Nafplio’s old town is a warren of tiny streets and walkways that google doesn’t realise are walking paths! Nafplio is the first capital of independent Greece.
We just happened to find amazing gelato served by an over enthusiastic Italian character at Antica gelato. Then had a stroll through the tiny medieval streets overflowing with trinket shops and bougainvillea. Beautiful.
We spent several peaceful hours at a cafe I painted the island fort while Greg read. Aperol spritz all round!
Got up early to do my taekwondo exercises in the park. After this I grabbed a coffee - the greek ice coffee is also known as a Cafe Freddo and its everywhere! My cup this morning had a particularly philosophical phrase written on it
"Maybe it's knowledge entering life"
I have no idea what to make of that! It's way too deep for me to understand in the early morning!
We went to see Tiryns a hill fort of pre Bronze age peoples, that reached its height during the Mycenaean ages as an important centre. Huge blocks of stone fortified the walls, which led to Pausanias and others such as Homer to remark that it must have been built by Cyclopes because only superhuman strength could have lifted the enormous stones.
All thats left are bases and some walls, however its strategic position allowed communication with various other nearby Mycenaean cities.
The main city being nearby Mycenae itself which we then visited.
The famous Lion Gate was just amazing in real life - I remember studying this in art history when I was around 14 years old! My homework was to draw the gate and I vividly remember spending most of one evening doing this. To stand in front of it years later was so awe-ing!
Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilisation during the years 1600 BCE to 1100BCE. This was a thousand years before the Golden Age of Ancient Greeks and they visited the site many years later believing these were their mythical ancestors - the heroes of the Trojan War as related in Homer’s Odyssey and the Iliad.
Not much is known about the Mycenaeans, They originated from a civilisation in Asia Minor that were quite military minded, and gradually developed an empire of city states across Greece. They traded with the Minoans and borrowed elements of religion and the arts.
They launched an attack on Troy a rich city in Asia Minor (now Turkey) and after a long siege as Homer writes - Troy fell. Making the Mycenaeans rulers of the Agean seas. However suddenly mysteriously they disappeared as they came leaving only crumbling ruins of their once enormous empire.
We explored the precarious hilltop with ruins of houses, palaces and workshops. There was an ancient well we visited which would give them access to fresh water in times of siege, plus a back door in case they were attacked. It seems they thought of everything.
Further down the hill there was an enormous burial chamber built into the hillside.
What a jaw dropping site.
That evening we walked all the way around the cliff at Nafplio, chatting and seeing the most amazing blue waters. It was such a lovely evening to end our stay here.
Drove to the little hillside town of Mystras to explore the ancient site. Mystras the ancient Byzantine city 1262-1400 which became the spiritual and artistic centre of Byzantine culture. Home to artists, churches, monastery’s and philosophers it's hard to believe this steep hillside city once teamed with life. The remains of the huge city walls would have sheltered the citizens from attack but also blocked the magnificent views across the land towards Sparta.
Tiny cobbled streets lead up the side of the mountain. Starting at the bottom was a mistake! The streets were around 2 metres wide and would’ve been covered walkways, lined with vendors and people. The Byzantines were nothing if not organised - as each street had its own clean up crew to maintain the roads and keep them clean. For water most upper class families had cisterns in their houses, and there were public ones for the poorer folk.
The best way to get by in this town was to have enough money to build a monastery and donate it to the city. The upkeep and building would buy you influence with the Despot at the Palace of Mystras.
Halfway up the hillside we found the only functioning building - a nunnery with 6 Sisters who live there full time. They tend the church attached (original Byzantine) and apparently sell tablecloths - although we failed to find any. The approach to their cells had beautiful flowers and little stray cats begging for scraps.
We finally finished the exhausting site (seeing almost everything except the Crusader castle on the very tip top of the mountain!). Went back to our place for dinner and a rest. After dinner we felt like walking some more and enjoying the cool night air.
We wandered beyond the one street town into what we could only assume was another town and just as we decided to turn back thinking it was the end of the road, I heard the sound of rushing water. A lot of water. So I suggested we investigate. Just around the bend……and a bricked path suddenly appeared.
We followed down some steps and suddenly found ourselves in a large courtyard full of tables laid out for dinner but no one around.
It was spooky and deserted. The running water was gushing out of many fountains and running through an old waterway in the ground. As we drew near to a lighted restaurant a man appeared in the doorway beckoning us inside and offering drinks on the house.
I felt so sorry for him as there were no customers and it seemed completely deserted. He quickly got his boys to get us some drinks and a bit of food. We sat out on one of the tables enjoying the cool night and slightly creepy empty tables and chairs....
After we’d finished he wouldn’t take any payment. Just thanked us for stopping by, stories of faeries and mythical spirits crossed my mind.
As we left we both had the strangest sensation that if we came back tomorrow it would be an abandoned building and dusty remains of tables and chairs……