Thursday 27 October 2022


Just before leaving for the UK we spent two days in Nafplio. Ken and I used to go to Nafplio a lot when we first met, but had not been for over 35 years. It was good going back.

Nafplio is a coastal city located in the Peloponnese. Founded in antiquity, the city became an important seaport in the Middle Ages. It was then taken by French crusaders in 1212 and in 1388 was sold to the Republic of Venice. When the Turks invaded Greece the city became part of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks occupied Greece for 400 years until the bloody uprising when the country was liberated in 1821. Nafplio then became the capital of the First Hellenic Republic from 1827 until 1834 when the capital was moved to Athens.

Nafplio is a great place to visit: the old town is charming and has maintained its old character - we wandered around its narrow of streets for hours soaking up the atmosphere;

the coastal path is a real pleasure for walking.

There are lots of attractions and I have included four in this post: the fortress of Palamidi; Bourtzi the castle on an island in the middle of the bay; the church where Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece was assassinated; and Acronauplia, the old city wall.

To the east of Acronauplia (the town's fortifications), nestled on the crest of a 216-metre high hill, stands Palamidi, the fortress built by the Venetians during their second occupation of the area, as a means of warding off Ottoman attacks. 

It's a typical baroque fortress which was built in a relatively short period of three years and finished in 1714.

Eventually it was captured by the Ottomans when they occupied Greece for 400 years, and remained under their control until 1821 when it was freed during the Greek Was of Independence.

It has eight bastions and there are 1000 steps in the winding stair from the town to the fortress.

Unfortunately we did not have time to go up to the fortress this time, but I did go all those years ago.

In the middle of the port, located on the island of Agioi Theodoroi, sits Bourtzi, a castle built by the Venetians to protect from attacks from the Turks. Thick chains ran from the castle to the mainland to prevent enemy ships from docking.

The fortress, a three-story tower,  follows the shape of the island, it consists of a central octogonal tower framed by low semicircular towers and cannon batteries.

It ceased to be used as a castle in 1865 and became a prison and a place of executions. The executioners were disliked by the inhabitants of the towns and because of the outrage they were forbidden to leave Bourtzi unless they had police escort. In the 1930s the castle was converted into a hotel with the result that the interventions markedly altered the monument. During WWII Nafplio was bombed resulting in damage to Bourtzi. 

Today it's used as a tourist attraction.

Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831) was the first governor of Greece after the War Independence from the Turks. After a long and distinguished career in European politics and diplomacy he was elected as the first head of state of independent Greece. 

He declared the foundation of the Hellenic State and from the first capital of Greece, Nafplion, he used in a new era in the country. From the beginning, he launched a major reform and modernisation programme that covered all areas: he established military unity, bringing an end to the Greek divisions; he introduced the first modern quarantine system in Greece, which brought epidemics like typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery under control for the first time since the start of the War of Independence; he negotiated with the Great Powers and the Ottoman Empire the borders and the degree of independence of the Greek state and signed the peace treaty that ended the War Independence with the Ottomans; introduced the phoenix, the first modern Greek currency; organised local administration; and, in an effort to raise the living standards of the population, introduced the cultivation of the potato into Greece.

He was however hated by the elite and factions of the upper classes who did not feel he safeguarded their interests enough, and who identified with the British position which was that of  a much smaller Greek state, which would comprise only the Peloponnese - a position that Kapodistrias had strongly rejected and fought against. 

They managed to have him  assassinated on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon in 1831.

Two plaques outside the church are reminders of this.

We went inside the church

and saw a painting that recreates the assassination.

Finally, the story of how Kapodistrias, (keen to raise the living standards of the population after the hardships of the occupation by the Turks), introduced the cultivation of the potato in Greece makes me laugh, so I will share it here. 

Kapodistrias bought tons of potatoes and ordered that they be handed out to anyone interested. The population was reluctant to take advantage of the offer. So, then he ordered that the whole shipment of potatoes be unloaded on public display on the docks of Nafplion and placed it under guard to make the people believe that they were valuable. Soon, people would gather to look at the guarded potatoes and some started to steal them. The guards had been ordered to turn a blind eye to such behaviour and soon the potatoes had all been 'stolen' and his plan to introduce them to Greece had succeeded.

Finally the area surrounding Nafplio has been inhabited since ancient times, but few signs of this remain aside from the walls of Acronauplia. The town has been a stronghold on several occasions during Classical Antiquity. The Acronauplia has walls dating from pre-classical times. Subsequently Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Turks added to the fortifications.

Acronauplia is the oldest part of the city. Until the 13th century it was a town on its own. The arrival of the Venetians and the Franks transformed into part of the town fortifications. Other fortifications of the city include Palamidi and Bourtzi.

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