Oct 30, 2013
Last full cruise day and it was nice. We are in the bay of Argos as in Jason and the Argonauts. He and his pals went in search of the Golden Fleece in the Black Sea. We are headed there ourselves albeit by air and cruise ship. Our trip from the western end of the Mediterranean to the Near East has been enjoyable. We have explored the geography and the artifacts of the historic inhabitants as well as those of the present.
We took the tender to the port of Nafplio and began our exploration. We did not choose to go on the shore excursions to the big sights. Two years ago we had driven around the Peloponnesus to the ruins of Corinth, the theatre at Epidaurus and the ruins of Mycenae. The still imposing remnants of the Homeric Myceneans still bring chills to the historically minded. The site overlooks the bay where I am writing. The launching of Agamemnon’s fleet must have been from these waters. Homer’s wine dark sea lies a few feet away. It is not quite as dark as the Greek vintage that provides another kind of inspiration.
Today the peaceful resort town of Nafplio sits in the shadow of yet another Venetian fortress with a thousand steps instead of ships. Show Peggy a staircase and she will climb it. We launched our attack upon arrival. The place was built to protect the harbor on the Argolida from the Ottomans for the Venetians. They did not finish the construction before the arrival of the Turks. The city lay conquered and under Ottoman rule until recaptured by Greeks on the eve of Hellenic liberation in the early 1800s.
The walk around the castle was a quick review of Greek history. The bastions and forts on the top of the mountain were named after Greek heroes. These included the Spartan Leonidas of 300 fame, Themistocles of the wooden wall (navy in Delphic Oracle code) defense of Athens, and Militaides of Marathon. Each bastion had its own collection of steps and ramps. We visited them all. It took a couple of hours to navigate the place and get a few pictures.
Nafplio was the first Capitol of the newly free Greek state. An invited Austrian ruler Otto did not like the remoteness of Nafplio and moved the Capitol to Athens where it remains. He still has a statue and the place has none of modern Athenian chaos. In fact, it would be hard to find a more tranquil place. Where else are the streets paved in polished, multicolored and striped marble? The shops contain some of the usual trinkets but the shops are designed to appeal to well off Athenians and contain many locally made handicrafts and nice stuff. We found a useful souvenir in a shop with olive wood crafts made by the proprietor who posed for a picture with our find.
Visited a heavy duty Orthodox Church but it allowed no pictures. The place was laden with icons and that mysterious screen that hides the altar and tabernacle. A much different tradition than what I am used to. The beeswax candles in the sand box had a power ventilation system but
it still used the trusty written prayer notes. Outside we could take a picture of the Holy Water cask. Not sure how this works but it appears that you just turn the tap. There was a mural depicting the history of the world for Adam to the Apocalypse near the holy tap. The images were from the Orthodox perspective including a Sultan smoking his hookah while a Orthodox priest hangs from a tree in the background. I thought the best image was the Nazi trooper standing guard over an angel wrapped in barbed wire.
To capture the simple elegance of this place you only need to know that the cafés serve coffee in a French Press. I know family members who would find this alone as a compelling reason to visit. For us it was a visit to the Antica Gelateria di Roma owned by the Italian expatriate Marcello. We always make a pilgrimage to his place. Today it was to measure his double dark chocolate and berry combination compared to our sampling on the Italian mainland in Venice. It was great while messy. The owner looks the same as he did a couple years ago with his carefully coifed mustache. Nice biscotti and cool water to balance out the concoction that is still filling six hours later. I guess the exertion of this morning was cancelled out in one cone.
I enjoy the sail away tradition. As we depart around four in the afternoon and it is time for my daily reflection. This process is helped by a glass or two. Tonight I am having a double Lemoncello. This is an acquired taste that I have not yet mastered.
Tomorrow we leave our “stateroom” of three weeks. We pack tonight and try to remember not to pack our travel clothes for tomorrow. We are using the cruise ship transfer to the airport as insurance against the Greek habit of transportation strikes. Should be on our way to Istanbul in afternoon. I think it will be our first night in a non-Western city. Peggy is a bit nervous but I am looking forward to a new adventure.