Corinthos, Elefsina and Epidauros

Trip Start Jun 01, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Where I stayed
Corinthos Hotel

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Last day of "spring", with a temperature of 37°C!  Oddly mild, though, compared to the highs of the day before.
And, because we'd missed out on seeing Elefsina on Thursday, which the day we'd scheduled for it, we were determined to fit it in today, this set the whole plan back a bit but, on the other hand, we had the National Highway to help make up the time.  With speed "limits" of 120kph (and we were passed like we were going backwards), we thought we could probably manage it.
Our first stop was ancient Corinth.  Most of the ruins on the site are Roman, which made most of it not useful for Karen's purposes but we looked at the Temple to Apollo and the Classical amphitheatre.  My main purpose was to visit the museum to photograph a particular bronze statue that my friend Bob Clark had told me about.  But when I asked one of the guards, she said that there were no bronze statues there.  There were small bronze objects but no statues and certainly no complete ones, not even in storage.  Most of what we saw was marble statues.  So I wasn't able to get a picture for Bob but I did buy a post card with a remarkable bust of Hera, an important goddess to him.
Then we dashed to the National Road and raced back to Elefsina, which was the site of the annual Athenian mysteries of Demeter and Persephone and the gift of grain.  Much of what is visible is enigmatic because so little is known about the mysteries themselves.  One thing that initiates swore to do was to never divulge what happened during the mysteries.  And this requirement was so completely upheld that we know almost nothing today. 
Again we were more concerned with the Classical era ruins but, despite the Roman "enhancements", we found a few important features of the ancient mysteries, such as the cave called the "Pluterion" and the hall of initiation called the "Telesterion".  We also took some time to visit the museum although many of the best finds are in the National Museum.  One thing I particular liked to see what that, in the Pluterion, a fig tree had sent roots down so far that they had grown into the cavity of the cave.  And enough light is present in the cave that the roots had begun to grow leaves.  I see that, somehow, as a modern manifestation of the essential message of the mysteries, surely something about the return of life.  I was also pleased to see that, in one little crevice of the cave, someone had left wild grain and some flowers and ribbons, token offerings to the goddesses of the place.
At 2:40pm we hurried back to the National Road and Karen sped down to the road to Nauplio.  I made myself not look at the speedometer.  Our progress was slowed a bit by some roadwork on the National Highway but it gave us time to observe evidence of last year's horrible forest fires.  At one point along the National Highway, the fire had jumped the road!  Soon there after we got back to speed but then had to slow again once we reached the winding, two-lane road but Karen was doing "half-carting" with the best of them, so we made good time to Nauplio. 

The road to Epidauros from Nauplio is even narrower and more winding, the whole way, we took 45 minutes to reach there.  At one point we stopped to photograph a Mycenaean bridge: a 3,000-year-old bridge!  And it's still standing, straddling a dry stream bed and you can walk on it.  Apparently two other Mycenaean bridges occur along this stretch of road, but we didn't have time to turn down the access roads to find them.
Eventually we reach Epidauros, known for two things: its amazing amphitheatre and its Asklepeion, an ancient place of healing.  It had a strong presence there in the Classical era so was a very interesting site for both of us.  Our first stop was the amphitheatre and we checked out its amazing acoustics.  In the middle of the round area called the "orchestra" is a smooth, round piece of marble and, if you drop a coin on it, you can hear the sound at the top of the amphitheatre.  And if you stand there, the sound reverberates back at you from the seats.   In fact, sound was an important component of healing at the site.
Karen betook herself into the seat area while I was left at orchestra centre to make some sort of interesting sound.  All I could think of was to recite a line of Homer (badly) and when I realized I'd forgotten the second line, I switched and sang the Canadian National Anthem.  Hey, I was working with limited material here!
We also enjoyed seeing the medical instruments, including ancient forceps!  Most of the healing on the site, however, didn't occur through anything we would recognize as medical practice but by a special ritual process of dreaming.  The site has a special building, called the adyton, devoted just to sleeping, which allowed people to obtain information that would allow them to heal.  Sounds like my kind of healing.
Oddly, I forgot to photograph most of the site, so it's a good thing that I took a lot o photos two years ago!  But I remembered enough to notice that, here, too, they'd done a lot of work in two years, especially on the round temple-like structure called the "tholos", which represents the underground abode of Asklepias, and on the adyton, the Temple of  Apollo and the propylaia to the dinning rooms.  In other places, they've incorporated modern stone to help delineate building walls and other structures.  The site is becoming clearer and even more worthy of a visit.  And, if you are in Greece during July and August and you come on a Friday or Saturday night, you might even be able to attend a play in the amphitheatre itself.
At 7 pm, when the site closed, we raced back to Nauplio in time for sunset.  We unpacked and headed to the waterfront for dinner. We planned to use the Internet and get caught up, but would have to walk many blocks to reach the Internet café, so we didn't get much done.  By that time we were pretty tired, too.
And tomorrow, we get to go to the modern recreation of the athletic games at Nemea, something I've waited for, for almost four years!  We can hardly wait!
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