I can’t believe it’s actually still beach weather. Proper beach weather too, not that British excuse for beach weather when it’s already dropped to being chilly enough for a jumper but you’re determined to eke it out for as long as possible anyway because it’s not raining yet and end up shivering by the shoreline, taking out the odd seagull with a nipple.
We spent our first full day in Tolo lounging on Assini Beach. It’s my favourite kind too, the ones with the pebbles rather than the tiny particles of evil so you don’t end up accidentally exfoliating your labia. The sunbeds and parasols are owned by the beach cafés and are free to use as long as you shovel €10 worth of drinks and/or food into your chops. Challenge accepted. The sea here is really warm too, much warmer than Naxos, you can easily get in without subjecting those around you to involuntary monkey noises.
We decided to rent a car to explore the ancient sites around Nafplio which meant we could get more shit done rather than relying on infrequent buses. It also meant I had to woman the fuck up and drive an actual car on the wrong side of the road whilst changing gears with my right hand. Fuuuuuck. I mean, I think I’d pretty much nailed driving on the right but now I’d have to get used to a big chunk of vehicle being to the right of me too, as well as Tarrant.
It actually turned out not to be that hard and aside from knocking my left hand into my door in search of a non-existent gear stick a few times, most notably on the approach to roundabouts, I managed to get us and the car all the way to the Archaeological Site of Mycenae and everything was still the shape it was meant to be.
Turned out it was free to get into ancient sites this weekend. I’d love to say today’s excursion was the result of meticulous research and planning but it was pure fluke. The last weekend in September is, apparently, European Heritage weekend or something so you can put all that lovely history in your eyeholes for exactly zero Euros. Yes please!
This was a citadel with a palace sat atop a fuck off great big hill which affords epic views. Unlike a lot of ancient sites this was was never completely buried, the Lion Gate which served as the main entrance to the citadel has always been visible. It’s been there since 1240BC so that’s pretty good going. The lions have lost their heads though, probably on account of them being made from a different material.
The museum is pretty much just full of pottery. They deliberately decided to focus on pottery because, “Clay objects are the main surviving artefacts of material culture and indisputable evidence of the presence of man…” I’ve never thought of it like that. I’ve always enjoyed seeing how pottery styles change through the centuries, and how the art and designs on them follow fashions. But yeah, they’re right, humans have always made clay shit, and clay shit is always left behind.
The ruins themselves are cool. They think the palace on the top of the hill was destroyed by fire in the late 13th century BC. No pillars or columns though so I’m obviously going to have to mark them down for that. Who builds a palace on a hill and doesn’t add several columns just for shits and giggs? If I ever find myself in possession of a fortune that permits me to build a palace you’re damn right there’ll be a courtyard surrounded by marble pillars.
Once we were satisfied with our Mycenaean experience we hopped back into the car and headed to the Epidavros Theatre. Tarrant loves an ancient theatre and this one is a thing of beauty. I think they actually have performances here, I deduced this on account of the fact they have box offices as well as the ticket office for the ancient site. Regular little Sherlock Holmes, me. Better tits though.
The theatre dates back to the 4th century BC and it’s been somewhat restored since it was excavated in 1881. It’s known for its acoustics, still incredible today. I skulked behind a tour guide to glean information and she was saying performers don’t need microphones, the sound just travels so well. When we were sat up top a group of tourists tested the theory and yes, I reckon if an actor had a good voice on them they could easily be heard. I mean, they’d probably still have to shout and they might wake up feeling like someone sandpapered their throat.
The theatre is part of a much bigger complex of ruins; the sanctuary of Asklepios. He was the medicine god I think. There rest of the ruins are much more, well, ruined than the theatre but it has some columns so it’s winning over the Mycenaean palace. We had a stroll around and looked at the remains of various temples dedicated to various gods, then figured we might as well have a wander to Nafplio to see the Palamidi Fortress. We weren’t going to, we were going to pop up on the bus tomorrow but it’s fucking free today so damn right we’re going to rinse it.
