Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Lost Cities of Greece VIII: The Mighty Walls of Tyrins

Plan of Tyrins

I promised myself I would break away from the Lost Cities Series and give you readers something else to ponder, and although we've got a little write-up about some Saronic Island Hopping coming up soon I just couldn't resist a little blog about exploring yet another "Lost City". This time we'll be going to Tiryns, or as Homer refers to it, "Mighty Walled Tiryns".

For years now every time I venture into Nafplio and drive past the archaeological site of Tiryns I always used to think, "What exactly is just behind those Mighty Walls?" With a day off and a storm approaching Athens I figured it was time to satisfy that curiosity.

For the sake of the reader I took the road to Tyirns by way of public transport with hopes that this would better inform you on how to get there if you are visiting Greece and staying in Athens. When I got going the sky was grey and looked as if it was going to open  up and pour out rain. In fact, as unusual as it was for an August in Greece, the forecast had predicted rain, but not for Nafplio and the surrounding areas. I was safe and not only ready to explore the site of Tiryns but to also spend a little time on the beach.

Getting to the Bus Terminal:

The first thing I had to do was take the metro and get off at Omonia. From Omonia there is a Bus #51 on the corner of Zinos and Meandrou that will take you all the way to Terminal A (100 Kiffissou St.) where one gets the bus to not only Nafplio, but to other amazing places around that beautifully built Venitain city. I hadn't been in Omonia for a long time, mainly because of its progressively poor state. Omonia is not necessarily a dangerous place per se, but it is without a doubt dirty and seedy. I had the misfortune of getting a bit turned around trying to find bus #51. I won't go into detail about what I saw, but could honestly, and sadly, compare it to a third world countries red-light district. In short, mind your surroundings.

Omonia Metro Stop. Watch out for pickpockets.

Wait here for Bus 51. As you can see its the only bus that stops here.
Here's your bus.
Once I got to the bus stop I only waited 10 minutes top for the bus. Off we went through some more gloomy back alley streets of Omonia. The good thing was that within a few minutes we had arrived at Terminal A. Following the crowd I was kind of led into a huge room surrounding with ticket booths for buses gong to all kinds of locations. Quickly I found mine, which was closed. I asked the ladies at one of the desk where I could buy tickets and she pointed and said, in Greek, "Gate 37". I then went outside, found gate 37 and went into the small room beside it. Inside it looked more like a post-office or a courier service than a ticket office. Stepping up to the counter I asked for a round trip ticket (3 Euros discount when you get a round trip deal and its open-ended and valid for one month). Unfortunately for me the bus company was having some sort of strike and this caused a 2 hour delay. The next bus wasn't scheduled to leave till 13:30. What could I do but wait. I waited around a bit and found myself having lunch and a beer at the bus terminal. Surprisingly it wasn't as bad as one would think.
Choose a window. This is Terminal A

Here's where the buses are parked and waiting.

That weird little place where you get your ticket. Note Greek on the left and English on the right....Easy huh?

Our bus should be here.

You get a slight discount if you buy the return ticket at the same time. Plus its an open ticket. Leave when you want.


In only about 2 and 1/2 hours time we were passing the walls of Tyrins and making our way into the Venetian built town of Nafplio, Greece's capital city before King Otto changed it back in 1834. I could have probably saved myself a taxi ride by jumping to the front and telling the bus driver to simply stop, but I didn't so there I was in Nafplio. When I got into town grey storm clouds loomed overhead, which in turn thwarted my plans to go for a swim after Tyrins and have a nice meal outside at one of the local taverns. I quickly searched to see if there were any shuttles going from Nafplio to Tyrins, but alas there were not, as I had suspected in the beginning. The only way to go was to take it by way of taxi. Taxis wouldn't be so bad in Greece if most of them didn't run their taxi services like the mafia. 20 Euros was the damage for a 5 minute ride to the archaeological site, 50 Euros for the taxi driver to wait and take you back. The taxi driver I selected, or who selected me, was so organized that he even had a brochure stating the prices and excursions he could give you around the area, including a ride up to Pallamidies Castle.

Here's what Tyrins looks like when you whiz past it in the KTEL Bus

When we arrived at the site the driver told me he'd wait for an additional fee. Inquiring how long he would wait he said, "10 minutes." I didn't feel this would be enough time as the site is quite massive in its appearance from the outside. After exploring the site, ticket costing only 3 Euros, I realized that if you don't have any knowledge of Bronze Age Sites then 10 minutes at Tyrins might be too much time. Because I knew a bit more than your average layman I could spend a little more time at the site, but my time spent there probably didn't exceed more than 30 minutes. A museum on location could have taken up more time but most of the findings in the Argolis area are either in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens or in the museum located in the center of Nafplio.

