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Ancient Greece Odyssey: Nauplion

Updated on January 15, 2015

Nafplio: Medieval Port of the Peloponnese

My journey through Greece takes us next to the medieval Greek city of Nauplion. Nauplion, pronounced and sometimes spelled "Nafplio" in modern Greek, is well-named: the word means "ship city." The grand but somewhat dilapidated Nafplia Palace Hotel was our home base for a few days while we visited the ancient Greek sites Mycenae, Tiryns and Epidaurus. In the afternoons, we would return to the medieval city to explore, shop, rest, or climb billions of steps up to the hotel and down to the waterfront, square and cafes.

If you've just discovered Ancient Greece Odyssey, this is part eight of a myth scholar's travel diary from a trip to Greece in 2005.

The Nafplia Palace Hotel

Travel Diary, 7th May 2005, Nafplia Palace Hotel

The Nafplia Palace Hotel is strangely retro: it must have been ultra-modern in 1979 when it opened, with radios built into walls, dark wooden cabinets and minimalist, modern furniture. Now it seems a bit dark and dingy, but the marble balconies overlooking the bay offer fresh breezes and spectacular views of the sunset and city spread out below. The wind boomed and roared through the open door all night like the groaning of a ship in a storm, and waves crashed against the sea walls far below.

Photos Gallery: Medieval Nauplion

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The Nafplia Palace Hotel. Built on top of a high ridge looming over the harbor, you really can't see it -- in fact, you enter it through a tunnel at the foot of the cliff under those trees.A bus road winds up to the top, past the ruins of a medieval fort behind the hotel.The fort built on the rock behind the hotel (just visible down on the right)Swing out and gaze at the city of Nauplion and the harbor. The freighter's name is Apollon Lykos,  Apollo the wolf-god, a very ancient epithet of Aragorn's.This little fort was built by the Venetians, who took over Nauplion in the Middle Ages. The winged lion of Venice is all over the city.Puttering around in the fort,  I found a prison and locked myself in!Outside the fort, gazing inland along the rocky spur, one sees the medieval Palamidi Castle looming up on a crag over the city. Wait -- what's the dark spot in the wall down on the left? A tunnel?Quite a long, narrow tunnel that cuts all the way through the stone cliffs on which the fort and hotel are built. It was actually pitch-black except when my camera flashed.I popped out on the hillside below and looked back up at where I'd been.I love the medieval walls of the city. More winged lions.
The Nafplia Palace Hotel. Built on top of a high ridge looming over the harbor, you really can't see it -- in fact, you enter it through a tunnel at the foot of the cliff under those trees.
The Nafplia Palace Hotel. Built on top of a high ridge looming over the harbor, you really can't see it -- in fact, you enter it through a tunnel at the foot of the cliff under those trees.
A bus road winds up to the top, past the ruins of a medieval fort behind the hotel.
A bus road winds up to the top, past the ruins of a medieval fort behind the hotel.
The fort built on the rock behind the hotel (just visible down on the right)
The fort built on the rock behind the hotel (just visible down on the right)
Swing out and gaze at the city of Nauplion and the harbor. The freighter's name is Apollon Lykos,  Apollo the wolf-god, a very ancient epithet of Aragorn's.
Swing out and gaze at the city of Nauplion and the harbor. The freighter's name is Apollon Lykos, Apollo the wolf-god, a very ancient epithet of Aragorn's.
This little fort was built by the Venetians, who took over Nauplion in the Middle Ages. The winged lion of Venice is all over the city.
This little fort was built by the Venetians, who took over Nauplion in the Middle Ages. The winged lion of Venice is all over the city.
Puttering around in the fort,  I found a prison and locked myself in!
Puttering around in the fort, I found a prison and locked myself in!
Outside the fort, gazing inland along the rocky spur, one sees the medieval Palamidi Castle looming up on a crag over the city. Wait -- what's the dark spot in the wall down on the left? A tunnel?
Outside the fort, gazing inland along the rocky spur, one sees the medieval Palamidi Castle looming up on a crag over the city. Wait -- what's the dark spot in the wall down on the left? A tunnel?
Quite a long, narrow tunnel that cuts all the way through the stone cliffs on which the fort and hotel are built. It was actually pitch-black except when my camera flashed.
Quite a long, narrow tunnel that cuts all the way through the stone cliffs on which the fort and hotel are built. It was actually pitch-black except when my camera flashed.
I popped out on the hillside below and looked back up at where I'd been.
I popped out on the hillside below and looked back up at where I'd been.
I love the medieval walls of the city. More winged lions.
I love the medieval walls of the city. More winged lions.

