Don’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.
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.
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.
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.
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, to venture out and see some remnants of Nafplio’s past.
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.
Inside 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.
Delightful Nafplio! Small town, great heart. A truly charming place nestled between a couple of hills and the sea.
Nafplio 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.
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.
There are about half a dozen bridges spanning the Isthmus of Corinth. This is one of the two which can be submersed to let ships pass.
The views to both west and east are spectacular. We were very glad to have had an hour to wait for a connecting bus service at the Isthmus bus station, so there was some time to revel in the scenery and history of the place.
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:
You 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.
First stop was at the theatre of Olympia. Fab acoustics and great views.
Lunch 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. Unfortunately, I don’t know its proper Greek name.
But due to a holiday-bus-schedule, we only had about an hour instead of the hoped-for half a day. Anyway, the traditional Greek coffee in the place near the bus stop was great and the bus driver extremely helpful in pointing out that he’d be back in no time to whisk us away again …
As we usually do, we kept an eye open for the local wildlife during our time on the Peloponnese. I was surprised and happy to see significant numbers of corvids and raptors, but never had the right lens ready when there was one around. So here is a wee wagtail on the apartment roof.
For the first time, I’ve been to Greece. It was, for the most part, absolutely brilliant! To get the not so brilliant parts out of the way right here: people on strike at archaeological sites, people smoking everywhere (the ubiquitous non-smoking signs making for useless decoration), people complaining about having to pay taxes.
The first and last night we spent in Athens. More on that later.
The remainder of our holiday we stayed on the Peloponnese. The first half we were based close to Kyparissia, in a place called Terpsi Apartements. The views were amazing:
Our apartment also had a kitchen and all necessary equipment. Which was good, because over the Christmas days everything was closed, so we had to do a bit of self-catering. The hosts were really helpful, and we also got some home-made cookies and cake, yummy! I can really recommend the place. It would be ideal, however, for someone with their own transport. You can get bikes on site for free.