34 posts match "Greece" - select title or scroll down to see posts
 
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  1.  It's all Greek to meMonday, 10 October 2016 ~ Greece, Piraeus 
Oct 10, 2016
  Greece, Piraeus  
  2.  The Delos to NaxosTuesday, 11 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos 
Oct 11, 2016
  Greece, Naxos  
  3.  Naxos' Old TownWednesday, 12 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos 
Oct 12, 2016
  Greece, Naxos  
  4.  Tight SqueezeThursday, 13 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos 
Oct 13, 2016
  Greece, Naxos  
  5.  To the top of Mt ZasFriday, 14 October 2016 ~ Greece, Hikes Naxos 
Oct 14, 2016
  Naxos, Greece, Hikes  
  6.  Avtio NaxosSaturday, 15 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos 
Oct 15, 2016
  Greece, Naxos  
  7.  SantoriniSunday, 16 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Oct 16, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
  8.  Fira, Firostefani, and ImerovigliMonday, 17 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Oct 17, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
  9.  Aeolus and OiaTuesday, 18 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Oct 18, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
10.  A Two Gyros DayWednesday, 19 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio 
Oct 19, 2016
  Greece, Nafplio  
11.  The Palmidi FortressThursday, 20 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio 
Oct 20, 2016
  Greece, Nafplio  
12.  A rainy day in NafplioFriday, 21 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio 
Oct 21, 2016
  Greece, Nafplio  
13.  Back in TimeSaturday, 22 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia 
Oct 22, 2016
  Greece, Monemvasia  
14.  Upper Town MonemvasiaSunday, 23 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia 
Oct 23, 2016
  Greece, Monemvasia  
15.  The Hidden TownMonday, 24 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia 
Oct 24, 2016
  Greece, Monemvasia  
16.  A hillside of churchesTuesday, 25 October 2016 ~ Greece, Kardamyli Mystras 
Oct 25, 2016
  Kardamyli, Greece, Mystras  
17.  Hiking on the Mani peninsulaWednesday, 26 October 2016 ~ Greece, Kardamyli 
Oct 26, 2016
  Greece, Kardamyli  
18.  We're not in Kardamyli anymoreThursday, 27 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece,
Oct 27, 2016
  Athens, Greece  
19.  Alors, c’est la guerre!Friday, 28 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece,
Oct 28, 2016
  Athens, Greece  
20.  Boom! Boom! Boom!Friday, 28 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece,
Oct 28, 2016
  Athens, Greece  
21.  Finger tips of roseSaturday, 29 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece,
Oct 29, 2016
  Athens, Greece  
22.  Acropolis MuseumSaturday, 29 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece,
Oct 29, 2016
  Athens, Greece  
23.  The Anti AthensSunday, 30 October 2016 ~ Athens Greece, Hydra 
Oct 30, 2016
  Athens, Greece, Hydra  
24.  Back on the donkeyMonday, 31 October 2016 ~ Greece, Hydra 
Oct 31, 2016
  Greece, Hydra  
25.  The dog you can rideTuesday, 1 November 2016 ~ Greece, Hydra 
Nov 1, 2016
  Greece, Hydra  
26.  Good-bye Hydra, good-bye GreeceWednesday, 2 November 2016 ~ Greece, Hydra 
Nov 2, 2016
  Greece, Hydra  
27.  Hiking Mt ZeusThursday, 10 November 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos 
Nov 10, 2016
  Greece, Naxos  
28.  Skala and AthinosSaturday, 19 November 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Nov 19, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
29.  Santorini ChurchSunday, 20 November 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Nov 20, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
30.  Hiking Fira to OiaMonday, 21 November 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini 
Nov 21, 2016
  Greece, Santorini  
31.  Accidental PanoramaWednesday, 11 January 2017 ~ Greece, Hydra Panorama Postprocessing 
Jan 11, 2017
  Greece, Postprocessing, Panorama, Hydra  
32.  Blue Boat(s)Friday, 13 January 2017 ~ Greece, Hydra Postprocessing Silver Efex Simplify 
Jan 13, 2017
  Greece, Simplify, Silver Efex, Postprocessing, Hydra  
33.  Three FriendsSunday, 15 January 2017 ~ Greece, Hydra 
Jan 15, 2017
  Greece, Hydra  
34.  The Acropolis and MuseumMonday, 16 January 2017 ~ Athens Greece,
Jan 16, 2017
  Athens, Greece  
 
 
 
1. It's all Greek to me
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Piraeus
S   M   L
1. It's all Greek to me
, Monday, 10 October 2016 ~ Greece, Piraeus
 
 
 
Piraeus

I'm in Piraeus, first stop on a visit to Greece. The weather is t-shirt-and-shorts comfortable and so far all has gone off without a hitch.

Piraeus is Athen's port, a dense, old city that occupies the space between Athens and the Mediterranean. It's not a destination in itself, just a place to stop while waiting for a ferry, which is what I'm doing. Boarding a ship means walking among cars, trucks and motorbikes, there is none of the separation you see with BC ferries. No guard rails either, a pattern throughout Greece I will find. I guess we don't need no stink'in guardrails.

