24 April 2015

Nauplion's Bavarian remnants

This is the front door of Bettina Schinas' house, opposite. Ag. Giorgios. The door was imported from Trieste, probably just after 1830 -- apparently all the best new houses had doors from Trieste. Bettina and her husband Konstantinos rented the house from Andreas Miaoulis for 1834-35, before they moved to Athens with the Bavarian court.  It is a splendidly carved door.

Photo, Brigitte Eckert, 2010.
Another view of Bettina's house. This deterioration cannot be blamed on the economic crisis. It takes a long time for a house like this to disintegrate. But this house is a significant element in Nauplion's heritage, and it is a disappointment and a shame that no one seems to find it important. Bettina wrote wonderful letters to her family from this house, describing Nauplion and the people she met --Kolettis, Miaoulis, Petro-Bey Mavromichaelis -- and later wrote wonderful letters about Athens. Brigitte Eckert made extensive translations from the letters so Surprised by Time could publish them.

If you stand facing the bus station, and take the first corner to your right, you will come almost immediately to the door with these elegant lion heads (there is a small cafe). Below the lion heads are panels of exceptional carving – swags of leaves and little monster heads on either side of a shell, and then below that, a deeply-inset panel with the head of a Bavarian Green Man. 

 The condition of this door has been developing for a long time: it is not a casualty of the economic crisis.  But the disregard of Nauplion for such an exceptional work of art is another example of the carelessness demonstrated, for example, towards the Venetian staircase and gate to Akro-Nauplion.  I would imagine that there is a lot of experience in Bavaria where preservation and restoration of wood carvings are concerned, and some of the ill feelings of the economic crisis might well be relieved by a Bavarian mission to help restore this shared heritage.

The grandest of the surviving Bavarian houses is just up the street if you take the first left when you are facing the bus station.  Here a classical-style Bavarian door has been built accommodated to the contemporary Greek stonework. The house belonged to the Count von Armansperg, First Minister to the King.  

Photo, Brigitte Eckert, 2010.

This was the first house in Nauplion to have a piano.  Bettina wrote about going to a party there.
"I must report about the evening at the Armanspergs. Beautiful rooms nicely decorated, filled with all kinds of people, diplomats, officers, dressed in Bavarian uniforms, as palikaria or French; also the ladies dressed French or Greek. The countess in mourning because of the Duke von Altenburg’s death. She received me very kindly, complaining there would be no dancing because of the death. The daughters very pretty, very modest and polite, offered me conversation as they noticed I didn’t know anybody. The older played the piano later very skillful. The many rooms were crowded -- tea, ice cream, lemonades were offered. When the Countess saw me speaking with Kolettis, (I was standing up because he is so tall) she came and offered us 2 chairs next to each other so we could speak seated; the daughter played the piano, so we stopped our conversation." 

Photos, DW, November 2014.

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