to one. Here, thousands died in the great exodus to the Monastery of Saint Symeon; here, the great Philhellene and English poet, Lord Byron came to fight for freedom and died.
It was in Messolonghi where Byron came to join Greece in its fight for freedom. He rode his horse by the still waters of the lagoon all the way to the Chapel of the Virgin by the Palm tree and then for many more miles onto Aetolicon. He had ridden as far as Aetolicon on the fateful day when he was caught in the downpour of a storm and returned completely soaked to the home in Messolonghi where he was staying. Sweating and feverish he fell seriously ill and shortly thereafter, he died of pneumonia in April of 1824. His lungs are buried under his statue in the “Garden of Heroes” in the center of town and his body is interned in Nottingham, England, where he was born.
Messolonghi is normally not a tourist destination, but it is a very special place for the person who is a bit spiritual in nature and who seeks solitude. tranquility, and an atmosphere that encourages reflection into one’s self.