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  • HI, I'M RICK STEVES,

  • BACK WITH MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE.

  • THIS TIME, WE'RE IN GREECE, CLIMBING 999 STEPS

  • TO BRING YOU THE BEST OF THE PELOPONNESIAN PENINSULA.

  • THANKS FOR JOINING US.

  • PELOPONNESIA WAS THE HEARTLAND OF ANCIENT GREECE.

  • ITS WILD AND MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPE HAS HOSTED

  • THE INTERMINABLE RISE AND FALL OF CULTURES,

  • WHICH MAKES FOR FASCINATING SIGHTSEEING TODAY.

  • THE PENINSULA IS DOTTED WITH STRIKING RUINS,

  • FROM ANCIENT MYCENAEN DOMES

  • TO GOLDEN AGE TEMPLES

  • TO OPPOSING VENETIAN FORTRESSES.

  • AND WE'LL ALSO SEE STUNNING SEASIDE SCENERY,

  • A GREEK ORTHODOX SERVICE,

  • AND THE BREATHTAKING REMAINS OF A BYZANTINE CITADEL.

  • IN THE EXTREME SOUTH OF EUROPE IS GREECE,

  • AND IN THE SOUTH OF GREECE,

  • A SHORT DRIVE FROM ATHENS,

  • IS THE PELOPONNESE,

  • A PENINSULA BARELY HANGING FROM THE MAINLAND.

  • OUR TOUR INCLUDES MYCENAE, NAFPLION,

  • EPIDAVROS, OLYMPIA, KARDAMYLI,

  • THE RUGGED MANI PENINSULA, AND MONEMVASIA.

  • PELOPONNESIAN HISTORY IS GREECE'S HISTORY.

  • WARRING TRIBES, PAN-HELLENIC GAMES,

  • GOLDEN AGE GREEKS, ROMAN RULE,

  • CENTURIES OF BYZANTINE RULE.

  • THEN, WITH THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

  • TO THE OTTOMAN TURKS IN THE 15th CENTURY,

  • THE PELOPONNESIAN PENINSULA BECAME PART OF

  • THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.

  • FINALLY, IN THE 19th CENTURY, AFTER 400 YEARS,

  • THE GREEKS THREW OUT THEIR TURKISH OVERLORDS

  • AND ESTABLISHED AN INDEPENDENT MODERN NATION.

  • GREECE, WITH A RELATIVELY SPARSE POPULATION

  • AND A FINE ROAD SYSTEM,

  • IS EASY TO COVER BY BUS OR CAR.

  • WE'VE RENTED A CAR IN ATHENS,

  • AND IN 90 MINUTES,

  • WE'RE CROSSING THE CORINTH CANAL.

  • THE CORINTH CANAL CUTS THE PELOPONNESIAN PENINSULA OFF

  • FROM THE REST OF GREECE.

  • 2,000 YEARS AGO,

  • THE ROMAN EMPEROR NERO BROKE GROUND FOR THIS CANAL.

  • BUT THE FOUR-MILE-LONG DITCH WASN'T ACTUALLY DUG

  • UNTIL ABOUT A CENTURY AGO BY MODERN GREEKS.

  • OUR FIRST STOP IS ANCIENT MYCENAE,

  • THE OLDEST SITE YOU'RE LIKELY TO SEE

  • IN THIS LAND DOTTED BY SO MANY RUINS.

  • THE MYCENAENS, WHO DOMINATED THE GREEK WORLD

  • BETWEEN 1600 AND 1200 BC,

  • WERE THE FIRST BRONZE AGE SOCIETY

  • TO EMERGE ON THE EUROPEAN MAINLAND.

  • AS THE TORCH OF CIVILIZATION MOVED WESTWARD,

  • THEY PICKED IT UP FROM THE MINOANS,

  • AN EVEN EARLIER CIVILIZATION THAT THRIVED

  • ON THE GREEK ISLAND OF CRETE.

  • WHILE THE MINOANS ENJOYED THE LUXURY OF PEACE

  • ON THEIR REMOTE ISLAND, THE MYCENAENS

  • WERE A MILITARISTIC SOCIETY SURROUNDED BY ENEMIES.

  • THEIR CAPITAL WAS HEAVILY FORTIFIED

  • AND STOOD ON AN EASY-TO-DEFEND HILL

  • FLANKED BY STEEP RAVINES WITH VIEWS

  • ALL THE WAY TO THE SEA.

  • MYCENAE FLOURISHED BECAUSE IT WAS

  • IDEALLY SITUATED FOR TRADE

  • BY BOTH SEA AND LAND.