Tomorrow, 7am, we'll take the Blue Star Delos as far as the island of Naxos. After Naxos the ferry goes to Santorini, then it reverses course, returning to Piraeus before midnight.

 
 
 
Traffic      
The traffic-filled square adjacent to Piraeus.
 
 
Traffic      
The traffic-filled square adjacent to Piraeus.
 
 
Traffic      
The traffic-filled square adjacent to Piraeus.
 
Loading a ferry      
 
 
Loading a ferry      
 
 
Loading a ferry      
 
Bow of a Flyingcat      
 
 
Bow of a Flyingcat      
 
 
Bow of a Flyingcat      
 
Two Blue Star ferries      
 
 
Two Blue Star ferries      
 
 
Two Blue Star ferries      
 
 
2. The Delos to Naxos
Tue, 11 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Naxos
S   M   L
2. The Delos to Naxos
, Tuesday, 11 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos
 
 
 
Naxos

Today was cloudy and cool, good for a half travel, half explore day. We took the Blue Star Delos from Piraeus to the town of Naxos (aka Chora) which is on the island of Naxos. It takes about six hours.

First, the Delos. It's large, 2400 passengers. It's in good shape and has several food sources and espresso stands. Lots of places to sit though we are off season so I can imagine it can get crowded in summer. We stayed outdoors, on the back deck, to look at passing ships and islands. The only annoyance was cigarette smoke. I will soon find almost everyone in Greece smokes.

Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades. It's said to be the greenest, too, though in comparison to BC it's a desert. Naxos Town, the largest town on the island, makes a good first impression. The waterfront is pretty and chock-a-block sidewalk cafes separated from cars. After checking in to our hotel we ate dinner then walked to the massive marble doorway called the Portara, entrance to an unfinished Temple to Apollo. A nice view of the town from there.

 
 
 
Another Blue Star ferry      
 
 
Another Blue Star ferry      
 
 
Another Blue Star ferry      
 
The Delos ferry to Naxos      
 
 
The Delos ferry to Naxos      
 
 
The Delos ferry to Naxos      
 
A short stop in Paros      
 
 
A short stop in Paros      
 
 
A short stop in Paros      
 
Portara and Naxos      
 
 
Portara and Naxos      
 
 
Portara and Naxos      
 
Naxos Town as seen from Portara      
 
 
Naxos Town as seen from Portara      
 
 
Naxos Town as seen from Portara      
 
Street food      
 
 
Street food      
 
 
Street food      
 
 
3. Naxos' Old Town
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Naxos
S   M   L
3. Naxos' Old Town
, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos
 
 
 

Morning arrived with the sound of rain but it wasn't rain, it was popping from the electrical transformer next to the hotel, the comfortable and reasonably-priced Anassa suites. Later the hotel's proprietor assured us it was normal, something about the evening humidity.

After a cappuccino Paul and I walked to the old town, old being relative as everything is old. Our goal was a cafe known for views but we could not find it. We visited the archaeological museum. instead, a small collection of art and every-day objects dating from 5300 BC to the 5th century AD. Quick and cheap (2). Uninspired with minimal texts, but cheap and quick.

Next we walked to St George beach, south of town, to watch windsurfers riding the crystal-clear water. Really, the water here is transparent like glass.

My advice should you visit Greece: don't drink ouzo on an empty stomach. Just don't ask me how I know.

 
 
 
View from our balcony, Naxos      
 
 
View from our balcony, Naxos      
 
 
View from our balcony, Naxos      
 
Greek Orthodox church      
 
 
Greek Orthodox church      
 
 
Greek Orthodox church      
 
Archaeological museum      
 
 
Archaeological museum      
 
 
Archaeological museum      
 
Windsurfers, St George beach      
 
 
Windsurfers, St George beach      
 
 
Windsurfers, St George beach      
 
St George beach      
 
 
St George beach      
 
 
St George beach      
 
 
4. Tight Squeeze
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Naxos
S   M   L
4. Tight Squeeze
, Thursday, 13 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos
 
 
 

Today we swam in the Mediterranean, traveled back in time to 530 BC, and got a taste of driving like a Greek.

First, we walked to Avis where their friendly young rep spent a good half hour sharing her thoughts on the best ruins, the most charming hill towns, and the most photogenic drives.

Next, I drove our droptop Fiat Cinquecento a few km south to Plaka, one of the many beaches that circle Naxos island. I'd post a pic but you can use your imagination: it's a long stretch of sand, lapped by crystal-clear water, and dotted with the occasional person, some sans clothing.

From the beach we headed inland to check out the Dimitra temple. Driving on Naxos I soon discovered takes full concentration. Roads are narrow: they range from paved with two lanes to paved with one lane to dirt with one lane. More than once I had to pull over to let an opposing car pass, once I had to back up to let a pair of cars get by as the space between buildings was barely a car wide, and once I got stuck between buildings and had to back about a block as even with the mirrors collapsed the Fiat - not a wide car mind you, this is the Mini-sized 500 - couldn't squeeze any further. (At this point my claustrophobia kicked in and I briefly thought I'd have to escape through the car's sunroof.) The motorcyclist who got stuck behind me had a lot to say about this but I can only imagine what he said as it was all in Greek.

