Today is my last full day in Greece for this trip, my first time in here. I spent the day visiting Epidaurus and then driving back to Piraeus to drop off my rental car. From there, because there was heavy traffic, the cab took more than half an hour to get me back to the same hotel in which I started this trip. I’ve come full circle.
Tomorrow, I have a noon flight back home. That requires leaving too early to do anything in Athens tomorrow worth writing about, unless you consider showering, shaving, brushing my teeth, and other bathroom activities worth writing about. I don’t. And even if you do, you won’t read about them here.
Thus, this will probably be my last entry for this trip. I say probably because you never know. Twice on returns from previous travels, once in London and once in Madrid, I woke up to notifications from Air Canada telling me my flights had been delayed for a few hours. Because I got the notifications before heading to the airport, I unexpectedly had time to do something reportable in the morning and I posted bonus entries for each trip.
I don’t anticipate that happening this time, but, like I said, you never know. When it happens on the way home, if I get sufficient notification to allow me to take advantage of it, I don’t mind such delays.
But this post isn’t about what happened on previous trips or what might, possibly, may lbe to come. It’s about today. Let’s go.
Both my guidebooks listed Epidaurus as a must see. One, “Rick Steves Greece,” gave Epidaurus a coveted three-triangles, its highest rating.
Despite all those triangles, Rick Steves’ section on Epidaurus (he spells it Epidavros, but the other references I’ve seen, including both my mapping apps, spell it Epidaurus) is a single paragraph. To quote the first sentence of that paragraph,
“This ancient site, 23 miles (by car) east of Nafplio, has an underwhelming museum, forgettable ruins…and the most magnificent theater of the ancient world.”
The other guidebook I’m using, “DK Eyewitness Greece,” has more to say about Epiduarus (which it does spell Epidaurus). It has a paragraph just on the theatre, two paragraphs on the more significant of the ruins, and one paragraph on the origins of Greek drama. It doesn’t mention the museum at all.
Based on the sentence in Rick Steves’ entry on Epidaurus, I planned to see the museum and ruins first. My thought was to save the theatre for the wow finish.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
Epidauros Archaeological Museum
I found the museum, no problem. Although, at first I didn’t know I’d found it. I followed the signs to the museum and archaeological site. That brought me to a building with no sign affixed to it. At first I thought it was a restaurant. It had a kind of restaurant look to it.
The building had a small sign, not on it, but on a stand a bit in front of it. I figured it was a menu. I went to check out what they had to eat.
When I got close to the sign, I saw it wasn’t a menu, but a COVID precautions notice. Getting close enough to read the the sign with my poor eyes had the benefit of getting me close to the open door of the building.
Glancing inside, I saw some architectural elements and statues.
Ah, ha! A discreet museum.
Some of the statues are marble and generally missing a head or other body part or two. Other statues are complete. However, reading the placards accompanying them, I learned they are plaster casts of marble sculptures. Ho. Hum.
Rick Steves was right about the museum. It is small and it’s collection is underwhelming. I don’t blame DK Eyewitness Greece for not mentioning it.
I then tried to find the ruins and failed. The path that, because I didn’t see another one, I thought would take me there took me instead to the theatre.
The Epidaurus is indeed grand and imposing. The stone seating forms approximately a semicircle and faces a circular, dirt-floored stage.
The theatre was built in the late 4th century BC. I don’t know how much remedial work it has had, but the stone seating is in phenomenal condition for a theatre its age, i.e. almost 2,500 years old.
Speaking of seating, there’s a lot of it. According to Rick Steves, it seats 15,000 people. Goodness knows how many cats it could seat if they decided to take in the show. Come to think of it, Epidaurus is the first place in Greece where I didn’t see any cats. Maybe they’re not theatre goers.
According to the Eyewitness Greece guidebook, the theatre is known for its near-perfect acoustics. I can neither confirm nor refute that. I and other tourists climbed into the seating. Some people talked among themselves, but I could barely hear them.
Come to think of it, I suppose that is an acoustical point in the theatre’s favour. A theatre in which sound from anywhere in the seating area projects to everywhere in the seating area wouldn’t have good theatre acoustics. It would be a theatre designed for non-theatric cacophony and chaos.
I have no expertise in acoustics, but I imagine a theatre with near-perfect acoustics would be one in which any spoke words or music coming from the stage can be heard clearly throughout the seating area. Visitors were free to walk on the stage, but no one made any noise there when I was in the theatre. I’ll have to take the guidebook’s word for the perfect acoustics.
That having been said, the acoustics can’t be too bad. There are regular performances at the theatre in the summer.
After leaving the theatre, the path took me back to the museum. I didn’t look beyond it when I was there first. Some pickup trucks and a piece of construction equipment were parked behind the museum. I figured it was a construction site and didn’t check it out.
On the way back from the theatre, I noticed that one could easily pass by the parked vehicles. I did and, voila, a path led to the ruins.
There are a couple of sections of ruins. The first one I came upon was roughly square. I shouldn’t use sports measures for this sort of thing because, not being a sports fan in any way, shape, or form, I’ll almost certainly be wrong about them. However, not being able to think of any other comparison, I’m going to guess that each side of that rough square is about the size of two football fields placed end-to-end.
