Monday, February 25, 2013

999 Stairs and An Ancient Village

999 Stairs and An Ancient Village
February 16, 2013
            Step after step I could feel my calves burning as we climbed our way up to The Fortress of Palamidi. This ancient castle is located on the top of a mountain 999 steps up in the town of Nafplion. Nafplion is a beautiful town located right on the water. The moment we entered the town in our van, my eyes instantly fell in love. Palm trees lined the sidewalks that ran parallel to the bright blue ocean. The streets full of a variety of shops and restaurants. This town that I instantly loved I grew fonder of each step up I took toward The Fortress of Palamidi. With each step I took I noticed something new about the town. The higher I got up the mountain the more bright blue ocean and mountains in the distance I could see. When we finally reached the top we could see the entire town. The white buildings with orange roofs looked beautiful as the sun reflected off the bright blue water and on to the buildings. The castle itself took my breath away. Seeing the stone structure amazed me. It blows my mind that people were able to construct such extravagant buildings of stone back in the seventeen hundreds. This castle was taken over by the Ottomans before its completion between the years of 1711 and 1715.
            Within the castle there were areas for food storage, water reservoirs, barracks, a church, etc. We found ourselves ducking through small entry ways to explore deeper into the castle. We walked through Kolokotrones’ Prison. In order to do this we had to duck into a small entry way and climb over tiny rocks through little hallways that led to a 10x10 room with a rocky dirt floor. If I had been kept as a prisoner here I would have died from claustrophobia. With just three of us in the prison at a time, we all felt the eeriness of being in such a small place with no sunlight or fresh air.
            We wandered around the castle for a couple hours and then made our way back down the 999 steps to get ready to travel to Ioanna’s village. We checked out of our hotel around one o’clock and packed our suitcases into the van and piled in like sardines. We drove up and over mountains being tossed back and forth in our seats with every turn Professor Roth took. We passed sheep grazing in fields and snow covered mountains along our journey to the village of Karyes.
            Ioanna’s good friend Thomas welcomed us into the village with open arms. He brought us into his stone basement that he has turned into a wine cellar. Giant barrels of homemade organic wine filled the cellar. One wall was full of wines Thomas has made and wines he has been given as well as a nut collection with nuts from around the world. We gathered around the tables in the middle of the room sipping organic red wine and trying a variety of foods native to the village. These foods included aged parmesan cheese, olives, fresh bread, honey and chestnuts. I feasted on the olives. They were so fresh and salty. We sat around Thomas’ wine cellar laughing and telling stories and having Ioanna translate so Thomas could be part of our conversations.
            Even though we had sat around sampling wine and a variety of foods we still managed to find room for dinner. We were fortunate enough to be able to try one of the villages taverns where I had mouthwatering pork and potatoes. This meat was so tender and so fresh that even though I was stuffed to the point that I thought my pants might unbutton I kept eating. We all enjoyed the food so much at my end of the table that the plates with the food on them were cleared about twenty minutes after it was brought out. This was definitely our best meal since being in Greece. This was not the end of our eating for the day. We left the restaurant, piled back into the van and headed for a neighboring village where we sat in a café sipping wine and trying local dishes. More cheeses and breads were served as well as sun dried tomato and sausage omlets. As one a.m. rolled around I was so full my body was going into a food coma.
The café owner was nice enough to open her market where we were able to buy fresh teas and cheeses. We all wandered through the little shop sampling chocolates and nuts while others bought cheeses and honey to bring back to Athens with us. 

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