The Modern City of Nafplia

Travel Diary, 7th-8th May 2005

My diary about the city of Nauplion is somewhat sparse, but I thoroughly enjoyed rambling the cafes and plazas, exploring medieval ruins or taking a walk around the stone bastion that juts out into the bay. This is another Greek city of countless steps, stone-paved narrow streets, small outdoor cafes with chairs and tables set up right in the streets, and (of course) shopping- in particular, there is a great deal of fine jewelry and luxury goods like rugs and handbags, for those interested in things.

The city would have been oppressive had it been built all on one level, with its heavy stone walls and narrow alleys, but marching up the steep slopes gives frequent views of the sun-drenched bay and light breezes. It's a clean, somewhat dozy place with orange groves and undeveloped land only two miles from the city center. I was strongly reminded of how different medieval cities were: no suburbs, but a walled, central settlement, with farmers and herdsmen bringing their stuff to market, and rural countryside right outside the city gates. It feels healthier.

Photo Gallery: A Stroll Around Nauplion

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This Bank of Greece intrigued the heck out of me: it's obviously meant to evoke 3300 year old Mycenae, just to the north. The inverted columns and "relieving triangle" are both from Mycenaean / Minoan architecture.I keep forgetting to take pictures of the modern cities. Here's one very, very typical city street of Nauplion (or Athens, or most of the other Greek cities). These boys were playing on a 14th century Venetian lion.The next morning I took another stroll around the city. Venetian cannons point out to sea.There's a causeway that rings the peninsula down under the cliffs beneath the hotel.Not much to see, but I found it very peaceful. (This joins the last photo.)
This Bank of Greece intrigued the heck out of me: it's obviously meant to evoke 3300 year old Mycenae, just to the north. The inverted columns and "relieving triangle" are both from Mycenaean / Minoan architecture.
This Bank of Greece intrigued the heck out of me: it's obviously meant to evoke 3300 year old Mycenae, just to the north. The inverted columns and "relieving triangle" are both from Mycenaean / Minoan architecture.
I keep forgetting to take pictures of the modern cities. Here's one very, very typical city street of Nauplion (or Athens, or most of the other Greek cities). These boys were playing on a 14th century Venetian lion.
I keep forgetting to take pictures of the modern cities. Here's one very, very typical city street of Nauplion (or Athens, or most of the other Greek cities). These boys were playing on a 14th century Venetian lion.
The next morning I took another stroll around the city. Venetian cannons point out to sea.
The next morning I took another stroll around the city. Venetian cannons point out to sea.
There's a causeway that rings the peninsula down under the cliffs beneath the hotel.
There's a causeway that rings the peninsula down under the cliffs beneath the hotel.
Not much to see, but I found it very peaceful. (This joins the last photo.)
Not much to see, but I found it very peaceful. (This joins the last photo.)

Climbing Up to Palamidi Castle

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The yard of a little outdoor cafe was right near the tunnel exit. Nearby are the 957 steps up to Palamidi castle.It took me about an hour to climb all the stairs. I was surprised to see a yucca, a very familiar California plant, most of the way to the top.Chamomile grows all over Greece, along with poppies.Nauplion is full of these wonderful vistas framed by medieval windows and archways.It took me so long to reach the top, castle Palamidi was about to close. So I turned and snapped another photo of the city of Nauplion stretched out below.
The yard of a little outdoor cafe was right near the tunnel exit. Nearby are the 957 steps up to Palamidi castle.
The yard of a little outdoor cafe was right near the tunnel exit. Nearby are the 957 steps up to Palamidi castle.
It took me about an hour to climb all the stairs. I was surprised to see a yucca, a very familiar California plant, most of the way to the top.
It took me about an hour to climb all the stairs. I was surprised to see a yucca, a very familiar California plant, most of the way to the top.
Chamomile grows all over Greece, along with poppies.
Chamomile grows all over Greece, along with poppies.
Nauplion is full of these wonderful vistas framed by medieval windows and archways.
Nauplion is full of these wonderful vistas framed by medieval windows and archways.
It took me so long to reach the top, castle Palamidi was about to close. So I turned and snapped another photo of the city of Nauplion stretched out below.
It took me so long to reach the top, castle Palamidi was about to close. So I turned and snapped another photo of the city of Nauplion stretched out below.

The Journey Continues...

Up Next: Mykonos Island

Join Ancient Greece Odyssey as we continue our journey on Mykonos Island in the Cyclades!

© 2009 Ellen Brundige

Guestbook for Fellow Travelers - Eucharisto!

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    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Beautiful pictures!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow, wonderful photos of a beautiful place. Would love to visit Nauplion, any part of Greece for that matter.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      OK ... so are you working on that book of Greece; all things considered? I'm thinking you could rival Rick Steves.