ATHENS

Athens: Leaving via a trip through Nafplio, Epidaurus & Corinth

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The first modern capital of Greece, today, Nafplio is a charming seaside town located in the Peloponnese, only a few hours drive from Athens. The character and beauty of the buildings makes strolling through the town a joy. Picturesque streets lined with Venetian style buildings, marked by their characteristic wooden balconies and four panel wooden shutters, open into cafe-filled squares or expose you to breathtaking views of the sea. Although, today, Nafplio is known as a resort town, it is home to several historical sites that remind visitors of its once prominent political and military existence. Once such site, perched about 200 meters above the sea, is Palamidi Fortress. A marvel of military architecture during its time, the fortress was built by the Venetians between 1711-1714. The structure itself is impressive, only rivaled by the clifftop views of the town and Argolic Gulf. There are two ways to access the fortress, one being navigating the winding road to the top and the other being ascending the estimated 999 steps leading to the fortress’ entrance. Visitors to Nafplio should also take time to visit the island Fortress of Bourtzi, a short five minute boat ride from the waterfront. The fortress was built by the Venetians in the 1400’s as a means to protect the harbor. Under Turkish control, it was later turned into a prison and home for executioners, who were not welcome to stay on the mainland due to the belief that they would bring bad luck.

Nafplio is also a popular location from which to explore other nearby historic sites. One of the most popular trips being the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, about an hour’s drive away. Originally built by the Greeks in the late 4th century BC and later expanded by the Romans, who added an additional 21 rows to the existing 34, the open-air theatre has a capacity of around 15,000. Best known for its amazing acoustics, which have been praised since ancient times for producing the ability to hear one speaking on stage from the farthest row back in the theatre without amplification. The theatre is still used today to host performances, allowing visitors to enjoy the classics the same way the Greeks did.

In heading back towards Athens, from either Nafplio or Epidaurus, take the time to visit Corinth and the Corinth Canal. As a former maritime stronghold, it is no surprise that the waterfront area is the most attractive aspect of the modern town. As for Ancient Corinth, visitors can tour the Temple of Apollo, constructed in the mid-6th century BC. Originally, the temple formed a rectangular shape with six front and rear columns and fifteen columns running along each side. Today, only seven of the original columns remain standing, but provides an excellent example of early Doric architecture. Before leaving Corinth, be sure to also make time to see the Fountain of Peirene. According to Greek mythology, the spring was created by the tears of Periene, a nymph and mother, while lamenting the death of her son, who was accidentally killed by Artemis. The fountain is also believed to have been a favorite watering hole of the mythological winged horse, Pegasus. The site has been added to numerous times throughout history, but the original Greek construction can be seen on the south side, where there is a quad in front of six stone archways and a series of underground reservoirs.

Athens Day Trip: The Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

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Follow the beautiful, beach-lined Apollo Coast from Athens to Cape Sounion, about an hour by car, to reach the Temple of Poseidon. As you near the site, the ancient temple begins to rise above the road in front of you. The original temple was destroyed by the Persians around 480 BC so what you see today is the temple that was erected between 448-440 BC on the ruins of the destroyed temple.  As it is dedicated to Poseidon, the god of the sea, it is only fitting that the the temple is predominately situated about 60 meters above the Aegean sea, offering visitors dramatic clifftop views of the water below. Of the original 42 Doric columns used to build the temple, only 15 remain standing today, but none of its majestic nature is lost. In addition to touring the ruins, there are two other reasons most visitors make the journey to the temple. To seek out Lord Byron’s initials, which he carved into one of the columns in 1810, and, to watch the sunset, one of the most beautiful you will ever see amid the ancient Greek ruins and into the deep blue Aegean below.

Home-made Greek Wine: A Hima Introduction

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Hima
The cheapest option on menus and in supermarkets, hima, is home-made Greek wine. Available in red or white and easily spotted in wooden barrels in the markets, hima can be purchased in your own container or any of the empty bottles on hand at the store. In tavernas, hima is generally the cheapest option on the menu. When ordering in the restaurant, note that a kilo is actually a liter, which is plenty for four, but most fun when enjoyed by two. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the smooth flavor of the wine, it actually has a higher alcohol content than regular wine, and even better it doesn’t contain sulfites so you won’t be fighting a hangover in the morning.