Finally, we arrived at the temple. Built around 530 BC and dedicated to the goddess Dimitra, the ruins are easy to miss as the text on the road sign has faded away. Fortunately the one-lane road, which is hemmed in by stone walls, ends just past the path to the temple. Unfortunately we found none of the signage readable, it has almost all faded away, with only a few legible words. A bit indicative of Greece's state I'm afraid.

 
 
 
Naxos town waterfront      
 
 
Naxos town waterfront      
 
 
Naxos town waterfront      
 
Path to Dimitra Temple      
 
 
Path to Dimitra Temple      
 
 
Path to Dimitra Temple      
 
At the Dimitra Temple      
 
 
At the Dimitra Temple      
 
 
At the Dimitra Temple      
 
Dimitra Temple      
 
 
Dimitra Temple      
 
 
Dimitra Temple      
 
 
5. To the top of Mt Zas
Fri, 14 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Hikes, Naxos
S   M   L
5. To the top of Mt Zas
, Friday, 14 October 2016 ~ Greece, Hikes, Naxos
 
 
 

The day started with a Seinfeld reference and ended with a hike to the highest point on the island of Naxos.

We woke to see the cruise ship MV Astoria anchored offshore and unloading passengers via tenders. The Astoria, it turns out, has had seven owners and ten names since it entered service in 1948 as the MS Stockholm, though I don't know whether this is unusual for a ship of this vintage. What is interesting is that, sailing under the name Stockholm, it collided with the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket Massachusetts in 1956, resulting in the sinking of the Andrea Doria and the loss of 46 of its 1,660 passengers. Both crews shared in the blame.

If you are a Seinfeld fan you'll recall that George Costanza lost an apartment to a survivor of the sinking. While George's tales of woe drew more sympathy than the survivor's experience, a bribe from the latter won the apartment.

Now to the serious business of being a tourist. Most of our day was spent hiking to the top of Mt Zas (or Mt Zeus) , the highest point in the Cyclades at about 1000 m. The views are far reaching all the way up to the peak: we could see inland Naxos, the neighboring island of Paros, as well as the Aegean sea and several of the other Cycladic islands.

 
 
 
Naxos      
The MV Astoria, aka MS Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket in 1956 and played a role in keeping George Costanza from getting an apartment.
 
 
Naxos      
The MV Astoria, aka MS Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket in 1956 and played a role in keeping George Costanza from getting an apartment.
 
 
Naxos      
The MV Astoria, aka MS Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket in 1956 and played a role in keeping George Costanza from getting an apartment.
 
The chapel of Aghia Marina at the Mt Zas trailhead      
 
 
The chapel of Aghia Marina at the Mt Zas trailhead      
 
 
The chapel of Aghia Marina at the Mt Zas trailhead      
 
Islands in the Cyclades from Mt Zas      
 
 
Islands in the Cyclades from Mt Zas      
 
 
Islands in the Cyclades from Mt Zas      
 
Hiking Mt Zas      
 
 
Hiking Mt Zas      
 
 
Hiking Mt Zas      
 
Stone walls, viewed from Mt Zas      
 
 
Stone walls, viewed from Mt Zas      
 
 
Stone walls, viewed from Mt Zas      
 
Village of Filoti at the base of Mt Zas      
 
 
Village of Filoti at the base of Mt Zas      
 
 
Village of Filoti at the base of Mt Zas      
 
 
6. Avtio Naxos
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Naxos
S   M   L
6. Avtio Naxos
, Saturday, 15 October 2016 ~ Greece, Naxos
 
 
 

We spent our last full day on Naxos touring the center and north sides of the island. The narrow, winding, vertigo-inducing roads took us to the mountainside towns of Moni and Apirathos and the seaside town of Apolonas.

Something you'll find on Naxos is an abundance of small chapels. They are everywhere, on hillsides, tucked into valleys, and even perched on seemingly- inaccessible hilltops. They are always white in colour so they stand out against the background (though white combined with bright blue trim is a common colour for buildings on the island).

A less common sight is a kouros, which is an ancient, free-standing sculpture, usually of a nude male youth. There are three on Naxos, the largest being the 10 meter long kouros just outside the town of Apolonas. It has been dated as being from the 6th or 7th century BC. It lies on its back near an old marble quarry. This being Naxos, little has been done to promote access: there is no parking lot and no explanatory signage. It's just lying there, a few steps off the road. In the photo Paul is standing next to the statue to give a sense of its size.

I'll miss Naxos as it's a very charming town, not too big and not too small, and it's a port so there is always change: the light, the boats, the people. The people we've met, from the Avis lady - what a sweetheart! - to the hotel proprietor, to the little old lady we talked to on the far side of the island, everyone has been friendly and welcoming. I've also learned a bit about the struggles they are dealing with, the economic stresses and the doctor shortage, yet they are carrying on, working hard, and putting their best face forward. I think anyone who says Greeks are lazy has never been to Greece. Avtio, Naxos.

