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Greek Series: Nafplio

This post is part of the so called “Greek Series”, consisting of photographies shot while backpacking Greece in September 2013. You’ll find a basic introduction to the series here and a list of all previous posts over here.

Nafplio is a port city in the western part of the Peloponnes peninsula. The former capital of Greece today is mostly a vacation destination for tourists from Athens due to proximity and good ferry connections. People from Athens escape here for weekend trips to shop and enjoy themselves. It is a touristy place for sure with shopping boulevards and many luxury brand stores. The economic crisis Greece is facing was not very obvious and we saw a lot less graffiti and poverty then in other urban areas. Though the city as we saw it definitely didn’t represent the living reality of most of Greek people it was definitely a good place for going out and having a good time in general. There are two castles / fortresses to see here, one on the top of the hill behind the city with a great landscape view over the buildings and the sea and a small fortress on an artificial island within the bay itself.

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Greek Series: Acrocorinth and Mycenae

This post is part of the so called “Greek Series”, consisting of photographies shot during my backpacking adventure in September 2013. You’ll find a basic introduction to the series here. The following pictures are from our first respectively second day of traveling the Peloponnes. We went from Corinth to Acrocorinth and then via the highway in direction Nafplio to Mycenae. I’ll include a map at the end of the post. So the first batch of pictures was taken on Acrocorinth, consisting of panorama shots mostly. The last three pictures are from the archeological sight of ancient Mycanae.

Acrocorinth (meaning High Corinth) is the hill you saw in the background of the pictures from Archea Corinthia, itself close to the modern city (picture 4). It’s a giant stone basically with the remains of a large medieval fortress on top. Having a perfect view on the narrow Isthmus of Corinth (picture 2), the only land way to Athens, you understand the strategic importance of the place. The fortress itself is huge and it has almost fantasy book like dimensions. It consists of a three wall defense system (!) and remains of a town within the walls. Also up there are the remains of an older Aphrodite Temple. Here we met a group of females praying to the goddess. As respectful as I am I didn’t take pictures unfortunately, though it was really interesting and visually striking. We also talked with them and they were really nice giving us some advice for the further journey.

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Mycenae was already ancient and a place of myths it the times of Sokrates and Platon. Homer wrote about it in his Odysseus. Other Greeks in the Classic periods were fascinated by the huge walls Mycenaen were able to build. Nobody could quite understand how they transported the stone blocks up there and so the popular belief emerged that giants had build them and they were renamed Cyclopean walls. So until today the walls remain impressive and a mystery somewhat. They were build more or less in the same time as Stonehenge and it seems like there could be some far fletched connection. The most famous part of the complex is the Lions Gate, portrayed on the last picture of the post. The imperial lions are greeting the visitors since 3300 years. The lion is a symbol of strength but also an animal which lived in this area a few thousand years ago. Truly fascinating stuff and worth a Wikipedia reading session.

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The route via Google Maps:

Greek Series: Cap Sounio and Ancient Korinthos

This post is part of the so called “Greek Series”, consisting of photographies shot during my backpacking adventure in September 2013. You’ll find a basic introduction to the series here.

In contrast to the last few I feel as this one needs some background information. Basically the first batch of pictures was shot at Cap Sounio and the second one a day later at Ancient Corintho (Archea Korinthos), with some road shots in between. They were the first two stops on a marvelous and mind expanding road trip, which began in Athens and led us through the most terrific and beautiful places within the former centre of the civilized world. The place of many myths and historic beginnings (shout out to the Olympic Games!). As much as I love good legends and factual history the format I chose for this blog isn’t really fitting for either of them. But what is important, especially with temples which can sometimes look a like a lot,  is to provide a basic context for an understanding of the photographed objects / places and a little bit of history maybe. Wrapping the package around with some personal anecdotes and route information. If you are satisfied with looking at blue skies and old stones feel free to skip the letters..

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Cap Sounio is situated at the most southern point of the Attica peninsula, which is basically the land mass around Athens. As sea fearers sailed into Athens they passed the Cap and so it was a natural place for a massive temple. There were sanctual buildings here before, but the pillars you see on the following pictures are remains of the Poseidon temple, build on the hight of Athens power in the classic period (mid 5th BC). It was the most important place of worship of the wrathful god of the sea, whose mercy it was especially useful to have.

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Homer already described the place as holy. So as I am not religious and don’t believe in Greek gods (although on our journey we met some interesting paganists) I can’t talk about any spirits I felt there, but Cap Sounio definitively made a strong impression on me. The view was simply breathtaking. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the sunset, so our journey continued through the Greek countryside over the Isthmus of Corinth (a narrow land strip), crossing the famous canal of the same name which is a marvelous piece of engineering achieved in the end of the 19th century to finally the famous Peloponnes itself. Interestingly the canal turned the Peloponnes, naturally very much like Attica a peninsula, into an island. As the name by itself means Island of Pelops, millennia before the land was actually an island, it seems like there is some self prophecy in there or at least a good anecdote.

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Corinth is very close to the the Isthmus, so the historic role of the city was to secure the passage way to mainland Greece and profiting from being a Checkpoint Charlie for ancient merchants and soldiers. A necessary evil not unlike modern borders. So it was a relative well situated metropole by itself during the Classic periode, bursting with urban life and religious worship. Later it lost much of its influence during the Hellenistic period in the 4th century, regaining importance as redesigned city under the Romans a few centuries later. But in a more modern perspective the most important role for Corinth was having to be an early place of Christian worship. The city is mentioned extensively in the New Testament and it was one of the destinations of Apostel Paul during his journey around the Mediterranean. On the main sight of Archea Korinthos, some kilometers outside of the modern Corinth, you see some remains of a building, which was originally a temple and later reconstructed into a church, retaining features of the old faith and developing them according to the new beliefs. The deep connection Christianity holds to the old Greeks and Romans is apparent here. A sense of continuity in a way which is known but generally not well understood in its full extense it seems to me.

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Comparing the last picture and the next one you see some interesting differences between architectural types in antiquity. The columns of the first one are build in the old Doric style, a more straightforward form factor. Followed by the development of a Corinth style a few centuries later, probably named so because of the heavy use of materials from the region. They were more playful and incorporated decorative elements in contrast to the more formal and function-oriented Doric columns.

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At last our

Route from Athens to Sounio and from Athens again to Archea Korinthos.