After spending three days in Athens, Viktoria and I believed we had accomplished most of our mission. The Parthenon, Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Monastiraki Square and Temple of Zeus were all fantastic, but after visiting the main archeological sites, we felt we had dealt with enough crazy drivers and crowded streets, and decided to use our last day for an escape. And what better choice than to travel to Nafplio, a picturesque town on the eastern Peloponnese coast.
We jumped on an early bus, which took about two hours to get to our destination. Once in Napflio, our first stop was the bakery: neither Viktoria nor I can function without our dose of carbs for breakfast. It did not take long to locate “Dal Campo” a coffee shop and bakery on one of the quietest streets in town. For the first time, we tried the chocolate version of bougatsa along with Greek coffee.
Once Viktoria and I “carbed up,” it was time for some exercise. In front of our eyes, we had exactly what we needed: the steep stair climbs of Palimidi, a Venetian fortress that overlooks the Argolic Gulf. Italian historians will tell you that being conquered by other countries is not pleasant – Italy had countless hordes of invaders crossing the Alps to vacation on the Italian shores after the collapse of the Roman Empire. I must admit that during the Venetian occupation of Greece, the Venetians, as despotic as they may have been, they left some nice castles and fortresses that are main attractions for locals and tourists all over Greece. Palimidi is one of them, nestled on the crest of the high hills of Nafplio. It must have been difficult to build this fortress that holds steady on the hills overlooking the sea, especially since it only took three years to complete. At the bottom of the stairs, there’s a sign from the adjacent coffee bar, inviting the audacious to stop by after climbing 999 stairs and back. However, to be accurate, the stairs are actually 913, and to reach the very top of the fortress, it’s over one thousand stairs.
It took over an hour to reach the end of the flight of steps due to the many opportunities for photo shoots along the way. Once at the top, one has the option to continue inside the fortress. Inside there are more spectacular views of the Aegean Sea where it was once again, time for me to pick up the camera and have my honey pose in various spots of the eight towers that crown the Palamidi castle.
Back from our adventure on the Venetian fortress, it was finally lunch time and who do we meet again? Our friends, the cats, that are wandering around Nafplio as they do all over Greece. They are lucky cats that look pretty comfortable whenever they sit under the warm sun. They say that cats have nine lives, and especially in Nafplio, they enjoy their extra time on Earth in the quiet and picturesque streets of this town, with the option of leftover fish or lamb, depending on their daily shift under the restaurant tables.
After lunch, we went for a stroll along the shoreline to see the Bourtzi Castle that stands in the middle of the bay, then in the colorful streets adorned with flamingo, purple and red bougainvillea, more photo shoots, more dancing hand in hand, and kissing in the breeze of the lazy afternoon… ahhhhhhhhhhh…. life is so good… but wait! Something was missing. Suddenly, a rush of sugar deficiency hit us, and we had the urge to have some loukoumades, which were easily and promptly acquired. We struck with luck. We found our sweet dream heaven dessert at Pergamonto, owned by a nice couple who made us comfortable and brought what may be considered the best loukoumades in Greece.
Time goes fast when you’re having fun. We hopped on the four o’clock bus to get back to Athens. For me, the trip back was a breeze and the two hours went by in a flash: the mix of wine that I had for lunch, the loukomotes, the sun and the breeze of the sea, made me fall into a profound coma and I woke up just in time to jump out of the bus. What else can one desire? Our trip to Nafplio was an immersion of the “Sweet Life” of Greece, another day in paradise, in the midst of the bliss that Viktoria and I are experiencing more and more.
~ Written by: Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.
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