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platamon castle keep in Macedonia, Greece

We spent the morning mostly in the Archaeological Museum of Dion, below the slopes of mighty Mount Olympus, home of the gods. Appropriately, Dion was a major shrine to Zeus, treated by Macedonian royalty as a central sanctuary, a place to assemble their followers and to display their power to their own people and their neighbours. Famously, this is where the combined Macedonian and Greek troops assembled before they set out for Alexander's famous campaign against the Persian Empire.

The museum contains many interesting finds from the site: sculpture, precious objects, inscriptions, and so on, all illustrating Dion's importance. The most unusual exhibit is a hydraulis or water organ, a musical instrument from the second century BC!

In spite of the weather, we did manage to show our guests a part of the site, viewing it from our trusty coach. Flexibility and the ability to think on our feet are skills we value highly at Peter Sommer Travels!

After an unforgettable Olympian lunch, we found our reward for the morning's work: the weather changed, grey clouds broke up and blue sky appeared.

Perfect conditions for our second site visit today, this one to the great medieval castle at Platamon (or Platamanonas), a major landmark on Macedonia's border, perched on a coastal hill and overlooking a key anchorage and an important land route between the north and centre of Greece. There was a settlement here already in antiquity, by the name of Heraklion. Excavations have also revealed copious Roman and even more copious Byzantine remains (including foundations of several churches), but the site really is dominated by the castle constructed in the early 13th century AD.

Maria used it as a fitting backdrop to tell us about the Fourth Crusade and Western treachery, about the division of the erstwhile Byzantine properties around the Aegean, and about the short-lived Latin Kingdom of Thessaloniki, set up by the French adventurer Boniface of Montferrat, a larger-than-life character. Beyond stories, Platamon is simply a beautiful place, its ruins impressive and crowned by a mighty keep, its sweeping views of the sea and Mount Olympus breathtaking.

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