Nafplion / Navplion & Mycenae

Nafplion: Sailing yachts on the quay, Palamidi Fortress behind

Nafplion: Sailing yachts on the quay, Palamidi Fortress behind

Nafplion, at the head of the Argolic Gulf, was previously the capital of Greece. The walled city had spells of Venetian and Turkish occupation, both of whom left their mark in the elegang architecture that remains today. The Palamidi fortifications also remain, ringing the town and offering great views for those who can manage the 1000 steps to the top up the front, or a short taxi ride around the back.  For culture vultures, the ruins of Mycenae, including its excellent museum is less than 20 miles away.

The mild (by Greek standards) climate and narrow shady streets, many pedestrianised, makes exploring the old town a pleasure. There’s a good choice of restaurants and cafe’s, and you mustn’t miss an ice cream or sorbet at the small shop at the rear of Philelinnon Square, the main square on the sea front.  The coffee there is pretty good too.

Nafplion: View over the quay showing the Bourtzi Fort in the bay

Nafplion: View over the quay showing the Bourtzi Fort in the bay

The quayside has a reputation amongst foreign sailors for being smelly which is wildly overstated. True, I don’t have the most sensitive schnozzle, but friends equipped with better nasal gear confirm the smell is rarely noticeable and soon forgotten when detected. If you’re concerned, take a trip to the Komboloi Museum in town where you can view 1000 different worry beads. Replicas are available to buy to take your mind off things!

The town also has Archaeological, Folklore and War museums.  As well as being the first capital of modern Greece, Nafplion was also scene of the murder of the first Governor who was shot in the Church of Agios Spiridon in 1831.  The bullet marks can still be seen.

If you’re looking for a beach or watersports, you can take a short (5 mile) cab ride to the tourist town of Tolo. Alternatively, there’s a good beach in Ormos Karathona, a couple of miles south of Nafplion, where you can anchor on the way to or after leaving Nafplion. For the fit, Karathona is walkable from Nafplion.

Mycenae

Mycenae: The Lion Gate, one of the earliest examples of monumental carving

Mycenae: The Lion Gate, one of the earliest examples of monumental carving

The ruins and museum at Mycenae are about 45 minutes taxi drive from Nafplion and can also be reached from Argos.  Check with local travel agents if there are any trips running, otherwise hop in a cab.

Although the ruins are not nearly as extensive as say those at Epheseus, they are worth a visit. The small museum on the site is superb, with case after case of amazingly well preserved artefacts and jewellery that dates back thousands of years.  We got quite blasé – “look that one is only 4BC, it’s almost new”!

The citadel has been traced back to the Neolithic period (pre 3000BC) and once extended way beyond the fortified centre that is the focus today. Although abandoned by Roman times, the city was previously a thriving commercial and arable centre as well as having an important burial ground which has yielded a number of tombs.  Excavations began in the 1870’s and continue to this day.

Mycenae: One of the tombs at this important burial site

Mycenae: One of the tombs at this important burial site

As well as revealing substantial remains of  the buildings, the archaeological finds span a huge time period, giving a taste of the development of civilisation over the three thousand years up to the start of Christianity.

I’m not big on old relics but even I found the ruins interesting and the museum most absorbing, so it must be pretty good! And if you fancy a break from the culture for a few minutes, just sit and enjoy the museum’s fantastic air conditioning!!

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