A bronze mirror with a figural handle carved in the form of a Caryatid, with her chiton, her hair and an indefinable animal by her side ̶ probably a lion. I would buy it without thinking twice, no matter what the price, despite the fact that I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in it, since it has lost its reflective properties. However, this mirror dates back in the 3rd century BC, it was excavated in Ermioni and I am not in a shop, but in the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio. I feel the same way when looking at the jewelry made of amber and glass, but also the incredible wheeled figurines of the 12th century BC, which look as if they were made yesterday.
Of course, everyone stands in awe before the showcase of the Armor of Dendra. It is the most important exhibit of the museum, since it’s the only one that’s been discovered in its entirety, it dates back to the 15th century BC, weighs 15 kilos and was found in the Mycenaean Cemetery of Dendra. Its helmet is adorned with 40 wild boar teeth ̶ a display of strength with the same effect to our day, as is evident from everyone’s expressions.
Archaeological Museum, Tel. (+30) 27520.275.02, open daily except Tuesdays, 08:30-15:30
“Another very important finding is that red-figure urn depicting Clytemnestra’s murder by Orestes”, the guard tells me, pointing to the oversized ceramic pot. My rather uncultured eye finds it difficult to distinguish murder in this image, but can’t help making funny associations every time a visitor stands in front of the 7th century BC pig-shaped clay masks.
Many are the strange and wonderful things you can see in this amazing museum: the findings come from the great (and countless) archeological sites of Argolida, while even the building itself is a masterpiece, although the Venetians built it as a fleet depot. It is located in Syntagma Square, the famous square of Nafplio, and you are probably going to spend the whole morning here.
You can spend the rest of the day walking and cycling around Nafplio. There are municipal bicycles that you can rent; you will find them in Trion Navarchon Square. They are currently under maintenance, but they are expected to be available shortly ̶ I hope they are going to have a more simplified electronic system, because as I have noticed in the past some visitors were having trouble figuring out how they work…
Wander around the alleys, go up the step-streets that lead to Ano Poli and to Psaromahalas Quarter, shop in adorable little shops and let the buildings around you narrate the history of Nafplio, since the ancient and the Venetian walls coexist with mosques and neoclassical buildings, marble lions and ottoman fountains in …Venetian style. The eye-catching buildings narrate stories of intrigues and political interests of the times when the Modern Greek state was first established ̶ Nafplio being its first capital ̶ and have been spectators of some of the most important events of the Modern Greek history.
Vouleftiko (deriving from the word vouli which means parliament in Greek), on Syntagma Square, for example, was the building that housed the first Greek parliament; Aghios Georgios (St. George Cathedral) was where the funerals of Germanos III of Old Patras, Ypsilantis and Kapodistrias took place. The latter was killed by the members of the Mavromichalis family in Aghios Spyridonas. Kolokotronis was imprisoned in Palamidi, accused by the Bavarian regents of treason, and Nikos Karouzos, the poet from Nafplio, along with his father who was a member of the Greek National Liberation Front were also imprisoned in Acronafplia.
By the way, look for the 1st Lyceum of Nafplio (it is very close to Trion Navarchon Square) to see the mural-portrait of the poet, made last year by the Urban Act team and more specifically by the street artist KEZ.
Someone is Hungry
At noon, however, stop whatever you are doing and go to Noulis for casserole comfort food (strictly up to 15:00). Alternatively, go to the refugee neighborhood of Pronia for mezes; this is a square with new age cafés and tavernas (I personally prefer Zοurnal and Kallini).
Fougaro is an integrated proposition for food or coffee: let the children play freely in the beautiful garden, see the art exhibitions China and Reds and, if you want, join one of the independent workshops; Fougaro is a center for arts and knowledge, a great chapter of Nafplio’s modern history.
Noulis, Tel. (+30) 27520.255.41, 8 Moutzouridou
Zournal, Tel. (+30) 27520.256.55, 11, Nikitara
Kallinis, Tel. (+30) 27520.244.08, 41 25 Martiou
Fougaro, Tel. (+30) 27520.473.00, 98 Asclepiou
An alternative way to spend your afternoon is kayaking. George Pavlopoulos can offer you wonderful tours on the coastal front of Nafplio to the beach of Karathona. Otherwise, continue traditionally going up to Palamidi (it is open until 19.00), on foot from the famous stairs or by car taking the ring road, for an enjoyable walk in the largest of the three castles of Nafplio, built by the Venetians in 1714. Walls, strong bastions and an incredible view of Nafplio.
However, as beautiful as Palamidi may be, if you don’t have much time left, you would probably want to take an afternoon walk around the Tour of Arvanitia. Buy a sorbet ice cream from the famous Italian (Antica Gelateria di Roma) or a kataifi flavoured ice cream from Koustenis and follow the paved road that starts from the pier and ends at Arvanitia beach.
There are rock fall signs, warning you that you enter at your own risk. On one side the sea, on the other the rock of Akronafplia and in the background Palamidi. The golden afternoon light, the countless prickly pears full of engraved names, cyclists, athletes and cute couples around you will make you think to postpone your departure indefinitely. Before you do, however, close your trip with a homemade burger in Anokas and a drink in Mavros Gatos. Two of the most delightful habits in Nafplio!
Palamidi, Tel. (+30) 27520.280.36, daily 08:00-19:00
Antica Gelateria di Roma, 3 Farmakopoulou
Koustenis, Tel. (+30) 27520.253.01, 16 Vassileos Constantinou
Anoka, (+30), Tel. (+30) 27520.250.32, 74 Asklipiou Avenue
Mavros Gatos, Tel. (+30) 27520.266.52, Sofroni & Mpoumpoulinas street