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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Nafplion.

8:41 EET
I barely slept last night and, now that I’ve gotten very little sleep this week, I have a terrible cold. I can’t stop sniffing and I can’t really breathe. I feel like shit, which is awful in and of itself, regardless of the fact that I’m on vacation.
Despite my miserable cold, I still had a lot of fun today. I went on a day tour to Epidaurus and Mycenae, with a quick stop in Nafplion. It was so awesome! Once we escaped the traffic of the city, we drove past the sea and tall mountains; it was all gorgeous. Our first stop, however, was at the Corinth Canal. It was incredible! The tour guide (Joy, I think her name was) told us that it was built by the same company that built the Suez Canal over a hundred years ago, and that they used the original Roman construction plans from Nero's construction workers. How cool is that?
After seeing the canal and grabbing a quick breakfast, we kept driving till we reached Epidaurus. It’s a pretty big excavation site on a mountainside that was a temple complex dedicated to the god of medicine, Asclepius. They’re still restoring the baths and the hospital (aka a hallucinogen-inducing basement), but the amphitheatre has been nearly completely preserved. It was so amazing; we tested the acoustics and they were amazing, too. It’s a wonder that they were able to harness such amplification technology just through architecture alone. Sitting at the very top row one could hear everything! On the way through the ruins, I chatted with some of the other tour-goers: I mostly spoke with a father-mother-daughter trio from Atlanta and two state representatives (older Kenny from Missouri and younger Jay from Ohio). There was also an old guy dressed up in what seemed (to me) to be stereotypical excavation attire (cargo vest and Indy-like hat included)... I think he was a wannabe archaeologist; he kept taking notes and he had an "Ancient Greeks for Dummies" book. It was pretty entertaining.
From Epidaurus we continued to Mycenae and went to the crumbling fortress and palace on the hill. I started geeking out as soon as I saw the Lion Gate; it was just as incredible as I thought it would be. It was definitely cool to imagine what it would have been like in its glory days, though, and the location is absolutely beautiful. I was just fascinated by the fact that (assuming they were real), King Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra walked in the same steps. I was thoroughly taken by the history of the place, to say the least.
We left Mycenae and drove a little down the hill to another site, the tomb of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father. It was simultaneously creepy and mind-bogglingly interesting; the light only entered the tomb through a rectangular door and a small triangle above it, so the rest of the structure was cast in shadows. After hanging around the tomb for a little while, we left and went a short ways to a really nice hotel (that seemed strangely in the middle of nowhere) for a delicious Greek lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten spanakopita (spinach pie) that tasty before…
By this time it was around 4:00 and thus time to return to Athens. We made one last stop in Nafplion to grab some photos of the three fortresses (one of which was on an island in the sea!) near the harbour. We quickly took pictures and then hopped back on the bus for the hour and half ride back to the city. The traffic was once again a nightmare, but I finally made it back to the hostel. Before going in, though, I walked around a street in the Plaka, an old neighbourhood filled with shops and tiny cafés at the base of the Acropolis. I got my first glimpse of the Parthenon, and it was breathtakingly beautiful all lit up in the night.
Delphi tomorrow! SO EXCITED.

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