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Ancient Corinthia and the Corinthian canal


Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 06 May 2014

Tuesday 06 May, ancient Corinthia and the Corinthian canal

The Corinth CanalWe leave the hotel early and I find the car back without a problem. Especially at the roundabouts, it takes a little attention (traffic from the right has way of right) but soon we are outside of Athens and it becomes quieter on the road. In the Netherlands we had already realized that we want to see the highlights of Greek antiquity and many of them are located on the Peloponnese, so we are now driving there. And can you name an island that is connected to the mainland by means of bridges still call an island, or is the Peloponnese a peninsula?
In the past, the Peloponnese was connected to the mainland of Greece and since the stormy south cape of the Peloponnese was feared by sailors, in ancient times vessels were unloaded at the narrowest part and the freight was transported to the other side with cars.
In the 19th century a straight canal was constructed of more than 6 kilometers long, 23 meters wide and 8 meters deep.
The Corinth Canal The Corinth CanalAlready in ancient times people wanted to build a canal here and Emperor Nero really started and put the first (golden) shovel in the ground in 66 AD. 6,000 Jewish forced laborers were put to work but the project did not succeed and only in 1893 the channel was actually opened up for ships. Due to the strong currents and the shallow depth, however, it is only suitable for medium-sized vessels that must be carefully towed by a pilot boat as well, because the 70-meter-high steep walls regularly crumble. Not really a success, but impressive to see!
Around the canal of Corinth are of course a lot of tourist shops and fortunately for us also terraces where we can sit in the sun. We hardly read anything about Greece before we left and I have to fall back on what I once learned at the gymnasium and of course we have some good travel guides with us. So every break is also a moment to read about the history of the place where we are at that moment.
Ancient Corinth Ancient CorinthWe are here near ancient Corinth, which also appears a few times in the Bible (we were both raised Christian, so we know most of those stories too well). The city was strategically located between, for example, the city states of Sparta and Athens, but also because of the overloading of goods at what is now the Corinthian canal, it became a rich trading city. The Romans destroyed the city in 146 BC. but Julius Caesar had it rebuild in 44 BC and soon it became the most prosperous city in southern Greece again.
The Apollo-temple in ancient Corinth The Apollo-temple in ancient CorinthWe are actually a little surprised at how little is left of this once powerful city. The pillars of the Apollo temple from the 6th century BC. are the only impressive remnants and we keep wondering why those that are still there are still there while the rest has largely disappeared. Archaeological research has shown that the Romans have completely renovated the temple after the devastation of the city. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the city was plundered regularly and in the 6th century there were a number of heavy earthquakes and the Crusaders reduced it further by removing building materials for their Akrokorinth castle (the original acropolis of Corinth) from the deserted city.
Ancient Corinth Ancient CorinthThe rest of the area now looks as a cluttered ruin, although the antiquity department has clearly made efforts to provide information everywhere, like about the place where the Apostle Paul kept his speeches to the people and where he had been imprisoned for a while. It seems that he founded a large Christian community here already in 50 AD, consisting of Jews who lived here and some local Greeks, actually very shortly after the alleged death of Jesus.
Greek orthodox church at CorinthThe teachings of Jesus spread mainly in the Hellenistic part of the Roman empire and not so much in Israel itself. We could tell a whole story about the history of the Christian faith, but we do not find it that interesting. For the Greeks themselves it is, though, because it seems that faith is still very important here and Easter and Christmas are great festivals and every day has its own saint. After the rupture of the Roman Empire, the church also as divided. There seems to be only 1 god but innumerable church directions. The Greek gods would have no problem with that, they would just punish some people and leave the people to themselves. You see, we do not really like churches that claim to be the only one to hold the truth.
Ancient Corinth Ancient CorinthNext to the excavation is a museum where the finds from the area are exhibited, from prehistoric objects to pots from the Byzantine period and there is much information about the city in its heyday, first as Greek city state and later as capital of the Roman province that Greece later became. At certain times Corinth became so large that residents moved out and founded colonies in other places like on Cyprus.
The sea at Nafplio The sea at NafplioAfter the visit to ancient Corinth we drive on the winding roads through the mountainous landscape to the south, towards Nafplio. Frankly, we did not know at all that Greece was so mountainous, so you see how badly we are prepared.
At the Bay of Nafplio we have a nice view over the sea but the sky is getting very dark and clouds litter the sky. For tonight we have not yet arranged an place to stay so we drive to the city of Nafplio itself to look for something.
Rain storm in GreeceAnd then it starts to rain, quite hard and we find a place where we can sit dry and we have wifi. We are already soaking wet from even a short walk through the rain. The internet connection is not too good (that's because of the wet weather, says the waitress) but in the end we find something that seems allright in a neighboring village. Through the rain we run to the car and go on the road. The navigation brings us nicely to the neighborhood but no apartment to see that is for rent. After a few laps, we turn on the dongle for our own internet and start looking again.
Tolon holidays hotel in ToloThis time we find a hotel in Tolon, just south of Nafplio, and we make a reservation directly via the Internet. But first we have to eat something, we have not had anything since breakfast and my temper suffers a little bit, not only from hunger but also because of the unexpected rainstorms that do not stop. When we finally, completely soaked, sit in a pizzeria and I have a huge pizza for me with a good glass of cold beer, I quickly recover and feel happy again. I needed that! And when we have eaten and rested for an hour and a half, the rain also has stopped. Afterwards we quickly find the hotel and we check in at the rather luxurious hotel.
In order to avoid having to search again tomorrow, we are going to work out our travel plan a bit better: we plan to always stay a few days at a certain place to explore the area there. We find an apartment that looks nice, Elena's family apartments in Livadi, about 100 kilometers to the south. We reserve immediately for 5 nights, which gives us some rest and leaves us plenty of time to go exploring.

 


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