Walking Through History
05 May 2018 | Astros - 6,770 NM
Sunny, Windy, Showers
Leonidhion was another very small pretty harbour although perhaps not up there with the last couple. The next day was Sunday and rain was forecast (what's that all that about!) and so we decided to stay put and do what the Greeks do - have a long, leisurely Sunday lunch. We went to a taverna overlooking the harbour, Freya and the bay. The owner was really friendly and asked if we'd like the menu or would prefer to come and see what he had in the kitchen. Off we went and it all looked delicious. We had olives from his garden, a selection of slow cooked veggies with garlic bread and lemon (very nice but a new one on us) and locally caught fish plus the obligatory free dessert of a jelly with almonds and raisins. And, of course, his home made white wine. It was all absolutely scrumptious, the best meal and best value to date in Greece. We followed that with a long walk to town, thankfully dodging the showers and a taxi back.
That night was a bit rolly in the harbour - time to move on. This time to Astros where we plan to stay for a few days so that we can explore inland. The harbour is bigger than the recent ones and has water and electric for a very reasonable charge. Our first task was to try to arrange hire car.
Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest! There are 2 agents in Astros who do rental cars but as it was the May bank holiday, one could only offer a big car at a bigger cost and the other had nothing. Another option was to get the bus to Nafplio which is where we'd been planning to go with Freya but couldn't as their boat show was on. Should be easy as it's the next town around the coast and a tourist destination - apparently not. The office for bus tickets is randomly in the bakers and he explained we could get the bus to Argos and change but his system didn't tell him when the next bus to Nafplio would be, or maybe we could get off the bus in Miloi which is closer to Nafplio and get a taxi. We couldn't miss the stop he assured us as it's in the centre of town. We decided to go for this option and booked our hire car for the next day. Miloi, it turns out is a tiny village on a junction made up of a few tavernas but the conductor told us we'd arrived and so we got off. There were no taxis to be seen and so the only option here seemed to be breakfast which is what we did. We were told that the waiter in the cafe opposite may call us a taxi which he was very happy to do even though we'd chosen the opposition! A few minutes later we were thankfully in the taxi and in another few minutes we had our car.
This was to be a tour of piles of old stones and there are lots to choose from in this area. Our first stop was supposed to be Mycenae which should be easy as it's so famous - how were we supposed to know it's called Mikanes in Greek - even flossy, our satnav, didn't know! Anyway while trying to find it we came across Medea, a Mycenaean Acropolis which was free and completely deserted. It was quite a climb to the top with amazing views over the plain below, and the walled city, roads and some buildings were clearly visible. A good start.
We eventually realised that Mikanes was Mycenae and arrived! The city is spectacular, about 3,500 years old and the seat of Agamemnon. It's amazing to think of the walled city standing here for so long and you could really picture people living and going about their daily business here. The lion gate was particularly amazing and the remains of the palace suggested a great place to live. There were circular grave sites which we hadn't seen before as well as Tholos thombs.
When we did our first flotilla holiday about 10 years ago there was a boat called Epidavros and the occupants were clearly sailing with friends who seemed to need constant conversation! Hence the radio call Epidavros, Epidavros, Epidavros has stuck with us all this time. As we were so close we just had to go. Ancient Epidavros was a bit like a health spa famed for its healing powers but over 2,000 years old. This made it very different from most ruins, but it was harder to picture it as it was, as not much was standing. However, they are working on it and hopefully won’t over restore it which would be a pity. The sanctuary where the healing took place, several temples and a stadium were interesting though. After, we went to the port of Epidavros for a well earned drink before heading back exhausted.
On our 2nd day we headed north towards Corinth and the famous canal. We've driven over it on the bus a couple of times but not been able to stop. We started at the eastern end where there is a bridge controlling entry. The bridge was open when we arrived and appeared to be missing(!) but the amazing thing was that after the boats passed we heard motors whirring and we wondered what was happening until the bridge slowly appeared under the water. Rather than lifting or swinging this bridge sinks into the canal! We also stopped on the bridge we'd crossed before so that we could look down into the depths. It's an amazing 90m deep and over 6km long. Going back to Roman times a road was built and ships were dragged over land. The canal was eventually built and opened in 1893 but was almost obsolete very quickly as it's only 23m wide which is not enough for many modern ships.
Keeping on with our tour of piles of stone, our next stop was Ancient Corinth. This has so much recognisable history. There is a marble podium in the middle used for speeches and is where St. Paul is know to have preached - hence the book of Corinthians in the Bible. In the 6th century BC it was one of ancient Greece's richest cities given its strategic site. It was fascinating with its forum, shops, temples and roads.
Our final pile of stones was Nemea, a site of ancient games like Olympia and where every 4 years there are still games in the same stadium and in the same style as the ancient games. I think the most interesting bits here were the changing rooms with wash basins and the tunnel to the stadium which you can still walk through 2,500 years after it was built. After a trip to the supermarket to stock up on the heavy stuff we arrived home exhausted again!
On the 3rd day we had to return our car and so back to Nafplio which is a lovely old town full of shops and tavernas and topped by a huge Venetian castle up 999 steps! We took a taxi up explored the castle and enjoyed the views before walking down the 999 steps which really made our knees shake - glad we didn't go up! A lovely day.
Finally we had to re-trace our initial bus trip. This time we found all the bus times and took the bus to Argos which doesn't have much going for it other than being the home of Jason of Argonaut fame. We were a bit worried as we only had 10 minutes to change buses but we needn't have worried as the first bus was very punctual but the 2nd was half an hour late!
After our explorations we thought we deserved a lazy day in Astros which is a lovely beach resort but very Greek and overlooked by a medieval castle - obviously needed exploring and has great views up and down the coast!