I have spent the last few days in Athens, arriving there in the most traditional way possible: by sea. I took the ferry from the island of Samos which, after 10 hours, docked in the port of Piraeus. As it was after midnight, I made my way to my hotel and set about planning my side trips the next morning.
I only had a very few days but I was on a ‘Homer trip’ so to speak and definitely wanted to visit Epidauros and the mystical Mycenae. I don’t often go on guided tours but the one I found, offered by Keytours, seemed perfect as it included both sites as well as the canal of Corinth. It was a success. The tour bus was pink, which I loved. The tour guide a charming young lady with excellent English and a solid knowledge of history, and my 12 fellow travellers (a very international group) included a drama teacher from New York and a historian from Sydney. As you can imagine, they contributed valuable details and insights into the region. I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting tour. I just watched, listened and took notes and pictures.
First stop was the canal of Corinth. Today, it’s no more than a tourist attraction because modern freighters are far too big to fit into the narrow walls of the canal, but at the time of its opening in 1893 it was considered a major achievement connecting the Golf of Corinth with the Saronic Golf. You can walk on a narrow footbridge over the canal and look down the steep walls to the sea level waters of the canal proper which operates without lochs.
Approx. 11km further on, we approached the massive walls of Mycenae. According to Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, Agamemnon was King of Mycenae and the mythology surrounding him includes absolutely all elements of Greek drama and tragedy, incest, murder, mayhem, you name it, it’s associated with Agamemnon. Yes, immense wealth too.
The historical truth is a bit different from the mythology. There is no proof that king Agamemnon ever lived, but Mycenae was an important centre of Greek civilisation as early as 2000 BC, ruled by powerful kings who resided within the massive city walls, protected by monolithic gates. Their tombs had the distinctive conic shapes and gold artifacts were buried with them.
I love the mythology and legends though and upon admiring the gold copy of Agamemnon’s mask in the adjacent museum I could easily imagine Schliemann’s excitement. A few minutes away lays the tomb of Aeghistus, a massive example of the period. Staring up at the ceiling you can only marvel at the architectural feat.
History, legend, drama, mythology and the writings of Homer: no other place combines the essence of ancient Greece better than the site of Mycenae. A revelation.
Story and Photos by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.