Mary Ivine’s Blog: Greek Classical Tour – Part the Third

015 Epidauros Holiday with AbiEpidauros always puts me in mind of an Easter I spent there with Esther and family. It’s memorable for two reasons. The first was the guest of honour, the old Yiayia, who was ‘forgetful’. She needed close watching as she stuffed food into her mouth indiscriminately. The Easter eggs went in, shell and all. Chocolates were scrunched along with their silver paper. Her daughter was constantly reaching into her mother’s mouth to extract shell and/or paper as the old lady went into choking fits.

The second reason was my friend Aliki who was driving over from Spetses to join us in devouring the paschal lamb which had duly been cleaned, sewn up and spitted. However, as the spit turned and the meat slowly cooked the private parts broke free and made a slapping sound every time the body came full circle. Aliki, Greek by birth but the product of an English boarding school, showed her command of both English and Greek in risqué terms. The escaped member ended up on Aliki’s plate being eaten with great relish. Another delicacy I passed on.

Back to the Classical tour – Epidauros

(Επίδαυρος, Epidavros. The au here is pronounced as av. Sometimes it’s pronounced as aff. There are rules but don’t worry about them . I didn’t – picked it up by listening. Seemed to work.)

From Mycenae we went off to Ancient Epidauros, only a short drive away. (I stress ‘Ancient’ so you don’t get confused with ‘New’ or ‘Old’. The ‘Old’ had once been the ‘New’ but wasn’t any more. It was now the ‘Old’. Get it. Neither did I till I got off a ‘bus in an exceptionally scenic, if somewhat, lonely, area… Bless the mobile ‘phone, once I’d got a signal. Why did I not get the next ‘bus? Simple – there was only one a day!)

The theatre at Epidauros is impressive, the best preserved of any of the ancient theatres. It’s renowned for the perfect acoustics and it was always supposed the Ancients had some specialist knowledge way ahead of their time in this respect. Well, they did, in a way. A 2007 study , using the most advanced instruments available, discovered that the rows of limestone seats filter out low-frequency sounds, such as the murmur of the crowd, and amplify high-frequency sounds from the stage. Apparently, the Greek builders of the theatre did not realise what it was that gave such wonderful acoustics. They replicated the design of the theatre but never made the connection with the actual material used. So no other theatre had such perfect acoustics.

Abi and I decided to test the acoustics so she went to the very top layer of seats whilst I stood mid-stage and recited the only linesof Classical Greek I could remember. Part of Hecuba’s lament over the death of her daughter. If memory serves me correctly it is from ‘Hecuba’ by Euripides. Abi heard every word – at least she heard me spouting something – and I got a round of applause from other tourists.

The theatre is still used on a regular basis for performances of Greek drama and Shakespeare as well as more modern offerings.

Greece May 2011 091Nafplion

Nafplion (Ναυπλία – This is a case where the au says aff!)

We drove to the nearby seaport of Nafplion for an overnight stop. After dinner we went for a walk round the town. It was quite busy and I remember seeing an old lady dragging a heavily loaded cart along the road whilst her husband walked alongside. No doubt his role was an advisory one. We left at 7.30 the next morning so had no time to see any of the beautiful Venetian and Turkish buildings, or spend time wandering round the myriads of little streets. I was fortunate in that I did subsequently spend time there, years later, with my Swiss friend, Esther.

We were now on out way to Sparta but were stopping off at Mystras. I had never been to Mystras either so this was virgin territory for us both. Next time…

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This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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