 
 
 
White chapels      
 
 
White chapels      
 
 
White chapels      
 
Hilltop chapels      
 
 
Hilltop chapels      
 
 
Hilltop chapels      
 
Church in Apirathos      
 
 
Church in Apirathos      
 
 
Church in Apirathos      
 
Apolonas      
 
 
Apolonas      
 
 
Apolonas      
 
Paul & 10m Apolonos kouros      
 
 
Paul & 10m Apolonos kouros      
 
 
Paul & 10m Apolonos kouros      
 
Our hotel      
 
 
Our hotel      
 
 
Our hotel      
 
Naxos Harbour      
 
 
Naxos Harbour      
 
 
Naxos Harbour      
 
 
7. Santorini
Sun, 16 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Santorini
S   M   L
7. Santorini
, Sunday, 16 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini
 
 
 
Santorini on the map

Our first night on Santorini island. The hotel, the Petit Palace, is comfortable and the view, as you can see, is stunning. My sole complaint is spotty wifi. Of course you don't come to Santorini for the wifi, you come to perch on the rim of a volcanic caldera and soak in the breathtaking setting.

 
 
 
Petit Palace Hotel      
The hotel is built into the side of the wall of the collapsed caldera.
 
 
Petit Palace Hotel      
The hotel is built into the side of the wall of the collapsed caldera.
 
 
Petit Palace Hotel      
The hotel is built into the side of the wall of the collapsed caldera.
 
Paul next to our private pool      
 
 
Paul next to our private pool      
 
 
Paul next to our private pool      
 
Santorini      
 
 
Santorini      
 
 
Santorini      
 
 
8. Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli
Mon, 17 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Santorini
S   M   L
8. Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli
, Monday, 17 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini
 
 
 

Today we started out by exploring Fira, Santorini island's capital and largest city. It was a blazingly sunny day, the brightness enhanced by the ubiquitous white buildings and reflections off the wine-dark sea.

I am reading the wonderful Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey and can easily visualize Ulysses' ship sailing the Greek waters, trying to avoid being bashed into the rocky shores. In fact, at the base of the cliff 250m below our hotel is an outline of where a cruise ship sunk in 2007. The giant ship is still there.

Fira's 7000 inhabitants are dwarfed by tourists; the town is covered with hotels and restaurants, many of which cascade down the cliffside to afford views of the caldera and the boats that ply its waters. Yet everyone we've met has been friendly and helpful and most people we've encountered speak English - and their English is certainly better than my Greek. Signage, too, is almost always accompanied by an English translation.

Next, we walked north from Fira along the cliffside path to the two adjacent villages, Firostefani and Imerovigli. While there Paul hiked out to Skaros, a rocky outcrop that once featured a village and a castle.

 
 
 
Hotel breakfast      
 
 
Hotel breakfast      
 
 
Hotel breakfast      
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
Oia as seen from Fira      
 
 
Oia as seen from Fira      
 
 
Oia as seen from Fira      
 
Volcanic islets seen from Fira      
 
 
Volcanic islets seen from Fira      
 
 
Volcanic islets seen from Fira      
 
Hotel-covered Fira      
 
 
Hotel-covered Fira      
 
 
Hotel-covered Fira      
 
Chapel overlooking caldera in Fira      
 
 
Chapel overlooking caldera in Fira      
 
 
Chapel overlooking caldera in Fira      
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
 
Church in Fira      
 
Windstar ship anchored off Fira      
 
 
Windstar ship anchored off Fira      
 
 
Windstar ship anchored off Fira      
 
 
9. Aeolus and Oia
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Santorini
S   M   L
9. Aeolus and Oia
, Tuesday, 18 October 2016 ~ Greece, Santorini
 
 
 

Aeolus, the god of the winds, was in full form today as we set out from the Petit Palace hotel for the distant village of Oia. In addition to facing Aeolus's brisk winds we missed the bus into town so it was an exhausting day. First we retraced yesterday's path to Fira, Firostefani, and then Imerovigli. Then we hiked a path that hugs the cliffside overlooking the caldera. It also involves climbing a couple of hills. Finally the path drops down to Oia, at the northern-most tip of Santorini island. By the end of the day I figure we did 16km.

Oia is a yet another charming hilltop town, a little more polished than Fira - the marble sidewalks are beautiful - but I didn't find Oia all that different from Fira. Oia might be a better place to stay than Fira if only for the fact that Fira is where the cruise ships disembark.

We took the bus back to Fira then walked the rest of the way to the hotel. The ticket taker on the very comfortable bus provided an entertaining nonstop commentary on his need for small change for fares as well as how not to dispose of our bus ticket stubs. All in English, mind you. Then, on the walk back we encountered several groups of donkeys going home for the night. I suppose these are the animals that ferry passengers frim Fira's cruise ship port. Note that the guidebooks discourage using the poor donkeys.

Dinner was excellent Mexican at Senor Zorba, our second visit. Greek cuisine is fine but it is also nice to have a break from it.

