I put on my trusty dannish flip-flops, my greek shorts, my spanish t-shirt, packed my beach mat into my american pack and set off this afternoon for a trek around Navplion, Greece.
This is the first of 4 Greek destinations on our current cruise. We don’t often travel around the east side of the Mediterranean, which is standard for the big cruise companies out here. Aside from being too hot most of the summer and fall, I believe the companies are a little worried about being so close to the Middle East hotspot out here. It was only a year or so ago that car bombs went off in Istanbul remember, and that can be a little disconcerning for the big cruise ship company’s insurance companies, I’m sure.
So this is a special treat, really. Navplion is a sleepy little shoreside town with a massive fortress at the top of a sudden and massive cliff face just south of the main tourist area. The fortress is really the only true tourist attraction for the place, although the 999 step you need to walk to get to the top deter most tourists from even visiting the place when you get there. I certainly wasn’t interested in climbing all the way up there to find, mostly likely, a 10 Euro entrance fee to see another pile of rocks that nobody uses anymore. No thank you.
Like a magnet, I found the beach right away. It was crowded, though, and the water was, I thought, rather cold. I packed everything up again and found a secluded gravel trail extended around the backside of the massive, peach-colored cliffs – which housed the same fortress we just spoke of. I walked perhaps a mile down the road, found some better, private-sized beaches with smaller, not as sharp rocks and laid out my gear again.
Without waves, without any other water sports, without anything interesting to look at underwater, and with the freezing temperature of the water – going to the beach in the Mediterranean is a little different that going to the beach when I was a kid. Soon I was bored and climbed back up to the trail to explore further.
The path was dust and stones – par for the course in Greece – but it was lined with wildflowers, flowering bushes, tall evergreen and smelled plainly of sea air and fallen evergreen needles. The sun is bright today and the weather is considerably warmer in this part of the Mediterranean.
At the end of the last cruise we spent three days and two night in Venice. I know that a lot of people out there really enjoy Venice. Some people think it’s the most beautiful place in Europe.
I think the place stinks, but I think I’ve mentioned this before. It was, however, nice to be surrounded by a chilly air. It made me remember that the seasons are changing – a fact you can forget or even disregard down here in the Greek sun.
The fort on the top of the peach cliffs here in Greece, however, were made by the Venetians so many centuries ago when Venice was a soveriegn country and owned damn near everything along the Aegean and Ionian coasts. I think I would have liked to have seen Venice back then. Venice with a purpose. That might have been nice.
But now the fortress is empty, Venice is sinking and these places are in the twilight of their majesty and able to only those people that are attracted to dead, lifeless places – tourists.
I have a friend here that, if asked to visit a site of ruins, will tell you quickly and strongly that she has seen just about enough rocks and dust for the rest of her life. I’m always glad that she says it so that I don’t. I think that the history of these places is fascinating, but the historical stories of these places are far more interesting than staring at the barren places where these interesting things reportedly happened. To really appreciate these piles of rock you really need to have a sort of Catholic reverence for holy relics or holy places, and you need to consider the ruinous sites as separated and somehow holier than the earth that surrounds the sites.
It was easy to do at first, but now I’d rather just go to the beach or sit in a cafe and watch the locals.
I like Navplion because it seems to be a very slow moving place. Perhaps you can always tell the pace of a town by the number of benches it contains. Busy places have no use for them, but beach communities and places of leisure have them as often as possible. In Navplion, the benches are abundant and mostly filled. That’s why I like Navplion.
But that may very well be because my pace is also slowing down. When I first arrived here my pace was still that of land, and I had a difficult time adjusting to a life of empty time and leisure. Even now I have a hard time respecting my lifestyle, with it’s lack of labor and it’s lack of humanitarian purpose. What frightens me the most is to know that I’m beginning to slow down finally, that I’m finally beginning to give into the lack of purpose that I have here.
I’m afraid to go home in January without a defined plan, because I know that I’ll take one look at the winter Chicago weather, the want ads of real jobs, and the bars containing beer you have to pay cash for, and I’ll end up right back on a ship like a scared cat jumping out of a big, cold pool of water.