Ancient Greece – part III

From Olympia continue the trip through Ancient Greece by driving on to Pylos on South West of the Peloponnese.  Planned to stay one night – ended up staying three.

Karlis city hotel – Pylos
Navarene Bay from castle at Pylos


Pylos looks our over the Bay of Navarene – famous from the capture of the Spartans by the Athenians during the Athenian/ Spartan wars.  But more recently famous as the scene of the naval battle between the Sultan (Turkey) and the British, Russian and French fllet in 1828 – leading shortly afterwards to the Independence of Greece.

Stayed in a centrally located hotel – Karalis City Hotel – with a view out over the harbour and the bay.

The Castle at Pylos (only 300m from the centre) is well worth a visit – and includes an excellent museum with great history of the naval battle of 1828.  Also

from the castle mseum

includes great range of artifacts recovered from various local sites.

Found Pylos a great place to stay – good local beaches, good restaurants, nice village and plenty to do.  And we experienced the only rain of our trip – all of five minutes.



From Pylos we drove to Nafplio – about a three and a half hour journey (50% motorway).  I had been to Nafplio in 1981 – and was looking forward to the return trip.  We actually based ourselves at a beach hotel about 15km outside Nafplio (at Tolo Beach).

Hotel itself was disappointing – but on the beach so no need to use the pool when the sea is directly outside your hotel.  Spent  a couple of evenings in Nafplio – lovely pedestrianised areas, great selection of restaurants and shops, street artists – with the magnificant castle in the background.

Nafplio was a perfect base for revisitng two of the highlights of my 1981 visit: the theatre at Epidaurus and Agamemnon’s palace at Mycenae.

Theatre at Epidaurus


The theatre at Epidaurus is famous for the outstanding acoustics – and we all certified this by having one person speak from the centre of the theatre and another listen from the top row.  Just to sit there for an hour in the late evening sunshine, looking out over the groves of trees.


Also took the opporuntiy to run on the track at Epidaurus.

Running in Epidaurus

Fun to meet with someone else also revisiting Epidaurus for the first time in 36 years.



There is something magical about Mycenae – about a 30 minute drive out from Nafplio (on the way you pass Tiryns – the former palace of Menelaus).

Lion’s Gate at Mycenae

We enter Mycenae via the Lion’s Gate and walk up through the site.

From Mycenae

The views from the top demonstrate the commanding position and location – looking out over the plain and down to the sea in the distance.

And the museum at Mycenae is well worth an hour or two before leaving for a swin back at Nafplio

All of these sites just remind me of the importance of Greece in the history of civilisation and Europe.  It is so important that we preserve these sites and encourage younger people to experience and enjoy them.

Combining sun, sea and archaeological sites in Classical Greece – part 2


Sunday afternoon went well, deferred visit to archaeological sites to see Dublin win their ‘three in a row’- courtesy of internet.  Followed up with a pool swim at the Amalia Hotel and an excellent dinner in Delphi.  Would be afraid to ask the Oracle whether Mayo will win next year.

On way into Delphi site

Monday morning went to the archaeological site.  Blew my mind – the combination of votives, theatre and stadium.

The theatre itself is stunning – to think that they held their festivals here – with combinations of religious sacrifices, theatre and games.

Temple at Delphi

The other striking part is the climb above the votives and the temple to reach the stadium.  Unfortunately, unlike at Olympia and Epidaurus you cannot enter the stadium (or at least the day I was there).

Shauna at Stadium in Delphi

And finally the museum itself is well worth the visit – with all sorts of items which have been recovered from 2,000 to2,500 years ago.

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the gymnasium – on the lower slope (but something for the next visit).  Delphi was everything I had hoped for – and more.  We stayed on another evening becuase, unfortunately, needed to spend a few hours working remotely (the blessings of modern technology!).  But another excellent meal and welcoming Greeks made for a most enjoyable evening.


