Published: October 15th 2008October 15th 2008
Saturday Oct 11
To be completely honest, after a very long week still attempting to recover from the mugging incident, I was not exactly looking forward to having to attend a mandatory school trip to the Argolid - part of the Peloponnese, the lower land mass of Greece. While I was certainly looking forward to finally seeing the ancient site of Mycenae and returning to Nafplion - the first capital city of Greece - I felt much more in need of simply having a day off, but thus is life I suppose.
Sadly switched from Bus E - on the Crete trip - to Bus B for the school trip to the Argolid (Peloponnese) , we left from school at 8:30 Saturday morning. Once again, I only vaguely knew a few people on my bus but was luckily able to room with two of them - Caitlin and Nora. Our first stop was just outside of Athens, at the ancient mystery sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis. While the scenery around us was quite beautiful in the early morning sun, the site itself was simply another conglomeration of aged marble and the occasional statue. After a quick walk around the museum, I made friends with some fellow Bus B-ers and set off in search of coffee. I met Jay from the University of Indiana, Dave and Katie, both from UPenn, and Bryan (cannot remember off the top of my head where he goes). Our next destination was a quick stop at the canal in Corinth, which was much more imposing than I had expected.
Around 1pm we arrived at the site of Ancient Mycenae. After a quick picnic lunch of cold pizza, a tuna fish sandwich, apple, chips and a chocolate bar provided by the CYA cafeteria…yum…we walked to the Treasury of Atreus. Not actually a treasury, but a tholos tomb, it was quite impressive. When we entered however, we found ourselves being scolded by a very cranky Italian tour guide, yelling “only the Gods speak in here you stupid Americans!” One of our professors, a professional archaeologist who had grown up working on the site with her parents, looked like she was about to kill the outspoken Italian - I don’t think anyone would have interfered.
We then toured the museum, for far too long. While we waited to finally see the citadel, we found ourselves thoroughly entertained by throwing Greek acorns at one another. Again, I’m going to sound like a huge dork, but finally being able to walk through the Lion Gate was certainly well worth the boredom. The view from on top of the citadel spanned across the entire Argolid plane. Amazing. We even got to climb down into an ancient cistern, guided by only one flash light and the flashes of our cameras - which ended up providing some interesting pictures afterwards.
We ended up staying at Mycenae for an extra hour than we were supposed to and, luckily, our professors decided to let us have the rest of the night free instead of taking us on the scheduled walking tour of Nafplion - where we would stay the next two nights. After discovering an open, municipal track just down the road from our hotel - why don’t they have these in Athens?!!? - met up for dinner with some friends around 8pm. Taking a professor’s recommendation, we sought out a specific tavern just off from the town square. The owners even let us go back in the kitchen to see what they had prepared for the evening. They had gigantes! Giant white beans cooked in a tomato-olive oil sauce, that I had been searching for at every taverna I have been to yet. Along with a Greek salad, I was quite content with my meal.
After lingering over dinner and numerous pitchers of house wine for 2+ hours we decided to explore the town. We ended up walking along a stone path that led out around the entrance of the harbor, the only light coming from the nearly full moon. I really wish my pictures had come out better because it was an absolutely beautiful night.
Sunday Oct. 12
Up at 7, breakfast at the hotel at 8 and out the door to make up our forgone city tour around 9am. After the tour, we went to the Monastery of Agia Moni. Located on a site previously held sacred to a virgin goddess and it is believed that one is able to regain their “innocence” simply by entering the monastery. So folks, apparently I have been renewed and was, however briefly, sin free. Haha.
After our regaining of innocence, we headed off to the sanctuary of Epidaurus, also believed to have healing powers. Having already been there on the trip in May, nothing had changed a whole lot and, sadly, this time we weren’t able to climb all over the ruins. A much needed lunch in the seaside town of modern Epidaurus followed.
Upon our return to Nafplion, we got to go into the Palamidi, a fortress built high up on a hill overlooking the city. Once again, breath taking views. After wandering around the fortress for quite a while, we found our way down the immense staircase leading back into town. In reward for schlepping around the Argolid all afternoon, Blythe, Aileen, Courtney and myself sought out the world famous, authentic Italian gelato place in town. As Blythe said, it was truly a religious experience. I had a blend of caramel and Ferero Roche - the special of the day - that I will not be soon forgetting.
That evening, returned again to the taverna from the night before. Still rather full from the gelato earlier, I ordered a vegetarian selection of horta - boiled greens - and briam - baked eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes. After wandering around the town a bit more, decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel around 11pm.
Monday Oct. 13
Our last day in the Peloponnese began with a visit to a nearby Temple of Hera. While the temple itself was, once again, reduced to only piles of moss covered rocks, the views of the Argolid plane were incredible. Situated at the top of a large hill, we were able to see Nafplion and the Aegean with mountains sprawling in the background.
A quick bus ride and we were at Tiryns, the other notable ancient Mycenaean site of the Peloponnese. While every other CYA bus group spent no more than half an hour at most wandering around the site, we had the luck of getting a guided tour by one of our professor’s German archaeologist friends…for TWO HOURS. I now know far more about ancient Tiryns than I ever cared to know. In order to entertain ourselves during the brutally long and absurdly detailed tour, we turn Jay into a flower princess, starting with simply a ring of flowers and eventually leading to a crown, necklace and wand. Wish I had brought my camera…
After Tiryns, we returned to Nafplion for lunch and one last round of Italian gelato before heading back to Athens. Although I had hardly looked forward to another weekend of being bused around Greece, I must say that the Argolid was a pleasant surprise. It is far more rural than any of the areas around Athens and the weather was almost fall like - both of which also worked to make me rather homesick for fall in Maine, but that’s beside the point. If I were ever to move to Greece, I think I would prefer to live in Nafplion. It seems to have much more of a relaxed, European flair than the sprawling hodgepodge that is Athens. Much more homey and navigable, and it was just really refreshing to be in the countryside for a while.