Dinosaur of the week: Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian collared doveDon’t worry, this Streptopelia decaocto was not behind bars, but happily settled in the middle of Athen’s agora. The fence served to keep Homo sapiens out of the area.

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At Mycenae

On a rather cold and windy day in late December, we took the bus to Mycenae. In spite of the uninviting weather, it was a great trip. Nobody was on strike and only a few dozen tourists were around, which in the vastness of the site didn’t matter much. The first construct we admired was the tholos tomb ‘Treasury of Atreus‘ which is not the burial site of Atreus (or Agamemnon). The beehive-formed roof was most fascinating.

treasury of Atreusroof treasuryThis tomb is a few hundred meters away from the citadel, so we had a good view of the actual hill with the acropolis’s ruins on top.

hill with citadelThe most famous bit of the citadel of Mycenae is probably the lion gate with two headless lions. At least it provided lots of people with the more exciting part of their selfies.

lion gate For me, the remaining structures of buildings inside the citadel were actually more interesting than the gate.

citadel MyceneEven back then people had built secret passage ways!

subterranean path I was most intrigued, however, by some pieces in the on-site museum. Pottery with octopusses was a novelty for me. And the second piece, which looked to me like a seal, is probably a dove!vase octopus bird seal

Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus

The Peloponnese is covered in spectacular archeaological sites, five of which are a UNESCO world heritage site at the time of writing. We visited the sanctuary of Asclepius on a perfect winter day, meaning splendid weather and almost no other tourists. Judging by the size of the parking lot this is very different during the summer.

The most famous part of the site is the huge theatre. The acoustics are spectacular. I took a seat on one of the top rows and could not only hear people ‘on stage’ talking, rustling paper and dropping coins, but also hear the grains of sand moving under their feet.

Theatre Epidaurustheatre Epidaurus1

Walking around the vast area of the sanctuary was great fun. The ruins are well-described, so one gets a really good idea what the place might have looked like in its heyday. Even now, without any info, I thought it quite amazing.

Asclepeion2The on-site museum was smaller than expected, but well-organised and labelled. Many pieces found at the site can be seen in Athens – that’s another trip.

museum AsclepeionAlso the location of Epidaurus, the village Ligurio (and, confusingly, neither Palaia nor Nea Epidaurus), is beautiful. Small hills and olive groves, no big roads, just ideal for a sanctuary.asclepeion1

The Three Fortresses of Nafplio

Nafplio’s turbulent history provides the interested tourist with at least a day’s worth of excursion. At some point, it was capital of Greece, the Venetians and Ottomans ruled from here, and even during classical times it was already an important port and stronghold. Reason enough for us,palamidi fortress to venture out and see some remnanpalamidi3ts of Nafplio’s past.

 

 

 

 

A must-see and, at the same time, can’t-be-avoided is Palamidi Fortress which looms large on a hill over the town. Depending on the sun, it either glows or looks somewhat forbiddingpalamidi4. palamidi2

 

 

 

 

The number of stairs which lead up to the fortress varies according to source, but it took me about half an hour of leisurely walking and taking pictures along the way.

the stairs up to palamidiInside the fortress, there are eight smaller castles in different states of decay. The cold weather that day gave a good impression of how awful it must have been when some of those castle were used as prisons.

in palamidi2 in palamidi in palamidi 3Views, however, were breathtaking. This is the newer part of Nafplio.

nafplio new townOne can also see the second fortress, Acronauplio, and the third, called Bourtzi. The latter one is located on an island, and closed during the winter.

acronafplio and burtzinafplio and burtziAcronauplio still features a lion of St Marcus from the times of Venetian rule. Otherwise, it’s home to a lovely forest of prickly pears.acronafplio lionacronaflpio

Nafplio

Delightful Nafplio! Small town, great heart. A truly charming place nestled between a couple of hills and the sea.

NafplioNafplio makes for an ideal base to explore the eastern part of the Peloponnese. We stayed there for several days, in the lovely Atheaton pension. Fabulous host who is a fountain of information and serves a delicious mastikha.

We were lucky to be there off-season. The way shops tried to create and hold people’s attention screams of herds of tourists during the summer. It reaches from the philosophical to the ludicrous.

philosopy in Nafplio shop in Nafplio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The architecture is a quirky mix and mirrors the town’s turbulent history. I’ll post more on that at another time. Here are just some examples of what it looks like in the Old Town.

in Nafplio 3in Nafplio in Nafplio 2 grafiti in NafplioThe urban wildlife consisted mainly of cats. In the harbour waters, however, we noticed sea urchins who covered themselves with pebbles. Extravagant fashion!sea urchins

Surprises

Venturing on a bus through the Greek countryside is a rather pleasant enterprise. At this point, you will already have been able to decipher the schedule:

bus scheduleYou can also be sure, at least in winter, that any connecting services are in no way related to the one you’re on. All in all, very comfy nonetheless, lean back and enjoy the beautiful scenery passing by. At arrival, somebody will surely direct you to wherever you need to be, if necessary, by shouting GO GO GO at you, and then you jump on the next bus waiting in some obscure sidelane.

This is how we arrived at Olympia. All was indeed very well until … ‘No open today. We strike.’

Bloody hell! So this is what the fence of Olympia looks like, and then we move on to the much nicer events of that day.

fenced in olympiaShowing my enormous disappointment by turning on the waterworks, a Swiss uncle and his niece, Herbi and Sandra, took pity on me/us and offered a lift. And what a ride we got!

First stop was at the theatre of Olympia. Fab acoustics and great views.

teatro olympiaThen we took to the country roads. The next stop was at a sulphur spring, where we saw snakes, fish and turtles.

turtleLunch was had near a dilapidated railway station. The trains stopped several years ago, which I find a shame. The food, however, was excellent, including the home-made grape schnaps.railway station Unfortunately, I don’t know its proper Greek name.

Near Kyparissia, we had another little excursion into an old, but still working water mill. old millbaking equipment

The grounds also included a lovely garden with apiary equipment, fruit trees and a little creek running through. Thanks again to our two Swiss rescuers who made that a wonderful day!oranges