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Nafplion, three Greek forts and a lovely town

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Nafplion peninsula, seen from the high fortress

Nafplion (also referred to as Nafplio), a Greek town on the Peloponnese, is surrounded by different fortifications. Located on a strategic position, with a convenient bay, it was occupied and (re-)fortified by the Byzantines (late Romans), French, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks. The Venetians returned, only to be defeated again by the Ottoman Empire. Finally, the Greek war of independence led to a modern Greece, with Nafplio as its first capital, later to be replaced by Athens.

Narrow gauge train

Athens has two different train stations, located close to one another. This is because the rail tracks on the southern peninsula of Greece, the Peloponnese, have a narrow gauge, as opposed to the tracks in the rest of Greece (and Europe, for that matter). Consequently, the trains are not very modern, but the train ride is pleasant, especially after we pass the dirty outskirts of Athens.

We have nice views over the sea, with a few islands in front of the coast. Then the large peninsula comes in sight, and a little later we cross the Corinth channel to the Peloponnese. Old Church in the streets of Nafplion old townThe sea disappears and is replaced by a nice hilly landscape. When the water re-appears on the horizon, we first think it’s a lake, but it appears to be the Bay of Nafplion.

Steep streets

The train station consists of two tracks, but one of those is occupied by an old train serving as the ticket office. Nafplion is clearly the endpoint on this route, and as we get out we can directly see the huge rock formations with on top of them the walls of the fortifications protecting the city.

The old town shares a peninsula with one of the rock formations. Although it’s the least high one, we need to climb some steep stairs in order to reach the higher streets. Obviously, it is there where we find the best guesthouses, with a great view over the bay.

We explore the old town which was created by the Venetians in their first period of power (1389-1540). There are many narrow streets with nice old houses. There is little to no traffic here, which makes it a pleasant place to walk. Quietly, we pass several old churches, monumental buildings, and a few cozy squares.

Fish spectacle

After having eaten we climb up to descend on the other side of the peninsula, where a small beach is located. The weather in November is nice, and there are many people swimming. We choose to just sit along the shore, watching fish. A school of long thin fish passes by in a rush, some of them jumping from the water. They are hunted by a large fish of prey, which catches some of them. It’s a true spectacle to watch.

Nafplion fortress high on the rocksOn our way back we visit the first fort. On our way to the beach we already past the gate of this fort, on top of which is the Venetian lion. Now we climb further up along the defense walls. On top, however, there is not much of interest. Within the walls are only a bunch of cactuses. We do have a good view over the bay, with the second fort in the middle. This one is located on a small island, and served as a protection for the bay and harbor. After having shot a number of nice pictures we descend to go back to our guesthouse.

999 steps up

We wake up early to head for the third Nafplion fort. This is the one on top of the highest rock formation, and we have to climb 999 steps to reach the entrance. The stairway can be seen from afar, and is tiring to watch, let alone to climb. But we take it slow, take a lot of rest stops enjoying the views. The higher we climb, the better the view. We can see the peninsula surrounded by deep blue waters. We can also watch better and better over the ugly big hotel built between the two rock formations.

Inside the Nafplion fortressAlthough the climb in itself was worth the effort, we decide to pay the fee to have a look inside. The fort, built in the second Venetian era (1686-1715), consists of three parts. Each time we think we have reached the last wall, there is another part behind it. It takes us over 2 hours to watch the entire fortification. We are impressed, as opposed to the Ottoman Turks, who conquered it only one year after completion of the fortress.

Hidden beauty

After the great descend we find a nice park downstairs, including a little waterfall and an old, restored gate with drawbridge. We hadn’t noticed it before, but Nafplion has more hidden beauties. In the new part of town, we suddenly notice old rail tracks in the street. Following those, we find an old train station and a few old trains. The old station was much bigger than the current one. It dates back from the period in which Nafplion was the first capital of independent Greece (from 1822 to 1834). We can hardly imagine what this little town and its harbor would have looked like if it had stayed the capital.

We spend a few more days in the pleasant town of Nafplion. We swim and sunbathe on the little beach, we walk around the peninsula, where a promenade is created leading back to the old town, and we eat at some nice restaurants. Nafplion is one of those gems we never heard about. It doesn’t attract mass tourism, but is great to spend a few days, relaxing and learning about Greek history.

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