Nafplio, Greece

Our final stop in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece was the town of Nafplio. We chose to visit here because it made a good base to visit Mycenae and Epidavros and because it is a pretty interesting and historic town in its own right.

Where We Stayed

Since we were staying for five nights, we wanted to stay someplace that would allow us to cook a few meals on our own. So, even though it was a little more expensive than we are used to staying, we booked a nice studio apartment through Airbnb. It was nice and spacious and was located not too far from the Old Town.

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

Taking advantage of having our own kitchen!

What We Did

Day Trip to Mycenae

Day Trip to Epidavros

Walking Tour of Old Town – As we said, Nafplio has quite a bit of interesting history. Our first day in town, we spent a few hours following the Rick Steves self-guided walking tour. This started out near the harbor, where we could admire the small fortress outside the harbor and also the large Palamidi Fortress looming above the town, both built by the Venetians during their occupation of the town.

The tour took us through the main square, called Syntagma Square. This square is interesting for the variety of different influences you can see as reflected in the buildings: the old Venetian arsenal,a bank that is decorated like a Minoan palace, Neoclassical buildings from Nafplio’s heyday as the first capital of Greece after independence from the Ottoman Empire, and former mosques from the Ottoman period itself.

The walk continued on through the pedestrian-only streets of the Old Town. We felt a bit like we were back in Croatia, since that was the last time that we had been in cities with that feature. But, we could definitely tell we were in Greece, since we passed a few different Greek Orthodox churches. The most interesting church that was passed was noteworthy because the first president of Greece (after its independence in 1828) was assassinated outside of it in 1831.

Climb Up Palamidi Fortress – We took an afternoon to visit the largest of Nafplio’s Venetian fortresses, which doesn’t have much in it but provides excellent views of the surrounding area. You can take a taxi up to the fortress at the top of the hill, but we decided to climb the steps. We didn’t start heading up until 2:00… and were disheartened when we saw a sign at the base that the fortress was closing at 3:00! We raced up the stairs and made it at about 2:30. The good news was that admission was free since it was the first Sunday of the month. We just had time to explore one of the seven bastions, but were quite impressed with the structure. (We think they should film Game of Thrones here!) We were kicked out at 3:00, but we found a piece of the walls that was outside the gates to sit on, and read our books while looking down over the Old Town.

Coastal Walk – Another simple activity we chose to do was to walk along the coast. This was broken up into two sections: first we left from Old Town and walked along the western edge of the peninsula to the pebbly Arvanitia Beach. From this beach, we then took a gravel path another few kilometers, going further southeast along the coast. We headed back into town as the sun set.

Where We Ate

We enjoyed cooking in our Airbnb so much that we ended up just cooking for ourselves every night! We made some interesting pasta and rice dishes. We also enjoyed appetizers of tzatziki and pita bread on multiple nights.

 

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Enjoying a nice meal in our apartment

Mycenae, Greece

Our final stop in our tour of the Peloponnese was the city of Nafplio. We spent multiple days here, so we’re going to break up our activities into multiple posts. The first activity we did was a day trip to the archaeological site of Mycenae. This site contains the palace and tombs of this culture that pre-dates what we normally think of being the “ancient Greeks” by more that 1000 years!

Getting There

Conveniently, KTEL runs a bus from Nafplio to the entrance to the archaeological site. Since we tend to spend quite a bit of time at sites, we caught the 10:00 bus to give ourselves plenty of time. The bus was on time and got us to the site by about 11:00. So far, no KTEL drama.

The Citadel

The citadel of Mycenae

The citadel of Mycenae

The highlight of the archaeological site is the palace of Mycenae built on top of a hill with views looking out over the valley. To enter the site, you go through the famous “Lion Gate,” named for the decoration above the entrance. This was also our first chance to get a close view at the massive blocks that made up the “Cyclopean” walls that surround the structure.

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate

Lion Gate Jelfie

Lion Gate Jelfie

Inside the gate, we found “Grave Circle A.” We were excited to see this because we had read about its excavation by Henry Schliemann in the book Greek Treasure. He believed that Mycenae was the home of the civilization that sacked the city of Troy during the Trojan War (using the Trojan Horse), and that this grave must have been the grave of King Agamemnon, the leader of the Myceneans described in Homer’s Iliad. Currently, the evidence seems to disagree with this being Agamemnon’s grave, but it does seem to indicate that this site is the home of a civilization that defeated Troy.

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

At the top of the acropolis, there aren’t many structures left, but we were able to see the outlines of the ancient palace, built in the structure of a traditional megaron. We were a little disappointed that we could only see this from a distance.

At the east end of the site, we saw an entrance that led to an underground well. We like caves, so we decided to explore. We did have a flashlight along, which came in handy as we descended the 77 steps down into pitch black darkness. It was actually Halloween, so we were a little nervous that we would encounter some scary creatures. But, we aren’t in a horror novel and we made it out safe and sound!

Sure, let's check this out. What could possibly go wrong?

Sure, let’s check this out. What could possibly go wrong?

Boo!

Boo!

Back on the surface, we walked through the ruins of a few more residential buildings and then headed out the North Gate.

The North Gate

The North Gate

The Museum

Like all of the other sites in Greece, Mycenae has an archaelogical museum at the site. The Myceneans didn’t leave behind any amazing sculptural relics like the ancient Greeks, so the museum was a little light on content. But, it did provide a nice glimpse into the culture of these people that pre-dated the ancient Greeks.

One of the figurines found in Mycenae

One of the figurines found in Mycenae

The Graves

Outside of the main walls, archaeologists have uncovered a number of large tombs, called tholos tombs. These tombs are also called beehive tombs based on their structure: they are built with large, domed interiors. Some of them have lost their tombs, but two of them are still intact, including the largest, which is called the Treasury of Atreus. The entrances to these tombs are also built using the giant boulders, so it is fascinating to imagine how they managed to put it all together. We were also very intrigued by the acoustics inside of the beehives themselves.

Getting Away

The KTEL timetable clearly stated that there was a bus at 1:00 and 3:00 leaving from the site. Since, as we mentioned, we like to take our time, we didn’t rush and aimed for the 3:00 bus. We were a little worried because a taxi driver at the entrance had implied that the 1:00 bus was the last bus, but the bus driver that dropped us off said there would be a 3:00 bus.

We were in position by about 2:30, and waited… and waited… Till about 4:00… There were a few other people waiting as well, and everyone was pretty frustrated. One group pitched in to get a cab, but there wasn’t room for us. We were stuck there with one other traveler, who turned out to be a fellow American. Luckily, he had a local friend who graciously offered to pick us up and take us back to Nafplio. We aren’t sure what we would have done if she hadn’t agreed to take us as well!

 

These cats were able to catch a bus at the site faster than we were,

These cats were able to catch a bus at the site faster than we were,