Off The Beaten Path - Nafplio, Greece
The city of Nafplio is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in all of Greece. It is located a few hours by car from Athens, on the Peloponnese peninsula, so why don’t you make it a stop on a holiday to Greece?
The city of Nafplio gets its name from Nauplios “The Navigator” who was the son of the god Poseidon and Amymone, the daughter of King Danaos.
Nafplio is an ancient Greek city that can trace its history back as far the Neolithic period when it was a bustling port. The soldiers of Nafplio participated in the Trojan War and it is the home of Palamidis the local hero of the Trojan War. During the 6th century Nafplio was captured by Damakratis, the King of Argos as the city was allied with Sparta during the 2nd Messenian War. During the next few centuries Nafplio disappeared from the history records as it was overshadowed by neighbouring Argos. In the Middle Ages Nafplio was just a castle and a small settlement. Due to the strength of the castle, which sits above the bay, Nafplio became an important, strategic and commercial centre for the Byzantines from the 6th century onward. Leon Sgouros, the ruler of Nafplio in 1203, conquered Argos, Corinth and Larissa but failed to conquered Athens. When Constantinople fell to the Turks, the Franks (with help from the Venetians) captured Nafplio. The Franks controlled the city for 200 years and then sold the city to the Venetians. The fortifications continued under the Venetians and were completed by 1470. In the same year they built a fort on a small island which is located in the harbour. The Venetians lost Nafplio to the Turks who would control the city from 1540 to 1686. The Venetians regained the city again in 1686 and it became the capital of the Peloponnese peninsula. Thirty years later the Turks took the city again and almost totally destroyed it and killed the majority of the defenders. Most of the survivors left the city as they did not want to live under the Turks. In 1821 the Greek chieftains and the Philhellenes liberated Nafplio from the Turks. Nafplio became the centre of activities which would result in the formation of Modern Greece. In 1823 Nafplio became the capital of the state and was then recognized by England, France and Russia in 1827. Othon of Bavaria became the first king of Greece in 1831 and in 1833 he arrived in Nafplio. He departed in 1834 when the capital of Greece was moved to Athens. Greece was ruled by kings until 1924 went the monarchy was abolished. The monarchy was restored in 1935. In 1936 General Ioannis Metaxas was made Prime Minister and established a right-wing dictatorship. General Metaxas died in 1941 and Greece fell to the Germans. After the war Georgios Papandreou, with the backing of Britain, became the Prime Minister. The Royalist parties won the election in 1946 ensuring the end of the civil wars. In 1952 a new constitution declared Greece a kingdom ruled by a parliamentary democracy. In 1967 a group of army officers seized power in a military coup and George Papadopoulos became Prime Minister. In 1973 Greece was declared a republic and George Papadopoulos became President. Greece was ruled by a number of dictators until 1975 when a new constitution declared Greece a parliamentary republic. In 1981 Greece joined the European Union.
Bourtzi Fortress is located at the entrance of the port on the islet of Bourtzi. The first name of the fortress was Castello dello Soglio as it built by the Venetians but it is now known by its Turkish name. It was built in 1473 on the islet of St. Theodoroi by the engineer Gabelo.
Akronafplia Fortress is situated on the peninsula of Akronafplia and is the oldest castle in Nafplio. The lowest sections go all the way back to the Bronze Age. From 1936 to 1956 it was used as a Greek political prison.
Palamidi Fortress is the last castle the Venetians built outside of their own country. It was built in a very short period of time from 1711 to 1714 but it was not able to stop the Turks who captured Nafplio in 1715. It is built on a steep hill at 216 metres and overlooks Nafplio.
Syntagma, which means Constitution, Square is the heart of Nafplio. The square is located in the centre of the old town. There are Syntagma Squares found all over Greece but the one in Nafplio is unique due to the beautiful building s which frame the square. The buildings are mostly Neoclassic and the polished marble reflects the sunlight which lights up the square. The Archaeological Museum is found in a Venetian mansion from 1715 and is located in the square.
Vouleftikon is located in Syntagma and was built as a mosque around 1730 with a large hall and massive dome typical of late Ottoman architecture. From the fall of 1825 to the spring of 1826 it was Greece’s first Parliament. It has been restored and is used now by the Ministry of Cultural. On the ground floor you can visit The Municipal Art Gallery of Nafplio to see works by modern artists.
The Church of Agios Spyridon was built in 1702 by the Nafplion Brotherhood of Orthodox Greeks in the centre of the city. The church has a single dome basilica with numerous Byzantine paintings on the walls. Don’t miss the colourful fresco of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea or the hexagram, on the floor, which is something you find in Greek Orthodox churches. The Greek head of state, Ioannis Kapodistrias, was assassinated at the entrance of the church in 1831 and you can still see the damage from the bullet. The church is not open all day long so check the hours before going to see it. Also, there is a dress code you should review before going.
