05.07.2015 - 06.07.2015 36 °C
Naflpio (my base for two nights) is a bit of a retreat for those Athenians who have money - and despite all reports, from what I have seen, there are plenty of them.
It's in a great position, the harbour front is pleasant and there are some lovely old, cobbled streets with well maintained 19th century buildings.
My hotel (Amalia Nafplio)) is out of town but I wanted a bit of space, comfort and a pool. It ticks all of the boxes and the staff (becoming a recurring theme) could not be more helpful and friendly.
5 July up early to drive to Epidaurus. I have decided where possible to visit all of these archeological sites early in the morning. Firstly to avoid coach loads of tourists but also to avoid the hottest parts of the day (reserved for swimming, lazing, etc).
Main reason for visiting Epidauris is the stunning ancient theatre , built around 330–320 BC. This is still used today for the annual Athens Festival productions on summer evenings.
The theatre is just one component of what was one of the most important sanctuaries in the ancient world, dedicated to Asclepios (god of healing) and a site of pilgrimage for half a millennium, from the sixth century BC into Roman times. In addition to its medical activities, the sanctuary hosted a quadrennial festival, which followed the Isthmian Games.
However, Epidaurus’s ancient theatre is the primary sight. With its backdrop of rolling hills, this 14,000-seat semicircle merges perfectly into the landscape, so well, in fact, that it was rediscovered and unearthed only in the nineteenth century.
It was apparently constructed with mathematical precision and, as guides on the stage were constantly demonstrating, near-perfect natural acoustics –such that you can hear coins, or even matches, dropped in the circular orchestra from the highest of the 54 tiers of seats.
Next door to the theatre is the Asclepian Sanctuary which is as large a site as Olympia or Delphi and interesting as the ruins are all of buildings with identifiable functions: hospitals for the sick, dwellings for the priest-physicians, and hotels and amusements for the fashionable visitors to the spa.
I really enjoyed this visit. It's an incredible structure in the most perfect position and great that it's still used today
As I left the site, it was clear that the timing of my visit was spot on. The car park was now filling with coaches and they were starting to queue down the road. The Chinese really are getting out and about now they have a bit of cash.
6 July off to Mycenae today.
Agamemnons citadel Mycenae is tucked away in the hills. It was discovered in 1874 by a German archeologist (Heinrich Schliemann) driven by his single-minded belief that there was a factual basis to Homer’s epics.
Schliemann’s finds of brilliantly crafted gold and sophisticated tomb architecture bore out the accuracy of Homer’s epithets of “well-built Mycenae, rich in gold”. I have to say that with the accompaniment of the sound of bells drifting down from goats grazing on the hillsides, strolling round the ramparts is evocative of earlier times (until you are attacked by a swarm of selfie sticks).
In the museum there is an account of the Mycenaean Murders which seems to have a bit of everything - quite juicy.
According to legend, the city of Mycenae was founded by Perseus, the slayer of Medusa the Gorgon, before it fell into the bloodied hands of the House of Atreus. Atreus , in an act of vengeance for his wife’s seduction by his brother Thyestes, murdered Thyestes’ sons, and fed them to their father. Not surprisingly, this incurred the wrath of the gods: Thyestes’ daughter, Pelopia, subsequently bore her father a son, Aegisthus, who later murdered Atreus and restored Thyestes to the throne. The next generation saw the gods’ curse fall upon Atreus’ son Agamemnon
On his return to Mycenae after commanding the Greek forces in the Trojan War –a role in which he had earlier consented to the sacrifice of his own daughter, Iphigeneia –he was killed in his bath by his wife Klytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, who had also killed his father. The tragic cycle was completed by Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, who, egged on by his sister Elektra, took revenge by murdering his mother, Klytemnestra, and was pursued by the Furies until Athena finally lifted the curse on the dynasty.
Some story eh?
The Citadel of Mycenae is entered through the famous Lion Gate , whose huge sloping gateposts bolster walls dubbed “ Cyclopean ” by later Greeks, as they were deemed the only beings deemed capable of their construction. Above them, a graceful carved relief stands out in confident assertion: at its height, Mycenae led a confederation of Argolid towns (Tiryns, Árgos, Assine, Hermione –present-day Ermióni), dominated the Peloponnese and exerted influence throughout the Aegean.
Inside the citadel there are clearly discernible ruins of the royal palace. The royal tombs (tholos in Greek - meaning dome) were incredibly well preserved.
My visit here was not as enjoyable as I hoped as I got there a bit later than planned and the coaches had already started to arrive . It's impossible to focus on what you are looking at and reading about when hundreds of tourists are just snapping away and taking selfies to prove they have been there - box ticking.