 
 
 
Oia at northern tip      
 
 
Oia at northern tip      
 
 
Oia at northern tip      
 
Chapel in Oia      
 
 
Chapel in Oia      
 
 
Chapel in Oia      
 
Donkey traffic jam, Fira      
 
 
Donkey traffic jam, Fira      
 
 
Donkey traffic jam, Fira      
 
 
10. A Two Gyros Day
Wed, 19 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Nafplio
S   M   L
10. A Two Gyros Day
, Wednesday, 19 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio
 
 
 
Nafplio

We're in Nafplio to see its elegant old town, to hike up to its looming fortress, and to start an exploration of the Peloponnese.

I'd not heard of Nafplio until I started research for this trip. It has a long colourful history thanks to its strategic location. Since ancient times Nafplio has been fought over and control passed between Greeks, Venetians and Ottomans. More recently Nafplio was the first capital of modern Greece, though only for the brief period of 1829 to 1834.

As the crow flies Nafplio isn't far from Santorini but it took a good part of a day to get here as it required a flight to Athens, a bus to the city, then a bus to Nafplio. I hate hate hate flying so would much rather have sailed but ferry schedules are sparse this time of year.

After arriving we spent the evening walking the beautiful marble-paved streets, stopping to eat sweets from the abundance of pastry shops. The Greeks are very good pastry makers, with honey featuring a big role. Mmmmm.

I took these photos pretty late in the evening so the streets were largely empty. I converted them to black and white using the lovely Fuji Acros film simulation. Nafplio's old town is beautifully lit at night. Its marble-lined streets and squares shimmer with reflections and remind me of nighttime in Siracusa, though I think Nafplio may be in better shape.

After eating a gyro - my second today, both good and cheap at a little past 2 - we capped the evening by sitting in on a free concert in an old church.

 
 
 
Marble square      
 
 
Marble square      
 
 
Marble square      
 
Concert      
 
 
Concert      
 
 
Concert      
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
 
11. The Palmidi Fortress
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Nafplio
S   M   L
11. The Palmidi Fortress
, Thursday, 20 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio
 
 
 

Some travelers like beaches; I find them boring after half an hour. Some like fancy restaurants; I find the more I spend on food the less I like it, what I call my rule of diminishing returns for restaurants. Some like to shop; I really don't need any more stuff, plus I've a long way to lug purchases to get them home.

What I do like is to hike to the highest point in town, so today we hiked up to the Palamidi fortress.

 
 
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
According to the signs it is 999 steps to the top but that number sounds too perfect. Anyway it's a long walk up.
 
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
According to the signs it is 999 steps to the top but that number sounds too perfect. Anyway it's a long walk up.
 
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
According to the signs it is 999 steps to the top but that number sounds too perfect. Anyway it's a long walk up.
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
 
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
 
 
Stairway to Palamidi Fortress      
 
The top of the stairs leads to the entrance to the fortress      
 
 
The top of the stairs leads to the entrance to the fortress      
 
 
The top of the stairs leads to the entrance to the fortress      
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Built by the Venetians during their second occupation, it was quickly constructed between 1711 to 1714.
 
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Built by the Venetians during their second occupation, it was quickly constructed between 1711 to 1714.
 
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Built by the Venetians during their second occupation, it was quickly constructed between 1711 to 1714.
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Maintenance of the fortress' site, like signage and barriers, is pretty poor, which I'm finding to be a pattern at Greek historical sites, though I don't know if this is due to recent economic problems or is just the way things are (not) done. Nafplio itself looks great, and the highway between here and Athens is in great condition, so I don't know why the sites such as this and the temple and kouros in Naxos are so neglected. Even so, Greece is a wonderful place to visit and the people couldn't be nicer.
 
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Maintenance of the fortress' site, like signage and barriers, is pretty poor, which I'm finding to be a pattern at Greek historical sites, though I don't know if this is due to recent economic problems or is just the way things are (not) done. Nafplio itself looks great, and the highway between here and Athens is in great condition, so I don't know why the sites such as this and the temple and kouros in Naxos are so neglected. Even so, Greece is a wonderful place to visit and the people couldn't be nicer.
 
 
Inside the Palamidi Fortress      
Maintenance of the fortress' site, like signage and barriers, is pretty poor, which I'm finding to be a pattern at Greek historical sites, though I don't know if this is due to recent economic problems or is just the way things are (not) done. Nafplio itself looks great, and the highway between here and Athens is in great condition, so I don't know why the sites such as this and the temple and kouros in Naxos are so neglected. Even so, Greece is a wonderful place to visit and the people couldn't be nicer.
 
