Monday, February 25, 2013

A Mycenaean Adventure

Lily McGartland
February 15, 2013
A Mycenaean Adventure
            After such amazing sights at Epidavros yesterday, it was hard to imagine what could possibly top the greatest “sound system” in the world, but the ancient city of Mycenae did.
            We had a leisurely breakfast of fresh veggies and fruits and traditional Greek pastries. Then we set out on our adventure to find the ruins. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to find only one tour bus, this must have been because it was drizzling and absolutely freezing cold. Aside from the horrible weather, there was so much to do and see. Ioanna showed us all around the ancient ruins. She began at the entrance to the fortified citadel where the massive Lion Gate proudly sits atop the immense Cyclopean walls. Both the boulders and the Lion Gate are so large that one of the explanations of their placement is the myth that Cyclops, giant mythical beasts with one eye, created the walls and the Lion Gate. The Lion Gate in itself is a reason to come to Mycenae; the ancient statue is so magnificent, yet delicate in its structure and form. The heads of the lions are missing, said to have been made of bronze or gold, most likely stolen to make ammunition.
            Ioanna led us around to the other ruins; she spoke about the different burial grounds and houses for important people of the time. The largest “house” was the palace for the King and Queen; it was much more grand and about four times the size of the rest of the homes. It had columns that were in the entrance, already showing their royalty before you entered the actual palace.
            The ancient Mycenaeans had devised a system so that when under siege they could still have fresh water. They built a path leading underground, about 18 meters, and using basic “plumbing” they routed water to an underground cistern. They built the passageway to the cistern using the corbelled arch, which is a type of arch that uses pressure to support each stone.

            Next Ioanna showed us the most impressive ruin of the city of Mycenae, the Treasury of Atreus. The Treasury was the largest dome for one thousand years, until the Pantheon in Rome. The Treasury of Atreus is a tholos tomb, meaning beehive tomb; it is extremely wide and comes to a narrow point at the top. The entrance to the Treasury is another corbelled archway, with the ruins of two framing columns and a support triangle. This triangle bears weight and relieves the strain of the dome. After we had a good look around and had become too cold to take in any more information from Ioanna, we made our way back to Nafplio, the town we are staying in.
            When we arrived back to our hotel, the King Othon, Ioanna took us on a walk along the coast of the town. We walked up to some castle ruins and then we walked on a path that ran parallel to the sea. The sky was still overcast, but the water was a clear bright blue. All the flowers and plants were in bloom and their colors were so beautiful and vibrant.
            After the walk, we became Europeans and took a mid-day siesta (nap). Then we walked to a traditional taverna for out dinner. At the restaurant we ate delicious Greek food, the highlights being spanakopita (spinach pie) and fried calamari (squid). After our filling dinner, we over-ate, as usual, we went back to the hotel and prepared for the next day. We are going to go to Ioanna’s village, Karyes, where the famous Caryatids (ancient Greek female columns) are from. 

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