Next morning headed off on longest drive of the trip (c. 300km)- heading for the Peloponnese – initial target: Olympia and from there on to Pylos.  The drive as far as the Peloponnese (crossed the bridge at Patra) was spectacular.  Shortly after Patra pulled in for first sea swim of the day – at some beach bar already closed for the off season.  and from there headed to Olympia.  Scenery very boring until fot within about 10km of Olympia – and then all changed.  Olympia is a beautiful village/ town and we had a lovely lunch in the main square.  Then I headed to the archaeological site for a couple of hours in the late afternoon – this time on my own.

I started with the museum.  Olympia was dedicated to Zeus.  And you get a good understanding of the site and its history at the excellent museum.

Zeus at Olympia

There is also a botanical garden in which you get an introduction to the various plants which are native to the Peloponnese.

But then the site.  There is so much to see.  The temple of Hera is very striking.

Stadium at Olympia

But obviously the big attraction is the stadium: the Olympic Stadium.  Unlike Delphi the spectator area is simply grass banks – and apparently this accommodated 45,000 people at the games back in 700BC.  And you get to enter the stadium and to walk/ run the approx. 190m track.


After Olympia we had another 120km to cover.  Stopped off for a swim on the way – as you do.  And got in to the beautiful village of Pylos by 9pm. in time for an excellent meal at the restaurant next to our hotel (Karalis City Hotel).

Combining sun, sea and sites in Classical Greece – part 1

Back in Greece after 36 years

Just back from a nine day trip to Greece.  Lucky enough to have had the chance to have studied both Latin and Greek for my leaving cert in 1980.  And my only visit to Greece todate was via interrail in 1981 (having travelled by train from Venice, through Yugoslavia, to Athens).  On that visit saw the Parthenon and the museum in Athens and Epidaurus, Mycenae and Tiryns on the Peloponnese.

This time flew to Athens and drove – itinerary taking in Marathon, Thermopylae, Delphi, Olympia, Pylos, Nafplio, Epidaurus, Mycenae and Tiryns.

September is a beautiful time to visit Greece (temperature in the 30s during the day and the 20s at evening time).   Initial hotel bookings were with the assistance of and additional nights booked locally.  Logistics could not have been more straightforward.  Road network was excellent – ranging from motorway to highway to quiet country roads.  And traffic and parking were no challenge post summer peak times. The people were very friendly and informative in all respects –  looking for restaurants, beaches, archaeological sites, whatever.

Burial mound (tumulus) of Greeks who died at the Battle of Marathon


Visited Marathon Saturday afternoon.  After a swim in the sea headed to the site of the Battle of Marathon and the tumulus in which the bones of the dead Greeks were buried.  As you read the history and learn about the battle you begin to understand the heroism shown at the time – in terms of the complete mismatch of the two sides.  You also gain an insight into the tactics used by the Greeks (weak centre and strong wings).  Of course this battle gave its name to the use of the word marathon to describe our best known long race: based on the runner running back to Athens to inform the Athenians of the victory at Marathon.  We also visited the museum which is about 5km from the battle site.  Lots of interesting items there, including a number of graves which have been discovered and opened up.

From Marathon we headed north to Kamena Vourla on the coast – within easy striking distance of Thermopylae.  Nice little seaside resort – stayed in a seaside front property – Mitsis Galini Wellness spa & Resort.

Leonidas who died a hero’s death at Thermopylae


On Sunday after a swim headed to Thermopylae.  As you approach you get the sense of the location and the logic of the battle which took place.  There is a narrow passage between the sea and the mountains and a small number of Spartans looked to block the Persian advance through this gap.  Really excellent museum and 3-D presentation explaining the background to the battle, what happened over the three days and the subsequent impact for Athens and Sparta.

Honouring the Spartans at Thermopylae

When about to be overrun Leonidas and the remaining Spartans climbed on a mound to fight to the end. They died under a hail of Persian arrows, having bravely fought off the Persians for three days.

And from Thermopylae we headed across the hills (and through a number of mountain villages) to Delphi.  This was the day of the All Ireland football final (I think we were the only tow people in Delphi following the match.  But we succeeded in seeing the gamle courtesy of Go GAA – using the broadband at our hotel.

Looking down from the village of Delphi

Delphi is a beautiful setting at about 500m above sea level – with wonderful views down into different valleys from the top.  Lovely village in which to stay with a number of very good food options.  Again was struck by the friendliness of everyone we met.