Driving along the Western coast of Greece, from Olympia towards Pylos, you can take a small detour for a chance to enter a mythical realm where stories of knights, maidens and winged dragons are very much alive and intertwined with Ancient Greek mythology. Enter the magnificent, if a bit tacky, Fairytale Castle of Agrilis.
The story goes that the castle was built in the 1960s by a U.S.-born doctor of Greek descent, Harry Fournier, who made his fortune as a surgeon in Chicago. He returned to his ancestral lands of Filiatra upon retirement, where he wished to leave his mark as a benefactor of the city from which his family hailed.
He created a cultural center as well as a number of landmarks, such as a 85-foot (26m) wrought-iron copy of the Eiffel tower at the entrance of the city, a metal Geographical Globe outside the local high school, and the Fairytale Castle at Agrilis by the sea.
From the large gatehouse with a drawbridge to the conical towers painted bright red, nearly all of the details one might expect to find in a medieval castle are represented in the concrete and plaster structure. Inside there’s a series of corridors connecting halls with displays of medieval lore: coats of arms (some of which bear just the letter F or the name Harry), halberds, swords, and the like.
The walls have paintings and murals (in an effort to mimic a medieval tapestry style) depicting popular medieval stories, such as the story of Tristan and Isolde, Ivanhoe, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. At the top of the castle, there’s a magnificent view of the sea and surrounding countryside, as well as copies of medieval war weapons: a catapult, a ballista, and a medieval cannon carriage among others.
In the courtyard outside the castle, Fournier built three gigantic statues: one depicting the mythological Goddess Athena, another representing Poseidon, God of water, and the final one, a giant sitting horse. This monument is hollow and is rumored to hold a secret library inside. Today, the magical landmark is unfortunately abandoned and in a state of deterioration. Two commemorative plaques can be seen, one of which is attributed to Harry Fournier himself, and reads, “You should appreciate a man not by his fortune or the extent of his knowledge, but by the happiness he brings to those around him.