So far I’ve visited…
So far I’ve visited the Cyclades islands Piraeus-Naxos-(+Delos-Mykonos)-Santorini and then the Dodecanese islands Rhodes-Symi. Now on to the Peloponnese.
Nafplio, Mystras/Sparta, and Ancient Olympia, home of so many amazing archeological sites including Mycenae and Epidaurus.
So far I’ve visited the Cyclades islands Piraeus-Naxos-(+Delos-Mykonos)-Santorini and then the Dodecanese islands Rhodes-Symi. Now on to the Peloponnese.
I flew from Rhodes to Athens, spent the night at an Athens hotel by the bus station, and arrived in Nafplio by bus without a place to stay. Yay, it didn’t start raining until after I was settled in at the Hotel Leto. Phewww.
As Lonely Planet begins their section “For better or worse the secret is out about Nafplio”. I could tell just from the time I spent looking for a place that this is one adorable town.
This restaurant is right down the hill from my hotel.
I’ve not been repeating my meals although I did get dolmas twice, once was cold and vegetarian and once was hot with rice and meat. I also had kabab twice, once with meat chunks grilled and another time with ground meat formed around a spit. And delicious Greek Salad more than once too, and it’s always pretty much the same with the oh so delicious slab of feta on top. The tomatoes have been the most surprisingly good part of every salad.
Tonight I had a fish soup with lemon and egg yolk that was so yummy I might have it again!
I’m out fairly early, for me, a little before 9 and the town is very quiet.
The building on the farthest right that you can just see a sliver of is an old barracks built by the Venetians in 1714 and after five years of refurbishments reopened as the Archeological Museum of Nafplio in 2008.
It’s very good inside, with clean, professional displays and good information in Greek and English. They have very old things including some items found in caves dating to around 30,000 BC.
Craftsmen created these lovely ladies using a potter’s wheel in the 13th century BC. I really like the fish too.
A view out the window of the museum into one of the main squares.
At the top of the mountain which unfortunately you can’t see because of the backlight, is the Palamidi fortress built again by the Venetians and finished in 1714. Remember this place because I’m goin’ up there.
It’s a lovely town and I’ll try to get some more representative looks tomorrow. This is the outside of one of the many (surprise!) churches.
I think now that all the Greek Orthodox churches here have a similarly fevered interior, all full of things that gleam and glow. It’s pretty amazing to see so many of them one after the other full of tons of hammered silver, iconography on every surface, huge crystal chandeliers, gold leaf everywhere, candles all lit, carved wood, mosaics, more more more.
That’s the castle of Bourtzi completed by the Venetians in 1473. The Greeks regained it from the Turks in 1822, from where they assisted in the siege of Nafplio. Then it served a number of other oddball purposes.
These days it’s a tourist attraction and you can ride out there on a little boat that hangs around the harbor.
Here’s that little castle in the bay and the whole old town and the Bay of Argolid from the top of the Palamidi fortress.
There are stairs. You can walk up! You can, I can’t, I took a taxi up and walked down.
Looking away from the old town there is a real town where people live and work and tourists rarely find themselves.
There were plenty of stairs to enjoy once the taxi dropped me off…
It was very cool up here – not at all crowded and very plain without many explanations and only one small café and shop by the entrance.
Halfway down the stairs looking onto the most popular swimming beach.
My dinner host (stuffed eggplant with moussaka flavoring and lovely baked chicken, both very good) who told me about all his cousins in California one of whom owns the restaurant at the Cliff House in San Francisco. You would not believe how many people have cousins in San Francisco. I asked if I could take his picture so the next time I go to the Cliff House I can bring greetings to his cousin. “Oh yes, efkharisto.”
A representative street in Nafplio. You see it spelled Nafplio more often but also you see Nafplion. Someone told me Nafplion was the spelling from an older version of Greek than is spoken now.
From what I’ve seen it’s very rare in the touristified Old Towns in Greece that you can actually buy any groceries. She didn’t have basic staples but she did have lovely looking fresh fruits and vegetables.
And here’s a view from the boardwalk looking toward the town and up to the fortress.
There are many well-known and well-developed archeological sites around Nafplio but I couldn’t find a day tour from here. You can get a day tour from Athens but not from here. Maybe when the season hits in July that will change.
So I could rent a car for 40 euro or pay the guy in the white shirt 80 euro to drive me around. I took the easy way.
The guy in the blue shirt manages the hotel (and fixes and serves the breakfast, and tidies up the lobby, and runs the front desk…his wife and daughter also help out). He’s making the arrangements with White Shirt guy because he absolutely does not speak English At All. And off we went.
The Mycenae acropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The history here is the origin of all the Agamemnon lore.
Lion Gate is the main entrance to the citadel and has not been lost or destroyed since it was finished around 1350 BC. Since 1350 BC Lion Gate has been visible to all the surrounding area.
Although the mighty lions did lose their heads, I don’t know when.
