About Me

My photo
I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mycenae and the Argolid

Travel Dates May 2003
I am one of those odd people who enjoys the little things about travel that others see as annoyances. I enjoy the trivial ordinary things - the first time on a large ferry with a car; watching the crew load the vehicles on the ship; finding the cabin, checking the plumbing, adjusting the cabin to meet our preferences; discovering what facilities there are for food, entertainment, etc etc. It's all part of the exploration. I can sit for hours watching strange coastlines slip past, and boats and ships on the water and wonder about the people on them, where they are going, the lives they lead. Which is a bit odd for a guy who is usually a hard-headed realist and skeptic.

Others find it tedious, and I suppose I would too if I did it every day - but it's all new to me. At times like that I'm like the kid in "The Wonder years". So I enjoyed the whole trip across the Adriatic, which was smooth as glass all night. Lorraine, much to her surprise, slept well and didn't even have a twinge of mal-de-mer. I woke early, looking out the porthole through the silvery pre-dawn as we stopped momentarily at Corfu.

We drove East from Patras with no bookings and no particular destination, just taking our time and getting used to the Greek way of doing things. The first new concept was that of a Tollway - with one lane each way and just a white line down the centre with no divide. At least, that was my first impression after we paid our fee and entered the system. However, it only took a couple of minutes, when two cars side-by-side came around the corner straight towards me that I realised the Greeks had different ideas. I worked out fairly quickly that the wide shoulder on the road was just wide enough, if you moved onto it, to let the car behind pass you safely at speed without it going more than a foot or two over the centre line against opposing traffic. The learning curve was considerably shortened with the help of those behind me and their horns. It tended to get interesting if this passing manoeuvre was happening simultaneously in both directions - but somehow, we never saw any actual collisions.

We wandered around Corinth in the car, but there seemed to be no interest in the ruins by the locals and no simple way to enter, so we decided to move on towards Mycenae.

The countryside was quite different after Italy's Adriatic coast - drier, less green, more hills, less trees. The countryside seemed so deserted after the press of population in Italy. It was mid-May and we rarely saw other cars on the road from Corinth to Mycenae.

We ate in a cafe in the village and reached the ruins just after lunchtime. Only one other couple were there, and they left soon. We were left alone in this ancient place. I felt privileged and incredibly fortunate. Later we found that we were also alone, or with very few others, at Argos and Epidaurus. If you don't like crowds visit the Argolid in May.

I spent several hours just wandering, or sitting and musing on the ruins of this ancient civilisation. This was the city of Agamemnon, the mythical home of Helen whose face launched a thousand ships and led to the siege of Troy.

Well, so Schliemann suggests, and despite his showmanship and his hubris - he was still the man who found Troy and re-discovered Mycenae. Whether it all happened as Homer wrote, it is still a city and civilisation which preceded Alexander by more than a millennium - Mycenae was as ancient to him as he was to Charlemagne and Charlemagne is to us.

The site itself is in a commanding position over the valley - you can see to the sea at Nafplios, and to the other major Mycenaean stronghold at Argos (Larissa) - they were literally lords of all they surveyed and much beyond from about the 20th century BC to the middle of the 12th century BC; then for uncertain reasons they simply disappeared as a civilisation, later replaced by the rise of the city-states.

The site was known but effectively unexplored until Schliemann arrived after his triumph at Troy - and rapid escape with his "loot".

The ruins not only show an advanced civilisation for an era when much of Europe lived in caves and mud huts - but also advanced engineering skills. The amazing Lion Gate is just one example. Another is the "Treasure of Atreus", a tholos or "beehive" tomb which still stands today, over 3000 years later; any treasure disappeared when it was plundered in the 2nd century AD when it was already a millennium old.

Late in the day we wandered into the village and started looking for somewhere to stay. The hotel seemed unduly expensive for it's quality so we cruised the main street looking for signs in windows. Then we came across the most relaxed cat I have ever seen; the garbage truck was in operation at the time - but he never moved a whisker while we were behind it.

Eventually we noticed a sign in a window with a lady sitting on the front porch. I approached her and tried out some incredibly tortured Greek from my phrasebook - and she answered in English with a touch of Australian! Thus we met Pam, a lovely lady from South Australia who was on her own odyssey in Greece. She introduced us to the hosts and we negotiated a price (€30 pn) for the next three nights in a spacious room with a comfortable bed, an ensuite and a balcony. Wonderful. We made friends with Pam, and two days later she accompanied us on our visit to Epidaurus.

The next day we wandered around the Argolid; first to Nafplios. The picture is a little unclear - there is a series of steps, mostly still covered, from the base of the hill right up to the castle.

I wasn't energetic enough for the climb, but there was a constant stream of people going up and down the steps. I took the photo while having a pleasant lunch in a cafe in the town.
On the way back we went up to Castle Larissa, overlooking Argos. The monastery in the picture is not far from the Castle. Again, the Castle was deserted apart from a couple of senior English hikers - not even a person collecting money.

The view was incredible in all directions. I found the brickwork a display of history - you could see the different masonry styles from successive invaders as the walls were broken and rebuilt - Mycenaean, Macedonian, Greek, Roman, Venetian to name just a few. What terrible battles those walls had survived over nearly four millennia.

We ate our evening meals in Mycenae village in local cafes; the food was excellent, but we did have difficulty adjusting to the tiny black flies that delighted in committing suicide in the wine jug. Mine host never really did understand my odd antipodean habit of covering the jug with a serviette; we got the impression that the locals considered it a protein bonus and drank the speckled wine quite happily.

Cheers, Alan


  1. hi I read your travel blog nice fotos and inspires me too to write one. keep it up I would love to read it.

  2. About nafplion and its castle:
    * It's named after nafplios, but the name of the town, etc. is nafplion.

    * You don't have to walk up the 760 steps to the castle; you can drive. It's a fun place, just like the castle of your youthful dreams - all angles and steps and places to wander.

    * a photo or two from my visit at http://buten.net/max/Crete/peloponnese/index_peloponnese.html

    - Max

  3. Thanks for the extra detail Max.