We drove essentially the same route towards Eleusis, passing again the Daphni Monastery, which Yianni told us predated the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity [1054 AD]. The monastery has a famous mosaic of Jesus “Pancrator”, which means Lord of Everything. It is rich with gold tiles; someday I hope to see it; I understand it was not ruined in the collapse of some of the buildings
Corinth Canal. 300' deep at this point. One of the items in Greece older than I am, it opened in 1893.
We approached the Corinth Canal, without coming in sight of ancient Corinth itself. I am so glad we had the grand tour before, including a boat trip through the canal itself. [ref. NNNN #47]
Back on the bus, we began to climb the rocky hills of the spine of the peninsula, approaching the citadel of Mycenae. This ancient fortress dates to about 1200 BC and is known as the palace “where the Trojan War was planned.” My anticipation in seeing this place dates back to childhood readings of the Iliad.
The road up the mountain means that the defenders of the citadel can watch you for miles [maybe days] as you approach. You would arrive sweaty and exhausted, in no state to offer a threat and indeed in need of hospitality. As it was, we arrived in an air conditioned Mercedes Benz bus, but still in awe. From the parking lot, it is still a climb to the entry, which narrows to the exquisite Lion Gate.
The citadel from the parking lot. We've already bussed up the mountain but still a long slog to reach even the gate to the fort. In the foreground are grave circles.
Ron beneath the Lion Gate. The lions' heads were likely gilded wood. They stand on an megalithic lintel stone. On the inside of the gate, behind Ron is a defensive wall where soldiers could hurl unpleasant things on you if you breached the gate.
Despite the next 2 weeks of adventures, it is this moment that stands out! A culmination of 50 years anticipation.
And it lived up to all the hype. This fortress has all the defensive features one associates with castles of the Middle Ages: narrowing corridors which compress attackers into tight spaces; huge walls from which rocks or other projectiles can be heaped on enemies; a warren of corridors climbing even more uphill denying any hope of a concerted attack.
Having said all that, it made for a tough climb for old folks. I needed both canes and even then, I had trouble getting around. The signage was pitiful and there was no guide book. Most all I saw was the path I was walking since I had to watch my step. The group left me at the Lion Gate as they followed Yianni. Ron went on with them part of the way, then broke away to take a million pictures, as is his mandate. I trudged ever upwards.
But OH!! In the imagination, the magnificence rose around me! Wealthy arrogant aristocrats, bustling tradesmen calling their wares, merchants from Crete and Egypt, keen-eyes soldiers, screaming children, all attended my walk. In truth, all was ruins, but with magnificent wildflowers even in autumn and the bells and complaints of sheep echoing across from the next hilltop. And the ever-present wind keening up the rugged mountain to sweep over the crest of the citadel.
A view back down the mountain to the Argolid Plain below. The word "impregnable" comes to mind.
Back in the parking lot for cups of the most delicious orange juice we’ve had since Redlands CA. Oranges are not native to Greece, Spain or America but they grow wonderfully in the Mediterranean climate. And the citric acid cuts through a thirst like nothing else.
A short way down the hill is the “Treasury of Atreus” which is, in fact, a tumulus tomb. Giving the impression of a hollow, rounded pyramid underground, it is made by bringing each layer of stones inches inward until the top can be capped with one stone. It is 54’ in diameter and in height, though it looks much taller as the upper stones are increasingly smaller. We saw the exterior columns for this tomb in the Athens museum.
The "Treasury of Atreus", so named by Heinrich Schliemann, the excavator of Troy, is actually a tomb.
Making our way down the east coast of the Peloponnese [the largest landmass of Greece and the first to coalesce into the modern Greek state [1940s], we stopped for lunch at Nauplion, now pronounced Nafplio. Very picturesque, the small town is mostly Venetian in flavor, having been an important port for The Serene Republic of Venice in her heyday of trade and conquest [ended in 1797]. We had our lunch right on the harbor looking at the small port castle and many luxury yachts, a far cry from what it must have been like in those days.
Unlike our usual approach, we skipped the museum and went shopping. Bearing in mind that all our gifts and treasures had to be very lightweight, due to island hopping weight restrictions to come, we had a very good time looking for the small but significant. Like sea sponges and scarves.
The square and citadel in Nafplio.
The view from our lunch table, a Venetian fort........... and lunch, gyros.
With our brains brimming and our feet fussing, we loaded onto the bus for the overland drive to Olympia, arriving just after dark. After a Trough supper, Ron and I fell into twin beds, looking longingly at the lovely swimming pool just outside our room.