Not far from Lefkada lies the huge Bay of Corinth which in turn leads to the Corinth Canal, that sliver of water cut through stone from the Bay to the Aegean Sea to the east.  Years ago we had followed that route in ‘Icarus.’  This time we just sailed across the Bay of Corinth and into The Peloponnese region of Greece on the spectacular suspension bridge that spans it close to the city of Patras. Unlike those suspension bridges we are familiar with, particularly the Golden Gate, this one has four piers high in the air and they support the cables which connect with the road surface directly, creating a dramatic symmetrical beauty that is fabulous.

Drive, Patras, Greece

Once on to The Pelopennese, that huge piece of Greece to the south, we headed for Nafplio, a city on the Aegean with a strong Venetian influence from their 150 years of rule,  and close enough to Athens so that it is a favorite weekend getaway.  We were there on a weekday so that it was quiet and almost deserted, with its streets filled with bougainvillea blossoms instead of tourists.

Napflio, Peloponnese, Greece 2

Nafplio Peloponnese, Greece

One of Nafplio’s bars features a more modern relic given over to a new purpose.

Napflio, Peloponnese, Greece_1

We camped in a lovely campground just out of town on the coast and spent a busy day visiting three different archeological sites in the neighborhood.  This is a region of very deep human history.  There were remains found in caves close to the coast which date from Paleolithic times–30,000 years ago. It is also the site of three major Bronze Age cities which define what is called the Mycenean Period when this region ruled most of this end of the Mediterranean as far to the east as Crete.

Most of the ruins here date from the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. and are most famous for the treasures taken from their tombs and the enormous limestone blocks used to build their fortifying walls and buildings.  These walls are called Cyclopean because in the view of their successors only those one eyed giants could have lifted the 12 to 20 ton stones into place.  Here is just a sample of what we saw.

Tiryns, Peloponnese, Greece

Tiryns, Peloponnese, Greece_1

Mycenae Peloponnese, Greece_2

Mycenae Peloponnese, Greece_1

Some of its splendor is on display at a wonderful Archeological Museum in Nafplio in the form of the life sized gold mask at the top of this entry and gold jewelry which was buried with the dead in many of the graves.

Mycenae Peloponnese, Greece

There is also an amazing bronze helmet and suit of armor on display which testifies to the level of sophistication the Mycenians had developed in working with metals.

Napflio, Peloponnese, Greece

We also visited Epidauros, birthplace of a good deal of ancient medicine and healing.  It was early a sort of sacred spa for the treatment of illness and indeed there have even been medical instruments found at the site.  But treating illness in a rather surprisingly holistic way, the site also includes a huge amphitheater still used today for concerts in the summer

Epidauros, Peloponnese, Greece

and a stadium for athletic events and training, particularly sprints where the starting line can still be seen.

Epidauros, Peloponnese, Greece_1

Also part of the treatment cycle was prayer, sacrifice and particularly sleep as an important part of a remedy.  The grounds stretch over a huge space and the ruin of temples, some under reconstruction, can be found all over the area.  Even when walking down paths to the furthest reaches of the site, pieces of columns still lie in the grass.

We finally left the Nafplio neighborhood and headed south down the Aegean coast past wonderful villages and tight little harbors.

Drive Napflio to Gythros, Peloponnese, Greece 3

At the city of Leonidio, where we had to squeeze the car through its narrow streets, we headed up the Dafnon Gorge which turned out to be one of the most beautiful drives we have had on this entire trip.  The road twists its way up from the valley floor and just seems to keep ascending through the narrow slit that makes up the gorge.  Finally, near the top of the climb, we spotted the Nunnery of Panagia Elonis clinging to the side of the cliff under a huge rock overhang.

 

Here’s a closer look.

Drive Napflio to Gythros, Peloponnese, Greece_1 2

It is as unimaginable as the monasteries of Meteora we visited earlier, but there it was, inhabited by nuns, with a church of its own wedged up against the rock face.

Drive Napflio to Gythros, Peloponnese, Greece_2

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Once over the top of the mountain pass we descended down and through the town of Kosmas, absolutely beautiful with its tall gracious trees and friendly tavernas surrounding the church.  It was cool, shaded, and welcoming.

Drive Napflio to Gythros, Peloponnese, Greece

Drive Napflio to Gythros, Peloponnese, Greece_1

From there we continued south into the land of the Mani and Zorba the Greek.