HAL guest George Labecki and his family sailed aboard Nieuw Amsterdam’s Mediterranean Tapestry cruise throughout Europe this past July and documented his experience in a journal. Below is the entry from his visit to Nafplion, Greece. Enjoy!
July 13th: Nafplion, Greece
Changing the Shuttle
Today marked the beginning of our ascent of the Aegean Sea. Lee Ann made a decision to opt out of our tour today because of the 103-degree heat and all the walking that would take place, so Nick and I arose early and got ready for the day. We had breakfast in the Lido; then we took a tender from our ship to the shore. One of the things we noted with interest was the color of the sea at Nafplion. Rather than the blues we had been seeing, the water here appeared emerald. Green was a color that was to be repeated throughout the day.
I don’t know that I had any real expectations for what we were going to see, but I didn’t really expect the land so near the sea to be so mountainous, yet that’s exactly what we experienced. Nafplion is a quaint town of soft-colored buildings. Lee Ann spent her day there, but Nick and I were quickly out of town and pushing past small villages and olive orchards. Our guide explained that when we would be at Olympia tomorrow, they get rain and are green. Here on the Peloponnesian peninsula, it is hot but extremely dry. I suppose that’s why the color of the day was that odd color so reminiscent of World War II army uniforms: olive drab. The olive trees were that color, but that color was carried through to the 6,000 foot tops of the craggy mountains that we were winding through. That in itself seemed a bit strange as there is little vegetation on those mountains, yet they carry the same color. The only thing breaking up that color was the occasional yellow of burned-out grass that sometimes populates the area between olive trees. It’s a fairly odd but spectacular world.
Our first stop was at the ancient amphitheater at Epidaurus. Still used today for plays and concerts, the amphitheater is an amazing construction built into a nearby hill. You sit on the same stone seats that the ancient Greeks sat on. We took seats at the very top, and people from various tour groups took the opportunity to speak or sing from the center of the Orchestra. We could hear every word, every note with perfect clarity. It is phenomenal. At that point we thought that Lee Ann had made a mistake by skipping the tour. It didn’t seem that hot, and the walking wasn’t that tough.
That’s before we got to the ruins at Mycenae. Mycenae was a bronze-age fort and kingdom. Brought down by the iron-age Dorians, the Mycenae lasted for 450 years. In the late 1800s, Heinrich Schliemann, in his search for Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks at Troy, discovered the castle that we visited today. Some of the castle walls, and the spectacular “lions gate” entrance were excavated, as were a number of burial pits and the gold that was buried with Mycenae kings. Nick and I fought the brutal heat and sun and climbed to the top of the fort. It was a spectacular site offering amazing views for miles around. It was easy to see why that spot was so chosen for the castle to their kingdom.
We then went to the “beehive.” Ancient Mycenae kings were buried in enormous beehive-shaped tombs that were, as they were being built, hidden by earthen mounds that were covered with grass. The earthen mounds additionally supported the enormous area of the tomb. The beehive tomb we were in today exists only because it was discovered early by the Dorians. According to our guide, speculation is that it was the tomb of Agamemnon’s father. It was discovered; the front doors of the tomb were simply breached, and they were left open. Other similar tombs were in ruins because people who discovered them entered through the keystone at the top, lowering themselves down what must have been 40-50 feet into the tomb. But the removal of the keystone began the process that caused the tomb to collapse. The Dorian’s early discovery allows us to have the tomb today.
Our next stop was for lunch. We were taken to an attractive restaurant called “Agamemnon’s Palace.” It was pretty obvious from the decorations and the wedding cake tops that this restaurant does a heavy wedding business, but it also does a lot of tour business too. Lunch consisted of a very nice Moussaka, a Greek salad, some lamb and potatoes, and fruit. We learned that Nick likes Moussaka and lamb. We also learned that in the rest of the world, especially Greece, there is no lettuce in a Greek salad. It consists of an abundance of tomatoes, green pepper, some onion, olives, a big chunk of Feta, and olive oil. We also learned that the local wine, called the Blood of Hercules, tastes like prune juice that’s been sitting in the sun. Consequently, I learned that the local beer is very refreshing, and Nick learned that in Greece you get Coke in glass bottles – very old school.
Our visit finished with a stop to buy souvenirs – can’t leave without one last chance to help the local economy. If anyone wants an eight-foot tall bronze statue of a naked Poseidon, we know where to get one. By then we were more than ready to get on the bus and get back to the ship. Personally, I listened to some music and napped for the 30-minute ride. Then it was a simple matter of joining 80 of our closest friends for the 10-minute tender ride back to the ship.
Lee Ann had spent the day in town. She caught a tender in and explored the streets a bit herself. She toured a local war museum to get pictures for Nick. She finally found a very cute hat that fits her and will save her head from baking. She took the most enchanting pictures of that very quaint Greek town – all pastels, all a mixture of shade and light. And she had a Greek salad (surprise, no lettuce) for lunch before catching the tender back herself. All told, it was a pretty good day for everyone. Nick and I had our day of historical exploration. Lee Ann had her taste of local color, seemingly right out of HGTV. When you cruise, there are no bad days. Each day provides opportunities to embrace.