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Friday 7 June: the first big expedition, to the Northern Peloponnese to look at the great theatre at Epidaurus and Mycenae, home of Agamemnon of Iliad fame. Initially the drive was easy as we zoomed north 120kms / 75 miles up the brand new motorway from Kalamata to the turn-off for Epidaurus. The motorway had slightly more traffic than on our previous experience, coming back from Sparti, but it was still quite normal to see for 1 or 2 miles ahead completely traffic free: easy driving. From the motorway exit to Epidaurus was only 58 kms / 36 miles but it seemed to take as long as the drive up the motorway as our route took us through the towns of Argos and then Nafpoli; both of which I hoped we'd avoid and even though I was using a Garmin satnav AND Google Maps on the "smartphone"
Theatre at Epidaurus
Built in 330-320 BC and enlarged around AD150. Holds up to 14,000 people and has wonderful acoustics.
with the fastest route selected. I should trust my basic map reading skills more.
We arrived at Epidaurus in the mid afternoon when it was still hot (33C / 90F) but fortunately the site was quite well shaded so it wasn't too bad. The theatre is really the only thing worth seeing but it is worth it. The best preserved and largest of all ancient Greek theatres; and it still puts on performances of Greek classics throughout the summer months as well as more modern performances. It's claimed that the acoustics are so perfect that people sitting in the back row of the upper tier can hear a whisper coming from the centre of the orchestra, just in front of the stage. Not true. We were sitting on the top row, 55 rows back and more or less centre stage, and while I could hear people in the orchestra speaking I could not make out their words. To be fair, if they had raised their voices a just little I would have heard them clearly. There's a central spot in the orchestra where if one stands there and speaks in a normal voice there is a noticeable feedback/echo from
all sides. The rest of the archaeological site is pretty much what one would expect, lots of foundation stones showing where the walls used to be, but no interpretive signs to give an idea of what it used to look like, so we didn't spend too much time looking around.
Feeling rather tired after all the driving and sight seeing we headed to a taverna just outside the site for a late lunch and drink. Then on to our hotel for the night, the Perivoli Hotel in the hills a few kms from the town of Nafplio that we'd inadvertently passed through earlier. There didn't appear any obvious reason why the hotel should be located where it was: on a low hillside 2/3 kms from the main road, and on its own outside a small village. Anyway it was very nice: modern, spotlessly clean and comfortable with attentive staff and good food.
Saturday 8th June: we had three items on the day's agenda: 1/ look around Nafpoli which has an interesting history. 2/ visit Mycenae, one of the great archaeological sites, and 3/ get back to Kalamata before dark. Nafpoli first, and quite interesting as the old part
The VIP audience up in Row 35
Possibly not too impressed with the show so far. Is that the dreaded thumbs down?
of town with its narrow streets and Ottoman era buildings has been pedestrianised and gentrified which made for pleasant walking around. Although there are two imposing castles overlooking the town the temperature was too high (35C / 95F) to contemplate walking up, or even driving up to look around them. Instead we visited the Archaeological Museum in the main square of the old town which was interesting and informative as there has been human settlement in the local area continuously for over 30,000 years.After a reviving drink in a nearby cafe we headed for Mycenae just 24 km / 15 miles along the road leading back to the motorway. It was after 3pm by the time we arrived at the village of Mykines just outside the site so we stopped there for a late lunch and then headed up to the site. From a distance it's not that impressive just a jumble of stones on a hill, and overlooked by much higher hills on two sides. The entrance more than makes up for any initial disappointment: the justly famous lion gate is very imposing, made of just three massive slabs of stone with the two lions set in a triangular
Out in the sticks near Nafplio but spotlessly clean, comfortable and efficient
stone above the giant lintel stone. The rest of the hilltop citadel had some interesting features but nothing to compare with the gateway. We visited the on site museum afterwards to look at the replicas of Agamemnon's treasures discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876; along with many other exhibits which rather paled compared to the Schleimann discovery despite being archaeologically more interesting. There was one final thing to look at before we left which was the Treasury of Atreus just below the main site. Another jaw dropper. This wasn't a treasury and it had nothing to do to Atreus. It's the tomb of a Mycenaean king and is the largest and best preserved tomb of it's type. The whole of the fabulous Maeshowe burial chamber in Orkney would probably fit inside the inner chamber of this tomb, and this one is older than Maeshowe. Interestingly the builders of both chambers used exactly the method, corbeling the stones to create the dome shape. Those ancients certainly knew how to build big and to build to last. Then it was back to the car and a further struggle with the satnav directions before we got back to the motorway; then it was
Nafplio main square
The museum is in the background
just over an hour back to our hotel in Kalamata
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