Fortress wall      
In the distance is the countryside north and east of the fortress and Nafplio
 
 
Fortress wall      
In the distance is the countryside north and east of the fortress and Nafplio
 
 
Fortress wall      
In the distance is the countryside north and east of the fortress and Nafplio
 
Fortress wall      
 
 
Fortress wall      
 
 
Fortress wall      
 
Fortress wall looking south west      
 
 
Fortress wall looking south west      
 
 
Fortress wall looking south west      
 
Down to Nafplio      
 
 
Down to Nafplio      
 
 
Down to Nafplio      
 
Nafplio, Greece, old town      
 
 
Nafplio, Greece, old town      
 
 
Nafplio, Greece, old town      
 
Stairs to the fortress      
 
 
Stairs to the fortress      
 
 
Stairs to the fortress      
 
Paul escaping prison      
The fortress is divided into eight self-contained bastions and also contains a grim stone prison that is accessed through a small hole, as Paul demonstrates in the picture.
 
 
Paul escaping prison      
The fortress is divided into eight self-contained bastions and also contains a grim stone prison that is accessed through a small hole, as Paul demonstrates in the picture.
 
 
Paul escaping prison      
The fortress is divided into eight self-contained bastions and also contains a grim stone prison that is accessed through a small hole, as Paul demonstrates in the picture.
 
Paul next to prison door      
 
 
Paul next to prison door      
 
 
Paul next to prison door      
 
The Palmidi fortress      

The Palmidi fortress looms over Nafplio. It's a huge rambling stone complex that covers a hilltop that's something like 220m high.

 
 
The Palmidi fortress      

The Palmidi fortress looms over Nafplio. It's a huge rambling stone complex that covers a hilltop that's something like 220m high.

 
 
The Palmidi fortress      

The Palmidi fortress looms over Nafplio. It's a huge rambling stone complex that covers a hilltop that's something like 220m high.

 
Lion of Saint Mark      
Venetians once controlled Nafplio. The Lion of Saint Mark over the door is the Venetian city symbol.
 
 
Lion of Saint Mark      
Venetians once controlled Nafplio. The Lion of Saint Mark over the door is the Venetian city symbol.
 
 
Lion of Saint Mark      
Venetians once controlled Nafplio. The Lion of Saint Mark over the door is the Venetian city symbol.
 
 
12. A rainy day in Nafplio
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Nafplio
S   M   L
12. A rainy day in Nafplio
, Friday, 21 October 2016 ~ Greece, Nafplio
 
 
 

I'm glad we climbed to the top of the Palmidi fortress yesterday because the 999 steps would be pretty slippery today. Instead we hung around town, window shopping and eating and checking out the harbour and the smaller Akronafplia fortress which is just above our hotel.

Our hotel, the Amfitriti Palazzo, is a nice-enough place: centrally located, good breakfasts, stylish, but it is not for the staircase averse or for those who hate cats. Though if you hate cats I'd say maybe you should just avoid Greece altogether as there are cats everywhere.

After breakfast we walked out to the harbour to check out the breakwater and get a close look at the Windstar, a small cruise ship that is a combo sail/motor boat. The same ship was anchored off Santorini a couple days ago. We are tempted to try a cruise someday though I'm not sure I'll like the brevity of the shore leaves.

We spent some time talking to a woman fishing off the breakwater (see picture of her below), about the economy and fishing and Greece in general. Gotta say I've yet to meet friendlier people than the Greeks.

From the harbour you can see Nafplio's three Venetian fortresses. There's actually a fourth fortress across the bay but the sky was too grey to get a good view of it.

The Palmidi fortress is the one we climbed yesterday. The Bourtzi fortress is on a small island just offshore. And the Akronafplia fortress is just behind our hotel. We'll climb it - it's just a short hike up - later today.

Back in the old town I wolfed down a dark chocolate gelato at the Antica Gelateria. The old town is full of tempting places to eat: pastry shops - so many pastry shops! -, cafes, gyros, ice cream, and on and on, and none of them chain restaurants, no macdonalds, no olive gardens. Many Greek restauranteours try to engage you as you walk by, but they aren't obnoxiously pushy like those in nearby Turkey. I just smile, say hello, say no thanks.

Just another day in Greece.

 
 
 
View from hotel      
 
 
View from hotel      
 
 
View from hotel      
 
The Amfitriti Palazzo hotel, seen from the Akronafplia fortress      
 
 
The Amfitriti Palazzo hotel, seen from the Akronafplia fortress      
 
 
The Amfitriti Palazzo hotel, seen from the Akronafplia fortress      
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
Our fishing friend      
 
 
Our fishing friend      
 
 
Our fishing friend      
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
 
Nafplio      
 
The coast of Nafplio      
 
 
The coast of Nafplio      
 
 
The coast of Nafplio      
 
Paul in Nafplio      
 
 
Paul in Nafplio      
 
 
Paul in Nafplio      
 
Worry beads      
 
 
Worry beads      
 
 
Worry beads      
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
Nafplio harbour      
 
 
13. Back in Time
Sat, 22 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Monemvasia
S   M   L
13. Back in Time
, Saturday, 22 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia
 
 
 
Monemvasia

We picked up a car in Nafplio to go to Monemvasia, a giant rock island with a medieval town wrapped around it. And of course we chose to drive the scenic route, which combined a windy two-lane road that hugs the coast, a plunge through a Yosemite valley-like canyon, a twisty 1,250 meter mountain pass, then an easy downhill that became a tiring slog through a frog strangler, what we call a torrential rainstorm in Texas.

