As mentioned in our last post, we spent several days in the town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese. One of the side trips we took was to the ancient city of Epidavros.
KTEL runs a bus from the bus station in Nafplio to the Epidavros Theater which is the entrance to the ancient site. We tried really hard to confirm the existence of all buses to and from the site and were assured that all of the buses on the schedule would run as indicated. We had also heard that bus did not actually run all the way to entrance to the site in the winter off-season but that it would stop 1.5 km away at a tavern on the road. When we arrived at that tavern, we tried to get off, but the bus driver shooed us back on saying that he would take us all the way there. Upon arriving at the entrance to the site, we confirmed with the driver that a bus would return to that exact spot to pick us up at 3:45 pm. No problem, right?
The ancient theater is the main attraction at Epidavros. In fact, most guide books say that it is really the only reason to go there. And, it was magnificent, though we did enjoy the rest of the site as well. It is the best-preserved of all of Greece’s ancient theaters. To top that off, it is huge! And the acoustics are amazing. When you stand in the middle of the orchestra, you can hear how well your voice reverberates through the theater. Our guide book told us that you can drop a coin in the center of the orchestra, you can hear it even at the very top of the theater (which can seat around 15,000 people). We now know that is true!
While the theater is by far the main attraction at current day ancient Epidavros, the rest of the site was really more important in the past. The area was once a famous healing center. It started as a temple to Apollo, worshiped here even before the ancient Greeks, during the Mycenean times. Eventually, it became more of a site to worship Apollo’s son Asclepius (he was supposedly born at the site), the god of health. During its heyday it hosted full medical facilities.
We saw the ruins of what was probably an ancient hostel or hotel where patients stayed while they were getting treated. There was also the Temple to Asclepius where people prayed for his healing powers. Most interestingly, there was also the remains (partially reconstructed now) of the abaton, where patients would come to sleep, hoping to be visited in their dreams by the god Asclepius where he would tell them how to heal themselves. We debated on taking a nap there, but decided we didn’t have time!
The site also boasts many other ruins, ancient baths, a sanctuary to the Egyptian Gods of healing (demonstrating the connections in the ancient world), and a tholos (use unknown). There was even a stadium for the Festival of Asclepius which was the site of athletic competitions every 4 years (much like the sites of Delphi and Olympia).
As with most of the archaeological sites we have visited, there is a small museum. This one was only 3 rooms and didn’t have a ton of English signage, but it did house steles describing the healing practices in use at the site, miraculous cures due to Asclepius, ancient medical tools, and many statues which were taken from the temples of the site.
We had been really careful this time, confirming over and over again that there would be a bus to take us home at 3:45… We had been a little unprepared and hadn’t realized that the site closed at 3 pm. They actually ended up having to kick us out… oops. So we went back to the entrance to read and wait for the bus. We met a fellow traveler who had ridden on the bus with us that morning and chatted for awhile.
Of course, 3:45 came and went without any bus. We waited about 30 min and decided that we had been deceived by KTEL again. We were livid, and a little concerned because the site was closed and this time, there were no taxis to be found. We were just starting to try to formulate a plan, which probably would have involved walking several km back to the last town we had passed, when a car pulled up. We watched the two travelers get out and head up to the site. We didn’t really know what they were doing since the site was closed, but assumed that they did. Finally, Della decided to walk back into the site and hope that there was someone around to give us some information about how to maybe call for a taxi or where we might walk to get some transportation. She ran into the two travelers who were coming back from the entrance, disappointed that they had arrived too late to see the site. Della cut to the chase (she didn’t really feel like she had time to make friends first) and asked for a ride. Luckily, the couple was heading to Mycenae which would at least take them back in the direction of Nafplio. They took us almost all the way, dropping us off only 4 km from town. We were fortunate to have another lucky break with friendly fellow travelers… And we really want to know how we can get back at KTEL!!!!!!!!