We left Porto Kheli at a trot, we really did not want to hang around and sailed (well motored actually as only a breath of wind was about) the 21 miles north to Navplion, the largest town and commercial harbour in the gulf, arriving at 14:00pm. The town is not visible as you approach from the south, you do however get a glimpse of the massive Venetian fort high above at Palamidhi, but only really get to see the true scale of the fort as you round the headland passing between Nisi Bourtzi (an island fort part of the defensive complex) and the outer mole of the commercial harbour.Navplion has ancient roots and is said to have been a Mycenean naval base, but the harbour area where we anchored (together with the odd cruise liner and super yacht or two) is unfortunately now a truly unlovely, metal fenced, large concrete car park which does not encourage you to stay too long. However, on the other side of the “unlovely” harbour area is a delightful old town built in the early 19th century, buildings lean at odd angles, flowering bougainvillaea and clematis grow across the narrow streets connecting the Venetian and Turkish style houses and vines climb three stories to spread their shade over the roof top gardens, keeping the sun at bay. Narrow backstreets are filled with alfresco dinning and inviting boutique shops …. ok, there are also some of the usual “tat” (as Mark calls them) shops as well.Navplion is an ideal location for exploring this region, so rich in Greek history, with the ancient city of Mycenae, the Epidhavros theatre and the Fortress of Palamidhi all close by. So on Sunday 18th May we woke to an overcast day with dark brooding clouds and heavy rain, forecast to torment us all day … as Hudson is not permitted in many of these historical sites and would have to stay in the rented car, the lack of heat made it an ideal day to check out these places.First port of call was the Epidhavros theatre, built in 330-20 BC and enlarged in the mid-2nd century AD. It has 55 rows of seats built on a natural slope against a backdrop of lush landscape and is said to represent the finest and best-preserved example of a classical Greek theatre. Even by today’s standards, it stands out as a unique achievement through its integration into the landscape and above all the perfection of its proportions and incomparable acoustics. Fortunately we arrived in a break in the rain and we had the opportunity to explore without an umbrella.Next on our archaeological tour was Mycenae. Before our visit, Mark organised “lunch”… . we couldn’t find a restaurant that appealed, so he stopped at a supermarket and we bought some hard bread, spam and cheese … he really does know how to wow a girl. We arrived at Mycenae in a torrential downpour (you remember it doesn’t rain in Greece in the summer … ha!!), with our umbrella in hand and the entrance fee of 24 euros paid and our wallets the lighter for it, we went off to explore.First the history lesson. Mycenae was founded between two tall conical hills, Profitis Ilias and Sara, on a low plateau dominating the Argive plain, controlling both the land and sea routes. Most of what is visible today was erected in the Late Bronze Age, between 1350 and 1200 BC, when the site was at its peak – Perseus, the son of Zeus is traditionally considered as its mythical founder. Mycenae was ‘Rich in Gold’, the kingdom of the mythical king Agamemnon (as in the film Troy), and is the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Its name was given to one of the greatest civilizations of Greek prehistory, the Mycenaean civilization.
OK so back to the torrential rain, which as we approached the famous Lions Gate, increased in intensity (if that was possible), rivers of water were now running down the ancient cobbled paths … there is only so much a girl can take, even if we are in the middle of a 3,000 year old complex. So with regret, we abandoned the tour and settled on a visit to the museum, which had probably not seen so many visitors since the last downpour. None the less, a hugely impressive site.But, slightly disappointed by our inability to explore Mycenae itself, we decided to add one more stop to the days tour while we had the hire car and that was to the Fortress of Palamidhi above Navplion. It saved us from the walk up the 856 steps from the town the next morning …. Phew! Interestingly, despite its impressive size, thick walls and impregnable looking position, the fort fell after only 8 days siege by the Turks, one year after its completion in 1714. Just shows, size isn’t everything.Although the rain had stopped and we had a good opportunity to explore the fort, we were probably a little archaeologied out, so we gave Hudson a fairly brisk walk around the ruins, gazing out over the battlements many hundreds of feet up the cliff and a little tired after our historical day, we returned to Hapatoni which was now sandwiched between two super yachts. One a 154 ft charter boat out of Athens, called Lady Dee, which can be hired for a mere 150,000 Euro per week (I’ll have two) and a smaller 100 ft private boat called “Ciao” that had stopped here because the owners dog needed a vet. Ciao also very kindly kept his generator on all night creating a nice hummmmmm for us to try to sleep through.We woke at 8:00 having had a very cultured visit to Navplion, but not too enamoured by the port, up anchored and left for Astrous, heading back south down the gulf and I guess starting our homeward leg towards Athens.