  • IN ITS DAY, THE MIGHTY LION GATE

  • WOULD HAVE BEEN AWE-INSPIRING.

  • STANDING STRONG HERE FOR OVER 3,000 YEARS,

  • IT WAS THE SYMBOL OF MYCENAEN POWER.

  • THESE WERE THE EARLY GREEKS HOMER WROTE OF

  • IN THE ILIAD AND THE ODYSSEY.

  • KEEP IN MIND, THESE PEOPLE LIVED

  • 1,000 YEARS BEFORE THE RISE OF ATHENS.

  • THEY WERE AS ANCIENT AND MYSTERIOUS

  • TO SOCRATES AND PLATO

  • AS THOSE GOLDEN AGE GREEKS ARE TO US.

  • WHILE THE RUINS ARE STARK AND SCANT,

  • WITH A LITTLE IMAGINATION, YOU CAN ENVISION LIFE HERE.

  • FOR EXAMPLE, TO FETCH WATER, RESIDENTS WOULD DESCEND

  • INTO THIS CLEVERLY CONSTRUCTED

  • MINE-LIKE SHAFT AND CLIMB WAY,

  • WAY, WAY DOWN.

  • I'M 60 FEET BELOW THE SURFACE.

  • THIS IS THE CISTERN WHERE THE WATER WAS COLLECTED,

  • PIPED IN FROM A SPRING THAT WAS

  • 500 YARDS OUTSIDE THE WALLS.

  • EVEN BACK THEN, YOU COULDN'T HAVE

  • A GOOD FORTRESS WITHOUT WATER.

  • MYCENAE WAS AT THE PEAK OF ITS POWER

  • AROUND 1300 BC, AFTER WHICH

  • IT AND ITS EMPIRE SEEMED TO DISAPPEAR

  • VIRTUALLY OVERNIGHT.

  • A CIRCULAR WALL OF STONES DEFINED THE CEMETERY.

  • MYCENAE LAY UNAPPRECIATED UNTIL THE 19th CENTURY,

  • WHEN A TREASURE TROVE OF GOLD

  • WAS UNEARTHED IN THIS NECROPOLIS.

  • TODAY, THOSE TREASURES ARE THE STAR ATTRACTIONS

  • BACK IN ATHENS AT THE NATIONAL

  • ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM.

  • THIS DISCOVERY AFFIRMED THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS' THEORY

  • THAT MYCENAE WAS HOMER'S FABLED CITY RICH IN GOLD,

  • AND THE ELABORATE DETAIL MAKES

  • THE SOPHISTICATION OF THE MYCENAENS CLEAR.

  • THESE GOLDEN CUPS ARE EXQUISITE.

  • THE SO-CALLED MASK OF AGAMEMNON WAS A DEATH MASK

  • PLACED ON THE FACE OF A DEAD KING IN HIS COFFIN.

  • THE MYCENAENS TOOK GOOD CARE OF THEIR DEAD --

  • AT LEAST THEIR IMPORTANT DEAD.

  • THIS PASSAGEWAY LEADS TO AN UNDERGROUND ROYAL TOMB.

  • THE CORBELLED STONE WORK WAS AN ENGINEERING FEAT.

  • DESIGNED LIKE A STONE IGLOO, THIS THOLOS TOMB

  • WAS THE BIGGEST DOME OF ITS DAY.

  • THIS REMARKABLE STRUCTURE REMAINED

  • THE KING OF DOMES UNTIL THE ROMANS BUILT

  • THEIR PANTHEON ABOUT 1,400 YEARS LATER.

  • ONE WAY TO JUDGE A SOCIETY'S ARCHITECTURAL FINESSE

  • IS BY THE DISTANCE IT CAN SPAN WITH NO INTERNAL SUPPORTS.

  • BY TODAY'S STANDARDS, THIS STRUCTURE'S NOT MUCH,

  • BUT BACK THEN, IT WAS A WONDER.

  • NEARBY ON THE COAST,

  • THE CITY OF NAFPLION IS THE PERFECT BASE

  • FOR EXPLORING THE NORTHEAST CORNER

  • OF THE PELOPONNESIAN PENINSULA.

  • NAFPLION IS A STRIKING REMINDER

  • THAT THIS PART OF GREECE WAS, FOR CENTURIES,

  • AN OUTPOST OF VENICE.

  • THE ISLAND IN THE HARBOR WAS THE FIRST LINE OF LOCAL DEFENSE.

  • THE SECOND LINE WAS THE PALAMIDI FORTRESS

  • CAPPING THE HILLTOP HIGH ABOVE.

