Monday, March 10, 2014

Nafplio.

Nafplio (Photo by Charissa Fay)

We had so much fun on our driving tour of the Baltics that I was curious whether or not self drive tours existed in Greece and of course, they do! I find quite a few tours online and started to look into the details. As with packaged tours, self drive tours generally cover going to the same places, with slight variations, and are similarly categorized e.g., "5 Day Classic Tour of Greece". So, it really wasn't hard to come up with a starting itinerary. Next, it was doing a rough check of accommodations and those weren't hard to find either. You can presume that if you are following the beaten tourist path, there will be places to spend the night. Factoring in the cost of renting a car and all the accommodations (very budget), I figured we could make our own way around for less than half of the price of an organized tour so we will be wandering about on our own.


In looking at various tours, one place kept popping up - Nafplio. I've never heard of the place so I had to read up about. First off, I was so pleasantly surprised by the images I saw of a lovely seaside town - neoclassical buildings surrounding a small harbor and neighborhoods filled with narrow cobblestone streets and steep stone steps. Nafplio is located only about 100km from Athens so it's an easy drive to get there....presuming decent roads.

According to mythology, the town was founded by Náfplios, the son of the Greek god, Poseidon. The town’s history traces back to the prehistoric era when soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War. The town declined during the Roman times and flourished again during the Byzantine times. Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors left their mark in the town and strongly influenced its culture, architecture and traditions - you definitely do not think "Greek" when you look at images of the town's ancient walls, castles, monuments and statues!

More recently, Nafplio was the capital of Greece between 1923 and 1834 before Athens assumed the crown.

Syntagma Square (Photo by Andreas Trepte)

We'll only have one day and night in Nafpoli so we'll have to use our time well.  We'll likely start our visit with a walk about the center of town - good way to get oriented and if there is one, visit the Information Center. The town's heart is Syntagma Square where the administrative buildings are located along with important historic buildings, monuments, churches and probably a few restaurants and shops.  There's also Philellinon Square to be visited.

Bourtzi Fortress (Photo from Kastrologos)
Historic site wise, there's not a whole lot to see in Nafplio but that's fine with me - we'll have more than enough ruins to see on this trip!

Bourtzi Fortress. You can't miss the fortress - it sits on the rocky islet of Agioi Theodoroi, just offshore from Nafplio. Bourtzi is an island fortress that was built by the Venetians sometime in the early part of the 15 century. During its history it has been used by the Venetians, the conquering Ottomans and the Greeks as a fort, a prison, a residence for executioners, a luxury hotel, a restaurant, a concert venue and these days, as a tourist attraction. From the port of Nafpoli, boats will ferry tourists to the island for a small fee.

Old Town Fortifications. Nafpoli used to be a fortified town with two sections - the seaside merchant quarter which is now the present old town and the barracks quarter which is now an open archeological site. In town, only a small section of original walls can still be seen.


Palamidi Castle (Photo by Ken Russell Salvador)
Palamidi Castle. Overlooking the town, the only way to reach this castle is to climb the 999 (in reality 857) stairs to reach it.  There is a road that also takes you to the castle but knowing Bro, we will do the steps. Oh, my ever so weak lungs are not going to enjoy the walk up but as always, I will take my time and a lot of breathers! I hope the view is worth it!

Palamidi Castle was built by the Venetians around 1686 and completed to its present form in 1714. Along with the castle, the small historic site also has a few historical monuments, a prison and the church of Saint Andreas. Supposedly the night view from here is nice - you can see the the lighted castle of Argos and small villages.

From Palamidi, you can also walk down a paved road to Karathona Beach and from there, back to town. It's a scenic walk and takes about an hour.  There's also another beach near Arvanitia that's easy to get to.  If the weather is good, a swim would be very nice!



Beach in Nafpoli  (Photo from nafplion.gr)

Nafpoli does have a few museums including a quirky one that houses a private collection of worry bead necklaces.  I think we'll skip the museums and enjoy strolling the narrow cobblestone streets, doing a bit of window shopping, and having a nice seafood meal in a local restaurant.  Eating will factor big into my visit, especially at a local taverna.  Thanks to The Insiders Guide to Nafpolio, we have some local restaurant suggestions to check out.  Yum!


I can feel myself relaxing already!