I was already very excited for this, knowing that I would visit a mythical land, where one of the most important civilizations ever to see the light of day thrived, at the dawn of history. And that was only but a small part of my experience!
We departed early in the morning from Athens, in a very nice and comfortable vehicle. The weather was great, the driver was really fun and enthusiastic, answering all of my strange, I must admit, questions about Greece and the everyday life here. Our first stop was at the Corinth Canal, one of the more impressive feats of 19th-century engineering. The view is quite impressive and enjoyable (especially if you are not afraid of heights).
We then went on to the archaeological site of Mycenae. An unexpected awe filled up my soul as I beheld the ruins of this ancient citadel, while listening to the state-licensed guide unraveling the rich history of this land. Mycenae gave its name to the Mycenaean civilization which flourished from about 1,600 to 1,100 BC. Although this civilization once covered the entire country, the most powerful town was Mycenae, the kingdom of the legendary king Agamemnon, leader of the expedition that besieged and sacked Troy. The ancient town was surrounded by gigantic walls that were constructed by Cyclops – according to legend – while the most famous spot is the Lion Gate, the entrance to the town featuring two female stone lions above the lintel. I was also very impressed by the Treasury of Atreus, the vaulted tomb of king Agamemnon. I had a 2-hour private guided tour of the archaeological site, which was really interesting and instructive. The guide was flexible with my slow pace and very keen to accommodate all of my needs.
We then set off to the picturesque town of Nafplio which is close by. If the rich history of Mycenae was the fulfilling main dish, Nafplio was the ideal dessert to indulge in. It is a very romantic town graced with attractive narrow streets, elegant Venetian houses and neoclassical mansions. Nafplio was the first capital of Greece and has been a major port since the Bronze Age. So strategic was its position that it had three fortresses: the massive principal fortress of Palamidi, the smaller Akronafplia, and the diminutive Bourtzi on an islet in the bay west of the old town. I was really impressed by the Bourtzi castle, which was built in 1471 by the Venetians. The design of the castle was made to specifically fit the narrow shape of the island. Watching it from a distance, the castle looked as though it was floating in the sea.
Finally, I enjoyed a delicious lunch at a traditional tavern followed a very pleasant stroll along the scenic cobblestone alleys that gave me the chance to take in the beautiful architecture and relax under the warm Greek sunshine, before heading back to Athens. All in all, an unforgettable full-day experience!
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