02.02.2013 - 02.02.2013 18 °C
What does a Saturday in Greece (aka Greekland according to my youngest) look like? Well, let me tell you...it starts with a trip to the local weekly market, a long stretch of vegetable, fruit, fish, olive oil, honey and nut stalls set up temporarily outside the fire hall and manned by a wide spectrum of merchants. We saw what felt like the whole of the community there, purchasing much of their fresh food for the week. We followed suit as well and were overwhelmed by the very large heads of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, and the rich colours of the lemons, orange, peppers and tomatoes. The quality looked very high. We went from stall to stall, buying cucumbers here and onions there, looking for all the ingredients we needed to make our own Greek salad, put together some decent fruit salads, and prepare our salmon for tomorrow. Hannah insisted on the fresh dill – I’ve never bought so much dill in my life before. They sell things LARGE here. And, of course, as I discovered later in the store, key ingredients like oil and oregano often come in supersized amounts – I will need to leave my 400 ml jar of oregano behind when we board our next flight. The market also had wares such as clothing, watches, jewelry, dishcloths, cutlery and a mass of other items, all being judiciously assessed by short, older women in black, among others.
We followed this up with a walk around the old part of Nafplio. I was delighted by this town twenty years ago and still am. It is the perfect place on the Peloponnesian peninsula to base a visit, with its winding streets, intriguing shops, and beach-front promenade. We hear that it attracts a lot of weekend visitors from Athens and that was certainly evident today; the outdoor cafes were packed with coat-clad Greeks while we enjoyed the weather in shirt sleeves and capris. Walking around, we noted several stencils of anti-Nazi graffiti about town: Hitlers with Mickey Mouse ears and people chasing shoe-clad swastikas running away. There are also a number of what appear to be stray dogs, basking in the sun or slowly ambling across the squares. Greek dogs seem noticeably more laid back than those we’ve encountered in other countries, not even bothering to lift their heads when you come near.
Ben was on a search for the perfect Greek gyros, that from his experience of twenty years ago. I know he has been measuring all the pita gyros he has had in the last two decades against the one he first had in Napflio all those years ago. Well, he wasn’t disappointed. For just over two euro (about three dollars), he enjoyed the warm pita bread stuffed with spit-turned pork, tomato wedges, raw red onion, tzatziki sauce, and the seemingly obligatory French fries. We agreed to participate as well - just to support him, of course - and subjected ourselves to the same fate. We supplemented it with a warm platter of oil- and oregano-coated pita with more of the tzatziki sauce. It’s a place we’ll go again (likely tomorrow).
Feeling the need to work off those calories, we proceeded to the bottom steps of the staircase leading up to the Palamidi Fortress. Built in the early 1700s by the Venetians, it fell into Ottoman hands before it was completed. Climbing to the top, one can admire the sturdy fortifications and well-preserved bastions, along with the tremendous view that 220 metres (read 999 steps) offers. It was a beautiful day with the brilliant sun and cool breezes providing the perfect climbing weather. We never allowed ourselves to get tired because we had to stop every few metres to admire the incredible view. Another set of postcard pictures for our collection. Hannah insisted on acting as the teenager, coming close to every edge and leaning over any precipice she could find. I tried to ignore it (you know, don’t encourage them further by showing dismay). Among the battlements, we came across a prison, used as recently as the last century; it was no more than a 5 metre cube carved into the rock, reached after a couple of small tunnels. Talk about gloomy. Upon reaching the top we discovered there was a secondary (perhaps it was the primary?) way up: a road ending in the parking lot. We weren’t put off, knowing we’d had a better experience walking up and down the rock steps. And, yes, there are 999; I confirmed that the last time I went up.
The last sight of the day was the statue of a sleeping lion, known as Leonardi to the locals. In 1833, Nafplio endured a rash of typhoid deaths due to an epidemic. Several of those who died were soldiers protecting Greece’s first king, Otto (or Othon), originally a Bavarian prince. Otto’s father, Ludwig of Bavaria, commissioned a sculpture to reconstruct the sleeping Lion of Lucerne in memory of the soldiers. As you can see from the pictures, it is quite a touching monument.
From there, we went back to home base, a bright and warm apartment hotel with a view overlooking the town. We enjoyed the fresh vegetables bought earlier and mimicked in our own kitchen the herbed pita bread we had previously. As night fell, we retired to our balcony to observe the fortress lit up in the darkness.
And that is how one might spend a Saturday in Greece.