Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Greece 2010 - July 13th - Mycenae and Epidavros

Having secured a rental vehicle (Fiat Punto) part-way through the day, we headed off to Mycenae, not too far from Nafplio.  It's a fairly large fortified city which was inhabited over multiple periods a good while back in pre-Roman times.

Lion gate at the entrance to the fortifications.

If I recall correctly, this is a grave circle near the front of the city.

Fortifications near the rear.

Treasury of Atreus, which sits well outside the city and is so large it was never buried by dirt and such.

Fortified city ruins seen from the bottom of the hill.

We then gunned it back through Nafplio to get to Epidavros before closing time.  Epidavros is known for its theater and its asclepieion, which was a healing center in Classical times.

Entrance to the theater.



At this juncture I feel it is appropriate to digress slightly and mention what became a central component of our experience in Greece: the driving.  The phenomenon is difficult to summarize, but the word "chaos" comes to mind.

The first thing you notice is that there are many two-wheeled vehicles, and they ride anywhere, everywhere, with the riders usually wearing no protection whatsoever - not even a helmet.  They ride and park on sidewalks, between lanes, in parks, on cobblestone streets, you name it.  Their scooters are so big (800+ cc) they even get on highways with them.  As a corollary, traffic noise is extremely loud.

Cars also park anywhere and everywhere, even where the signs say otherwise.  I took this picture on the second day of our trip, but had no clue of its predictive virtues.

No parking.

That sign is home-made, but even the official ones are most certainly ignored on a wide scale.

On a more general note, everything seems to be dominated by speed:
  • Respecting the speed limits will get you in an accident where you play the role of bowled-over obstacle.  Driving through the Mani, we were passed while driving 100 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.  My knuckles were white.
  • In North America, I feel rebellious when I drive through a stop sign in second gear.  In Greece, a stop sign is an opportunity to get read-ended (especially since the signs are often placed in strange locations, i.e. immediately after exiting a highway, giving you very little time to decelerate).  Matching traffic, I made it through many stop signs in fourth gear.
  • Driving over many hundreds of kilometers over 30+ hours in three in a half days, we found only three distinct traffic light locations.
  • Nowhere but in Greece will you spend so much time both well under and well above the speed limit.  Well above because, as aforementioned, if you stay at the limit, you are a major hazard, both to yourself and to others; and well under the limit because many small cars are unable to reach the posted limits on the highway, which frequently reach 130 km/h.  I drove flat out for miles on end in our little Punto.

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