Highlights of today's drive were the town of Leonidio which is in a dramatic red/brown rock canyon, the quaint stone mountaintop town of Kosmas whose main square is filled with cafes surrounding a pretty church, and a monastary somehow carved into the side of a cliff. A pretty drive, and the road is in good condition.

When you arrive you find that you can't drive in Monemvasia. In fact you can't even see the town from the mainland, it's hidden on the far side of the island. A defensive measure of course. To get to Monemvasia you drive through the mainland town of Gefyra, cross a narrow causeway over the Mediterranean, then leave your car on the road. Well, assuming you find a place to park. From there you walk through a dark tunnel which pierces the city wall. When you come out of the tunnel you feel like you've stepped back into medieval times as you are in an old stone village that is very rough around the edges. This isn't Santorini.

Monemvasia is split between a lower town, which is peppered with hotel rooms, cafes, and a few shops, and an upper town with castle ruins. The lower town is a honeycomb of cobblestone stairs and alleys. Hotels consist of rooms scattered here and there, with no cohesive plan. The chunky cobblestones make for a challenging walk - wheeled luggage won't roll here - and you have to watch your every step, and it's even more challeging in the rain as the round stones get slippery. That said, it is also very cool to look at and explore, with old stone work, low arches, and narrow passageways.

Fortunately the rain has passed, the stars are out, so tomorrow we'll explore the lower and upper towns.

 
 
 
Coastline near Leonidio, Greece      
 
 
Coastline near Leonidio, Greece      
 
 
Coastline near Leonidio, Greece      
 
Monastary in cliff      
 
 
Monastary in cliff      
 
 
Monastary in cliff      
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
View from our hotel room      
 
 
View from our hotel room      
 
 
View from our hotel room      
 
Bike      
 
 
Bike      
 
 
Bike      
 
 
14. Upper Town Monemvasia
Sun, 23 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Monemvasia
S   M   L
14. Upper Town Monemvasia
, Sunday, 23 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia
 
 
 

One look at Monemvasia and you think this is one defensible place: the upper town, which was occupied before the lower town, is surrounded by a hundred meters or more of rocky cliffs. Better yet, it's an island. Of course if you're holed up here, surrounded by angry hordes, at some point there is the problem of food and water as the climate is dry and the ground is mostly rock. Nothing's perfect I guess.

We are staying at a hotel in the lower town, the occupied area of the island, and so today we explored Monemvasia's unoccupied upper town. The path from lower to upper takes a series of slippery cobblestone switchbacks that end at a small but foreboding door in a big wall. Think Mordor. Once inside the door you pass through a long dark tunnel that is crooked so as to deny any peek of the town beyond.

Unlike the lower town, which is beautifully restored medieval/Greek chic, the upper has no residents or businesses. Instead it is speckled with ruins in various states of decay and reconstruction. The best two of the many ruins are the vaulted building adjacent to to the wall and the large church, the Agia Sophia, that is furthur up the hill and precariously positioned on a cliff edge. We spent several hours here, walking the sometimes confusing paths, climbing the ruins, and looking over the edges of the hill. The views are expansive but you have to watch your step as there are holes that fall into cisterns and cliffs with no railings or barriers of any kind.

The best restored building is the beautiful church of Agia Sophia which, I've read, combines Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian elements. It even has some colorful murals inside; these reminded me of murals i saw at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

After hiking down we explored the lower town, walked along the city wall, and then waved goodbye to the Windstar cruise ship yet again; we also encountered it in Santorini and Nafplio.

I don't usually talk food but we had a great dinner of mezes at Voltes Mezedopolio for 25. Like old town Nafplio, there are no tacky fast food places in Monemvasia, every restaurant on the one commercial street looks pretty classy.

 
 
 
Looking down      
Looking down from the old, abandoned hill top town to the old but inhabited town below.
 
 
Looking down      
Looking down from the old, abandoned hill top town to the old but inhabited town below.
 
 
Looking down      
Looking down from the old, abandoned hill top town to the old but inhabited town below.
 
The upper town      
 
 
The upper town      
 
 
The upper town      
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
Drainage      
 
 
Drainage      
 
 
Drainage      
 
Murals      
 
 
Murals      
 
 
Murals      
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
On the edge      
 
 
On the edge      
 
 
On the edge      
 
Ruins      
 
 
Ruins      
 
 
Ruins      
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
Windstar      
 
 
Windstar      
 
 
Windstar      
 
Old town      
 
 
Old town      
 
 
Old town      
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
 
Looking towards mainland      
 
Cat      
 
 
Cat      
 
 
Cat      
 
City at twilight      
 
 
City at twilight      
 
 
City at twilight      
 
 
15. The Hidden Town
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Monemvasia
S   M   L
15. The Hidden Town
, Monday, 24 October 2016 ~ Greece, Monemvasia
 
 
 

Let's see if I can complete this post before the Malvazia hotel's wifi disappears again ...

We woke to grey and wet weather but soon enough it cleared and it became a good day to wander the delightful island of Monemvasia.

