Our next stop in Greece was Cape Sounion, where we caught a sunset over the Aegean. Here on a headland surrounded by the sea on three sides is the Temple of Poseidon, built in 440 B.C.
Legend says Aegeus, a king of Athens, stood on the headland watching for the return of his son Theseus who had traveled to Crete to kill the Minotaur. We already know from seeing the statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park that Theseus was successful, but Aegeus incorrectly interpreted his son’s returning black-sailed ship as signaling death. He jumped to his own death in the ocean, earning that body of water the name of the Aegean Sea.
We’re not archaeologists, but we have a new theory. Aegeus did not jump to his death. Instead, he stared in disbelief at the black-sailed ship bearing bad news and was turned to stone in horror at the bad news. His visage remains on the rocky cliff. If only Theseus had stuck to the plan and hurled white sails to signal that he was successful.
We had a very strong recommendation to visit Nafplio from Liz and Jesse (this is where they were engaged in October 2014) so we followed through. We planned a one-day stay and ended up spending three.
Nafplio is on the Peleponnese peninsula, which could be described as an island since the primary access to the area is by crossing the canal at Corinth. (Remember the Corinthians from your 5th-grade history lessons?) Nero actually broke ground to build a canal here in the first century A.D., but he was distracted by his fiddling and affairs of state and never followed through.
The canal walls are very deep (about 300 feet) but the canal itself is only 70 feet wide. Many modern boats would get stuck in this channel if they tried this shortcut.
Beyond the canal, Nafplio is on the coast of the Argolic Sea. It has a delightful old town with narrow streets, many too small to drive a car through. (We’re finding small canals, small streets, and small hotel rooms to be common in Greece.)
The highlight of the area is the Palamidi Fortress overlooking the city. It was built by the Venetians in the 1600s.
Over 400 years old and still safe to climb on (we hope).
It was at this castle that Liz and Jesse were engaged. We looked on the exact same view that they had on their visit and sent them mental congratulations. It’s a beautiful spot for an engagement.
We were too early in the year to try swimming or sunning on Nafplio’s beaches, but still enjoyed the sea views.
We drove around the countryside and happened to run across another ruin. It’s the Castle of Larissa in Argos. This one wasn’t exactly open to the public. A sign noted that renovation construction was underway starting in 2008 to be complete in 2013.
We visited Epidaurus to see the theater in the Sanctuary of Asklepios. The theater was built in the fourth century B.C. It seats up to 14,000 people. Seats in present tense as well as past. During July and August, plays by Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles will be performed. The acoustics are fantastic. One German tourist stood at the center and recited passages in three languages. We didn’t understand what he was saying, but we heard them all.
We have heard that famous dancers also come to this theater to practice.
Following Liz and Jesse’s path, we’re going next to the Greek isle of Hydra.