Today we are in Peloponnesian Nafplio — Venetian built — and formerly the capital of Greece. From here, the plan is to make day trips into Epidauros to visit the healing Temple of Asclepius and the legendary theatre alongside her, and to Mycenae, to visit the ancient seat of Greek civilization. But things are not working exactly to plan. The weather has changed dramatically, with a chill wind blowing red dust (from Arabia, no less), transforming this most exquisite of cities into a sinister twilight world of wind, haze and dust. To make matter worse, we have checked into the portentously named “Hotel E_______”, staffed by an elderly couple I suspected immediately to be cannibals. In a cost cutting venture, there was not a light on in the entire hotel, and despite being the only guests in a 50-plus room building, we were given strict orders about where we could and couldn’t go. As a side note, and to continue my newfound pastime of cataloguing the bathrooms of Europe, “E_______” was about as well endowed with faculties as a Soviet psychiatric facility. One had to spend fifteen minutes manually pumping water into the toilet before it would actually flush. Which, given the delicious figs on offer, was bound to be an issue, in the end.
Well, we made it to Epidauros all right, and despite a three hour wait for a phantom bus ride, had a splendid time. The next morning was even gustier, and we even considered throwing in our plans to visit Mycenae. Anything to get out of this. But the Arabian winds had weaved a strange magic, and our resolution to make for the ruins, whatever the weather, was soon validated by what can only be called an omen. So surreal was this moment that Jess and I argued for hours whether our wind addled minds had simply conjured an illusion. As we marched irritably towards the bus stand, our wits at an end, we found running alongside us on the road, of all things, a peacock. A more perfect specimen of its breed have I never seen, appearing as if by magic, or carried by storm from Arabia. And I kid you not when I write that, as soon as Jess began scrambling for her camera, the thing disappeared. For five minutes we stopped and looked for it, but could not find a feather. Suffice to say, we thereafter smiled despite the winds, and spent a marvellous day wandering the ruins of Mycenae, after which the sun re-emerged and the dust cleared, granting us one perfect night beside the waters of Nafplio.