Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nafplio's Two Fortresses

Nafplio has two ancient fortresses within the Old Town centre, Palamidi to the South, perched above the city on a hilltop, and Bourtzi, alone on an island in the bay to the North. These amazing remnants of Nafplio's history are both easily accessible and affordable to explore.

The island of Bourtzi and Nafplio town from Palamidi Fortress

Looking up at Palamidi - and our impending hike

After making trips to each, we recommend a visit to the island fortress of Bourtzi first as it is a quick trip with little physical exhertion, and the fortress itself is much smaller. What you get when visiting Bourtzi is neither a tour nor a taxi, but kind of a combination of both. After making your way to the main dock on the promenade, a boat will take you to the island and wait while you explore for twenty minutes - the cost is four Euro, there isn't an entrance fee upon arrival at Bourtzi. 

The time appears to be set, with no room for flexibility, which we thought was unfortunate as we would have liked to extend our stay, pack a picnic lunch, and explore the fortress in detail. However, we were able to explore the entire fortress adequately in the twenty minutes provided and snap plenty of photos. 

We were also a bit disappointed by the lack of historical information provided, which was none. The island does not have any signage, posters, pamphlets... and we were unable to find much online. There is a Wikipedia page that  provides some basic background information:

The castle of Bourtzi (meaning "tower") is located in the middle of the harbour of Nafplio. The Venetians completed its fortification in 1473 to protect the city from pirates and invaders from the sea. The Greeks regained it from the Turks on June 18, 1822, from where they assisted in the siege of Nafplio. Until 1865 it served as a fortress. It was then transformed into residence of the executioners of convicts from the castle of Palamidi. From 1930 to 1970, it served as a hotel. Since then, it is mainly a tourist attraction hosting occasionally parts of the Summer Music Festival.

In contrast to Bourtzi, the fortress of Palamidi provides a bit more information and bang for your buck. As the fortress itself is much larger, and takes some exertion to climb the rumored 999 steps to the top, your legs may be a bit sluggish in the days that follow so it's probably better to explore later into your trip. However we were just too excited to wait and made the trek our first morning in Nafplio.

The path up the hill starts on the South East edge of Old Town, past the bus station on the way to Arvanitia Beach. There is a sign at the beginning of the stone steps but you don't pay an entrance fee until arriving at the fortress at the top. If we'd only still had the energy of our youth we may have made the climb again at sunset to snap some lovely photos. 

The entrance fee is also four Euro, however you are welcome to explore the fortress for as long as you want, within their hours of operation. As well, you are provided a map/information pamphlet with your ticket purchase that, although brief, provides some interesting background information. 

The hike up took us about forty-five minutes, with plenty of photo stops (the stairs cling to the side of the hill and offer spectacular views of Nafplio), and we then spent another two hours exploring the fortress, eating the breakfast we'd packed, and climbing back down. There is also a road that brings hiking-challenged visitors (aka overdressed in stilettos) up to the fortress by taxi, sightseeing tour, or rental car. 

We were interested to learn a bit more about Palamidi after our visit and again turned to Wikipedia for the (unofficial) facts:

Nestled on the crest of a 216-metre high hill, the fortress was built by the Venetians during their second occupation of the area (1686-1715). The fortress was a very large and ambitious project, but was finished within a relatively short period from 1711 until 1714. It is a typical baroque fortress based on the plans of the engineers Giaxich and Lasalle. In 1715 it was captured by the Turks and remained under their control until 1822, when it was captured by the Greeks.

Overall we found both fortresses extremely photogenic and interesting to explore, a lovely "mini" excursion in a fabulous Greek town.

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Hey there!

Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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