Greece and Turkey 2012


NAFPLION: Corinth Canal and Ancient Corinth,       9-28-12

NafplionOf all the ports-of-call on the first half of our journey, Nafplion sounded the lamest. The descriptions of the place were all variations of "pretty". As a matter of fact, although it was similar to the rest of the ports in terms of the old town, forts, walls on top of steep hills a thousand feet high, flora and fauna, and landscape, the two places we visited today were unique on this trip.

There were good reasons for this. We are now in the territory of ancient Mycenae and the land of Agamemnon of Trojan War fame. We are also Nafplionin the vicinity of Corinth, that major trade crossroads of the ancient world.

Our first stop today was a catamaran ride on a canal - yes, a canal. 100+ years ago this canal was blasted through an isthmus so that ships could get between the Ionian and Aegean Seas without having to go around the entire Peloponnesian peninsula. Our guide told us that people had been trying, but failing, to build this canal for millennia. Alexander the Great tried, as did the Roman emperor Nero. No wonder they failed. In an era without dynamite, having to dig a four-mile long trench close to 200 feet deep in some places through building-block hard limestone was an impossibility. The engineer who directed the successful building of the Corinth canal also did the Suez Canal. Busy man.

NafplionWe took a round trip through the canal, a very short ride but fun and neat when you realized all the efforts down through time to make this happen. It is a narrow passageway, less than 100 feet wide and reminiscent of the canals in the eastern US designed to be used by tow barges, but most boats and ships except the very largest can get through. After getting to one end and making a U-turn, we were followed by a tug, which trailed a mini-armada of pleasure craft who had to wait behind us. The entry to the canal at both ends is defined by a bridge, which lowers into the water when the boat traffic is coming thru and rises again for cars.

Our second stop was Ancient Corinth. The grounds were extensive and remarkably well preserved. The guide told us that the Temple of Apollo Nafplionhere is the oldest temple in Greece that's still standing. Close by was a large carved- out stone that looked like a small building which was where people cleaned up before going to the Temple for their rituals. This ancient city site is in a very dry area but we were told that it got fresh water from the top of a nearby mountain (there was a fortress on top of that mountain, of course). On this mountain top, surrounded by the typical tall fortress wall, was an artesian spring and so much water flowed from it that a clay-based piping system down the mountain was built for the city below. Those pipes had to cover at least 2 miles. When the water got down to the bottom, to the ancient Corinth city, it was run through sand to purify it and then put into a rock reservoir.

Right next to the Temple and the washing fountain was the agora, the wide open market place. It looked as large as a couple of football fields. There were plenty of stones and blocks all around but the only structure besides a portion of the Temple that was still standing was an interesting arch. All in all, this site was very well preserved and interesting to walk through. The temple, bathhouse, amphitheater, and agora gave the feeling of a large and thriving metropolis. The City was not only a major center of commerce, St. Paul preached here and later sent letters to the early Corinthian church, which are in the New Testament.

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