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.