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Sterea Ellada - Messolonghi Page 2

Vyronos arrivesAfter the fall of Messolonghi in 1826, the outcry in the European press finally pressured the English and French forces into action, who sent a joint naval force, which, though intended merely to intimidate the Turkish forces, ended up (through circumstances that no one seems to really understand) with the annihilation of Turkish/Egyptian fleet. Since those times, Byron has been a national hero for the Greeks, with one suburb of Athens named for him as well as streets in towns all over Greece.

Modern Messolonghi is situated on the shore of a huge lagoon, with many water-birds and fish hatcheries. Bird watching is an enjoyable option for those who pass through Messolonghi, with the lagoon a magnet for many birds including migrant waders who stop here on their journey, as well as avocets and black-winged stilts, which nest here.

This body of water has never been deep enough to allow passage of vessels of any size; a long causeway extends to the south to deep water at Tourlidha. The fishing community and their traditional reed huts built on piles, have suffered greatly (and are fast disappearing ) from drainage and reclamation work.

The town is entered through the Venetian walls by the 'Gate of the Sortie', rebuilt by King Otho to protect the earthern rampart through which the occupants fled in 1826, which had been hastily repaired after the city was lost. There is a garden inside the gate with the Heroon, which commemorates the heroes of the three sieges. The garden is called the Kipos Iroon, open daily summer 9am-1:30pm; 5-7pm; winter 9am-1:30pm, 4-7pm;free.

Bodies of unnamed fallen soldiers, are buried in a central tumulus; to its right is the tomb of Botsaris, and between the two, a statue of Byron erected in 1881, with his heart buried below it. There's a small museum in the central square, in the city hall, dedicated to the Independence struggle, which exhibits paintings and lithographs from that period, items connected with Byron, and an first edition of the poet Solomos' Hymn to Liberty, which became the lyrics of the Greek national anthem. Open Mon-Fri 9am-1:30pm and 4-7pm;Sat and Sun 9am-1pm , 4-7pm;in winter closes at 6pm, free. Lodgings in Messolonghi tend to be expensive, and often taken up by package companies, but there are plenty of good eating places.

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