Trip Start Feb 10, 2006
Trip End Mar 07, 2006

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Saturday, March 4, 2006

Paulie and I cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast this morning. We sat and ate a leisurely meal before heading out in our van. Today was Mycenae. Mycenae wasn't a long drive from Nafplio. The hardest part was navigating the narrow streets out of Nafplio from the pension. It took one person standing behind the van, one in front and one driving to manage the van through the narrow streets with the mirrors flipped in. I had always wondered why the side mirrors were made to flip, now I know.

As one of the foundational sites of European civilization, Mycenae is a popular tourist destination. The site has been well-preserved, and the massive ruins of the cyclopaean walls and the palaces on the acropolis still arouse our admiration, particularly when we remember that they were built a thousand years before the monuments of Classical Greece.

Mycenae is an amazing set of ruins that in the second millennium BC was one of the major centers of Greek civilization. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean which alludes to the importance of these ruins.

The settlement pattern at Mycenae during the Bronze Age was a fortified hill surrounded by hamlets and estates.  Since Mycenae was the capital of a state that ruled, or dominated, much of the eastern Mediterranean world, the rulers must have placed their stronghold in this less populated and more remote region for its defensive value. 

In one of the Grave Circles on the grounds of Mycenae archaeologist found engraved and inlaid swords and daggers, with spear points and arrowheads, the silver Siege Rhyton, the Mask of Agamemnon, the Cup of Nestor, and weapons both votive and practical. 

We made our entrance through the circuit wall through the best known feature of Mycenae, The Lion Gate. The Lion Gate was built in the form of a 'Relieving Triangle' to support the weight of the stones. The heads are long gone but the bodies of the lions are still completely visible.

We wandered all of the ruins and near the back of the ruins we found 99 steps into a cistern carved out of rock 15 m below the surface. In Mycenaean times it was fed by a tunnel from a spring on more distant higher ground. We didn't have a flash light and it was really dark down this shaft. We did have the video camera and its light provided a little light. We started down the slippery stone steps to the bottom. My cute little leather shoes were not the type to be doing this type of exploring so I stopped the decent with the girls and Paulie. Jeremiah and Cory navigated all the way to the end where all they found was putrid water with old plastic bottles floating in it. Sometimes it is just the little adventures that make a day fun.

As we we moved away from the main ruins we were out in fields full of trees in full blossom. They hummed with the sound of bees. At times it was a little frightening. It sounded like something out of a horror movie. You would walk under them and it would sound like you had entered a giant bee hive. Sometimes I wish that you were able to take the sounds, sights and smells along with the feel of the wind and sun and save these amazing memories. I guess that is what a blog is for.  

We left ancient Mycenae and drove into modern Mycenae, a town that has grown up around a tourist attraction. It is a cute little area and a perfect place for lunch. We were beckoned into a restaurant off of the main road. There was parking in the rear of the establishment. Not much space but we were getting used to squeezing into small spaces. The restaurant was called Spiro's and like in much of Greece the seating was outside. We found a table large enough for all of us. Like most Greek places the main staple of food was meat. We ordered some lamb. What was funny was that the grill were across the street. The owner of the restaurant ran across the street to cook our food and then ran back to our tables. The food was delicious. 

Our waitress was a woman studying abroad from somewhere in Russia. She had many questions about the United States. She wanted to study there at some time but wasn't sure how to do it. She sat and talked for some time about living in Greece. It was so nice.

We have found that the people in the smaller towns of Greece are much warmer than those in Athens. I think that is probably true of most cities vs towns. Though I can't imagine the people of Turkey being any more gracious than they were in Istanbul. 

On our drive back we stopped by some ruins of Argos. I think that our group is almost ruined on ruins... These were a little out of the way and we interrupted a couple that had found this semi private spot. I am guessing that it is quite a make-out spot for teens, in between stones from ancient Greece were broken beer bottles and condoms. Paulie found a big flat stone to lay down on and promptly fell asleep. He isn't quite over his cold that he picked up in Athens but I think that he is going to live. 

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