The only thing memorable about the ruins in that section is that they were, as Rick Steves said, mostly unmemorable. They consisted primarily of single-height, large stone building blocks. And, for the most part, those blocks weren’t adjacent to one another. I could almost, sort of, maybe imagine what an outline of a building might be, but I suspect that was my imagination, not the reality of the ancient buildings.
The section beyond that is irregularly shaped and considerably larger. Despite what Rick Steves said, it’s less unmemorable. It is now being more than seven hours since I saw them, and i didn’t take any contemporaneous notes there, I still distinctly remember some columns standing vertical. I’m someone who can’t even remember what I wrote in the preceding paragraph. So if I can remember the standing columns, they can’t be that unmemorable.
I don’t know, but, considering the condition of the other ruins, I’d bet the columns had some relatively recent help to stand erect. But stand they do.
I didn’t get to my Athens hotel until a little after 4:00 p.m., which, after checking in and settling in, didn’t leave a lot of time to do anything before touristy stuff closes for the evening. But there was enough time for one thing …
Eureka! I have found it!
You might remember from my entry on Olympia my confusion about the Archimedes Museum there, which the person at the front desk also called the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology. I found the mother ship.
The museum in Athens is not huge, but much bigger than the one in Olympia. And the one here has someone who wanders around and explains what the inventions are and how they worked. She demonstrated some of the working models, such as the automated holy water dispenser that was also in the Olympia museum.
The museum also had models of the automated watered wine dispenser that was in Olympia. However, this museum had two. One of the two here had a cutaway in the chest of the humanoid dispenser so visitors can see the inner workings. The Olympia museum only had a without that cutaway.
Speaking of the holy water and watered wine dispensers, there are a lot of repeats in the working models of ancient gadgets between the two museums, but the Athens museum has more. If it is representative of the range of ancient gizmos, they leaned heavily on hydraulically powered gadgets.
There is a Museum of Ancient Greek Technology just a few blocks from my hotel in Athens. One person established both. I think the Olympia museum is an offshoot of the one in Athens.
One of the gadgets that I didn’t see in the Olympia museum is the “Flying Pigeon of Archtas.” Invented in the 5th century BC, this consisted of light shell shaped like a pigeon, but with the bladder of an animal inside. The shell and internal bladder were mounted on the opening of a boiler. When the steam pressure exceeded the resistance of the connection, the pigeon launched and flew for hundreds of metres. According to the the attendant, this didn’t serve any practical purpose. The inventor just invented its because he could.
Another model that wasn’t in the Olympia museum was an automatic door opener powered by air heated by a fire. Cult leaders used that trick to impress believers, or possibly to turn non-believers into believers.
Unlike, the museum in Olympia, the one here has a separate room containing ancient musical instruments, or probably models of them, I’m not sure. Some were odd-shaped stringed instruments. There were also percussion instruments, along with a keyboard instrument. The latter required people to turn cranks to operate some bellows. The keys then directed the air coming out through different sized cylinders to produce different notes.
In the basement, the museum had a temporary display of ancient armour, the oldest dating from the 15th century BC. I’m 99.999999% certain they were reproductions, not originals. They stood open on stands, not in glass cases, and without any barriers of any kind between them and the visitors. It has been my limited experience that museums tend to not display authentic 15th century BC stuff that way.
The difference in the sizes and staffing levels at the two museums may explain why the museum in Olympia was free, with a donation bowl at the entrance/exit, whereas the one here charges €10 if you want to see all three exhibit areas.
More Navigation News
If you’ve been following along with my mapping app saga, you know that I started using Apple Maps because I couldn’t find how to get Google Maps to display on my rental car’s screen through Apple CarPlay. But I was a tad disappointed in Apple Maps because it tried to kill me by directing me over a cliff.
Wanting to preserve my life, I searched the Web and found how to use Google Maps on CarPlay. But when I tried to use it for real-world navigation its map danced the twist on the screen and its location/direction pointer refused to advance as I drove. So I switched back to Apple Maps.
That recap brings us up to today.
This morning, I entered Epidaurus into Apple Maps and it gave me a route to the correct site. I’m happy to say it didn’t try to kill me today. But it did try to strand me.
At one point, it told me to turn onto a dirt road. No, that’s not quite right. It was more like a dirt trail or, to be more accurate, a dirt path. The trail/path led into a barren field and appeared to dead-end there.
I intentionally refused the recommendation turn and kept driving on the road I was on instead. Apple Maps dutifully rerouted me. It wanted to direct me in a circle so I could take another run at the trail/path.
I pulled over and asked Google Maps for a route. It said, “Look, I know about what Apple Maps told you. Forget about that. It was nonsense. I’m going to give you a somewhat longer route, but one that will actually get you there. Really, I don’t know what Apple Maps was thinking.”
Okay, Google Maps didn’t actually say that. It just showed be a route. But I know it was thinking it.
I decided to give Google Maps and CarPlay another chance to play well together. And they did. I got to Epidourus without further problems. I then used them to get me to my rental car drop off, again with no problems.