  • CLIMB 999 STEPS ABOVE NAFPLION AND YOU REACH

  • THIS EARLY-18th CENTURY FORTRESS.

  • YOUR REWARD, ALONG WITH A GREAT VIEW,

  • IS A CHANCE TO APPRECIATE THE FAR-REACHING POWER

  • OF THE VENETIAN EMPIRE IN ITS DAY.

  • THE PALAMIDI FORTRESS, REGARDED AS THE BEST EXAMPLE

  • OF VENETIAN MILITARY ARCHITECTURE,

  • SAW PLENTY OF ACTION.

  • IT FELL TO THE OTTOMANS IN 1715, PLAYED A ROLE

  • IN THE GREEK WAR OF INDEPENDENCE IN THE 1820s,

  • AND WAS OCCUPIED BY THE NAZIS DURING WORLD WAR II.

  • NAFPLION IS ONE OF GREECE'S PRETTIEST TOWNS.

  • ITS NARROW STREETS ARE LINED BY ELEGANT VENETIAN HOUSES

  • AND GRACEFUL NEOCLASSICAL MANSIONS.

  • LIKE THE BIG SQUARE IN ATHENS,

  • NAFPLION'S MAIN SQUARE IS CALLED SYNTAGMA

  • OR CONSTITUTION SQUARE.

  • A CONSTITUTION WAS THE DREAM OF MANY IN THE 1820s

  • AS THE GREEKS WERE CREATING THEIR NEWLY INDEPENDENT NATION.

  • AS THIS TOWN WAS ONE OF THE FIRST LIBERATED FROM

  • THE OTTOMAN TURKS IN 1822, NAFPLION BECAME

  • THE NEW COUNTRY'S FIRST CAPITAL CITY.

  • THIS SQUARE IS A DELIGHTFUL MIX OF ARCHITECTURE

  • REVEALING THE MANY LAYERS OF LOCAL HISTORY.

  • THE OLD VENETIAN ARSENAL STILL SPORTS

  • THE SYMBOL OF VENICE -- THE WINGED LION OF ST. MARK.

  • THE DOMED MOSQUES ARE A REMINDER

  • OF CENTURIES OF MUSLIM OTTOMAN RULE.

  • THIS MOSQUE WAS CONVERTED TO HOUSE

  • INDEPENDENT GREECE'S FIRST PARLIAMENT.

  • AT THE TOP OF THE TOWN, OUR HOTEL'S

  • STONY COURTYARD FITS RIGHT IN.

  • THE BREAKFAST ROOM COMES WITH FRIENDLY SERVICE

  • AND A COMMANDING VIEW.

  • AND THE BEDROOMS ARE A TASTEFUL MIX

  • OF STONE AND WOOD.

  • THE HARBOR FRONT PROMENADE FEATURES

  • INVITING BARS AND COUCH-FILLED CAFES

  • WHICH ATTRACT A RELAXED CROWD.

  • THE SOFAS ENCOURAGE LOCALS AND VISITORS ALIKE

  • TO STAY A WHILE, AND,

  • IF YOU STAY LONG ENOUGH, NEARBY TAVERNAS,

  • AS RUSTIC RESTAURANTS ARE CALLED HERE,

  • SERVE THE FISH DISH OF YOUR DREAMS.

  • AN HOUR'S DRIVE EAST

  • IS THE SANCTUARY AT EPIDAVROS

  • WITH THE BEST-PRESERVED THEATER IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

  • SURROUNDED BY THE SCANT REMAINS OF ITS CITY.

  • IN 400 BC, EPIDAVROS, WITH A SPRAWLING COMPLEX

  • OF HOSPITALS AND SICK WARDS,

  • WAS THE MOST FAMOUS HEALING CENTER

  • IN THE GREEK WORLD.

  • IT WAS A PLACE OF MIRACULOUS CURES

  • AND COMFORTABLE BENCHES WHERE THE SICK CAME

  • TO BE TREATED BY DOCTOR PRIESTS DOING THE WORK

  • OF ASCLEPIOS, THE GREEK GOD OF MEDICINE.

  • THE HIGHLIGHT OF EPIDAVROS IS ITS FINE THEATER,

  • WHICH PROVIDED ENTERTAINMENT FOR THOSE WHO MADE

  • THE PILGRIMAGE HERE FROM ALL OVER GREECE.

  • IT CONTINUED TO OPERATE UNTIL 426 AD,

  • WHEN EMPEROR THEODOSIUS II, WHO WAS A CHRISTIAN,

  • CLOSED IT DOWN ALONG WITH ALL OTHER PAGAN SANCTUARIES.