From the brochure: “Within the impregnable Cyclopean walls of the citadel, unfolded the life and terrible sufferings of the family of Agamemnon; the names of its members (Clytaemnestra, Ighigeneia, Electra, Orestes, together with Agamemnon’s rival Aegisthus) furnished material for the Homeric poems, the ancient Greek tragic poets, and post-Renaissance classical European and international literature.”
Various types of citrus and plenty of olive groves cover the landscape.
We next stopped by at the Karakala Monastery of Dominican nuns.
On the right is the outside wall and the flag of the Greek/Eastern Orthodox Church. A bus driver (I couldn’t possibly have had such a conversation with White Shirt guy) told me it was also the flag of a local football team. Yes, we agreed, God would be on the side of that team.
On the left is the church inside the monastery, and below are all the buildings from the back.
A lovely sweet nun answered our bell and let us come inside. She gave us water to drink and sweet treats to eat.
I pointed to this image and pointed to my camera. There’s tons more silver btw surrounding the two heads. She nodded with surprising enthusiasm.
Then I took the picture and showed it to her. Tears filled her eyes, she made several long sighs and signs of the cross, gazing at the back of my camera and then she kissed me on both my cheeks. She then took my arm to lead me around for the rest of our visit. Wow. Too bad I couldn’t get a picture of her!
This is the museum at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Epidaurus..
I’ve been noting how well they do draped figures. In every museum so far I’ve noticed this.
From the brochure: “In the hinterland of Epidaurus., on a site enjoying a mild climate and plentiful water from healing springs, the Epidavrians founded the sanctuary of Asklepios, the most brilliant center of healing in the ancient world.”
They worshiped the gods of healing here, back to the prehistoric period.
There’s a lot of this, and the same back in Mycenae. It is interesting still after having seen so much of it. I would like to encourage anyone with a passion for ruins and archeological sites to go to Delos. You will be impressed.
On the way up to my place and…
…the view from my very nice balcony. There was some stair climbing involved in staying here which was good considering that at the bottom of those stairs was Food Aplenty.
Every meal comes automatically with a lot of bread that they all charge for, 1 euro. The bread here in Nafplio is not as splendidly to my taste as the bread in Naxos was but nevertheless if I don’t ask them to please take away the bread, I eat it All.
Tomorrow morning I’m up at nay the crack of dawn for a 4-hour 3-bus journey to Mystras, another fortress town and UNESCO World Heritage site.
I made my 4-hour 3-bus transfer from Nafplio to Mystras to visit another UNESCO World Heritage fortress town. This place is actually more a village than a town – so small there is no visitors center even, and all the restaurants are clustered around the one town square.
This is unique, and I’m supposing there will be others.
When I got to my guest house the host met me with a glass of amazing fresh squeezed orange juice squeezed from the oranges picked from outside my window and left two more oranges for a snack.
I had dinner here (roast pork, ok, and a mélange of vegetables which was nice).
This man was running the place I think and we chatted about this and that. He helped me arrange how to get up to the fortress tomorrow and then as I was leaving he ran back to the kitchen and brought out this orange as a parting gift.
I’m going to be enjoying oranges for awhile!
Good Morning, out my window.
The host in my guest house is a lovely young woman, Elena, from Russia.
A real character in the life of the guest house is her 4’10” tall 80 year old mother-in-law who burst into my room a few times (I left the door open!), asking me “GREEK COFFEE?????” or speaking long enthusiastic paragraphs that end in “YES?????”.
She was so much fun! My worst regret of this whole trip so far is that I don’t have her picture.
((So after I reread the above I thought..why have regrets? why not do something about it? So I wrote to Elena and she sent me these wonderful pictures! Thank you Elena!!)
((Here’s the rest of the family.))
As I was leaving we did the cheek-kissing thing, twice like they do in Greece. Elena then said “In Russia we do three” and I got another one. The she said “How many in America?” I told her “One, if you’re lucky.”
I’m standing right outside the guest house and the tree is the landmark of New Mystras used for all directions. I have an ‘aerial’ photo from the top of the castle so you can get some perspective on Mystras and Sparta.
This complex is called the Ruins of Mystras. LP: “This is where the Byzantine Empire’s richly artistic and intellectual culture made its last stand before an invading Ottoman army, almost 1,000 years after its founding (in 1249).”
The fortress is at the top, the palace near the middle right, and in the lower-ish left is one of the largest churches and the buildings used for ecclesiastical administration.
I took a taxi to the Upper Gate from which you could walk/scramble/crawl up up up to get to the fortress, then I walked down from the fortress and down down down to the rest of the buildings.
A view along the way of the Palace Complex currently under refurbishments and not open to visitors.
The arrow points to the tree in Mystras and if you follow the center road up toward the top of the picture you’ll see Sparta.
I didn’t visit any of the sites in Sparta, being an Archeological Museum, the Tomb of Leonidas, some churches, an Acropolis and some ruins that I’ve read are basically a sign.
All along the way there were side paths into complex and interesting places that made me constantly ask myself, now what’s this?
There are many prominent buildings that are not in ruins, that have been made safe and you can go inside…
…to surround yourself, ceilings…
In one of the sites where there was a shell of a church there was also a refreshed barracks – it was the former monastery – with an actual room and in that room was a nun and some comfortable chairs and since I was so ready to SIT, I went in.
