I’ll explain the title in a bit for those who haven’t heard the expression before.
Pam had forewarned us about the massive breakfasts at the Aetoma Hotel and so we knew to expect something at least on the scale of what we received at Dendermonde, back in Belgium, seemingly a million years ago. There was far more food than we could eat and it was really good, including wonderful yoghurt, but our hostess kindly packed some of the meat, cheese and bread up so we could take it with us for our day. We also had a chance to meet and talk to two other couples staying at our hotel, an Australian couple who were about to leave, and an English couple who warned us that the mosquitos are still rampant around Stoupa, from where they had just come.
Our plan for the day was to continue a little with the vacation from our vacation theme, and not do a ton of touristing. The main goal was to climb the 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamidi.
There’s some debate about how many steps there really are but I think 999 is quite close, and I’m not sure that counts the climbing one does after entering the fort (€4 a person, no shop!).
*Here’s where the bit about ABR comes in. It stands for Another Bloody Ruin, which is tourist talk for the same thing as “If I have to see another Acropolis I shall spit.” We’ve seen several ruins, schlosses, museums etc. on this trip. We are trying to ration ourselves on seeing too many more so we don’t hate Rome and Florence and are trying to limit such visits to significant sights. But we thought the climb would be good for us, so we did it and wandered around up there for an hour or two. The climb was strenuous but not awful, now that I’m in super, tip-top shape (for me). We did work up a hell of a sweat in the humid air, but at least it was cooler up at the top (about 600′ or 200m, again depending on who is talking about it). The hardest parts (for the up and down) were the places where there was nothing to hold onto if needed, and/or the steps were steep. I suspect we will feel a bit sore in the morning, but who knows.
Palamidi is also a bit interesting to us because it’s another example of the influence of Venetian power in Greece, which was also pointed out at some of the places we saw on the islands. I don’t think I realized before that the city-state of Venice had been such a power outside its own region. Of course, many people don’t realize that Italy has only been a nation as we know it since the late 19th century (though there were various manifestations up till the medieval era, when such nation-states as Venice arose). The Venetians were apparently quite powerful in the 18th century, when they conquered this part of the world, though they lost this fort to the Ottoman Empire before it was completed. I will stop boring my lovely readers with geeky details now, and anyone who is interested in learning more can check out the Google. Meanwhile here are some pictures, including some of the steps.
People were very friendly on the way up and while we were up at the fort. We met an Englishwoman who lives in Nafplia who is married to a Greek man. She was very chatty and said she’s been living here for 8 years and that this was her second time visiting the fort. The most interesting part of the chat was when she told us her daughter in the UK, I’m guessing from a previous relationship, is getting ready to marry her “friend” as she put it, but that she hasn’t told her current husband yet. Funny how much complete strangers will tell you sometimes.
I was already loving the connections we have been making with people here and I think maybe our next one was a kind of high point for me. We met another blogger! This is a woman from Australia who gave up a professional and business career, sold her home, and set off to travel the world with her young son. The two of them have been traveling the world for over two years, partly on a mission to carry out acts of kindness, and she blogs about it at exploramum.com. They are actually headed next to Athens to attend a blogging conference. This got me thinking a bit about our reasons for our trip, but I may talk about that in a separate entry.
We were a bit apprehensive about the descent from the fort. We stopped at the other entrance to the fort (where those who cab or drive come in) to buy some cold drinks from a snack stand, and stopped part of the way back down the steps to eat some of the food the owner of our hotel had prepared for us and to drink our drinks. There were a couple of sitting areas built into the steps so we stopped at one of them. We proceeded to geek out again here, watching the ants carry away some decent-sized sandwich crumbs, sometimes teaming up to move them back to their nest.
Here’s a hard-to-see picture of a group of ants, between the stick and the pebble.
Hard to see but very cool.
We continued to work our way back down to sea level, and here are some more pictures (I’m trying not to repeat but the WordPress app shows very small thumbnails so it’s hard to see which I’ve added). The first picture is of one of the other forts, on a site that has been fortified since about the third century B.C. It’s now home to a posh hotel and an ex-hotel.
After we got back to the bottom of the hill, we decided to do at least some of the walking tour described in the Rick Steves book that has helped guide us on this part of the trip. We started at the Square of the Friends of the Greeks, which includes a memorial thanking the French who fought with the Greeks during the War of Independence in 1821. We then detoured from the route to walk up the peninsula that ends just across from the tiny Bourtzi fort that is out on the water on a small island, another symbol of the Venetian occupation.
We also checked out the Church of St. Mary Above All Saints, which apparently owes something also to the Venetian occupation, since its architecture is not conventional, not having a domed ceiling. We also did Rick’s spin-tour at the city’s Syntagma (Constitution) Square. Turns out Nafplia was the first (and brief) capital of independent Greece, till good old King Otto, a Bavarian, moved it to Athens. (Apparently Otto was descended from some Greek dynasties.) We saw a couple of other things on the tour but were pretty done by then. The highlight of the tour was actually earlier on, after the church, when we visited the Antica Gelateria di Roma, which has a sign outside that implies they’ve been there since 18-something and a crappy website, but also probably the best coffee gelato I’ve ever had (with beans). Angie had two types of sorbetto and was also very happy with her choices. The proprietors of the shop also made the experience very enjoyable, with the woman behind the counter teasing us for wanting only the small servings.
We decided to come back to the hotel and rest up for a while. I blogged, Angie read, and we drank some of the nice wine Akis had left for us.
We had another delightful encounter with Akis as we left for dinner. We stood and talked to him for some time about our travels and reasons for it. He is working in the family business, so he totally gets about doing things for the right reasons, and about treating people as one would wish to be treated. He agreed that even though they are thrilled to have Pam’s sister and Angie as guests, other than the bottle of wine, they really haven’t done anything they wouldn’t do for anyone else, because that’s how they operate. And I’m ok with that. Everyone should be welcomed the way they welcomed us (though I forget to mention yesterday Akis’ excitement to see that both Angie and I were wearing Salomon shoes). Akis also said, and I love him for this, that a large part of what he does is about the great interactions he has with various guests and how meaningful that is for him.
And with that, we trotted off to dinner at one of the places Akis and Rick had suggested. Unfortunately the only other suggestion I had the name of from Pam was outside town and, according to Akis, who said the name before I could, not easy to get to. We checked out the menu of Aiolos but decided we liked the menu at Omorfo Tavernaki a little better. We had scouted that out earlier in the day. We had a good meal, including some good and sizable salads. Although I’m not a fan of cucumber, Angie and I agree that the tadziki in Greece is fantastic, thanks in large part I’m sure to the wonderful yoghurt available here.
We came back to the hotel while the Old Town area was just starting to hop, but we have another, hopefully less painful, travel day tomorrow: bus, cab and a car to Stoupa, the car being Pam’s lovely friend Louise who will be dropping her husband off at the bus station and offered to drive us the last leg of our journey.
We came back from dinner without much more wandering because we wanted to get packed, have a bit more of the wine Akis gave us, and try to get some sleep despite the hive of activity outside our hotel. We need to catch an 08:30 bus in the morning for the first leg of our journey and we can’t buy the ticket till then, so we want to be ready to go promptly.