The next morning, Sunday, it is drizzly and dreary, but we are up, well breakfasted, and ready to explore Nafplio in the daylight by 9:30. The shops don’t open until 10 at the earliest, so we wander, taking pictures of the odd shrine or balcony over the narrow streets. I am enchanted to hear Greek Orthodox chanting coming from somewhere directly behind a little shrine. When the shops finally open we do our best to assist the Greek economy, haggling over shirts, jewelry, and souvenirs.
After leaving Nafplio, we head southwest to Sparta (not knowing this of course), past orange groves in full bloom (oh the smell!) and pistachio groves, for which the region is famous. Some of us managed to get hold of maps and follow road signs, and then we tried to guess where we were going. Kalamata? Sparta? No, we just passed through Sparta . . . and headed uphill to have an alfresco lunch in a small hillside restaurant under an awning, overlooking Sparta. After lunch we climbed just a bit higher and disembarked the bus outside the hilltop fortress of Mistra, where there are several old Byzentine churches, one of them still operating every Sunday, tended by nuns and a visiting priest. We were sure we could hike up to the top, to the castle fortress, but we were wrong. Although it always seemed to be just around the next bend, it never actually got any CLOSER!
Our legs shaking, we got back in our bus and headed back to Sparta for dinner in an outdoor courtyard (where we gave a significant portion of dinner to the local feral cats) – and our hotel.