With only three days to spend in Greece, we knew we wanted to go outside of Athens and explore some of the other ancient ruin sites. Olympus and Delphi were high on the list, but the travel time was too lengthy, so we settled for Corinth and Mycenae.
Ancient Corinth turned out to be the perfect place to explore both an ancient and modern Greek city. The ancient ruins are located just inside the modern city and a short walk from family owned restaurants and shops. We stopped first at the ancient ruins, with some trepidation as we had been warned that the admission prices were high and the staff was unfriendly. We were delighted to learn that admission was free on Sunday and thanks to the magic of traveling with two small children, the staff was extremely accommodating.
Compared to Athens, the atmosphere inside the city was so much more relaxed and unhurried. I was especially grateful for opportunity to let the boys have a little more freedom in running and climbing among the ruins. Piles of rocks and stones just beckon little boys to ramble and after the constant reminding at the Acropolis, it was nice to let loose a bit.
The city is, well, in ruins, so much imagination is needed to flesh out the buildings. We were able to get a good feel for the size and the layout of the city,though. In preparation for our visit to Corinth, we had watched a series called Drive Through History with David Stotts. This series focuses on Biblical archeology, but also gave us a visual tour of the city before we arrived. Using the video turned out to be a terrific treasure hunt for the kids as we wandered through the city.
First up, we started on our search for a capital that was decorated with carved menorah. This carving, along with other inscriptions point to the existence of a synagogue in ancient Corinth. Given that Corinth was a major metropolitan trade route, it is not surprising that a synagogue would have been available. Biblical scholars believe that this synagogue was visited by St. Paul as mentioned in Acts 18.
Our next hunt was for the site of the ancient bema. The bema would have been situated in the agora as a place for Roman officials to make public declarations. During his eighteen months in Corinth, St. Paul was accused of "persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law." This declaration and Paul's answer to the accusation would have occurred at the bema.
With the boys to content to play for a while among the cobbled stones, I took the opportunity to sit and soak in the culture. When traveling with young kids, it is rare to have any moment of solitude, so for that reason alone I will remember this moment fondly. As a bonus, while we were resting among the ruins, a small church service started underneath the shade of the trees nearby. A gathering of 30 people of all ages, from the tiny baby to those too old to stand, congregated around a grouping of stones and began to sing. Although the lyrics were in Greek, I recognized the tune and was able to sing along in what can only be described as a 'small world' moment that I will not soon forget.
Our last hunt took us outside the main part of the city to the ruins of the theatre. We were on the hunt for the Erastus stone and we found it buried among the stones along the walkway. The inscription on the stone tells us that Erastus, who was in charge of the city's finances, laid this stone at his own expense. Biblical scholars have connected this stone to the Erastus mentioned in Romans 16:23. If this is the same Erastus mentioned in this verse, this stone is the only remaining archeological inscription of a person mentioned in the Bible.
Although we had exhausted our treasure hunting list, the list had led us to more areas to explore. Inside the theatre ruins, the boys discovered a passageway that led into a dark hole. After a heated discussion about who should go first, they plucked up their courage and climbed in with a flashlight to explore the passage. You have never seen such a mixture of relief and excitement as they emerged from the passageway on the opposite side of the theatre. A tunnel connecting the two holes proved to be a perfect play area for the two adventure seekers, although I still shudder to think what could have been living inside there.
With our exploration of ancient Corinth complete, our rumbling tummies beckoned us to the climb the steep hill and search for food in the modern city. On the way the boys found a playground and took a few minutes to play, allowing me some uninterrupted time to shop among the pottery shops that lined the streets.
At the top of the hill, we found a lovely family restaurant and chose a seat in the courtyard to enjoy the sunny weather. Instead of offering us a menu, the owner, who spoke decent English, brought us into the kitchen and allowed us to choose among the foods he had available. He encouraged the boys to sample the authentic Greek food, but promised to make them a pizza just in case. They thought this was a pretty good deal and chose a nice sampling of local fare.
Back outside in the courtyard, we had a few moments to enjoy to culture around us. Locals were attracted to the two little boys with red hair and happily tried out all of the words they knew in English. We had only been able to learn one Greek word (thank you) so we put that to use many times, whether appropriate or not. The many resident stray dogs were also a great entertainment to the boys, and while we found it strange to eat with so many animals underfoot, the boys were delighted.
We finished up our lunch and offered our leftovers to some very happy dogs. Once more we used the only Greek word in our lexicon and offered an 'efharistó' to the city of Corinth as we moved on to Mycenae.