Dateline: April 9, 2016 – Nafplio, Greece
Who knew there was an Oracle before Larry Ellison?
So we went on vacation to Greece, which is not exactly a sportfishing mecca. Don’t feel bad for me – I knew I wasn’t going to get away with going to Kona or Bimini every time. Besides, a trip to Greece had been a long time in the making, pretty much since Marta graduated college, which was at least 12 years ago. She had studied Classics, a major with an only slightly higher employment rate than my English and History degrees, and this means she knows a lot about ancient Greece and Rome. (My knowledge of these places is limited to “The Guns of Navarone” and “Life of Brian” respectively.) At least this would be a chance to add country number 88, and there is supposed to be some decent touristy stuff there. Sometimes, sacrifices must be made. And so, with a few calls and a modicum of planning, we were off …
Despite the best efforts of United Airlines, the flights were on time. We arrived in Athens just as the sun was setting, dropped off our luggage, and headed out to explore. This was another one of these places that I felt like I was walking around in an encyclopedia – I has seen photos of the Acropolis since I was a kid, and here I was looking up at it from my table at dinner. The food was excellent – at every single place we ate. Especially notable was the saganaki – fried cheese – because it incorporates two of my favorite things, cheese and fried.
The saganaki is on the left. Best appetizer EVER.
The Apocalypse, as photographed from our table at dinner.
We spent the next day wandering around the major sights – and although I will never admit this to her, it was fascinating to have Marta narrate the locations. We efficiently hopped from museum to museum, and it always amazes me that some small decorative object that sat on someone’s shelf collecting dust 2500 years ago is now viewed by thousands of people every year. I wondered who the person was, who made the pottery, and whether my aunt’s Franklin Mint cat plates would ever end up the same way.
The Caryatids. They were very popular in ancient Greece.
Marta and the Katydids, which sounds like a good name for a band.
The auditorium at the Acropolis. Neil Diamond played here. When it was new.
There’s a Christmas Card Shot.
In the military museum. I personally think the IGFA should give one of these away with the lifetime achievement awards.
In the days before email, they had chain mail.
I did get to say something I have been waiting 40 years to say. We got into a cab to go to the Polemico Museum. The cab driver was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t speak any English. We showed him where we wanted to go on a map, but he responded with a long speech in Greek. We do not speak the language, so I turned to Marta and said “It’s all Greek to me.” I reveled for a moment, satisfied that this verbal bucket-list item had been completed. Marta looked at me and said “You’re an idiot.”
Beware of Greeks gifting bears.
Day two was devoted to a road trip to Delphi, to see the fabled Oracle and some other ancient stuff that has nothing to do with fishing. We caught up with our new friend George the cab driver, and we headed north to visit one of the most important places in any ancient civilization.
George the cab driver. He became our buddy and local connection for the whole trip.
It’s about two hours of driving, but the scenery gets increasingly stunning as you get into the mountains.
The town of Arachavo – the gateway to Delphi.
Then we arrived at the actual site – a place where ancient Greeks had gone to make their most important political and military decisions. As it turns out, these were mostly based on the musings of inebriated young priestesses, but they managed to do fairly well right until they went on the Euro.
The Orifice at Delphi.
Standing by the Temple of Apoplexy.
We returned to Athens for the afternoon, and took in a few more sights, including the original Olympic stadium.
If you look closely, you can see Ryan Lochte firing his PR guy.
Marta also discovered the jewelry stores. Ouch.
We became close with Anastasious the jewelry store owner, Double ouch.
Another view of the Apocryphal from another restaurant.
The next day was the important one. Finally, we got to head south and go fishing. My spots were from an unlikely source – my semi-nephew Charlie. (Details HERE.) He had gone to Greece with his family last year, and somehow, my sister permitted him to go fishing, often for 10-15 minutes at a time, despite the terrible risks of disfigurement and disease the sport carries. Charlie kept good notes and passed them on to me. This, I will now confess, is the reason I pushed Nafplio so hard.
As we got close to Nafplio, Marta claims I may have gotten a bit antsy.
I guess it was a bit scenic, but I was too busy looking for shrimp to notice.
For three days, I had been good, or at least what passes for good in my case. I had embraced our time in Athens and not tried to fish while Marta was showing me around some of the most amazing ancient history on the planet. But now we were within a few miles of fish, and, understandably, I was a bit eager. I began pestering the driver about bait, tackle stores, charter boats, and a few dozen other details that I likely wanted that very second.
(Perspective from Marta – He was unbearable.)
Finally, after what seemed like several hours but was probably more like 15 minutes, I had rods together and I raced out to the jetty in front of out hotel, which was to be my home for most of the next 48 hours.
The jetty of Nafplio.