Also, it’s on a massive bastard hill which we’d have had to walk up if we took the bus into Nafplio. Right now we had a petrol chugging machine that’d cart us up the aforementioned bastard hill. Wins all round. This set of ruins is probably the youngest we’d been to since we got to Greece. It was built in the early 1700s at the end of the second Venetian rule. The Turks took it over before it was completed and it finally came under Greek rule in 1822 during the struggle for independence.
It’s a vast, sprawling complex of thick, fortified bastions. One of them was used as a prison for those on death row or serving life sentences so it’s not a happy happy joy joy kind of place but it’s got some epic views over Nafplio. We spent a bit of time wandering around, putting those sweet, sweet views in our eyeholes, before heading back to the car and back to Tolo, fully historied out for the day.
Seeing the fortress on the Sunday meant we had no real reason to go into Nafplio on the Monday as planned so we just sauntered up to the Acropolis of Asine for a bit on account of it being spitting distance from where we were staying. It’s alright, there’s not much left of it. The Italians blew holes in it during WWII and there’s a display in a cave about how antiquities were destroyed during the war because they weren’t a priority. Fair enough really. Utterly gutting, but fair enough.
Apart from that the eyehole fodder is pretty epic. We finished up there and wandered into Tolo in search of a cash point, grabbed a gyro, sat on the beach whilst shovelling it into our chops then headed to a beach bar for a Mamos. If you like beer you definitely need to get a Mamos in your facehole. We discovered it quite by accident in Athens when we were asked which beer we wanted. I just kind of shrugged and asked, “What’s good?” She gave us a Mamos and I’ve been besotted ever since. With the beer, obviously. Not the woman who recommended it. Though she’s worthy of a high five.
Considering we only came to Tolo because it had campsites so we could get a better deal on accommodation, it’s worked out quite well. It’s such a lovely beach town. It’s got sandy beaches if you’re the kind of sociopath that prefers that kind of thing, but the beaches at Assini are pebbles which is much nicer. It’s got a couple of gyros places so you can get your meat-chips-pita fix without sending your poor bank account off into a dark corner to cry. And actually, it’s just really chilled, just a great place to be.
Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece / Αργολίδα, Πελοπόννησος, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Xeni Camp Retreat
Useful shit to know…
- ΚΤΕΛ ΑΡΓΟΛΙΔΑΣ (KTEL Argolida) took us from Isthmus to Nafplio and cost €6.50 each.
- The timetable I was given at Isthmus differs from the timetables online. I was told buses leave Isthmus for Nafplio at 7.00, 9.00, 10.30, 12.00, 13.30, 15.00, 16.30, 18.30, 19.30, 20.30, 22.30.
- Once you’re in Nafplio, if you want to head to Tolo you need to go around the corner to 37.564992, 22.801106, by the kiosk, to catch the bus. Timetables are available at the bus station. It cost €1.60 one way and took about 20 minutes.
- You just get on and a conductor will come and take your money.
- Tolo has everything you’ll need and is a really lovely seaside town. There are loads of campsites, as well as hotels. Something for every budget.
- We didn’t ask about buses as we decided that renting a car was the best way to see the region, but looking at the KTEL Argolida website, buses to Mycenae and Epidavros are only once a day and not at convenient times.
- We rented our car from Euro Car Rental in Tolos for €50 for the day. It’s obviously cheaper per day the longer you rent it. That’s with unlimited kilometres, it’s €40 with a 100 kilometre limit then its 28 cents per kilometre above that.
- Petrol was around €1.88 per litre. It varied from petrol station to petrol station but only by a couple of cents.
- The Archaeological Site of Mycenae and the Epidavros Theatre are usually €12 each to get in, but the former can be part of a combo ticket for €20 which includes a few other sites including the fortress in Nafplio (which is usually €8). We were going to get this before we found out everything was free that day.
- The Acropolis of Asine is only €3 to get in.