Our travels books unanimously gave the small town of Nafplion highest marks for a visit. Nafplion is on the northeast coast of the Peloponnese, a three-hour bus ride from Olympia. Nafplion is a beautiful town with three grand fortresses, it was the capital of Greece in the olden days, and it is near to a collection of ancient Greek ruins such as Mycenae, Tiryns, Epidaurus, and Corinth. We spent three nights here.
My favorite part was hiking around the fortresses in town and bussing out to the ruins to walk around them. Tiryns is the closest ruin to Nafplion so we took our first day-trip there. Evidently, these ruins are about 3500 years old, and ‘ruins’ is a very appropriate word to describe what we saw. It requires quite a bit of imagination to see the site today as a thriving Mycenaean town, occupied by the greatest Western civilization of the time. Supposedly, Tiryns was on friendly terms with the bigger city of Mycenae nearby which would have been a very good thing. For King Agamemnon, a name I still can’t say, ruled Mycenae and he was the great king of the all Mycenaean Greece when that Trojan crook kidnapped Helen. The audacity and lack of hospitality (the crook whose name was Paris was a guest of Helen’s husband Menelaus at the time of the kidnapping) really pissed off the Greeks so Agamemnon rallied troops from all over Greece to sail to Troy, get Helen back, and bust apart Troy to boot. My point is that Tiryns did pretty good 3500 years ago nearby a powerful protector.
The walls of Tiryns were built by stacking up HUGE rocks. It’s a marvel to imagine them working away at that! I haven’t seen rocks that size used to a fortifications outside of the Inca stuff in Peru. Legend has it that the giant Cyclops helped in the construction. I check around hard for footprints but couldn’t find any.
I suppose I overdid it a bit at Tiryns because once we got home the family voted to pass on the other cool ruins sites around here and head north to Athens. I was disappointed but I expect there’ll be some more cool old rock-things in Athens anyway…..
My current favorite Greek city is Nafplion.
Our first morning there we walked the cliffs above it over 800 hundred steps up to the Byzantine fortress of Palamadi. We saw amazing birds-eye views of the city and the surrounding gulf waters and plains. We could even see the prehistoric settlement of Tiryns across the plains of Argos. It is also known by our family after the next morning’s activity as “that pile of Cyclopean rocks” or “well walled” as put by Homer due to the over 30-foot high walls made of very large rocks surrounding it.
The Venetians spent 3 years building the huge Palamadi fortress above Nafplion only to have it overrun the next year by the Turks in 1715. Nafplion kept its strategic importance well into the 20th century and the Germans had gun placements there during World War II. The kids were fascinated by the spooky and dark jail cell that held the Greek War of Independence hero, Kolokotronis, for 20 months. Apparently, he was temporarily blind when released.
But enough of that educational, historical stuff, the reason Nafplion is my new favorite Greek city has little to do with that. What Nafplion has is the Venetian style architecture I love, which is very romantic and medieval looking with wrought iron balconies, red tiled roofs, and American southwest, sunset colored buildings. Like the Nafplion espresso served in the many picturesque cafes that line the seaside and crooked city streets alike, the city is very Italian in feel and taste – rich, complex, and delicious.
Hundreds of content cats roam the city freely. Many doorways had two or three stainless steel bowls sitting on their steps filled with cat food and scraps. The fat pigeons across from our window cooed and cuddled with serenity far above these well-fed cats.
Comfortable in our homey pension with soft covered beds, softer colored walls, and a sleeping loft for the kids, laughter filled our room as we played several evening games of hearts, gin, or “pass the trash” before heading out for a delicious Greek taverna dinner.
A minor downside was the loud noise at night, yet even that was delightful as it was of people talking and laughing as they strolled by our building on their way to and from the seaside bars. Waking up to a home cooked breakfast with freshly baked bread from the bakery next door was payment for a few lost winks. I could have stayed a little while longer before heading off to the bustling city of Athens.
Sharon & John are on 'vacation' and so are taking a day off writing in this journal.