Day 5 (Fri, Sep 19): Athens / Mycenae / Epidaurus / Nauplia
We left Athens at 8:30 to begin our land portion of the tour, the complete circuit of which is shown on the map. Many of the places along the way were magical to me because I had already been familiar with them through the historical novels of Mary Renault, in particular The King Must Die. In fact, this part of the trip was the reverse of the path followed by Theseus: he began life as a boy in Troizen (just west of Poros in the southeast corner of the Peloponnese map below), then went on to adventures and discoveries in Epidaurus, Kenchreai, Corinth, Megara, Eleusis, and Athens (then, of course, to a lifetime of other adventures comprising the Thesian legend).
The area northwest of Athens, that around Elefsis (Eleusis) and Mégara to the east of the Isthmus of Corinth, was heavily industrialized. Chemical plants everywhere and nothing to write home about or photograph (except perhaps to demonstrate environmental pollution). Our bus took us along the Corinth highway and across the Corinth Canal where we stopped for a few minutes. While we were stopped I bought a black Greek fisherman's cap at a souvenir stand. A member of our group, Ross Reeves, later said I had started "cap mania" as nearly everyone wound up wearing them. We continued along the coast of the Peloponnese, then inland to Epidaurus (aka Epidavros). The land is quite different here from the countryside of Attica. It is forested with pine in the hills and there is much agriculture. We saw olives, citrus groves, tobacco fields. Many of the houses have tile roofs. They are square shaped and many have arbors covered with grape vines. Flowers are everywhere. Many of the houses are trimmed in shades of blue and pink.
We learned later that the Greek government had obtained loans to build a string of these hotels. Back then it was very hard to obtain up-front money from private sources. A typical pattern for home builders was to put up a concrete shell with holes for two housing units on the bottom, two on top. Then when you had the money, complete the first unit and live in that. Then when you had enough money in hand, build the second (as a rental), and later the third, and at last the fourth. There were hundreds of these not-yet-complete structures all over Greece.
Mycenae -- Hated to leave our room, but did in order to take the excursion to Mycenae. We saw the famous beehive tomb (c. 1250 BC), then drove up to the acropolis. It is a beautiful place, situated high above the valley between two sharp bare peaks. It is very quiet and empty there. Also, being inland, it is very hot and dry.
Relaxed in our room for an hour or so, then went downstairs for a drink. We had martinis -- they come either of two ways in Greece, apparently, on ice or completely unchilled. They cost ₯ 150 each. We ordered ours unchilled out on the deck by the pool. The kid (bartender couldn't have been 16) brought out enormous cocktail glasses filled with warm Holland gin and stuffed with every kind of fruit imaginable -- noney dew melon, strawberry, canteloupe, pineapple, even a pair of green olives (I wonder if he overlooked the word "or" in his recipe book). We then had cocktails with the "Buffalo herd" (our name for those in our fairly large group from Buffalo: Chuck and Gloria Lumsden, Terry and Marian Galanis, Regis and Mary Jane Stevenson, and Jim and Joan Hurley) and dinner with the Hurleys.
Wanted to go down to the town after dinner for retzina, but we were both too tired. We tried a beer from the automatic bar (too small), then had room service deliver some. Karen conked out before she could finish hers. The embrace of Morpheus was very welcome after all we'd seen that day.
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