Other than the sites outward appearance and massive size I don't think I truely realized how much strength and knowledge it must have taken these ancient builders to build Tyrins. One really realizes it when you see some of the masonry that has toppled over. This gives one a better idea how large and heavy these stones would have been. It was no wonder why the ancients believed the Cyclops giants erected them, and why the name cyclopean still holds evident to this day.

Note the size of the people compared to the massive masonry

This took a lot of work to do at the time it was done!


Having been to many other Bronze Age Sites, such as the most famous Mycenae where the alleged gold funeral mask of king Agamemnon was found by the classics enthusiast Henrick Schleimen, I pretty much knew what to expect of the site. The list would go something like this: rocks, big rocks, really big rocks, then, "Oh my God that's a huge rock". I'd venture to say that the most interesting things of the Bronze Age can be seen in museums, but walls, especially Bronze Age walls, can really tell one a lot about the people who were living behind them.

I believe the main thing any one would find interesting about these Bronze Age walls is that most of them are referred to as being Cyclopean Architecture, meaning, that the cyclopes giants were the only ones capable of building them (or so this is what the ancient Greeks believed).

Tiryns apparently reached its height somewhere between 1400-1200 BCE, and by 1150 BCE Tiryns might have had a population of about 15,000. Supposedly  Tiryns went into a sate of decline right around the end of the Mycenaean period, which would put that around 1100 BCE, which would be the last phase of the glorious Bronze Age. The collapse of Mycenaean Greece is somewhat perplexing with some scholars believing it came with the Dorian Invasion and others claiming its dissolve came from climatic changes or natural disasters. Whatever the case the epic age of Homer was all but forgotten if not for the oral traditions of old.

Tiryns, like Mycenae and Pylos were the administrative centers of the Mycenean world. Main evidence for this comes from the many tablets, or inventory records, found on all three of these sites. But is it possible that Tiryns could have been a port city/citadel as well? I haven't always thought about this, but once at the top of the site I realized the sea was probably much closer than what it is today...perhaps much, much closer. I also imagined that since the Mycenean floor plans greatly copy that of the Minoan Palaces it is most likely that if this was a "fortified port city" Tiryns would have been a very wealthy place due to its geographical positioning and commerce with the Minoans (Postpalitail 1420-1170 BCE) who surly were still in connection with the Egyptians.

By the 2nd century AD Tiryns was totally deserted and abandoned. Thanks to Pausanias we have written evidence of this. Tiryns really didn't get much recognition after Pausanias till Heinrick Schlemen came along and started excavating there between 1884-1885. It's hard to imagine that this stronghold was once busy with every day activities very much like our own activities to today.

Today Tiryns is one of those overlooked sites, but far from being overlooked and forgotten Tiryns was recognized as a UNESCO World Heratiage Site in 1999.

The main entrance to the site could easily be compared to that of the Lions Gate in Mycenae.

This way will lead you to what probably would have been the sites main entrance.

It was purposed that there were two gates beyond this door and that in a defensive tactic these two gates could be closed so that they could effectively trap invaders in a small area and then  possibly speared from above.

Being up-close to this one would probably say that this "hall/tunnel" is not very high at all. We have to remember that the average height of the ancient Greeks of the 5th cen BCE would have been somewhere around 170 cm/5.5 ft (males) and 159 cm/5.2 ft (females). Also keep in mind this was NOT built in the 5th cen BCE, but in the Bronze Age!

A lot of work and knowledge and skill must have gone into carving out these massive stones so that they would fit accordingly.

This is typically the kind of ruins left from Bronze Age Sites

Most likely a pivot for a door.

Getting There:
Car: The best way to get to Tyrins is to drive your own car. It will take you about 2 hours to reach Tyrins/Nafplio. You could always get a quote on rental cars from our website. Gas may set you back 30-40 Euros, but no more (current price per-liter is 1,65 Euros). Here's A Map
Bus: See Above
Taxi: From Athens to the site (one way) may cost around 200 euros (depending on the integrity of your driver).

Archeological Site Information:

Archeological Site Tel. +30 27520 - 22657

Museum Tel. N/A

Tickets: 3,00 Euros per-person 

Hours of Operation: 8 A.M. - 3 P.M.

Free admission days:

6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
5 June (International Environment Day)
18 April (International Monuments Day)
18 May (International Museums Day)
The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
27 September, International Tourism Day
Sundays in the period between 1 November and 31 March
National Holidays
Here's and extra link for more detailed information on the history of the site and the civilization that I think is worth reading. HERE.


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