Saturday, March 25, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MRS. CARRIE!!!!! (and Happy Greek Independence Day!)

Nafplio, Greece

At first, I felt sorry for Nafplio. Not because it is a bad place, in fact, it is quite a charming place. We came here directly from Santorini, so, in my opinion, at that moment, everything paled in comparison. It was hard to leave Oia. It was truly a magical place. And, we had grown quite fond of our new found friends, especially Lucky Chovy, the cat. We were even trying to figure out a way for us to bring him home. In the end, we decided that he had it pretty good there, aside from being minus an eye.

We arrived in Nafplio via bus from the Athens ‘A’ Bus Station, which was purported to be in the unsavory part of town. Luckily, we got out of there with no problems to report. The bus ride was a little over two hours, and it took us through a few small towns and some hilly areas, which are covered in Olive and Citrus Groves.

I thought that Nafplio would be a good central destination to explore some areas that T has really wanted to see, like Ancient Sparta and Olympia. What we discovered was that Nafplio itself is worth checking out. There are three fortresses in town, one that sits out in the bay, and two that sit perched up on the cliffs overlooking town. There are also numerous cafes, old time tavernas and nice shops in town, with good opportunity, we found, for some people watching. Just outside of town, there are also a few more reachable Ancient Ruins, at Mycenae and at Epidavros. Unfortunately, the trains don’t run here like they do in other parts of Europe so we looked into Bussing it to some of these sights. This wasn’t as flexible of an option, either.. So, we decided to brave the Greek driving system and rented a car. T drove, and he did a great job. I think he started to enjoy it after a while… whizzing around the curves, waving to everyone and honking, just like a true Greek. It turns out that Sparta and Olympia are both a few hours away, and since these other sights are closer, we decided to visit them instead. We were not disappointed.

The first day, we went to Mycenae. We discovered quickly that it is in fact pronounced My-keen-ess, not My-sin-eh. When we pulled over the first few times in our bright cherry red Fiat, map in hand, and asked, “My-sin-eh?”, pointing in the general direction of the road which we thought was the right one, we got a few perplexed responses..then, “ah, yes, My-keen-ess?”… after a few wrong turns, we got it right, and we were on our way…

A little background: Mycenae contains the ruins of an ancient kingdom that was the most powerful in Greece between 1600-1200 B.C. At the entrance is the oldest monumental structure in Europe, the Lion’s Gate. (where T is pictured) There is much more history here than I will detail, but basically, the grounds include a Royal Cemetery, Agamemnon’s Palace, Artisan’s Quarters, a Secret Underground Cistern, and various Tombs. Also on the grounds is a museum that houses many of the treasures that have been excavated from the site.

The next day we jumped back into the Fiat Cherry and headed to the Ancient Site at Epidavros.

A little background: Epidavros was known as sanctuary to the God of Medicine, Asclepius. The Sanctuary provided treatments in the healing arts, including herbal medicines and diet instruction, along with the occasional surgery. There was also an entertainment venue, which is what the site is most well known for. The 3rd century Theater is one of the most well preserved classical Greek buildings and has amazing acoustics. Perhaps you have seen the “Rick Steve’s—off the beaten path” episode, in which he visits this ancient theater and demonstrates the dropping of a coin in the very center? Well, the acoustics are still so good, that you can hear the coin ‘tink’ up in the very top row of the theater.

Aside from our excursions and our many Greek Salads and yet more Baklava, we visited the clifftop fortress just behind our hotel..which was quite the workout…up, up, up many steps. What we discovered there was a gorgeous view of the town and the water, with the mountains..some covered with snow, beyond. The fortress itself was one of my favorite sites so far. What made it so beautiful for me, aside from the old remnants of the buildings and the stunning views, was the amount of Wildflowers, in bloom everywhere. It was so peaceful, and you could just hear the buzzing of the honey bees..

Today, we headed back to the craziness of Athens. We had intended to attack the town on our last day in Greece, but when we arrived, our taxi was unable to get us to our hotel. This is because Greece celebrates their Independence Day today and the whole Plaka area was roped off. So, we decided to hoof it…and, sans map, we ended up walking with our heavy packs for almost 2 hours before we found our hotel!! So, as you can imagine, we were already wiped out, and it was only 11am. So, instead of attacking, we settled into our hotel, had a nice snack and soon, I will head down to the Sauna and Pool for a nice dip…ahhhh.

Tomorrow, we head EARLY to Venice, so Ciao, for now….

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