I have gone on about it before, but one of the things about Greece is it's just so friggin' old - civilisation-wise. Flaunt-able old, with its visible ruins and temples, its hillside pillars and castles. Look, say the Greeks, at how we were at the centre of history - at least for a while.
I mean, even the underpass between platforms at Corinth train station has display cases of ancient pottery found in tombs nearly. OK, maybe they are replicas, but anywhere else in the world an underpass is lined with graffiti and ads for McDonalds.
The Peloponnese is almost as old as it gets in terms of Greek civilisations (well, after the Minoans on Crete). As early as 1500BC, the Mycenaeans were building cities with palaces, columned buildings, and (relatively) sophisticated water gathering systems. They had a written language (unusual at the time), and the engineering nous to design royal tombs with huge domed roofs.
The so-called Tomb of Agamemnon, built in 1300BC next to Ancient Mycenae, has a dome 13m high, with a diameter of 14.5m, and stones fitted together without the use of mortar. For more than 1000 years, this was the largest domed structure on earth - and it's still there! You can go inside! We did! It is truly amazing! (Cut the exclamation marks - ED)
Luckily we have the mythical blind poet Homer to tell us about the ancient Mycenaeans. Because, to be fair, at Mycenae at least, apart from the tombs, some walls, a couple of huge gates, and a cool underground cistern with a staircase hewn out of the rock, there isn't a whole lot left.* You kinda have to guess where the bath was where Clytemnestra murdered her husband Agamemnon, when he came back from Troy. (She was understandably pissed off that he had sacrificed their daughter to ensure favourable winds for the journey. Also, she had a new lover. So bye bye Agamemnon.)
But the fact that the ruins at Mycenae are almost 3000 years old is simply awe-inspiring. As is the size of some of the stones they used. For example, the lintel on the main gate is 4.5m long, almost 2m wide, 1m thick - and is thought to weigh 12-20 tonnes (they haven't taken it down to check). The ones at the back aren't much smaller.
You can understand why (Ancient) Greeks coming across the ruins of Mycenae a few hundred years later reckoned the walls had been built by Cyclopes, the mythical giants. How the hell else did those stones get up there?
*Actually, there is more stuff - including statues and carvings from the site, plus gold and other rich artefacts that came out of the tombs. But most stuff is now in museums in Athens, which we haven't seen yet. It's probably also in other countries' museums.