ouzo on the rocks
apartment, excursions and art historical guide
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This is not an usual travel guide as there are many but it is a vast amount of digital information on the northern half of the Peloponnese. So you will have access on the go on your I-pad, on your home computer or on your tablet. Besides being a guide in digital form, it also differs from the traditional guides because it makes the link between the places and their historical context, but also a detailed explanation is given in other areas such as art history, mythology, ancient and contemporary culture and politics. The attention thus is given to how the different areas are intertwined. So in addition to the excavation, for example, with the subject "Mycenae" itself, I also tell of the mythology and history, the Mycenaean culture, the architecture, the archaeologist Schliemann and found artifacts in several museums. I will show you the interesting facts from the environment and I mention the opportunities to combine a visit to this excavation with a good restaurant, a museum visit, a walk through Nafplion with an explanation of the Greek royal family or the current political situation, or just stroll through the nature.
At Nemea you will see the temple and the stadium but there's also an excellent chance to taste some of the best Greek wines and see the original lion's den, the lion Heracles defeated according to the myth with his bare hands. We are trying to combine culture with nature, not forgetting the 'other delicious' goodies.
On the other hand I thought it would be wise to make a new study on the Peloponnese, because of the fact that I noticed a lot of mistakes (or even nonsense) in the usual guides. Sometimes I even wondered if the author had ever set foot on Greek soil.
I myself, live in Greece (Peloponnese) for nearly a decade and I made a study of the ancient and contemporary Greek history. My goal is to give you the correct information and/or mention the different points of view.
The Peloponnese is the peninsula west of Athens and it officially belongs to the mainland of Greece. The name is derived from Pelops, meaning 'the island of Pelops'. We will meet this mythical person later on.
The peninsula was made an island in 1893 by the work of the French, who dug a 6 km long gully, 25 m wide between the Gulf of Corinth (in the north) and the Saronic Gulf (in the south).
If you look at the map of the Peloponnese, the peninsula can be roughly divided into two parts at the center of the province of Arcadia: a northern and a southern half. This guide describes the northern half of the Peloponnese, so the provinces of Corinth, Argolida, Achaia, Ilia and part of Arcadia. That does not mean that there is nothing going on in the southern half. There are beautiful old towns with lots of culture such as Monemvasia or Gythion, the Byzantine Mistras, Sparta, the rustic, rugged Mani (the middle finger of the Peloponnese to the south) and nice villages and sandy beaches in the Messinia province. The northern half is more than enough to fill this guide and to offer both nature and culture lovers a lot of interesting tips. Obviously, Olympia, Mycenae and Epidaurus the biggest tourist attractions, but many lesser known and smaller archaeological sites are often just as interesting or in some cases even more interesting and often located in beautiful surroundings.
The Peloponnese has a very diverse nature. There are high mountains (± 2300m) with slopes between pine forests, vast deciduous forests with picturesque villages and fast-flowing streams; Arcadia is a province of the northern half of the Peloponnese, and 'Arcadian' has become an adjective for an idyllic landscape. Are you looking for small villages with a harbor and a ψαρόταβέρνα (tavern), then even those are widely available.
The Peloponnese is 21,500 square kilometers and is home to 1.2 million people, about half of them live in the cities. By comparison, Belgium is approximately 30,500 square kilometers and the Netherlands are about 41,500 square kilometers.
The largest city with 215,000 inhabitants is Patras. Argos and Nafplion, our operating bases in this guide, have 42,000 and 33,000 inhabitants respectively.
In many cases I will mention this Greek-speaking Roman geographer from Minor Asia. Pausanias is for every writer of travel guides and for each (art) historian, a very important figure. He was born around 110 AD in Lydia (in modern western Turkey), and lived at the time of the Roman emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He died at the age of 70.
When you search the internet for a picture of Pausanias you often find this one. But it's actually a sculpture of a Spartan general and regent with the same name. This guy lived in the 5th century BC.The sculpture is exhibited at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
Pausanias is mainly known for his 'Description of Greece', a voluminous book in which he describes his travels through mainland Greece. It has become a link between classical literature and archeology. He describes cities, villages and temples and also writes a lot about religion, mythology and local customs.
It is a miracle that his book is not lost. This is probably due to Byzantine monks. They cite the work of Pausanias in the 6th century. And not until many centuries later it was rediscovered. Especially in modern times it is very interesting to read what Pausanias has seen and heard in places that we are now able to visit again. Actually, every single book on the sites of the Peloponnese has to pay hommage to the godfather of all the travel books. Hence he will be called in many parts and quoted. His information was often correct, but just sometimes he relied on written sources that were not always correct.
In the chapter titles you will see the coordinates that I found with Google Earth, making it easy using a GPS system to reach the sites.
I have always tried to use my own photos. But that was not always possible, so I have collected some images from the Internet. I think they are 'royalty-free' but if you believe that I have violated your rights, please contact me. If you want to use my photos, it is always permitted for educational purposes if you contact me first.
Where I quote other writers, I mention their book and publisher. An extensive bibliography and a very brief book review can be found at the layout of the chapters entitled "Do you want to read some more?".
Μύλοι – Κιβέρι, © 2016
Willem van Leeuwen
I express my thanks and gratitude to Nico Spaans and to Marja van Rooij for their outstanding contribution to the development of this guide.
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