  • GIVEN ITS SIZE, OVER 12,000 SEATS,

  • AND OBVIOUS LACK OF MODERN AMPLIFICATION,

  • THE ACOUSTICS NEEDED TO BE PERFECT,

  • AND THEY STILL ARE.

  • FRIENDS, GREEKS, WAYFARERS.

  • IN THESE TIMES OF DISCORD,

  • FEAR IS RAMPANT IN OUR SOCIETY.

  • I CONTEND THAT THE FLIP SIDE OF FEAR

  • IS UNDERSTANDING, AND THOSE WHO TRAVEL

  • WILL REAP GREAT UNDERSTANDING BY MEETING PEOPLE

  • WHO FIND OTHER TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT

  • AND GOD-GIVEN.

  • [ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ]

  • THE RUGGED, SPARSELY POPULATED TERRAIN

  • OF THE PELOPONNESE EVOKES ANCIENT TIMES

  • WHEN GREEKS CONSIDERED THIS

  • A MYSTERIOUS AND FRIGHTENING LAND --

  • A MYTHIC WORLD OF TERRIFYING CREATURES.

  • NO WONDER IT WAS HERE THAT HERCULES WAS SENT

  • TO PERFORM MOST OF HIS DAUNTING LABORS.

  • ANCIENT ATHLETES WERE TESTED HERE, AS WELL.

  • THE SANCTUARY OF OLYMPIA

  • WAS THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES.

  • DESPITE THE TOURIST CROWDS, IT REMAINS

  • AN EVOCATIVE PLACE NESTLED AMONG SHADY TREES.

  • WANDERING ITS EXTENSIVE RUINS, ITS CLEAR

  • OLYMPIA WAS MUCH MORE THAN A STADIUM.

  • YES, ZEUS.

  • LOCAL TOUR GUIDE NIKI VLACHOU HELPS EXPLAIN.

  • SO, IT'S CALLED THE SANCTUARY OF OLYMPIA.

  • YES, BUT IT WAS PRIMARILY A RELIGIOUS PLACE

  • DEDICATED TO ZEUS AND THE REST OF THE GODS

  • WITH TEMPLES ALL OVER, AND IT WAS ONLY

  • OPEN TO PEOPLE DURING THE GAMES...

  • OKAY.

  • FOR OVER 1,000 YEARS.

  • Steves: THE TEMPLE OF ZEUS WAS MAGNIFICENT

  • IN THE 5th CENTURY BC, AND REMINDS US THAT

  • THE GAMES WERE HELD IN HONOR OF THE SUPREME DEITY

  • OF THE GREEK PANTHEON, OR WORLD OF GODS.

  • INSIDE THIS TEMPLE WAS THAT AMAZING STATUE OF ZEUS

  • WHICH WAS CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF

  • THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD.

  • GOLD AND IVORY TOWERING IN THE TEMPLE

  • THAT MADE THE GREEKS LOSE THEIR MINDS

  • BY SEEING ZEUS ALIVE IN FRONT OF THEM.

  • THIS WAS ONE OF THEIR CHANCES TO MEET

  • THE GOD IN PERSON, AS THEY THOUGHT.

  • Steves: SIX CENTURIES AFTER CHRIST,

  • EARTHQUAKES SENT ITS COLUMNS TUMBLING.

  • TODAY, THEY LIE HERE,

  • AS IF TO ILLUSTRATE HOW GREEK COLUMNS

  • WERE STACKS OF FLUTED LIMESTONE DRUMS

  • HELD TOGETHER WITH SQUARE PEGS.

  • THE POPULARITY OF THE GAMES GREW RAPIDLY,

  • ATTRACTING ATHLETES FROM THROUGHOUT THE GREEK WORLD

  • TO COMPETE IN AN EVER-INCREASING NUMBER OF EVENTS.

  • THERE WAS JAVELIN, DISCUS, BOXING.

  • THERE WAS A SPRINT OF ONE STADIUM LENGTH,

  • THE TWO-STADIUM SPRINT, EVEN TWO-STADIUM SPRINT

  • NAKED WITH ALL YOUR ARMOR.

  • THE LAST OF THE ANCIENT GAMES WERE HELD IN 393 AD,

  • NOT TO BE STARTED AGAIN FOR 1,500 YEARS.

  • SO, WHY THE GAMES?

  • Vlachou: TO UNIFY THE GREEKS, TO STRENGTHEN THE GREEK CULTURE,

  • AND TO ALSO TEACH ALL THESE YOUNG BOYS

  • THE MILITARY SKILLS THEY NEEDED.

  • PLUS, THEY HAD ALL THESE CLASSROOMS HERE