Monday, October 13, 2008

Argolid: Field Trip to the Peloponnese

Leaving for our second field trip on Saturday morning was not a good move on CYA's part. Everyone went out Friday night and was not functioning at maximum capacity until Saturday evening. Anyway, going on three hours of sleep because well that is just how things turned out, I boarded the bus to the Argolid.

Our first stop on Saturday was in the town of Epidaurus, which contains the sanctuary of Asklepios. It is where people came in ancient times to be healed. The structure was large enough to act as a really old hotel. People also traveled to this site because there was a gymnasium on the site where athletic competitions took place. What is really cool is the stadium, which is almost completely in tact, has such great acoustics that you could be sitting in the top row and hear someone rip a piece of paper on stage. We know, we tried.

After a decent CYA box lunch experience we left for Tiryns, the site of a Mycenaean fortress. An interesting site that just showed how military obsessed the Mycenaean people really were. Plus, you can not beat the view from the top of a fortress that overlooks the city / countryside beneath it.

We checked in to our hotel in Nauplion, the first capital of Greece and headed out on a walking tour of the city. We got the brief run down of important political figures and saw some of the more well known structures of the historic city. Nauplion was my favorite part of the trip. It is where we stayed for the weekend so we had plenty of time to explore the shops, the best gelato I have had to date, and experience a smaller city. It is what you think of when you imagine old cities in Europe with the small side streets, the hand painted store front signs, a common square where everyone congregates for their evening coffee. Much more my speed then Athens.

We had the evening free so I met up with my roommates for dinner and gelato. We did some window shopping but called it an early night because none of us had slept the night before. Sunday morning our first stop was the Argive Heraion, or better known as the Temple of Hera. Three tiers high, the site offered a breathtaking view and even more history. Used to offer sacrifices, the temple was a major point of civilization.

After climbing around the temple we got on our bus only to be dropped off 5 minutes later. We were headed out on a 2 1/2 hour hike to lunch. Along the way we were going to visit ruins along the side of the road and take the original Mycenaean road. The hike was beautiful. We left the paved road and headed in to the mountains, where we wound our way up and down through the valleys. Our trusty professor got us turned around twice so what was supposed to be 2 1/2 hours turned in to 4 hours. Despite the mix up, it was worth the walk. We overlooked the lush greens of the valleys and got to breath clean air (which does not exist in Athens). Plus, it was so much better then being on a bus for that long and it was nice break from the archaeological ruins. A nice way to check out, clear your head and just enjoy the journey. We came down the mountain with a great view of palace of Mycenaean. A cool head shot that most people and no other groups from our program got to experience. Oh and another note about the air, as we were hiking the trail as well as the greenery was filled with olive trees and thyme bushes. So, the whole atmosphere smelled of fresh Thyme..wonderful.

At the end of our hike we did eventually eat lunch at a cute little taverna. I got stuffed tomatoes, which were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I am loving this Mediterranean diet, so much fresh food. That evening we ate at one of the little tavernas in Nauplion. Fabi and I split stuffed vine leaves, delicious. I got mussels in wine sauce and rice, also memorable. After our very filling dinner, we headed back to the gelato place (obviously : ) and then just took our ice cream and sat on the steps of the church in the main square. We watched the kids play an intense game of soccer, couples stroll hand in hand, and just kick back and enjoy the atmosphere. Perfect end to an exhausting day.

Monday morning we headed to the Palamidi fortress. It sits at the top of the city of Nauplion. Situated on the water, on side looks down on Nauplion and the other two out to the sea facing Argos and Astros (two other adjacent towns). The Palamidi was last occupied by the Turks, who had over taken it from the Greeks. They slaughtered massive numbers of civilians and even built a prison on site, which we got to walk down in too. I had to squat in order to get down in to it and that was only the entrance, you still had to go down another level. Basically these people being held were a good 3 feet underground. Scary.

Our last stop of trip was the famous site of Mycenae. It contains both grave circle A & B, which are our mains sources of information on the Mycenaean. Complete with a massive courtyard, hundreds of rooms, a Temple to Athena, Artisans' quarter, and the infamous lion gate. (See Pictures). The first thing you see when you arrive on site is this grandiose entrance of two lions on either side of a column. This is a large stone structure that shows a connection with the near east. It is a way to show prowess and decoration, nothing else. To end our tour of Mycenae, we got to walk down in to the ancient cistern. About 7 people at a time we took flash flights and headed down the slick steps (probably about 5 ft underground) in the pitch black. When we eventually reached the bottom we all turned off our flash flights and stood in the darkness. Probably the darkest place I will ever be.

All in all a great trip. I liked it better then Crete, mostly because I really enjoyed Nauplion. Next weekend is my last weekend in Athens until finals weekend. I will be either traveling for pleasure or for school from now until finals, which is exciting. Time is flying by faster then I would like. I am hoping May 2009 does not get here as quickly...

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