For most of last year Elsie and I joked about going to Greece for research. It remained a joke until she mentioned it to her professor who got agreed it would lend her thesis credence. So to Greece we went.
This wasn’t going to be a the long sojourn of the year previous where we hopped from country to country and city to city. No. We spent nearly three weeks going around the Peloponnese, to villages, castles, resorts, and archaeological sites.
Elsie had decided the towns she wanted to go to and I planned how to get there. This sounds easy, but may have been some of the most difficult planning I have ever had to do. Unfortunately. the Greek government has ended train service on the Peloponnese; unfortunately, there are no online bus schedules; unfortunately, Greek bus stops and stations don’t appear on google maps (or any other map); unfortunately, Greek bus lines charge extortionate fees to call and don’t speak English. Fortunately, I am stubborn. With no little stress I managed to plan transit between small towns in Greece.
And with barely a week before we flew out I decided to learn Greek. I hate being illiterate, in the Germanic and Dutch countries I can muddle through because of the similarities with English, in Italy I got through with the similarities to French and English. But in Czechia and Turkey I was lost, it sucked. So I picked up some Greek. Learned their alphabet, the phonetics, and some sentence structure. I can stress enough how useful this was, it helped with travel, finding places, and general comfort.
Athens, oh what to say about Athens, it was hot (47 degrees), grimy, and busy. The largest city in Greece, but a city that no one admits to being from. (Eva explained to me that many Athenians identify more with the village their parents were from than Athens, a result of massive urbanisation). Despite this we actually enjoyed the city. The only time we felt we were in a tourist trap was when we were at the Parthenon, apparently the only site people go to in Athens. While most people seem to focus on the Parthenon the city has many other attractions, many ruins to explore, and fantastic museums (Benaki, archaeological, Byzantine, and the Parthenon museum). My personal favorite was the Byzantine-Christian museum, it gave a truer image of modern Greek national identity than any previous site, plus… it has air conditioning. Oh and we met up with Elsie’s professors and children, they showed us around the city and took us out for a nice dinner before we headed in different directions.
From Athens we went to Acro-Corinth. We explored the ancient ruins in the village and hiked up the mountain to the fortress. Yeah, that was insane, it was a five kilometer trek which doesn’t sound bad, but in the heat and glaring sun, the steep roads, and our general out-of-shapeness, it was insane. And once we got to the castle it continued to be uphill. Eventually we made it to the top of the tower, and oh man what a vista.
And here is what we climbed.
From Acro-Corinth we traveled to one of the reasons for the trip. Nafplio.
We met back up with Elsie’s professors at this point. We had frappe and chatted about the town, what to look for and the history of the Greek revolution. And then they were off to Monemvasia.
In Nafplio we got down to business, finding and documenting Ottoman ruins, and gaining a sense of scope. We hiked up another mountain to a Venetian castle. There were a lot of stairs.
We climbed up, and up, and up. Then it started to downpour and thunder, so we climbed down, and down, and down.
There are actually three castles in Nafplio, so we went to the older Byzantine one and played archaeologist. We found layouts of old buildings, potter sherds, and a some mysteries. We came across a couple concrete circles and stood there debating what they were. I eventually realised they must have been gun emplacements from the second world war (this was later confirmed). Elsie wouldn’t let me go into the bunker. Probably a good decision.
The site was very open and so we wandered into places we probably shouldn’t have, but it was in the name of learning!
From Nafplio we Bused to Sparti and Mystras, but that will have to wait until next time.