Day 1 -
ATHENS - CORINTH - PELOPONESE PENINSULA Meet
at a hotel in central Athens at 1.00PM
and board our private bus to head for the Peloponese
Peninsula. Our May group meets at the Hotel Herodion.
Our September group meets at the nearby Hotel Philippos.
On our way to Tolo we pause at the Corinth
In ancient times the city-state of Corinth was a
busy sea-port due to its location on the narrow
isthmus joining the Adriatic and the Aegean. Destroyed
by the Romans
in 146 BC. , it was rebuilt by Julius
Caesar and when St Paul visited here
in 52 AD, he found the city too sophisticated and chastised
the Corinthians for their wanton ways. By the 2nd century
AD, with 300,000 citizens and 500,000 slaves, Corinth
was larger than Athens.
Our route takes us through Nemea where our mythic companion is
Hercules (the legendary hero who performed 12 labours
including slaying the Nemean Lion). We stop at a winery
that is famous for its ‘Agiorgitiko’ (St George) wine - one
of the finest Greek red varieties, produced since antiquity.
afternoon we reach our hotel in the pretty beachfront town
of Tolo. Like most places in Greece,
legends abound. Tolo was first written about by Homer who
mentioned the acropolis of Asine that
still sits on a small hill near our hotel. It is claimed
that the warriors from the Argos
region set sail for the Trojan wars from Tolo. But
more interesting today will be a dip in the hotel pool or stretching your legs
strolling the beach before enjoying a buffet of classic
Greek dishes for dinner.
Day 2 -
COUNTRYSIDE WALKING Our walking guides meet us at
the hotel to brief us. You can choose a relaxed
"Philosophers" walk or a more energetic "Olympian" hike.
Our coach then takes
us a short distance to the lovely village of Kefalovrysso
(pop 189). This traditional village is nestled
in the foothills of the Lirkio range and surrounded by trees said to date from
the time of Menelaus (Helen of Troy's husband).
From our base at a sustainable agrotourism project we have a
choice of two hikes on paths scented by wild thyme and
paths are loop walks through shady orchards and forests
filled with streams
and waterfalls. After
lunch we follow a quiet road alongside a river bordered by olive trees to a wine
and olive oil producing organic farm. The only traffic
on the road is usually a shepherd and his flock. At
the farm we walk through orchards of lemon, apricot and
pomegranate trees and through a vineyard.
Day 3 -
EPIDAURUS - THE HEALING PATH - This morning
both the Philosopher and Olympian paths lead through pretty countryside
and olive orchards. Along the way we see healing springs lined with
wild lavender, sage and rosemary. In ancient times the
healing path was walked by the afflicted on their way to the
Sanctuary of Epidaurus so our mythical companion for the day
is Asklepios, the god of healing. At the end of
our walk we visit the amazing site of
Epidaurus (UNESCO) with an expert guide. We hear how,
in the 6th century BC, the sanctuary was a temple where
patients came to consult Asklepios. But, over the
centuries, priests of the temple accumulated wisdom about
disease so what was once just a temple became a healing
surgery and potions as well as holistic therapies like dreams, serpents and theatre. These
theories of healing spread throughout the Greco-Roman world
so Epidaurus became the Mayo clinic of ancient times. It is
a fascinating tour through the vast site.
Later in the afternoon we return to Tolo in time for a swim.
- ONE DAY CRUISE from Tolo our cruise ship goes to the small islands of Spetses and Hydra.
Of course our mythical companion for the day is Poseidon,
god of the sea, and often dolphins accompany us frolicking
in the ships wake. We explore both islands on foot (cars are
not permitted on Hydra) and hear some of the islands'
fascinating history. Merchant seafaring was the
main source of livelihood in these rocky islands and it brought prosperity - especially during
the Napoleonic wars when Greek shipping magnates made
fortunes working with, or against, both belligerent
sides. In 1821 Spetses was the first Greek island to raise
the flag of Revolution. The wealthy sea captains who had
been hoarding their gold quickly dug up their buried
treasure, funded the revolution and liberated the territory
from the Turks. We hear the story of Bouboulina, a
swashbuckling female who used
her own wealth to fund a fleet during the War of
Independence. She survived the war but in the end was shot
and killed in a family feud. Another Greek tragedy. Today, Spetses’ quiet beauty attracts Greek billionaires (yes there
are some in spite of the recent economic crisis), plus
international novelists and pop stars looking for a retreat.
