Travel Flashback: Mystras, Mycenae, & Nafplio

For awhile last year, I was posting a look back at past travels every Wednesday. Life got in the way and I stopped doing it, but I figured I’d start back up again. Today’s post is from my graduation trip to Greece in the summer of 2008. You can find the rest of my Greece posts here.

I am a history nerd, this I am certain of. I majored in history during college, I tend to read a fair amount of historical biographies, and one of my favorite things about traveling is seeing historical sites. So, it’s fair to say that before traveling to Greece, I was super pumped. Think of all that history! Some of the richest in western civilization, to be sure.

And as I traveled around Greece, it totally lived up to my expectations. But, I did learn one thing – sometimes, you can only take so much history. As we traveled around the country, we saw tons of historical sites and ruins, and while I appreciated each one, toward the end it got to be like, “Seriously, another ruin? Again?” After awhile, they all start to blend together, you know? Our visits to the sites of Mystras and Mycenae occurred right around my saturation point with ruins – meaning that I enjoyed each place, but I was too ruined-out to really love them. Nafplio, by contrast, was more of a resort town; there, it wasn’t about taking in tons of history, it was about relaxing. And that pretty much made Nafplio seem like paradise in my book.

Before I talk about my love for Nafplio, Mystras and Mycenae do at least deserve a brief mention. First, Mystras, a fortified hillside town. I don’t remember much about this spot, but I do recall that we drove to the very top of the hill, and then walked back down a winding path, stopping at various ruins along the way. Many parts of this fortress were still quite lovely:

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After Mystras, we headed to Mycenae, another important archaeological site. The first photograph below is of the entrance to one of its tombs; I didn’t get great shots there, but it was quite large and impressive.

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From Mycenae, if you look out into the distance, you can see mountains. This particular view is called “Agamemnon sleeping” because of the shape the mountains make. Can you see him? Hint: the head would start on the left side of the photo.

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There was also a small museum at Mycenae with a collection of artifacts. They had a ton of statues like the ones pictured below, and for whatever reason they amused me:

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After Mycenae, we settled into the town of Nafplio for a few days. The first thing we did in Nafplio was have a wine tasting. However, it wasn’t just a wine tasting – it ended with a shot of ouzo, which isn’t my favorite (too strong!). But, when in Greece, do as the Greeks do:

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The next photos, from one of our lunches in Nafplio, remind me of something I realized in Greece – nobody ever shouts “Opa!,” despite what you may expect. After years of going to Greek restaurants in the US and hearing somebody shout “opa!” while bringing out a plate of flaming cheese, this was slightly disappointing. I guess it’s just one of those stereotypical things we think another culture does, but in my experience, it wasn’t at all true.

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I know I’ve mentioned many times that I’m a sucker for beautiful flowers, so Nafplio was a dream for me (similar to how I felt in Kardamyli). In Nafplio, the balconies were bursting with flowers (bougainvillea, I believe) and the town was gorgeous.

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And our time in Nafplio ended with one of the most delightful experiences I’ve ever had while traveling, a spectacular evening of dinner and dancing. The dinner was a feast, but the entertainment that followed was truly something. Four locals came in to perform traditional dances, and they got everyone in our group to join in the dancing too. It was just one of those magical travel moments, where you wish you could hit the pause button on life and savor it for a little while longer.

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That last picture really sums it up for me – pure joy! The night was a treat, as was Nafplio itself – a destination I’d highly recommend to anyone.

(For more on Greece, be sure to check out my posts on Athens, Delphi, Kalavrita & Dimitsana, Olympia, Kardamyli, and Kastania, Gerolimenas, Gythio, & Monemvasia)

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