October 22, 2010, Category: Greece, Travel

Day 11: Nafplio Fortress and Epidaurus

If you didn’t start reading on Day 1, you might want to start from the beginning.

DSCN0783In the early 1800’s, the port town of Nafplio was chosen to be the first capital of modern Greece. A major reason was the Palamidi, a baroque fortress (said to be the most well preserved in all Europe) that sits 1,000 steps above town atop the cliffs. The first thing on our agenda today was to climb to the top of the castle before the afternoon sun arrived.

But as it turns out, the fortress ended up being the second item our our agenda after “letting Mikayla’s hair dry.” So instead of waiting on the deck with Mikayla for the sunshine to do its job, I took the opportunity to walk IMG_1937through the quiet streets of Nafplio. Several shopkeepers were just opening, most were still closed tight, and most of the traffic I ran into had four legs, a tail, and no more than 9 lives. A coordinated journey crisscrossing through the streets and alleys quickly shrunk the town down to a manageable size. Last night our aimless meandering was fun but had not let me build an internal map.

IMG_1940 I found a bank and withdrew some cash, frustrating people behind me in the process as I tried to figure out what was an acceptable amount to request. Even several of the presented options generated an error telling me to select a different amount. One lady finally said, “Do you know how to use that?” I started to explain but then projected into the future and heard the words coming out of my mouth. They really didn’t accomplish anything so I stopped mid sentence and turned back to the machine. I did finally manage to pull out some Euros.

I tried to find Mikayla her favorite breakfast, a spinach pie, but it was too early. So with her now straightened and dry hair, we walked towards the base of the massive stairway and grabbed a couple of chocolate filled croissants on the way.

IMG_1726 IMG_1757The stairs weren’t so brutal and it felt good to get some exercise. They zig zagged up the cliff, through a few archways, and finally leveled out way above town at the castle. The view was as breathtaking as the hike up. We looked down on the town, out to the ocean where a giant cruise ship was docked, and at the beach where swimmers floated like tiny buoys.

IMG_1766We spent a couple hours climbing the castle walls, admiring the scenery, and hiking around the plateau. We saw the dungeon where the famous Greek general Theodoros Kolokotronis was held. The sun was bright and the air hot enough to streak my face with sweat but not hot enough to keel me over. It felt really good. It is a sizable fortress with plenty of areas to explore. The battlements at tIMG_1792he top of the stairway were fairly crowded, but once we followed the less worn trails to the north eastern part we found ourselves alone on the edge of the cliff. The ruins around the old cistern were ours alone to explore and photograph.

I hadn’t told Mikayla it was possible to drive up the back side and bypass the 1K stairway. I was worried she might not want to do the stairs if she knew. Even though Even though I figured she’d IMG_1788probably be on board with the climb, I didn’t take a chance. When she saw the parking lot and busses she didn’t say anything about having to climb the stairs. I think she enjoyed the climb as much as I did.

DSCN0871We went back to town and took a quick break before heading out for our afternoon adventures to the theatre of Epidaurus, a massive and the best preserved ancient theatre in Greece. During summer months they hold performances here. It was a quick drive out and we stopped at a grocery store on the way for some fruit and snacks.

I followed the signs and my GPS and we ended up in a dusty parking lot at a tiny little theatre. The sign had pointed us right to this spot but I looked at Mikayla confused and said, “This can’t be it, thousands of people come here.” There was one other car in the lot but we couldn’t see a single soul. We got out and walked around. The theater was fenced in, rather than open and seemed way smaller than the pictures. A couple walked down the dirt road, got in their car, and drove off. I got in the car and pulled out the Rick Steve’s book and read more about the theatre. I came across a passage that said if you drive all the way to the town of Epidaurus or you have gone too far. As luck would have it, they also have an ancient theatre and plenty of road signs pointing to it.

We backtracked about twenty minutes worth of road until a huge parking lot affirmed that we had found the right place. The theatre was built nearly 2500 years ago in a spiritual sanctuary for healing. People would come from all over the world to spend a night where the god Asclepius (Apollo’s son) would visit them in a dream with instructions for their healing.

IMG_1813 Even today the theatre is world renowned for its incredible acoustics. It is said the limestone absorbs low frequency sounds and magnifies high ones. So crowd murmur is muted while song and voice are projected across as many as 15,000 spectators. Mikayla took off up the steps and I walked to center stage. I was amazed at how tiny the people sitting at the top appeared. The place was huge. I climbed up to the very back row and sat in the shade and let my imagination run thousands of years in reverse.

IMG_1812I watched the tiny little spot otherwise known as Mikayla move through the bleachers on the far left and then up to join me. Far below us, we watched a lady take center stage and proceed to do several readings and acoustical tests. We heard every word as she talked with her friends sitting in the first row. She took out a pin and told them to listen while she dropped it. The whole place became dead quiet as tourists, scattered throughout the bleachers, gave their attention to the lady. She raised her hand, and then…TING. Everyone applauded as if Pavarotti himself had just performed. I found myself a bit verklempt. Freaking amazing.

IMG_1823 I went down and stood in the center so Mikayla could take a picture of me and was tempted to sing something. In the end though, I couldn’t think of anything worthy enough. I should have just done it. We toured the small museum and the nearby ruins where we followed a young family around for a bit because Mikayla enjoyed their “Jude Law” accent.

On our drive back to Nafplio, we stopped at a beach and relaxed for a couple hours. I listened to music and took a nap in the sun while she read her book. It was nice. It gave me time to think about my kids and the trips. Our final destination, Athens, was one day away. All the saving, planning, and anticipation over the years for these trips with the kids and the final one was almost over. This final trip coincided with Aubree going off to college and Curtis and Mikayla becoming fiercely independent. The end of this trip marks the end of an era for me. Life is very different now. I miss those little kids but at the same time, love these young adults that took their place. It blows my mind how different my life has become in just the past year.

IMG_1891 We had a yummy dinner in the town square and watched people saunter. We then tried our own amateurish version of a saunter and took a stroll through the shops and I forced Mikayla to have some ice cream. I actually had to put my foot down and tell her she had no choice.

Continue to Day 12…

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2 thoughts on “Day 11: Nafplio Fortress and Epidaurus

  • By Grandma Henke - Reply

    I think this might be my favorite day … but I’m not voting yet. The entire trip is absolutely mind boggling and awesome. I wish I could go there but I know that won’t happen, so your travel version is the best substitute I can think of. Put it on Power Point for me, will ya?

  • By Mikayla - Reply

    Good choice, Grandma… this was a great day 🙂

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