I can scarcely describe what I felt during my trip to Greece. It is a country that is staggering in its beauty, virtually every month of the year! There are so many travelers who want everything to be perfect and planned but sometimes it is the spontaneity that makes the difference. What is the point if you will tour according to a schedule and then go home? I have found the best way to just use a rented car and blend in with your surroundings as if you have always lived there. There are delights to be found in each corner of the city if you know where to look!
For true Athenians, there is no greater joy than to spend the weekend or even just a day in the spell-bounding city of Nafplion. There are twisting roads in this seaport and breath-taking scenery to take in and you can always indulge in a little shopping and an afternoon respite at the numerous roadside cafes there. If you are an enthusiast of Venetian and Turkish historical buildings, you will love roaming around and taking in the architectural fortifications as well as sculptures which have rich tales of the past to tell!
I almost felt like I was in a fairytale- what with the magnificent Palamidi Fortress that towers over a thousand steps of stairs, the Boutrzi Castle which is also known as the 'water castle.' Imagine that! It was made to protect the city of Nafpion from pirates and invaders. When I visited it, I could almost see the castle back in olden times-it hadn't changed all that much. Amidst all this rich culture, there is bougainvillea almost everywhere in the city with a number of colors to entice the weary traveler. Sometimes it will provide a shower of color when the wind blows and other times much needed shade under its petals.
When I was travelling from Athens to Nafpion, I had to stop in a dear little town called Loutraki. It is a vacationing spot that falls right on the Gulf of Corinth and is a mere sixty kilometers from Athens. I soon found that Loutraki had been almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in the year 1928 which is why there is little apparent history here and all the architecture is fairly new and boasts of modern design. As a tired traveler, I took part in their world-famous spa-like baths and it was an invigorating experience like nothing I have ever had! After a nice hot bath I enjoyed a gelato by the sea in a little place called the Koukos Glace. It was very hard for me to decide, so many flavors of gelato and some so new, like Baklava!
I had been told that the best restaurant to enjoy authentic Greek Cuisine is Maestrali and hence I visited that next. Even a simple dish of beef pasta is enough to arouse the senses; believe me! Not to mention you get a considerable entrée size. For lovers of seafood I recommend Giannis which has a lovely Pikilia seafood platter and shrimp saganaki- again with portions big enough to serve an army! If you find you are craving a bit of American food, the Loutraki casino is a wonderful place for a buffet breakfast. On your way out of Loutraki, remember to snap a lot of photos in the Corinth Canal- I know I did. It's the perfect tourist spot.
Speaking of which there is much history to be devoured in the ancient Corinth as it is known as the location of the Greeks learning about Christianity for the first time from the Apostle Paul. There is a museum made here to the effect for history enthusiasts to brush up on their facts. Next head on over to Nafpion but make sure it is before the sun sets as you want to be able to enjoy this seaport in all its glory which may be masked by the cover of night. When the evening does descend however, don't waste an opportunity to shop a bit more! When I was there I found this small shop and thoughts I'd spend all my money even though I'm usually a careful spender- such is the magic of the place!
I found the perfect little souvenir shop on Amalias 4 called Takis Souvenirs and found myself striking up a conversation with the shop-owner who you could tell was madly in love with the city he lived in and had a lot to say about it. What a delightful man! The energy was so good, we did some serious shopping with my friend and loved every minute of it!
In Nafpion I found the best dining experience to be provided by Kipos, at Plateia Filellinon, although I wish I could have visited every restaurant in the city. As a tourist I would say keep your belongings close by and in check as a foreign country can pose any number of unique challenges- it is better to not draw too much attention to yourself. Do visit Nafpion at least once; I know you'll love it!