Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peloponnese Peninsula Tour: Ancient Corinth, Canal, Mycenae, Nafplion, The Theater of Epidaurus

We had prebooked this tour with Paul and his son, Nicky, picked us up right on the dot at 8 a.m. Not having a good feeling for the history or sights of the Peninsula, I left the choice of itinerary up to Paul. We had a very full day and saw some great sites.

Our first stop was the Corinthian Canal. I have to admit it was much narrower than I expected and it is obvious that the majority of today's commercial vessels no longer use it. The walls are tall and steep and photo ops are easy from two bridges that cross it.

Onto Ancient Corinth. No admittance fees to any of the archeological sites this day as it was a national holiday. Nicky loaned us his book with the map of the site but it really wasn't necessary as there was good signage. We strolled the small museum and the larger ruins. While our weather was a bit damp, it was nice to walk around ruins without the mob of people we had at the Acropolis the day before and no scaffolding.

We learned that every city had an acropolis but it was only in Athens that it was actually called the Acropolis. In Corinth, it was the Acrocorinth and we could see the temples from the ruins of the city. It is possible to visit the Acrocorinth after a very long and steep hike. Definitely not for us.

Our drive took us past vineyards and olive groves. Our next stop was Mycenae. It was at this place that people began to realize that there was fact behind some of the Greek legends. The palace of Agamemnon was unearthed here. The walls surrounding the palace were called the Cyclops Walls because the blocks of stone were so huge, legend had it that only a cyclops could lift them.

We hiked up steep walks and stairways to the top. It was extremely windy and we were glad the rain held off. From the top we had views of the beautiful countryside.

And it was also here that we found an olive tree that had ripe olives within reach. We had been warned by a friend how awful green olives, right off the tree, taste. We wondered if ripe olives would be the same. We each took a small bite. Yup...the same. Our advice? Wait until the olives are cured before eating them.

Onto Nafplio for lunch. We had a choice of a seafood restaurant or gyros. We went for the gyros. Small cafe on the main street with gyros made the way the Greeks make them: meat, tomatoes, tzidiki sauce and french fries all rolled in a homemade pita. (Yes, french fries!)

The highlight of our day was the Theater at Epidaurus. It was built in the 4th century B.C. and it is wonderfully preserved with excellent acoustics. Plays are still held here with no microphones or any kind of sound assistance. First I climbed about half way up and DH stood in the middle of the stage and spoke. Then we traded places. Took a bit to realize we did have to project our voices but once we did, we each found it easy to hear what the other was saying from center stage.

We spent quite a bit of time here, watching others having fun doing the same thing. One tourist recited poetry. It was incredible knowing that I was sitting in seats that people had sat on over 2300 years ago. With no crowds, no scaffolding except for some lights, and mostly original seats, it was a wonderful end to our day.

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