22 June 2013
We arrived early this morning at the port of Nafplio. Nafplio was the first capital of independent Greece in 1828, after the Greek war of independence (from the Ottomans), until the capital was moved to Athens in 1834. In the past it changed hands between the Ottomans and Venetians with regularity. It retains a genteel charm that is quite delightful.
Our main reason for stopping in Nafplio was because of its proximity to the major archaeological sights of Mycenae and Epidauros. There was an included tour to Mycenae in the morning, which we took, and an optional tour to Epidauros in the afternoon, which we had chosen not to book. Our promotion to the red group has meant we are always the first group to leave, but that has involved some rather early starts! Today we had to be assembled by 8am – I thought this was meant to be a holiday! We had anchored in the bay, and so tendered to the shore. The tender boats are the lifeboats, and though it was fine for a short trip to the shore, the thought of having to use one for their intended purpose was not pleasant – cramped and uncomfortable with narrow hard seats.
Once on dry land we piled onto our buses and headed for the hills. Mycenae was the capital of the Mycenaeans, who won the Trojan War, and were a major civilisation from the 15th to the 11th centuries BC. The ruins are the remains of the Mycenaean acropolis, dominated by the famous lion gate which is so striking. There are a number of royal graves, and some impressive gold masks and other items were uncovered there. Hopefully we will see those tomorrow, in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. There are the remains of the palace, houses, grain stores and an impressive cistern to bring water to the acropolis. There is also a large beehive shaped tomb (called the Treasure of Atreus) which is a remarkable structure. We were all struck by the antiquity of the place, and impressed with the technological achievements of these ancient people. There is a small museum on the site which we raced through to make sure we didn’t miss the bus back to town!
We are having a bit of a heat wave, with temperatures well above average in the mid-30s. It is hot work traipsing over ruins, especially when they are on the top of a hill! We returned to the ship for lunch and a bit of a rest, and Dad decided he had done enough sight-seeing for one day. I opted to tender back to shore and spent several hours strolling around the town of Nafplio. I had a Rick Steves self-guided walk to follow, and thoroughly enjoyed my wander. It is such a pretty town, and was blissfully free of the tourist hordes. In fact you are hard pressed to find any people in my photos! The streets in the old town are narrow and traffic free, and lined with interesting shops and cafes. There are the usual tourist shops, but also a number of small galleries and other classier shops. The town is wedged between the sea and the imposing Palamidi Fortress, built by the Venetians in 1711 to protect the harbour (one of 3 fortresses, but definitely the most impressive. I declined the offer of climbing the 1000 steps to reach the fortress, and instead enjoyed the view from below. The Bourtzi Fortress (15th century) lies on a small island in the bay. I felt very protected!
As part of my tour I visited the small archaeological museum. There were a number of interesting items, mostly 2,500-3,500 years old, including clay figurines, gold jewellery that could have been made yesterday, an impressive collection of intact Greek glass, pottery and bronze. My favourite item was an intact bronze suit of armour from the end of the 15th century BC. It is thought to be the oldest armour in Europe. I just stood in front of it thinking that someone wore that suit 3,500 years ago! Spooky!
This evening we had our disembarkation briefing. The trip is ending all too soon! It must be a logistical nightmare to organise everyone to get off, with their correct luggage, and transferred to the correct onward flights, even on a small ship like this one. As our flight is not till 4pm, we get to stay on board the longest (though we have to vacate the cabin at 8.30am!!) But first we have a full day in Athens to enjoy!
PS Apparently all of the above spellings of Nauplio are used. I assume there’s a ‘correct’ Greek spelling!