The Porta dela Terraferma, The Land Gate, was built in 1708 and it was the only way into Nafplio. The gate would be closed at sunset. If you did not make it inside by sunset you had to remain outside the city until morning. In front of the gate was a moat filled with seawater which ran along the eastern wall of the city. Access was available only via the wooden drawbridge. The original gate was demolished between 1894 to 1897 and the moat was filled in around 1894. The gate has been carefully reconstructed from the original form..
The Arvanitia Promenade is one of the most popular walks in Nafplio. It starts at the end of the shore and leads to Arvanitia Square. The entire walk is dominated by the rock of the Acronauplia with its impressive walls. Half way along the walk you can stop and see the small church perched on the rocks called Panaghia tis Spilias and take in the view over the gulf of Argolis.
The Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Mycenae is located 24 kms for Nafplio and Tiryns is 5 kms for Nafplio. They are 2 of the greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from 15th to 12th century B.C.E. They played an important role in the development of classical Greek culture. They are linked to the Homeric epics, the IIiad and the Odyssey. Tiryns is a usually less crowded than Mycenae.
A few places to stay:
· Aetoma Hotel www.aetoma.gr/en
A 18th century mansion located in the centre of Nafplio.
· Carpe Diem Boutique Hotel www.carpediem-nafplio.gr
A new boutique hotel in the centre of old Nafplio.
· Amfitriti Palazzo www.amfitriti-pension.gr/?lang=en
A charming hotel in a Neoclassical building in the historical part of Nafplio.
Canadian Citizens can now travel to Greece with no restrictions upon arrival. Upon return
to Canada you will be required to self quarantine for 14 days.
Lamb Kleftiko Recipe (Greek Lamb Cooked in Parchment Paper)
1 – 1.2 kg of leg of lamb, boneless
2 small red onions
2 – 3 bell peppers (green, red, orange)
4 cloves of garlic (2 sliced and 2 whole)
2 tbsp of mustard
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ a cup of olive oil
½ a cup dry white wine
200g Kefalotyri or Graviera or any hard-yellow cheese, cut into 2 cm cubes
5 medium size potatoes
½ ripe tomato, sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
To prepare this Greek lamb kleftiko recipe, start by washing thoroughly the lamb and cut into portions (approx. 5 – 6 cm). Place in a large bowl or basin and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables for the lamb kleftiko. Cut the onions in half and then in four wedges. Cut the peppers in 2 – 3 cm chunks and slice 2 cloves of garlic. Add the vegetables in the bowl with the lamb and pour in the olive oil, white wine and lemon juice. Add the mustard, 2 whole cloves of garlic, sprinkle with oregano and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to blend all the ingredients together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, chill and let marinade for at least 2 hours. It’s better to leave the meat for the lamb kleftiko marinade overnight, to soak up all the wonderful flavours.
Once the meat for the lamb kleftiko is marinated, return the lamb at room temperature. In the same bowl add the cheese and blend. Preheat the oven to 350F.
To prepare the potatoes for this lamb kleftiko recipe, peel the potatoes and cut in four pieces. (The lamb kleftiko will require about 2 ½ hours baking, so it’s best to cut the potatoes in large pieces, to keep their shape.)
Now it’s time to wrap the lamb kleftiko in parchment paper. Lay 4 long pieces of parchment paper to form a star. Pop the potatoes in the centre of the parchment paper and season with salt and a pinch of oregano. Pour the marinade from the lamb over the potatoes and set the lamb and vegetables on top of the potatoes. Layer with the sliced tomato and enclose the lamb kleftiko into a pouch. To enclose the lamb kleftiko hold the parchment paper from the edges, crosswise and grab with your hand in the middle, just above the stuffing and squeeze. Use the kitchen string to tie tightly the whole thing together, just above the stuffing and lift into a roasting pan.
Roast the lamb kleftiko in the oven for about 1 hour and 45 minutes until tender. Remove the pan from the oven and increase the temperature to 425F. Unwrap the lamb kleftiko and scrunch the parchment paper under the rim of the pan. Bast the lamb with the juices and put back in the oven for a further 20 minutes until browned. Remove the pieces of lamb from the pouch and wrap them in some foil to rest. Toss the potatoes and return in the oven for about 20 minutes, until nicely coloured.
Remove the lamb pieces in the roasting pan and serve the lamb kleftiko as it is.
JANET RADLEY // Helen Thompson Travel // Telephone 416 967 4404 ext. 134