Nafplio, Sparta and Mystras

Mystras Travel Blog

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i made it to the top of the Palamidi in Nafplio
i made it to the top of the Palamidi in Nafplio

Nafplio: Home to the infamous ‘999 steps’ (that’s 666 upside down)

We arrived in this town in the evening and stayed in a hotel by the boardwalk. We searched for a gyro stand for dinner (its times like these I almost miss Muchas). Our hotel was charming. Most of the hotels we’ve stayed in have balconies which I adore. It’s such a perfect place to relax, read, watch the sunset, etc. I’ve been spoiled for life.

a pic on the way up.
a pic on the way up.

Class met in the morning, we loaded our baggage onto the bus, and went for a walk around the town. We passed through the town square and the church where the first president of Greece, Kapodistrias was assassinated shortly after taking office. This was right after the Greek War of Independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 1830s. Things were a little chaotic, so after the assassination Britain interfered (as it has many times in Greece) and installed a monarchy lead by King Otto. Napflio was originally the capital of Greece until they moved it to Athens later. They chose Athens not only for its strategic location but because of the Parthenon being a perfect backdrop to remind Greeks of their classical past and foundation of Democracy and liberty. (Just another reason those Parthenon marbles need to get back…)

i was feeling arty while procrastinating on those stairs...
i was feeling arty while procrastinating on those stairs...

We winded through narrow streets until we reached this giant mountain in the middle of the town, which of course, we were going to climb. This ‘mountain’ is known for its 999 steps that lead up to the top, where remnants of the medieval fortified castle remain. These steps were not like nice even carpeted steps, we’re talking rocky, uneven, steep slippery rocks that form flights of stairs, up a mountain. It took us a little while, but we finally made it victoriously to the top. I’m getting used to climbing mountains. The view was absolutely incredible; it was a perfect day with blue skies and a blue sea. The fortress, the Palamidi, is a baroque fortress built under the Venetian occupation of the city.

Palamidi
Palamidi

The walk down was pretty fun, we hurried because we were all thirsty and wanted water. When we got to the bottom we spent 10 solid minutes locking our knees to feel our legs shake from the workout our quads had just endured. My friend Cassie decided to get her nose pierced, and conveniently there was a studio right at the bottom of the mountain! I held her hand while she got it done, she was so much braver than I was. I didn’t even watch and I still almost threw up. I’m such a wimp. Cassie’s nose ring looks great.

again
again

We had an hour before we had to make it back to the bus, so we grabbed a gyro and a 5 liter water bottle. I was really thirsty.

From here we drove to Sparta. I know all of you have seen 300 and think that Sparta would be the coolest place in the world, but I haven’t seen the movie, and it was a pretty janky town. If you don’t know what ‘janky’ means than I suggest you look it up. Our hotel had orange shag carpet that climbed up the sides of the beds, and a shower with the showerhead actually attached to the wall, which was a treat.

Aubrey, Cassie and Vina make it to the top!
Aubrey, Cassie and Vina make it to the top!

We had dinner in a group, which was fun because the professor, Alice came. I tried mousaka, which I don’t really know what it is, but apparently its traditional Greek food. It was good, I think it had eggplant in it. We spent the evening in our hotel, Cassie, Cameron (the poor lone boy in the group) hung out and watched arrested development, the nightlife was not thrilling, instead of a bar we found a kiosk with Amstel on Leonidas street, so just as good.

In the morning we went to the Olive Museum! After wine tasting, I was REALLY hoping that this would be ‘olive tasting’ but no such luck. The museum made up for its lack of edible olives with its high tech exhibits, which included running models of olive presses from ancient, Byzantine and modern Greece. The olive had a huge impact of Greece culture and economy (Remember the Athenians dedicated their city to Athena after she gifted them with the olive tree, which they treasured more than a salt water spring—thanks a lot Poseidon.) The museum includes an outdoor exhibit, and a movie with selective subtitles about the production of olive oil. All I can say about olive oil is don’t take it for granted, and if you run out of lotion, it doubles as that.

Byzantine Town of Mystras
Byzantine Town of Mystras

We left Sparta after getting our fill of shouting ‘This is Sparta’ in Sparta. (Sorry we didn’t see the archeological site there because apparently it’s not too impressive, no giant cistern to kick people into.) We headed to the Byzantine town of Mystras. Yet another hike though ruins. A number of buildings were preserved, including a palace, and several churches. One of the churches had frescoes preserved from the 14th century. Very awesome. The place was crawling with nuns visiting ancient icons and disgusting stray cats. I actually like cats, but these cats were so gross. The other kids would touch them, but I do not want to get worms. Actually I shouldn’t touch the cats even if I wanted to, since I’m so allergic.

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Mystras
photo by: Paulovic