The story starts after Helen (of Troy) is kidnapped or runs off with cute loverboy Paris. The problem was that her husband king Menelaus of Sparta was brother to another king, king Agamemnon of Mycenae. Agamemnon was not at all cute, he was big, hot tempered, brash and somewhat of a bully, in a nutshell not the type of person you would want to upset and Agamemnon got very upset with what happened to his brother.
Agamemnon lived on the top of a hill and had lions above his front gate, if that tells you anything about him it should be: “Do not mess with me”. In the picture you see Malene, alias Helen of Troy, at the front gate the day we went to visit at their big castle of “Mycenae” located in the Peloponnese just outside Nafplion.
On arrival we got the usual tour and Helen pointed out the big bricks that make up the walls, they were obviously Agamemnon’s choice, not his wife Clytemnestra’s, one single stone above the gate is estimated to weigh 20 tons. Apparently he employed Cyclops (very large strong men with only one eye in their forehead) to build it.
It was here Agamemnon, his brother Menelaus and other Greek kings got together under Agamemnon’s banner to sail and invade Troy to reclaim his brother’s honor. Troy is located in what is today Turkey on the northern Aegean coast so the whole war preparation was quite an undertaking.
What happened after that was a 10 year war that reached a stalemate but Troy was eventually destroyed after the Greeks left a wooden horse as a parting gift concealing soldiers in its belly. It’s old news now because this all happened nearly 3,000 years ago.
But today I am given the tour of Mycenae and although ruins are all that’s left the old spirits are still there especially when you wander down into their water supply.
The supply is accessed via a tunnel with steps leading down to an underground water source outside the walls not visible to any advancing foes and as such guaranteed the inhabitants fresh water even when being threatened or under siege.
The story also has it that before heading off for Troy Agamemnon sent Achilles to Delphi to seek advice from the oracle. So Malene and I thought it a good idea to follow suit and go to Delphi to see what it’s all about.
Perched high on a mountain people would make the pilgrimage here from all over Greece, this would have taken weeks walking or by carts, to ask the oracle questions about outcomes of upcoming events. The oracle sat in the temple above a crack in the ground that gave off a kind of smoke. Covered in smoke she was probably under the influence of some kind of drug so in today’s world her mutterings would not be considered reliable in the least, but the Greeks swore by her and sought her advice for centuries.
From what we know now Delphi would have been an impressive sight, a kind of Vatican of its day. Both sides of the avenue that wind up to the temple of Apollo are lined with offerings and gifts thanking the oracle. These could be anything from simple family statues to elaborate monuments draped in gold and jewels. A big display from the combined Greek nation gave thanks for the victory at Marathon, another was from the Spartans after winning the war against Athens etc, unfortunately only the bases remain today as the wealth got looted once Delphi declined in Christian times.
These are the ruins from the glory days of Greece about 300 bc and later, the war at Troy was about 500 years earlier, back in the day of Menelaus and Achilles things would have looked much different but the site is the same.
Were Malene and I told something by the oracle? When we arrived in the area we were heading to our airbnb apartment when we took a wrong turn. After driving for a while a sign said ‘Welcome, you are at Delphi’ we were in the wrong place not our airbnb, had the oracle spoken to us through the sign?, you decide…
When it was time for some recreation the Greeks had no better way than to strip down to absolutely nothing and run around doing sports and stuff.
It was a pilgrimage held every four years with any wars at that time being temporarily suspended until the games were over. Citizens from everywhere in Greece would trek all the way to Olympia for some good clean competitive fun.
Discus champ and runner, the runner clearly with little chance of winning as she enters the stadium via the arched passage, with clothes on
The thing about Olympia that struck us was the setting, it’s very tranquil and calm in among the trees and quite high up in the mountains of the Peloponnese. The stadium could pack 50,000 people who would sit on the grassed banks and watch competitors run, throw, lift, fight and not worry about what was happening back at the office as mobile phones had not yet been invented.
Wallowing is another recreational pastime of ours, so we found some awesome beaches and places in which to do just that.
Apart from the little fishing harbors the colour of the sea has impressed us so much here in Greece. It is so pure blue unlike other seas we have visited, also the range of blues is astounding. The colour in the photos is amazing but still doesn’t do justice to the real scenes.
On our way to Elafonisos
Any beach lover would find this beach ‘Simos beach’ which is on the tiny island of Elafonisos, just a 10 minute ferry ride (with car) from Peloponnese, an absolute gem.
We stumbled on another little beach on our way to Ioannina much further north on the mainland. The water here was warm thanks to a huge inlet, add the reggae music from the cafe and it made this the perfect spot for sitting and doing nothing. It’s called Koulouri beach by a village named Sparto (no mistaking this for the well known Sparti or Sparta which is in the Peloponnese).
For now it’s farewell to Greece but we plan to return in August and visit some of the islands. All through our travel of mainland Greece we found the scenery really picturesque and surprisingly nowhere near as developed tourist wise as Cyprus. This was a pleasant surprise but I found the food not as exiting and the driving a little hazardous compared to Cyprus, but it may be different on the islands.