Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our Greek Odyssey 2: Nafplio, Epidaurus,Tiryns, Mycenae

This post concerns the second phase of our recent trip to Greece. Anyone who missed the bit on Athens can find it here.

We picked the lovely seaside town of Nafplio both for its undeniable charm and for its proximity to two of the archaeological sites we most wanted to see: Epidaurus and Mycenae.

We chose the Hotel Byron, and we were not disappointed. It did require a bit of climbing, though, which we were unaware of when we trundled our luggage from the station and walked till we spotted its welcoming sign:

Around the corner from the welcoming sign was the way in (or perhaps I should say the way up):

Factor in another three flights of stairs inside to reach our room, and I think it's fair to say that we walked off the amazing homemade marmalade we ate each morning. Tim suggested that they needed a funicular, and he was heard to quote Douglas Adams from time to time concerning "the advantages 'up' has to offer." But then, he was the one schlepping the bags.

Just across from us was the church of Saint Spyridon, on the steps of which, in 1831, Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first head of state of the then newly liberated Greece, was assassinated:

Murder of Ioannis Kapodistrias, by Charalambos Pachis

A few pictures to give you an idea of Nafplio's appeal:

We rented a car to go to Epidaurus when we learned that the bus schedules were not going to allow us enough time to see it properly. Both of us had wanted to see the ancient theatre there, with its famous acoustics, and it was worth braving Greek traffic and roadsigns to get there. A person standing in the center of the stage can drop a small object and its impact will be heard throughout the theatre.

Tiryns was another archaological site we wanted to see. Called "mighty walled Tiryns" by Homer, it was said by some to be the birthplace of Heracles. Even today the huge stones of Tiryns are impressive:

And finally we made it to Mycenae, home to the great king Agamemnon of Homeric fame. It was the source of this famous mask, called the Mask of Agamemnon (though it actually is several centuries too early to be him):

If I had been Agamemnon and I had a palace with the breathtaking view he had in Mycenae, I would have left Troy to its own devices and spent my days sitting on the patio drinking ouzo. Well, okay, maybe not ouzo. But drinking in the view, definitely.

I was excited to see the famous Lions Gate at Mycenae (see picture at top, also detail below).

Very nearby, we were able to see the extraordinary tholos tomb variously known as the Treasure of Atreus or the Tomb of Agamemnon.

Inside the tholos tomb the acoustics are downright alarming. If someone speaks, a listener may well hear the sound from another place altogether. At one point I would swear I heard someone laughing demonically just behind me, but when I turned to see who was there, there was nobody at all. It was actually pretty creepy. I left with alacrity.

Here's the entrance to that tomb:

I loved Mycenae. I flirted briefly with the idea of writing about it, but then my better judgment prevailed, and I decided to leave it to the experts. (All I came up with was a limerick, and I'll spare you that.) One of those experts, my friend Judith Starkston, has written a very fine book, Hand of Fire, about the life of Briseis, a character mentioned only briefly in Homer's Iliad. Agamemnon plays a major part in her tale.

Next time, we'll be in Zorba country - Crete! Join me then for more pictures, to meet the kitty who photobombed Malia, and to find out why we named our GPS after the prophetess Cassandra.

Pictures of the mask of Agamemnon and of the murder of Kapodistrias are in the public domain; other pictures are our own.

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