Sunday, July 9, 2017

Greece with Kids: Corinth Canal, Ancient Mycenae, and Nafplio

Our first day in Greece is here and here.

I should mention that in Greece, we ate all. The. Food. We ate all the Greek dishes, the spinach pies and moussaka and spoon sweets with yogurt, but we also ate all the other European dishes that were on offer; I ate an English breakfast and then a big bowl of yogurt with toppings for breakfast every single morning, for instance, and check out these two, whom I simply asked to smile for me:


Will has her mouth stuffed with chocolate croissant, and Matt has forked up a simply enormous helping of prosciutto. Also notice that he has fresh-squeezed orange juice in his glass, while Will is enjoying her morning cuppa, thanks to a waitress who brought a personal kettle of hot water right to the table for her. The luxury!

Anyway, on to Corinth! On another visit, I'll visit the Archaeological Museum there, and there must be some good New Testament-era sites to see, as the Corinthians were naughty enough during New Testament times for St. Paul to feel that he had to write them tons of letters to tell them how to behave, but on this trip, we stopped at the Corinth Canal, which separates the Greek mainland from the Peloponnese.

On one side of the bridge, you can follow the canal to the Saronic Gulf, which is part of the Aegean Sea:



Our tour guide said that tying stuff to the bridge is a tourist thing, NOT a Greek thing.
And on the other side, the canal leads to the Gulf of Corinth, which is part of the Ionian Sea:




Apparently the canal is too narrow to be of much commercial use these days, but Will and I saw birds nesting in the high rock faces, and our tour guide says there's a booming business for bungee jumping off the lower level of this bridge. Shudder.

Normally one of the fun things that we like to do when we travel is buy weird, regional junk food, but we were fed too well on this trip to want much in the way of snacks. Fortunately, though(?), it was always hot, so a beverage with some Greek wording is always on offer!

Greece LOVES its Fanta!
Here's an example of how much you can read if you just know Greek phonics:



The letters in the name of that restaurant are Mu Alpha Rho Gamma Alpha Rho Iota Tau Alpha. Forget how Rho looks, because it says "r." Gamma says "g." The name of that restaurant, then?

MARGARITA!!!

I doubt it actually serves margaritas, because "margarita" in Greek could also refer to a daisy or a pearl, and it's a girl's name, but still. You can read it!

Corinth is also the growing area for a very particular type of grape, which is then dried into a very particular type of sultana:

Delicious!
But enough about raisins and canals--let's go to the Bronze Age!

Mycenaean Greece was the period before the Sea People and way before the Classical Age, so it's one of the settings of Homer, who was writing about those long-ago, mythologized days. Ancient Mycenae was led by Agamemnon, who was the brother of Menelaus (and if you want to see a messed-up family, you should check out THEIR childhood!), and so when Paris stole Helen away from Menelaus, Agamemnon led the forces to retrieve her.

And when he couldn't get a favorable wind for his fleet, he sacrificed his daughter for it. I'm telling you, they were MESSED. UP!

And remember, Agamemnon also causes the inciting incident of The Iliad when he demands that Achilles give him his slave, Briseis, and Achilles throws a fit and refuses to fight anymore. But it's okay, because when Agamemnon finally goes home after the Trojan War he's murdered by his wife and her lover.

Treasures discovered while excavating Mycenae are now on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, which you might remember I'd wanted to go see but instead I had a shower and took a nap. Next time!

This example of a tholos tomb that we toured first is sometimes called Agamemnon's tomb, but this particular tholos is actually too early to be his.

This is one of the most impressive tholoi ever discovered--see that corbel arch over the door, and the keyhole opening that keeps the load from being to heavy?



Inside is a dome that our tour guide assured us looks much higher than it is.

And here's the way back out.
Matt forcibly took the camera from me for a minute. Thanks, Matt!
The tomb, though, is a little way outside of Mycenae. Here's how you get there--down the road--


--up the hill--

These were called Cyclopean walls, because only a Cyclops would have been big and strong enough to build one!



--and through the Lion Gate!



Headless lions--their heads have never been recovered, nor do we know what they looked like.
Here's where you place your offerings after entering through the gate:



And here's why it's often called a citadel--it's up high!





Here's Grave Circle A inside the city--it's where a lot of treasures were discovered during the archaeological excavations:







You could see all those olive trees in the vista in the previous photos, but there are also some right here:



Many of the tourists in our group were remarking on the strange insects that were calling so loudly on this blazingly hot day, but to me it just sounded like back home in Indiana:



Here's the hike up to the palace (another acropolis!) and then back down again:



I forgot to ask our tour guide about this hill, but don't you think it looks volcanic? It's so perfectly cone-shaped!

On our way back down from the palace
Out of all the places that we visited, Mycenae is by far the hardest to visualize. Go check out a guidebook or find a good pictorial work on Ancient Greece and look at the graphic restorations--it's pretty amazing. You can see the places marked on Google Maps, but you really need to view a reconstruction to visualize what you're actually looking at.

Thanks to the heat and the climbing, we were all wiped out after Ancient Mycenae, so our tour group drove to the seaside town of Ναύπλιο for a late lunch and a small wander. Even though I'd asked Will approximately 18 times before our trip to tell me if her sandals were still comfortable and if her swim trunks still fit, and she'd rudely blown me off every single time, it turned out that her sandals were actually too small (so, in fact, would her swim trunks turn out to be...), so here's where I learned the Greek word for pharmacy, and where a Greek pharmacy attendant and I bonded over the impossibility of acting out the word "blister"--finally I just called Will over and made her show her heels, because understanding was just not going to happen without visual aids.

We did not, then, hike to the top of the Palamidi fortress:



--but we ate Greek salad, saw our first Roma children begging (you're not supposed to give them any money, because their parents have no incentive to send them to school if they can instead use them to make money begging from tourists), touched the water of the Aegean Sea--

I don't have a photo, but when the kids kneeled down here and stuck their hands in the water, all these random fish swam up to be petted.
--and admired the water castle of Bourtzi, which the Venetians, who used to be freaking hard-core invaders, used to anchor a chain that they could pull across the gulf to keep more invaders out:



One of the best parts of our days was the fact that all of our hotels on this land tour had swimming pools! There was no better feeling on the planet than getting to our hotel, hot and sweaty and exhausted after all the hiking and sightseeing, and then immediately changing into our swim gear and jumping into the cool, refreshing water. Little troopers who were dead on the feet were immediately rejuvenated.

Big troopers, too!




We generally only had an hour or so of pool time, as all the pools during our entire trip bizarrely closed at 8 pm, but it actually worked out perfectly to hit the pool until it closed, run back up to the room and change clothes, meet the rest of our tour group for drinks (ouzo for the win!) and dinner, and by the time we were at the dessert course the kids were ready to excuse themselves from the table and head up to bed while the adults lingered to chat over just one more glass of mousse or slice of watermelon.

And then we'd go check on the kids and head to bed ourselves, of course, because tomorrow was yet another big day!

P.S. I post on my Craft Knife Facebook page all. The. Time, sometimes even while I'm in Greece! Come see!

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