It’s all very well gadding about the world, pausing only to take photos, admire architecture and swim in warm sunlit seas, but that can only take up so much of the average day. One of our friends pointed this out to us, before following up with the very good question,“So what do you spend the rest of your time doing, then?”
Unsurprisingly, we spend a fair bit of our time cleaning things, putting things away, walking the dog, shopping for food; it’s a lot like daily life anywhere really. The biggest difference of course is that every time we stop and get out, it’s a completely different place from the last. Thinking about this the other day we came to the conclusion that the dog must feel a bit like one of Doctor Who’s companions, being ushered into a mobile box and then getting out some time later to find a totally different environment – often, in the case of Greece, one festooned by stray cats and what the French charmingly term ‘chiens errants’. This has a pleasingly medieval ring to it, raising echoes of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur perhaps. In actual fact the dogs are rather medieval, but not in a good way. Sorry about the italics and bold by the way, but Son Number Two has recently acquainted me with markdown text language and I couldn’t resist trying it out. I think that’s what he said it was, anyway.
Another thing we do fairly frequently is try to thrash one another at Scrabble. It’s bewildering how competitive the games can get but fortunately we seem to be equally gifted/inept and neither one of us has achieved ascendancy over the other. Yet.
Having the time to read is another delightful feature of our daily life, but at this point we have to confess a dreadful heresy, namely that we each use a Kindle. For people who live in Hay-on-Wye, Town of Books, this is a bit like a Vatican dweller in the Middle Ages admitting that he finds Martin Luther’s ‘Ninety Five Theses’ rather a good read. Skimming through the list of downloaded books that I’ve read, I find that the total is surprisingly large at around 45 or so. Most (i.e. the ones that I’ve found for myself) are not particularly worthy but Kate has allowed me to share her downloaded books, which has been the saving of my literary soul. It’s only through reading a really well-written book (most recently, Kamila Shamsie’s ‘Burnt Shadows’) after grinding through a two-dimensional tale of cardboard characters (author’s name and book’s title deleted, to spare their blushes) that I’ve properly come to appreciate good literature on my own, rather than take someone else’s word for it, if you see what I mean. But don’t worry – I imagine all this new found artiness will have worn off by Christmas and it’ll be back to Andy McNab’s latest potboiler. Whoops…
All this intellectual activity hasn’t blunted our thirst for travel and sightseeing of course, as the Travel Map section of this blog will show you. Go and have a look if you haven’t found it already.
Right then. You’ll have seen that we spent a couple of days in the old Venetian fortified port town of Nafplio. What a superb place – it had pretty well everything you could want, including castles, beaches, tavernas, shops, immensely attractive narrow cobbled streets leading hither and yon, stairs, steps, more stairs, more steps…
If you wanted to leave the harbourside lanes then you had to go up steps. Lots of them. But the views reward your efforts and by climbing a mere 250 or so steps you get to see this view of one of the lesser forts and the town and harbour.
And if you carry on to climb all 995 steps to reach the entrance to the biggest, highest fort of all then you’ll be rewarded with a pleasantly pink and sweaty face to accompany the ache in your legs that tells you you’ll be regretting the effort for days to come.
The view back over the bay is worth it though. The little island with a fort on it is apparently where they used to keep condemend prisoners, alongside the executioners who were in due course going to see them off. Now it’s nothing more than an easy way of separating tourists from their money, but only in the summer when the ferry is running.
Nafplio was the sort of place that we could quite easily imagine staying for some time, even at the risk of developing legs like monsters. Moving on, we called in to Epidauros to check out its famous theatre – as it turned out the theatre was just one small part of a massive site that had previously been a sort of residential health centre/hospital/entertainment venue for the ancient Greeks and then in their turn, the Romans. The sheer amount of stuff on view was alarming and the jewel in this particular coronet brought us to an abrupt halt:
It was mammoth. Many of the seats in the front row still had backrests and armrests carved out of the same rock as the seats themselves and the overall effect was awe-inspiring. The acoustics were excellent too and we were able to hear all the noisy inanities from a party of tourists down on the stage area. We moved on, allowing ourselves a crusty grumble or two about foreign johnnies and their collective inability to confirm to our norms. Hah! That’ll show them.
That whole experience primed us for yet more extraordinary experiences, so we felt a bit let down when, after a couple of hours of travelling, we turned a corner to find the Corinth Canal. We’d built it up in our imagination, fuelled by the scale of the Epidauros theatre, to include huge towering rock walls, framing some monolithic bridge that was raised and lowered by a mechanism devised by Archimedes, with lots of steam, and a noise that shook the very earth on which we stood.
Instead we found this:
Fair enough, it did descend below the water level, but only very slowly and with a disappointing minimum of fuss:
The boat and barge combo that subsequently carried on through the canal did their best to provide noise and smoke, but it wasn’t really the same.
We managed to salvage something from the wreck of our expectations. By walking out into the middle of the bridge, once it was up again, we were able to see some faintly precipitous and presumably rocky walls about half a mile up stream. So we took a quick snap and this is what we ended up with:
It’s a bit out of focus because the iphone camera isn’t as clever as we’d have liked and the telephoto zoom function is rather rudimentary. Much like our skills as photographers, so with the old adages about silk purses, sow’s ears, bad workmen and tools ringing in our minds’ ears we resumed our slow progress northwards, towards Thermopylae and the last stand of Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans…