It took me only minutes to be ready for my early morning flight. I opened the curtains for one last look at my view and clapped a hand over my heart. The sun had risen over the eastern shores of Santorini, and the strains of a melody swept through my mind.
“I’ll see you in the sunrise …”
A few years ago when my muse whispered a story for my series (as told here) I was also inspired to write a song for the book. I’m not a songwriter, but this one haunted me and I eventually wrote it down. The line above comes from that song. As I watched the sunrise in this place so important to my characters the refrain touched my heart.
Now I was on my way to Mycenae, an important location for the series. A knock sounded on my door. The grandmother at my family hotel told me the taxi was there, and I hurried out. Having left too early for breakfast at the hotel I wondered what I would find to eat in the little Santorini airport. At a small kiosk I found fresh-baked pastries and chose what they called a cheese pie, white cheese wrapped in pastry, and they actually had green tea, my beverage choice for morning caffeine. Once a seat cleared in the crowded waiting area I sat and bit into my cheese pie. What a tasty surprise!
My destination was the beautiful city of Náfplio on the Greek mainland, a port in the Peloponnese region today as it no doubt was in Mycenaean times. For my books I call the city Tiryns, naming it for the ancient citadel of Tiryns just north of the docks. With the single square sails of their wooden ships they would have sailed into port in the place shown below. Just envision that boat in the picture a little larger, put a square sail on it, with rowers on either side, and you have the image. A number of my book scenes happen in this port town and I planned several days here.
I couldn’t sail there myself, so before leaving home I’d spent considerable time figuring out how to make the jump from Santorini to Náfplio. From online forums I gleaned what appeared to be the best route.
I opted for a plane to Athens and a bus from there to Náfplio. To catch the bus to Náfplio I had to go from the airport into the sprawling city of Athens. It sounded a little daunting but I wrote down the information on how to find the right bus at the airport to get to Kiffisou Bus Station in the teeming city.
At the Athens airport I went out the door Rick Steves advised and found the ticket booth, hurrying to get in line so I would be able to find a seat on the bus and get to Kiffisou in time for arrival in Náfplio at a reasonable hour. I forgot to buy a bottle of water but didn’t want to lose my place in line. I bought the ticket and was right up front waiting for the bus. When the bus came people swarmed onto it. I don’t know how it happened but by the time I struggled on with my big bag there wasn’t a single seat left and no room in the baggage racks. I faced a good hour’s ride into town clinging to a bar as I stood and gripped my bag. A man sitting in a single seat near the door glanced up at me. He looked like a guy who could handle himself in the dangerous streets of Athens. I wouldn’t have crossed him. But he rose to his feet and motioned toward his seat in offering. I adored him in that instant. Thanking him profusely, I pushed my bag in front of the seat where there was plenty of room, and I sat. That was a long hot ride. My tongue was parched, but I was sitting. Angels come in many guises.
My first stop in Kiffisou station was a place that sold bottled water. The moment I paid for a bottle I took a long swig and let out a heavy sigh. The store clerk grinned. Next I needed lunch and found another cheese pie. That seemed to be my meal du jour.
I was soon surging down the highway on a comfortable air-conditioned bus, my cumbersome bag in the storage space underneath. A beautiful drive through more of the rugged Greek countryside—rocky hills sprinkled with scrubby maquis, patches of olive trees and grapevines. I had to believe this land must contribute to the rugged Greek character, a people embracing joy in the moment with emphatic submission to life’s inevitable tragedies. I remembered the man in blue at the Heraklion bus station. “We don’t worry in Crete.” He might have included the entire nation. Life happens. Meet it with gusto.
As we swung around the coast past the isthmus at Corinth and turned south across the lusher plains I was surprised to see familiar mountains in a place I’d never been, then realized I’d seen this on Google Maps. I looked to the left and there were the ravaged colossal stones of the citadel of Tiryns.
My hotel was an easy walk from the Náfplio bus station—at least until I reached Kokkinou Street, which I knew from Google was not street but stairs. A hot sun bore down on me as I looked up and up to where I must carry my bag.
Many stepped streets climb like this up the steep slope of the ridge that runs along the peninsula where the old town of Náfplio lies. I have a character in the series who lives up here somewhere, an old trader named Tertulio. That would be Tertulio of Tiryns, one of those supporting characters I so enjoy.
I think I made it to the second landing of this long flight when a group of young people passed by and one of them asked if I’d like help with my bag. Another angel, this one with longish dark hair and beard. He carried it as far as the hotel gate and I didn’t even try to take it up to Reception at the top of more stairs.
Thankfully my room was on a lower level, and someone from the hotel carried my bag the rest of the way for me. Called the Chroma Design Hotel & Suites, it was an intriguing place with friendly people who expressed an interest in my work. I would stay there three of my five nights in Náfplio.
I had hoped to stay a couple of nights near the citadel of Mycenae, the focus of my interest in this area because of the key role the Mycenaeans play in my books. It’s a group of Mycenaean warriors who show up in Crete in the first chapter of the first book, men who will make lasting changes to Crete and perhaps the world. They are three-dimensional people, so it’s a nuanced situation, creating plenty of tension that resonates throughout the stories. I hoped to get a better sense of them as I came in touch with their land.
I never heard back from the one hotel near Mycenae so I decided to stay the extra two nights in Náfplio and do day trips. But by that time the Chroma was booked for those extra nights. I found a nice room for the last two days in the Dias Hotel, where I also met friendly people interested in what I was doing, especially Michael, who has a great love for Greek history. We had some excellent talks, so it all worked out.
From the rooftop of the Chroma I took in the views. Those Mycenaean warriors must have dreamed of visits to this beautiful port city when they had some free time. I know one who did.
I had a stunning view from my breakfast table at the Chroma and could also enjoy sitting in there during the day. The view from my room was lower but nice.
On the top of my list for sites around Náfplio were those citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns. Guidebooks recommend seeing Tiryns first, so I would visit that my first day and Mycenae the second.
Given the significance in my series of the Mycenaeans and their citadels, I’ll devote a post to them in “Going There #6.”
On the other days I visited more sites where book scenes take place. I did the promenade–twice–a walk around the perimeter of the peninsula that juts into the bay. For all the beauty, a harrowing scene occurs just ahead of that arch. The walkway would have been a simple gravel path, probably below the arch.
I visited an overlook on the far side of the peninsular ridge where a scintillating scene takes place. I walked through the city’s narrow streets in the daytime and through the twinkling lights of evening.
And I enjoyed some fantastic meals in the sidewalk cafes and fresh-squeezed orange juice in cafes and at breakfast at the Dias.
This aubergine and feta dish with tomatoes was one of the best meals, served hot in the iron skillet with herbed toast drizzled in olive oil and a huge pile of Greek olives that were almost gone by the time I thought to take a picture.
NEXT: The World of Mycenaean Warriors