To get some perspective on Monemvasia the first thing we did today was leave. We walked across the causeway to the nearby town of Gefyra where I took the first picture which shows Monemvasia as seen from the mainland. The connecting causeway is on the left of the picture. At one time there was a tower and drawbridge in the middle of the causeway but now there is a conventional bridge, a small hotel and gas station, and piers for small boats.

There's no hint of a walled town visible from the mainland, aside from a few structures sticking out on the top of the rock, which of course made this a more secure and defensible place.

The importance of defense is reinforced time and time again as I travel the old cities of Europe. Cliff-top Ronda, for example, hints at the same isolation as Monemvasia but it's nowhere near as secure. Both towns also shared a weakness in terms of food and water supplies.

As you drive (or walk) the narrow road that hugs the southern side of the island, the island appears to be uninhabited. Then you pass a cemetary and round a corner and suddenly you see the lower town's western wall. A small door in the wall leads to a crooked passageway which then opens on the main street of the town. The wall surrounds the town on three sides, the fourth side being protected by the cliff.

Monemvasia has been a real treat to visit. The narrow cobblestone streets, the ominous cliffs, the city walls, the small atmospheric buildings with their narrow stairs and low ceilings, the stonework and ruins, it's a magical medieval atmosphere. And, of course, the friendly Greek people and delicious food - tasty mezes again tonight! - just add to the pleasure.

 
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
 
Monemvasia      
 
Western town wall      
The road to Monemvasia ends abruptly at the town wall. You have to leave your car outside on the road.
 
 
Western town wall      
The road to Monemvasia ends abruptly at the town wall. You have to leave your car outside on the road.
 
 
Western town wall      
The road to Monemvasia ends abruptly at the town wall. You have to leave your car outside on the road.
 
Eastern wall, opposite of main entrance      
 
 
Eastern wall, opposite of main entrance      
 
 
Eastern wall, opposite of main entrance      
 
Eastern wall      
 
 
Eastern wall      
 
 
Eastern wall      
 
City wall along sea      
 
 
City wall along sea      
 
 
City wall along sea      
 
Tunnel thru city wall      
 
 
Tunnel thru city wall      
 
 
Tunnel thru city wall      
 
Main street      
 
 
Main street      
 
 
Main street      
 
Main street      
 
 
Main street      
 
 
Main street      
 
Tulip window is of Ottoman origin      
 
 
Tulip window is of Ottoman origin      
 
 
Tulip window is of Ottoman origin      
 
Paul entering hotel room      
 
 
Paul entering hotel room      
 
 
Paul entering hotel room      
 
 
16. A hillside of churches
Tue, 25 Oct 2016 ~ Greece  Kardamyli, Mystras
S   M   L
16. A hillside of churches
, Tuesday, 25 October 2016 ~ Greece, Kardamyli, Mystras
 
 
 

The wind god was blasting Monemvasia this morning when we said goodbye; the sea frosted with whitecaps. It was time to head west, to check out the ruins at Mystras and then on to Kardamyli on the rugged west coast of the Mani peninsula.

Our first stop, Mystras, was about the halfway mark on today's drive. The fortress atop Mystras was built around 1249 and in subsequent years the hillside below developed into a walled city. Today Mystras consists of a lot of church ruins, a few in decent shape, plus the crumbling walls of the hilltop castle.

The best preserved/restored churches are near the lower entrance and are well worth visiting but at some point, say after three or four, I found it repetitive. I suppose an anthropologist or archeologist or historian would find it all fascinating but I can only take so many ruins in one day. So we hiked the cobblestone path up to the top of the hill to see what is left of the castle - not much, it turns out - and to view the surrounding countryside, the green hills and the brown above-treeline mountain peaks in the distance. Greece sure is good looking.

Not the best photographic conditions though, the mid-day sun is harsh, the shadows contrasty, but you can't carry golden-hour lighting conditions in your backpack. I took some bracketed shots but have to be home at my PC to process those.

Kardamyli map

From Mystras we drove south to get around the impressive Taygetos mountains, then north along the rugged coast to Kardamyli where we are spending a couple nights in a large comfortable apartment. The west coast of the Mani peninsula is beautiful indeed: a deep blue sea crashing against a dry mountainous landscape dotted with nice looking towns.

We stopped for lunch at a cafe somewhere between Kelefa and Platsa, I was desperate for a coffee, where we met a warm, friendly local woman who served us. She reinforced my thinking that the Greeks are the friendliest people.

 
 
 
Paul enjoying Monemvasia hotel view      
 
 
Paul enjoying Monemvasia hotel view      
 
 
Paul enjoying Monemvasia hotel view      
 
Hotel reception      
 
 
Hotel reception      
 
 
Hotel reception      
 
A church in Mystras      
 
 
A church in Mystras      
 
 
A church in Mystras      
 
A church in Mystras      
 
 
A church in Mystras      
 
 
A church in Mystras      
 
Mystras church      
 
 
Mystras church      
 
 
Mystras church      
 
A church      
 
 
A church      
 
 
A church      
 
A church      
 
 
A church