The nun offered a sweet, the very exact same type of sweet as the last nun. Now I have to figure out what they are. Maybe the nuns make them?
I realize now that I’ve been visiting all these ruins here in the Peloponnese sometime between 9 and 3 because I want to get as early a start (as is possible for me and/or for when they open) for the hard parts which means I’m never around at the good photo times. I have to stop doing this!
You can see the little red poppies in there…
…and a few different flowers here.
The wildflowers have been out in such delightful abundance and try as I will I can’t get a picture to express the feeling. But I will keep trying.
The Ruins of Mystras – I’m very glad I came.
From the Metropolis-Saint Demetrios church, the last main building before the Main Gate. This is the book stand I heard from the guard there. He didn’t know what the image was or why they chose it.
Some people start at the Main Gate and walk up past the Upper Gate where I started, all the way to the fortress. And back down. I think doing that would be a much bigger project than up and down to the fortress at Nafplio. I asked google but she didn’t know.
Just in time! It started to rain so I turned into the restaurant from yesterday to thank the owner there for his help. He got me fixed up for my transfer to Olympia too.
Interesting: his restaurant, a family business, is part of the nicest hotel in town. He said they are busy all the time for the summer tourist season and then from October only open on the weekends. When it is not tourist season they harvest from their 30,000 or so (could that possible be right? Maybe it was 3,000?) olive trees. They have 200 orange trees for the restaurant and for the family.
After my late lunch (nice easy omelet with perfectly softened feta cheese) he gave me a shot of this beverage, rakomelo, that he told me how to make and that my Monday Night Potluck Ladies are go to l.o.v.e.
From yesterday at the Ruins of Mystras, what happens when I try to take a picture of myself even though yes, I can see in the phone how the picture will look, this is how it turns out because any more of me in there and yikes, like the bottom one, only worse.
It’s a big holiday today and the bus schedule was greatly reduced so in order to get anywhere I first had to take a taxi from Mystras to Sparta which is 8 euros away.
From Sparta I got a bus to Tripoli and from Tripoli I was lucky to have a direct bus to Olympia.
What you see here is the route from Tripoli to Olympia. The road was one lane at many points and several cars had to back-up for the bus to pass, and the road was very steep and full of hairpin switchbacks.
A grab shot out the bus window.
Closer to the town. I don’t know its name but there were several like it positioned around the mountains.
Pulling into Ancient Olympia, there’s plenty of accommodation and…
…whooa, plenty of tchotchkes, the most trinket filled town yet.
The town is basically this street with similar blocks behind me and on the one block side street to the left and right. The hotels are scatted throughout.
On the walk to the archeological site I get to Name That Flag and it was especially fun because they’ve got some countries represented, such as Cameroon and Gabon, that I don’t see around much.
The current excavation project is just inside the gates to the site.
It was so nice in here!
Trees=Shade=YAY. It was an unexpected delight which in reading about what’s here, LP did mention trees, I hadn’t fully absorbed how pleasant it would make the experience.
I was expecting a focus on the Olympic Games but actually it is a very large and developed temple site.
When I arrived around 9:30 there were 4-5 big buses in the lot and I thought oh well, I can’t expect to have the place to myself.
I went to the onsite museum around noon and left around 1:30 at which time there were 23 buses that I could count, and more roaming around the streets.
I told the guy at my hotel about this and he said “Only 23, sometimes we have 50, sometimes 100 (hyperbole perhaps?), they come from the cruise ships and never stay.” It was very quiet at this perfectly nice, well priced, family hotel (Hotel Kronio). I do think they might be overbuilt for accommodation here since everywhere there was plenty of space available.
A nice one.
There are two other sites related to the Olympic Games, a training area for track and field and a training area for wrestling and boxing.
This is where the track and field competitions took place. In the middle-right you can see the judging stand. There never were seats. It seems so modest.
You can see that group in the middle-left. They are a local guide and a clutch of American kids.
First one, then three, then eventually he had gotten all of them to do a run. That was impressive tour guiding. “I’m hot, I’m tired, I don’t have the right shoes, I don’t wan’na.”
By the time the last one had finished they were bursting with enthusiasm. They were Olympians! They had run on the field in Olympia!
I believe it will be the first story they tell their family and friends when they get home and the story they tell their grandchildren Every Time they sit together on the couch to watch the Olympics.
Good on you tour guide man!
You can mentally put together that fallen column. Doric or Ionic or Corinthian? We’ve got ’em all here.
The museum was very good too. These are the East and West Pediments from the Temple of Zeus.
The rest of the museum’s rooms were also divided by building so you could see drawings and artifacts from the places you had just visited. It was very reinforcing and well done.
These are the brochures, the ones I’ve remembered to save, put out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. They’re great!
I’m leaving the Peloponnese for the Ionian island group, first to Lefkada and then I hope to make it to Corfu before heading inland.
From the bus, The Bridge, connecting the Peloponnese to mainland Greece.