People in Sparti and the wider region of Laconia take great pride in their roots, and they always seek ways to rekindle old traditions or create new opportunities to celebrate all that is good and worthwhile in their land. This includes showcasing local products, commemorating historically significant events, and bringing people closer to sports, art and culture.
The Palaeologeia Festival
The figure of Constantine Palaiologos is a highly symbolic one in the collective conscience of the Hellenic nation.Destined to be the last Byzantine emperor, he linked his fate with that of Constantinople, the glorious metropolis he defended to the last drop of his blood, when he fell in battle on May 29, 1453. Present-day Sparta pays tribute to the last emperor and the rest of the heroes by organising an annual festival at the end of May; a cycle of cultural, religious, and athletic events set against the atmospheric archaeological site of Mystras. With springtime kicking in, this time of year is ideal for performances, concerts and children's activities, as well as workshops and seminars on Byzantine history and civilization. The festival climaxes with a series of religious rituals which, even if not one's cup of tea, they certainly offer a unique opportunity for believers and non-believers alike to attend a liturgy at the glorious cathedral of Agios Dimitrios, one of the oldest and most impressive examples of monumental architecture in Greece.
Since 1988, summers in Sparti have been blessed with this ever-successful cultural tradition. As if to balance the cultural stagnancy of winter, the festival brings together a rich programme including theatre, concerts and various happenings, all taking place at the Sainopouleio Amphitheatre. Tucked in the typical low vegetation of the Peloponnese, the amphitheatre proper is quite a surprise, as it offers excellent views to the verdant nearby hills and mountains. Based on valuable experience gained from the festival's successful past,the festival committee works together with high-profile cultural institutions,theatre groups, musical ensembles and performersincluding the National Theatre, the National Opera, the National Theatre of Northern Greece and the Orchestra of Colours, to stage celebrated works from the Greek and the international repertoire.
Calling to Taygetus
The selection of thisparticularly successful and comprehensive series of summer events includes film screenings, theatrical performances, concerts, exhibitions by local artists, music workshops and seminars, hiking trips and other activities bound to impress both the locals and the culturally minded among the visitors. The events take place annually at the end of July, at the amfitheatre of Xirokampi.
Mystras Commercial Fair
In his Travelogue, the Turkish explorer Evliya Çelebi reports that, in the mid-17th century, the market of Mystras attracts "as many as 40,000 people". Although we can be quite sure that the fair did indeed exist, this piece of indirect evidence perhaps allows us to place the beginning of this tradition earlier on in the Byzantine era. Today, a modern version is held at the entrance of Neos (=new) Mystras, the village at the foot of the hill, which bears the name of the ancient settlement. The fair, which lasts from 26 August to2 September, is unlikely to help you imagine the atmosphere of the original byzantine fair, though it is a great opportunity to sample local products, mingle with locals, and perhaps attend the religious celebration on 29 August a commemoration of the beheading of St John the Baptist.