Yes, our hotel had a jetty in front of it, which I may now confess was a key reason it became our hotel. I began with high hopes, even being presumptuous enough to cast out a whole squid on a bigger rod. And, to be fair, the action was quick. Sabikis in the rocks produced a few bites, and then a hookup – a rainbow wrasse – a species I had gotten before but the one that had now put Greece as #88 on my country list.
Greece fits right between Gibraltar and Guatemala.
Now it was about species. I cast baits large and small near the jetty and as far as possible, but the only the sabikis produced for me. I got a nice variety of stuff I had gotten on previous Mediterranean trips – see “Yo, Adriatic“.
More colorful wrasses.
Marta got in on the action, catching, among others, some planehead filefish. Yes, I have caught them.
Marta adds Greece to her country list.
See, I told you.
It was getting late in the day when I pulled up what I thought at first was a small wrasse, but a closer examination – and I ALWAYS do a closer examination – revealed I had gotten a Mediterranean parrotfish. This was new, I was thrilled, and I was filled with hope for tomorrow.
If you were only here looking for new species, you can stop reading now.
On this basis, I finally agreed to come back to the hotel, wash the shrimp off my hands, and go to a lovely dinner with Marta. The town is beautiful and ancient, the restaurants and people are wonderful, and if there were more fish, I might have never left. One thing I was glad to leave, though, was the retsina, a local distillate that tastes like Pine-Sol but worse.
A view of our hotel as I reluctantly headed back for dinner.
The streets of Nafplio. Charming, but they could have used more bait stores.
I spent the next day much in the same place, with brief breaks for food and social interaction. I was certain that the Fish Gods would reward me with at least one more new species, but this area has been fished so hard for so many thousands of years that it’s tough to get anything. I certainly had fun – that second morning featured a run of horse mackerel that were decent sized and hit lures, but the species hunting remained thin pickings.
These things fight hard and hit lures. But the area has been overfished for millenia, so this was about it for dignified creatures.
Still, I was on the water in a lovely Greek seaside town, Marta was bringing me salami and cheese for lunch, and life was good.
We made a brief side trip in the afternoon to a few fishing villages down the coast. I was hoping to charter a local boat to try some deeper water, but this just was not to be, pretty much no matter how much money I offered. These guys seemed deeply rooted in tradition, and the tradition seemed to be sitting on benches near the boats.
Another view of Naflpio, from the top of a hill where Marta forced me to hike when I could have been fishing.
I only fished a couple of hours on the last morning – I had promised Marta that we would do some touring on the way back to Athens. Here I must share with all of you a bad thing I did. We were in a small museum, and the women’s restroom on the main floor was closed. Marta agreed to use the men’s – a one-seat affair – if I would guard the door. So I let her get comfortable, then started shuffling across the room and mumbling nonsense Greek phrases – “Oikos saganaki souvlaki Acropolis oikos” in my best old-man voice. I then knocked on the bathroom door, expecting Marta to say, “Ha, ha, you idiot.” But she didn’t. She thought I had abandoned my post and let an old Greek guy in. So she timidly said “Occupied.” I said “Oikos! Saganaki!” In a small voice, she ventured back “Occupied.” I shuffled out, mumbling “Oikos!” (Oikos is a brand of yogurt.)
Moments later, she came racing up to me in the museum and said “You idiot! You wandered away and some old guy came in and tried to use the bathroom!” I smiled and said “Oikos” in my old man voice. She actually laughed … after she smacked me in the temple. Speaking of temples, we visited Mycenae on the way back to Athens. (Yes, I know it’s actually a palace and not a temple, but go with the pun here.)
The Lion’s Gate at Mycenae. For those of you who have read the Iliad, Agamemon lived here. For those of you who haven’t, never mind. If he was that big of a deal, Brad Pitt would have played him.
Marta and I flew to Germany the next morning, where we played tourist for a day before I headed into the office and she headed to New York for a business trip of her own. We would meet again in only four days, for a little getaway I had planned at one of the most romantic locations on earth – the IGFA headquarters in Dania Beach, Florida.
SPECIAL BONUS UPDATE – GERMAIN VISIT
Just a couple of weeks before the Greece trip, we were … blessed … with a visit from my sister and her family.
The Germain family – never quite prepared for the camera.
Yes, the kids are growing up. Yes, I’ve caught one of these.
Of course, we did some fishing, or I wouldn’t have mentioned the whole thing. We headed to Tiburon, scene of so many surfperch records, just hoping to get the kids a decent assortment of San Francisco Bay critters.
Charlie chipped in with this solid walleye surfperch.
Elizabeth got several jacksmelt that approached – but didn’t quite make – a pound.
And just before we used up our whole 15 minutes, I stumbled into a big striped surfperch – a 1.75 pounds, it tied the current record. Even five years after the run of perch records Martini and I got here, the place is still producing – and there are certainly worse places to spend an afternoon.
An unexpected record.