Huge state-of-the-art yachts are moored at the marina
alongside quaint fishing boats. There are pleasant coastal
walks on both islands as well as cafes and shops. The cruise returns to Tolo
harbour in time for dinner.
Day 5 - NAFPLION - Today there is a choice of either
taking a coach transfer into the the romantic sea-side town of Nafplion (15 minutes) where the Philosophers do an easy 5 km
coastal walk. The alternative for the Olympians is a
more challenging 8 km walk.
Whichever you choose, you will find the town
wonderful. Our stroll through Nafplion streets is a walk through Greek history from archaic times
to the present. Legend says that the town was founded by
Nafplios, son of Poseidon. Nafplios' son Palamides fought in the Trojan War and today,
his namesake, the huge Palamides castle, still stands guard
atop the hill overlooking the
town. (Olympian walkers may choose to climb the 999 steps to the top). Nafplion
changed hands many times. In 700 BC warriors from Argos
destroyed the town but it was re-established in 323 BC only
to be invaded by Romans and then Byzantines. In the 1400’s
the powerful Venetians took over for a short time until they
were ousted by the Turks who remained until 1822. Each of
these invaders left their mark on the architecture and
culture. But there is more here than
history. After our walking tour we have free time to
browse in the shops or relax in the cafes.
Day 6 -
MYCENAE - In the morning we visit nearby Mycenae
(UNESCO). According to legend, Mycenae's founder was the
hero Perseus, son of the god Zeus. In the second millennium
BC this was one of the major centres of Greek civilization,
a military stronghold which dominated the Hellenic world. At
its height in 1350 BC, the town had a population of 30,000
and scholars still are puzzled about why it declined. We
visit the Citadel and the famous Treasury of Atreus. We
marvel at the Cyclopean walls, built by giants or elephants
- no one knows for sure. After the tour we choose
our walks. The Olympian route is on King Agamemnon's path
where, according to legend, Agamemnon drove
his golden carriage on his triumphant return from the Trojan
war. Continuing on, we pass through olive and orange fields,
along agricultural roads and paths. We see a strange stone
building which local legend claims was a guard room to keep
a watchful eye οn Hera, queen of all the gods,
when she passed by en route to her temple. Our walk
ends at the
archaeological site of Heraio which was a religious centre dedicated
to Hera. In ancient times women
would travel on foot for many miles to ask Hera for their wish to
be granted. You can try it but we suspect your wish
will be to head back to the swimming pool at the hotel.
ATHENS - Today we have a leisurely morning to
enjoy the seaside village of Tolo before boarding
our bus and heading for Athens (about 2 hours). After checking
into our hotel there is time for a stroll through 5000 years
of history on a 4 km promenade that circles the Acropolis
the Athens Archaeological Park. Along the way we see marble
temples, Byzantine churches, ancient theatres, and
neoclassical museums. On this pedestrian-only path it does
not take much imagination to hear the echoes of
philosophers' and scholars' footsteps....Pericles, Socrates,
Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle may have trod this route. Or
perhaps you will want to browse the bustling Plaka or linger over a drink at a sidewalk cafe. Our final
dinner is at an Athens restaurant.
Day 8 -
Tour ends in Athens after breakfast. You could stay on
in Athens to visit the Acropolis and its amazing new museum.
Or there is a one day tour to visit Delphi which is one of the
most famous archaeological sites of Greece. Or a
cruise is available from Athens to the islands of Mykonos, Patmos,
Crete, and Santorini.