Home of Agememnon, the ancient king who
united and commanded the Greeks during the Trojan war, the ruins of Mycenae
were thought to be a myth until Heinrich Schlieman proved otherwise. At
one time the city overlooked a large bay which is now the plain of Argos.
The site is impressive and features the Palace of Agamemnon, the Treasury
of Atreaus, and the tomb of Clytaemenestra, the wife of the great king
who stabbed him to death in his bath for either being unfaithful, sacrificing
their daughter to get favorable winds for the journey to Troy, or both.
The famous Lion's Gate is the oldest monumental sculpture in Europe and
is said to be the coat of arms of Atreus, mythical king of Mycenae. The ancient site is best visited in the winter and spring when it is covered in green grass and colorful wildflowers. But even in the summer it is an essential stop and the views are spectacular. The newly opened museum on the site is well worth going to. There is a small very touristy town nearby with restaurants and souvenir shops. Myceneae is about a half hour from Nafplion. It is an imprtant stop in any tours of the Argolis and the Peloponessos.
Just beyond Corinth on the E65 which goes to Tripolis is the town of Nemea with the ancient site dedicated to the games that were held in the honor of Zeus whose 4th Century BC temple still has three remaining columns and several more on the way to being reconstructed. The site is being excavated by Stephen Miller of the American School of Classical Studies along with the University of California
at Berkeley. There is also a stadium and an excellent museum built by the University of California to house the many findings at the site and to use as a study and research center. Nemea was famous in Greek myth as the home of the Nemean Lion which was killed by the hero Heracles. Now the area is famous for its wines and there are a number of wineries that you can visit. Just look for the signs that have hopefully not been defaced by Argos 13 enough to render them unreadable.
Founded by the Dorians, the city of Argos
is in a fertile plain at the foot of Mount Chaon and is the oldest continuously
inhabited city in Greece. Argos is the agricultural and commercial center
of the prefecture, famous for its citrus orchards. Unfortunately most of
the ancient past is buried under the modern town, but the archaeological
museum on the town's impressive main platia is worth stopping for. Restaurants
in the main square are expensive so hit the back streets. The ancient theater
is the most popular tourist attraction in the city and is bigger then the
theater at Epidavros. Nearby are the Roman baths and the remains of a first
century indoor theater. Above the theater is the site of the ancient acropolis,
with fortifications that have been added to by the Byzantines, Franks
and the Turks. There are buses every half hour to Naphlion, hourly
buses to Athens and six buses a day to Myceneae. There are 7 trains a day
to Athens and Corinth and four trains a day to Kalamata and Tripolis. Northwest of Argos is the Citadel of Larissa
with it's Frankish and Venetian fortress and spectacular view. South of
Argos are the springs of Kefalari an area of large shady plane trees, running
water and tavernas.
Be sure to visit the town of Nea Kios on the bay near Argos at the delta of a small river where the area fishing boats are based. There is a morning fish market and a great seafood restaurant called Tsakiris just over the metal bridge. If you are in the neighborhood this is a great place to come for lunch or dinner. It is right on the beach too. Also in the area check out the beautiful Church of the Koimisis which is on the road to Nafplion which
has a number of ancient stones, columns and carvings that have been incorporated into its walls.
This is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in all of Greece and should not be missed. Home of the 3rd Century
theater, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were performed
here until the 4th century BC and then continued in 1955 to the present
during the Epidavros festival that takes place from the beginning of July
to the end of August. The theater is perhaps the most acoustically perfect
in all of Greece, a fact illustrated to us by our history teacher who dropped
a pin which we could hear from the top seats. At least I think we heard
it. The God Asclepius, son of Apollo was worshipped here and Epidavros
is acknowledged as his birthplace. Struck dead by a thunderbolt from Zeus
for bringing back the dead, he was transformed by Apollo into the constellation
of Serpentaria. The symbol of Asclepius is the snake coiled around the
rod which is familiar to anyone who has studied medicine or been to a doctor.
There was at one time a hospital at the sanctuary to Asclepius. In ancient
times athletes competed at the festival of the Asclepia in the stadium
and poets in the odeon whose ruins still exist. For information on Performances at Epidavros
check the back page of the Athens News, or any of the Athens Entertainment
Guides which should be available in your hotel lobby.
The town of Palea Epidavros is a small port on the sea and is famous for its orange groves. In fact as you enter the town in the winter and spring the air is filled with the smell of orange blossoms. In the backyard of a small house an ancient theater was discovered and is in the process of being excavated as well as some other
old buildings in the olive grove next door. There is a nice square here with some fish tavernas kept supplied by a fleet of fishing boats. If you are traveling in the area it is a good place to stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes on the waterfront. The hills around the town offer a spectacular view and the groves are separated by small roads that you can follow on foot or by car if you think you are capable of backing up the way you came if you happen to run into a dead end.
