Greece (2)

  • 11/Nov/2018 at 12:43

When Greece became a travel destination for me and the islands were discarded (I will eventually go back there to sail them), my fear was to start visiting too many ruins, which I might not find interesting. I seldom normally like archeological museums, and I kind of thought this might be similar… I was completely wrong. Seeing the ruins in the actual locations made a complete different experience for me.

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Delphi was the first one of these ruins. We arrived the night before to the town which has emerged to accommodate services for the visitors of the ruins of Ancient Delphi, the main temple in the Ancient Greece. This was a pilgrimage destination for those who wanted to consult the oracle, in this sanctuary located in a wonderful place, on a hillside facing East, of course.

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According to the Greek Mythology, Delphi is the center of the World, and home of the oracle. The oracle was consulted by many people in their decisions. From marriage or merchant decisions made by regular people, to wars or alliances consultancy made by emperors and kings. The oracle spoke through the sybil (a priestess), who entered in trance and communicated with the oracle who then translated it to the people. Delphi had a huge temple devoted to Apollo (the God for fortune teller among other “responsibilities”), and it received gifts from every Greek city and state, who wanted to please the Gods. These gifts had the shape of small temples which kept the treasures. Only some remains are still in place, but you can still imagine how impressive entering in that place was. Delphi still preserves part of its stadium and theatre, where the worshippers probably had some leisure before returning to their homes.

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On our way out from Delphi, we also visited the Athena Pronae temple, devoted to Athena, which is the Goddess for fertility, health and wisdom. This was normally the first stop before reaching Delphi, and it also had plenty of small temples/treasures by the different cities, like the main temple.

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Further South, we took a small detour to visit the Hosios Lukas monastery from the byzantine times, also a World Heritage Site. This monastery is still active, and the monks can be seen doing daily activities like watering the plants, in an very well preserved monastery in a calm and peaceful environment.

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Before arriving to Nafplio, we had to cross the Corinth Canal, and as engineers, we spent a good time there. We observed the operations of the boats crossing from one side to the other, some without assistance (sailing boats, yachts), some with a tugboat (merchant ships). I had not seen before such a big canal, and I must admit I was impressed. Talking about Canals, this is not big neither in width (21 m) nor in length (6 km), although its depth is quite something (45 m). It made somehow sense that some of the former rulers in Greece came with the idea of this canal already in the 7th century BC, although it was not carried out till the late 19th century… because building a canal is not an easy job in any circumstance.

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After our first experience with ruins and having had fun at the canal, our next stop was Nafplio, which was a major contrast from the earlier ruins. Nafplio is the ancient capital of Greece, and the first things that arises your attention is the Venetian influence in its architecture. When I started walking around, it reminded me to the ambiance in Ibiza (in the town) during summer, with the people just willing to enjoy, do shopping, and eat in the terraces of the restaurants, under the beautiful bougainvillea that bring color to the streets. The city is heavily fortified: it has two fortress on top of the nearby hill, and one at the entrance of the port. The port is not very busy in terms of boat traffic, and has not many services. I was surprised to see that the sailing boats used the anchor inside the port, as there was no buoy.

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Nafplio would not have probably been part of our itinerary if it did not have nearby the Mykenes city remains. This city was much older (15th century BC) than the Delphi or any other temple built in the Golden Age of Greece, and the conservation status is also worse. Still, some advanced engineering features could be seen, like the cistern to collect water, which we could almost see in action, thanks to a sudden storm that caught us inside it.

After Nafplio, we went back towards Athens, surrounding it during the rush hour, as we headed East through the Apollo Coast. This is the holiday and weekend destination of the Athens people, as it is nearby, and the high standards can be seen. We saw many private beaches, lots of private marinas with huge boats, and the space became less busy and inexpensive as we got away from Athens.

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The whole reason behind this tour was to reach the Temple of Poseidon, in Sounion. The sunset there must be amazing, but we were unlucky with the clouds. In any case, with or without sunset, the location of this temple was also breathtaking on top of a hill in a cave, with a gorgeous view of the seas, very appropriate for the God of the Seas. Perfect last sight before returning to Athens…

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After many small towns and lots of driven kilometres, finally staying for a few days in a city felt like heaven. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to feel the city vibe as I would have liked. I have the feeling I saw the main spots, but have not experienced the city enough, which seems to be also an interesting part of Athens.

The musts in Athens include of course the Parthenon, which is unfortunately always packed with tourists (even at early times), the nearby Roman Agora, and the most impressive Ancient Agora, which is the old Greek city.

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If you have not been to Greece, go there. Take some time to explore the Ancient Greece sites. They will not deceive you.

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