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Epidaurus

By Hannah

overcast 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Abby and I awoke this morning to fresh treats from the local bakery. Mom and Dad had bought a variety of Greek goodies for us to sample. Opinions varied. The rather tasteless cookie-like rings covered in what seemed to be birdseed weren't very popular, while the chocolate coated ones were more of a hit. The shopkeeper had even been kind enough to throw in a few for free, and they were still warm when we bit into them. They tasted of anise and ginger, and were Abby's and my favourite. Most of them were just lightly sweet, which made them more acceptable as breakfast items, at least in our minds. In the end, we finished most of the box.

We had planned to go to Epidaurus and check out some of the ancient ruins. On our way there, we ran into a flock of sheep being herded down the hillside. It wasn't a sight you see every day, so we pulled over and watched the procession. We also saw a number of small shrines along the road, shaped like miniature churches and generally wreathed or surrounded by flowers. (If you want to see the goats we ran into on the way back, click here.)

Ancient Epidavros: Archeological Museum

Ancient Epidavros: Archeological Museum

The first place we went to was the museum regarding the Epidaurus site and Askeplios, a doctor from all those years ago. It was small, and most of the statues and ruins inside were aided by plaster or simply replicas. The medical instruments were interesting, though. We winced as we imagined what they might've been used for. Mom was the most creative, while I concluded that they were probably all used for bloodletting at one time or another.

The amphitheatre was amazing. It's the most famous one in Greece, and for a good reason. When you think of Greek ruins, you generally picture a bunch of stones laying on the ground, perhaps in a way that suggests a floor plan. The theatre, however, is in such good shape that it is still used today. We had a bit of fun talking to each other using the echoes, with one person at the top and another below. Mom and Dad let their "young at heart" sides show, singing and performing for the 14 000 (make that 13 998) empty seats before them. Whether standing in the middle of the stage or on the topmost seats, it's a spectacular place to see.

After the theatre, we went to visit the ruins of the hospital that Askelpios ran. These were more typical Greek ruins, but still made you think of how profoundly old they were, and what could've gone on in between them. There were some major restorative efforts being made to the site, and I think it would be interesting to return and see what it might have looked like.

Ancient Epidavros: Theatre

Ancient Epidavros: Theatre

Heading back to our car, we were approached by a German hitchhiker named Nicki. He seemed nice enough, and asked us if we were going to Nafplio. Though we weren't going back yet, we drove him as far as the highway, and had a brief chat with him along the way. He owned nothing but his backpack, and was using a site called couchsurfing.org to book his lodgings free of charge. He had travelled all over Poland for a year, and was spending another year in Greece. When asked which countries were on his list, he laughed and said, "All of them?" Perhaps not at the rate he was going, but it seemed a worthy goal.

We got a little bit turned around after dropping him off, and ended up driving towards Ancient Epidaurus, a small beachfront town, by accident. It seems that each Greek city has an older counterpart that it was built around. Along the way, we came across a bakery, and popped inside with hopes of finding something for lunch. It turned out to be mostly full of breads and pastries, but that didn't deter us, and we left laden down with cookies and baklava.

Lunch in Epidavros

Lunch in Epidavros

Ancient Epidaurus was almost completely empty, with the exception of the numerous stray dogs and cats we found lazing about. One of the dogs decided to befriend us, and took to following us as we explored the town, much to Abby's displeasure. It even waited outside the restaurant we went to for lunch. Taking a break from our usual gyros, we ordered a variety platter so as to try as many different Greek foods as possible. We were presented with an assortment of hors d'oeuvres, including phyllo stuffed with herbed cheese, meatballs that tasted similar to falafel, and vinegary rice wrapped in grape leaves. We enjoyed nearly all of them, and got a plate of calamari as well, which was less breaded and much tastier than the Western version. Abby got her own little plate of phyllo "cheese pies" instead, and avoided the calamari completely. In my opinion, she doesn't know what she's missing. After lunch, we took a stroll by the water, our faithful companion tailing us all the way.

Back at home, we all went to our separate corners and took a break from each other. In the end, no one felt like making and eating a real dinner, so we watched an episode of our favourite Downton Abbey and sampled the cakey, custardy variety of baklava we'd purchased. It was okay, though a little bit texturally off-putting, as the cake between the phyllo was wet and mushy. Perhaps the "normal" baklava will be tastier. Mom loved it, at least.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Nafplio. I'm excited for Athens, but I really like it here, and it's going to be tough to say goodbye. I can't believe we're almost three months into our nine month epic of a trip.

Posted by KZFamily 10:59 Archived in Greece Tagged greece theatre epidaurus napflio baklava Comments (2)

Starting the Weekend

by Muriel

sunny 18 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

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.

Nafplio: Saturday Market

Nafplio: Saturday Market

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.

Nafplio: Gyros Pita Heaven

Nafplio: Gyros Pita Heaven

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.

Nafplio: Palamidi Fortress View

Nafplio: Palamidi Fortress View

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.

Sleeping Lion

Sleeping Lion

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.

Posted by KZFamily 09:52 Archived in Greece Tagged greece napflio Comments (1)

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