September 25, 2011 (Day 5)
Itinerary: CycleGreece Day 2, cycle 15 miles up to Mycenae ruins, tour the ruins, bike back 15 miles to Nafplio, afternoon to ourselves in Nafplio, dinner with the group
Trip odometer: 30 miles
Moving time: 2hrs 30 min
Stopped time: 20 min
Max elevation: 763 feet
Min elevation: 0 feet, sea level
Weather: hot at 90-95 degrees
Terrain: mostly flat, 5km climb on the way out, downhill and flat on the way back
Oh, no, our alarm didn’t go off this morning! But we still had 35 minutes before meet time to get ready and eat breakfast. We had a great night sleep to recover from yesterday’s ride and we are ready to roll today.
The Grande Bretagne Hotel in Nafplio is the only hotel we are staying in for 2 nights on this bike tour. The plan today is to bike to the Mycenae ruins and then back to Nafplio in an out and back bike ride. The ride was gorgeous as we rode through many fruit groves seeing lemons, pomegranates, olives, oranges, grapefruit, maybe, and more. The back road on this Sunday morning was almost empty of cars as well making the ride that much more enjoyable. Plus, the first 19km or so were pretty flat with only the last 5km including a climb to the ruins.
For some reason the Greeks don’t do much road biking and the cars don’t always know what to do when they see a cyclist. Several of the cyclists, including Colleen are trying to bring a bike culture to Greece, the home of the Olympics. For all the strange looks we get, for the most part the cars have been very accommodating sharing the road.
We first stopped at the Tomb of Agamemnon which was an incredible beehive tomb with a grand entrance and a top covered up with dirt. Ancient Greece structures all included triangles over the doorways in order to distribute the weight of the rocks above the doors to the walls rather than the gigantic slab over the doorway. This particular beehive tomb had a larger than life stone slab over the doorway helping to make the structure that much more impressive.
We cycled on to Agamemnon’s royal palace, also called the Mycenae Acropolis built up on the top of a hill overlooking his kingdom beneath. Our tour guide from yesterday met us here and gave us a very informative 1.5 hour lesson on everything that makes this place so grand. For one thing, the discovery of the Lion’s Gate entrance and tomb inside proved that Homer’s stories were history and not fiction. These ruins made of large stones remind me of visiting the Inca ruins in Peru, but of course these stones are not placed quite so perfectly close together. Still impressive, though!
Since the all the doorways of the typical ancient Greek ruins have a triangular piece above the doorway, when archaeologists were excavating possible sites, they knew they hit gold when they found a triangle.
After, the informative part of our tour, we took a walk around the ruins poking out noses into various areas like a deep cistern which we needed a flashlight to walk down into, but we did and hit the bottom. It wasn’t all that deep, really, but the walls were damp indicating there certainly is a high water table in these parts. The attached museum was very interesting as well full of artifacts from the area including the famous Agamemnon’s mask and a gold head of a lion.
From here, the biking was all downhill, so we took off back to Nafplio. When we hit the flats, we were cruising along with a wonderful tailwind all the way back and some absolutely delightful biking. What a day, and it’s not even over.
After a shower, and some laundry, Mark and I found a little place on a square in town to eat some moussaka and stuffed tomatoes for lunch. Greek food is very good. We mosyed around town for a bit before deciding that the sun really was too warm for us right now after spending all morning sweaty, so we came back to the hotel to enjoy a nap. I caught up on my blog posts and photos while Mark napped and we kept our windows open for the wonderful breeze. Though it was hot in the sun, the breeze made the shade feel wonderful.
We took a walk along the harbor out to a point to view the city in the golden hour, or the setting sunlight. Napflio is built at the bottom of a hill with a prison built up at the top. From out here we could see the stone walls of the city leftover from ancient times and a great view of the prison on the hill. Off the coast a bit is a small building that apparently housed the executioners. Sunset was colorful and lit the town with a nice golden color.
Dinner tonight was on the harbor front and consisted of another delicious Greek meal. Our appetizers included things like eggplant, cooked zucchini flowers, cooked zucchini and greens, and sardines. For the main course, the chef brought out a full red snapper, opened and de-boned for the seven of us to split up. We had plenty of food! We found dessert in a little gelato shop behind the hotel and I tried to take some night photos of the ruins up on the hill and some buildings around the harbor.
Tomorrow is going to be the toughest day including some really steep climbs. In fact the whole 60 miles tomorrow includes climbing up to the mountain town of Stemnitsa. Of the 5 of us tourists, 3 of us, Mark and I included, aren’t as strong on the climbs, so we will be hitching a ride in the support van for the steepest and worst of the climbs.
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