The walls of Tiryns are four kilometers
north-west of Nafplio and are even more impressive than the massive walls
of Mycenae. During the Mycenean era these walls defended a palace as big
as the palace at Mycenae and the site has been inhabited since Neolithic
times. The huge blocks which make up the Cyclopian walls are as impressive
to us today as they were to the ancient people who had to drag them from
the quarries and cut them up.
Tolon and East of Nafplion
Tolon was at one time a beach paradise but has now been built up. But even so, if you need a place to stay where Nafplio and the other sites in the
Argolis are within reasonable driving distance, that has a beach, good
tavernas and some nightlife, Tolon may seem paradise enough. See Hotels. The town fishing port is protected by a small island. Tolon has a long sandy beach, and watersports are available, including small motorboats and paddle boats which you can take to explore the small islands across the bay. Near the village of Asini, northwest of Tolon, are the remains of Ancient
Asine, including the massive walls of the acropolis, and remains of other buildings. Those who have read Seferis may remember from his poem King of Asine a description of the citadel and the fact that this King is mentioned only once in the Illiad and otherwise competely forgotten by history.
Further down the coast is the fishing village of Vivari. One of the first commercial fish farms was located here in the large lagoon at the edge of the village. There is a new fish farm now located out of site of the village but you can see the boats come in for supplies or to unload fish. There are several nice fish restaurants including the Taverna
Gorgona which specializes in fresh fish, wild or farmed, and home-cooking by the Diamontopoulos family. This is a sheltered bay and a nice place to stop with a sailboat. In fact this is where my friend Stefan Richter keeps his charter sailboat Caraya 2. Beyond Vivari is the long beach at Candia, a town known for its fields of artichokes. If you cut inland you will eventually wind up in the town of Palea Epidavros on the north side of the
Astros and South of Nafplion
Once a quiet seaside village, Parilea
Astros has become a resort for Greek Americans and Athenians. But the sea
is clean and the restaurants are good and if you want to stay at a place
on or near the beach, or just spend the afternoon swimming, it will do. Further on the road continues to Leonideon with its beautiful stone beach at Plaka. Leonideon sits at the edge of a canyon overlooking the sea. The road continues inland towrads the town of Tripolis. The mountain town of Cosmas is a good place to get away from the heat of the Argolis with its beautiful tree-shaded square and its traditional restaurants and cafeneons.
Corinth is a bustling city of apartment buildings. Its the last stop for the Athens Suburban railway from the airport. The ruins at Akrocorinth,
1900 feet above the city is one of the most spectacular sites in all of
Greece and should not be missed. The original fortress was built in ancient
times but has been added to by the Romans, Byzantines, Franks, venetians
and finally the Turks and every occupying power has left it's mark. There
is not much left of the Temple of Aphrodite but it is worth going up there
for the view.
Ancient Corinth was one of Greece's richest
cities in it's heyday around the 6th century BC.due to it's position and
control of the narrow isthmus which seperated the Peloponessos and the
mainland and the two seas on each side of it. East of the modern city are
the ruins of ancient Corinth, still being excavated, which feature the
remains of the 5th century BC Temple of Apollo, some Roman ruins and the
Lower Peirene Fountain, a natural spring that has supplied Old Corinth
with water from ancient times.
Perhaps the most impressive site, and my
favorite place is the Corinth Canal which cuts through the rock and connects
the Aegean sea with the Ionian. Begun by Nero in 67 AD using Jewish slaves,
the project had to be postponed until 1883 when a French company began
working on it again. It was completed in1893. The old bridge has a pedestrian
walkway and shakes when cars cross, but it has not fallen yet and the view
from the center of the canal is one that won't be forgotten. Even more interesting is the bridge across the east entrance to the canal which submerges for boats to cross over it. A nice place to stop for a coffee is the Perama Restaurant-Cafe and if you are lucky a ship will pass and you can watch the bridge go down. Follow the signs to Isthmia and you will cross it. Click Here for Hotels in Corinth
Just a few miles from Corinth is the town of Loutraki which is famous for its bottled spring water which you will undoubtedly come across during one of your meals in Greece. Loutraki is also known for its famous Casino Hotel where you can win or lose a fortune, or not play and just enjoy the ancient olive grove that has been transplanted on the hotel grounds. The Casino Hotel has an enormous
pool and artificial waterways that snake around the gardens and it is right on the beach. In 2006 my friend George from Fantasy Travel was swimming here with his daughter when what he thought was a shark surfaced right next to him. As his life flashed before his eyes and he readied to sacrifice himself while his daughter swam to shore the creature lifted his head and looked him in the eye. It was the smiling face of a dolphin.
For more on Loutraki see www.greecetravel.com/loutraki or Click Here for Hotels in Loutraki