Greece: Family road tripping

Boy, it’s been a while…..

Sorry about that. After we left Spetses, the internet was a little spotty and we were pretty busy. We got home a couple days ago, so I figured it’s probably time to do part 3 of the wild Greek adventure I just had.

After our time in Spetses, my family decided we needed to see something more than beautiful beaches. I mean, the beaches are great, but my parents were talking about the Cultural Learning Experience this would be. As someone who has studied Greek history, the nerd in me got way too excited. So on the 29th we packed up, grabbed a water taxi to Porto Cheli, and went on our way.

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Here’s a general look at our route. We spread the route over about a week and spent the last couple of days in Athens. If we were to do it again, I think doing it over 10 days would allow better investigation of all the sites, museums, and cities. I would also do it when it’s a little cooler, as 40 degrees Celsius was a little bit deadly.

Without further ado, here’s our trip:

Epidavros

Known for its theatre, these ruins are incredibly intact, and paint the picture of a life-filled city. Known for the birth of Asclepius, son of Apollo, and the following cult of Asclepius(6th century BC) it was the home to a great healing centre, famous within the classical world.

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The remains of what was once the greatest health care facility in the world. These were the first real ruins we saw, so I nerded out HARD.

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The theatre is definitely worth the trip- it’s beautiful, you can climb to the top, and truly get an appreciation for the acoustics. To give you an idea, my mum could stand in the centre and speak at her regular level(loud), and I could hear even at the very top. Truly incredible.

Nafplion

We spent the night in Nafplion, and it was truly a beautiful city, We saw some ruins and fortresses from the distance, but we didn’t get a whole lot of time here.

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If you’re really limited in time, Nafplion has a beautiful harbour and main square, and the placing is convenient, but it’s not worth spending a ton of time on.

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Argos and Mycenae

As a theatre geek, this was a dream come true.

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Argos was just a quick stop for us on the way to the real highlight; Mycenae. These two cities are pretty famous because they’re both highly involved in Homer’s work, and even more so in Greek tragedy trilogy. Basically, if you know the Trojan War, you know about these cities. Legend holds that Mycenae was the home of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra, founded by the hero Perseus, and one of the oldest sites, dating back to 1600 BC. So that means that these were old by the time cities like Athens came around.

Personally, I was really excited to see the palace and the tombs of Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, and Agamemnon. I’ve participated in two productions of the Agamemnon, so the story is a favourite, and one I know well. The site truly brought it to life.

Sparta

Sparta was significantly less exciting than my family thought it would be. Due to the nature of the Spartans, there aren’t a ton of ruins, but it was interesting to read and learn more about the militaristic culture they were known for. Plus, we stayed in a mountain resort with some of the most beautiful views. It was nice to take a break for a night, and being high up in the mountains the temperature was significantly lower than the rest of the Peloponnese. Which was highly appreciated by all. Plus it had a library!

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Monemvasia

Ahhhh. The hidden gem of our trip. We only stopped in for an afternoon, but this walled fortress city, first used as a Minoan trading post, is absolutely spectacular. Unassuming from the outside, once you enter you find yourself in an ancient city still bustling with life.

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Winding city streets without a single car (the streets are much too narrow), with walls covered in blooms, Monemvasia was unlike anything else we saw.

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The history is long and complicated, but it is believed it became the place it is today in 583 during the invasion of Greece as a place of refuge.

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It was also a fortress of great importance in Greece’s fight for independence.

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If you have the opportunity to see Monemvasia, go. Whether it’s the view, history, food, or architecture that interests you, the city is not a place to miss.

Archaea Olympia

Olympia. The origin place of the Olympics. The ruins of the ancient Olympic village teaches so much about the world the Greeks lived in, from the inter-polis(city-states) relations to the importance of the games to the traditions that went along with it, this is a little window into the world we think we know.

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Due to the fame, the site is incredibly well cared for and easily accessible.

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Tip: Go in the morning to stay away from school groups and tour buses! It’ll take quite a bit of time to go through, so maybe bring a water bottle too. And sunscreen. Definitely Sunscreen.

Delphi

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Talk about nerding out. Delphi, the site of the Oracle, was my top pick for sites to visit. If you’re thinking of going, be sure to set some time out both for hiking to the top of the mountain and for research. The rich history, and the myth, and the incredible views combined into a truly unforgettable experience.

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Delphi is most famous as it was the site of Apollo’s Oracle. The Greek polis would send representatives whenever making decisions to visit with the oracle in the hope of making the best decision for their polis. Because of this, like Olympia, it was a hub for all people.

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Delphi was also the home of the Pythian Games, a competition rivalled only by the Olympics.  Every four years, these pan-hellenic games took place no matter what was occurring.

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The views aren’t too bad, huh? The nearby city was gorgeous as well.

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If you’re interested in Greek history and ruins, this is the number one site I’d recommend. The site itself is amazing, and the museum is worth spending half a day in.

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Meteora

Our trip to Meteora actually began with a lot of driving. A LOT of driving.

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At least the views were nice. And I got a lot of reading done.

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Meteora was different from the rest of our travels because the history was rooted not in the classical period, but more of the Byzantine. Instead of temples, the focus was monasteries.

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True feats of engineering, Meteora is known for its monasteries that are built on cliffs.

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You can take a tour to visit them, or as we did, just visit the ones you want to. They’re working monasteries, so if you’re visiting, remember to take into account that you must dress modestly, and many require women to wear skirts or dresses. Don’t stress about it too much, though-they have scarves and wraps at most of the monastery entries.

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Another thing; each day of the week, a different one is closed. Check before visiting to make sure they’re open.

We spent two nights in Meteora, as the local little villages are very cute, a little calmer than Athens. It was really nice to be able to take our time in the monasteries, and the sunsets were truly incredible- definitely go to one of the two lookout points if you visit.

Athens

Because we were flying out of Athens, we spent the last few days of our trip there. We wanted to avoid it, mostly, because we’d heard a lot of people say it was “nothing but a big dirty city”

……..

……………….

I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, Athens is a city. Yes, it’s a big city. It’s a big, beautiful city, filled with life and history. It’s definitely worth the time-the sites, the museums, and just the city itself. Everything told a story.

We did the hop-on-hop-off bus because they actually are pretty good for seeing the city. We didn’t end up using it as a tour much, but it was really good for transportation.

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Please. Even if you’re not a huge history nerd, please visit the museums and the Parthenon. It’s breathtaking.

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You can also visit the Agora, a ruins site of a Roman town square. This was really cool, as both my brother and I have studied Latin and roman culture.

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If you enjoyed that, you can also visit the temple of Zeus, another awe-inspiring site.

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We also stopped at the library. Because LOOK AT THAT. COLUMNS. WHY CAN’T OUR LIBRARIES BE LIKE THAT????

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I was impressed…….

We left Athens from the airport, my brother and dad to go home, and my mother and I for our next adventure. But that’s a whole different post.

If you made it this far, congratulations! Thank you! If not-HA. You never got to see the library.

One way or another, thank you. I hope this was (slightly) interesting or helpful.

 

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