Friday, May 29, 2009

Greek Easter, Spring Break II, and Corinth (APRIL 27-30, 2009)

Hello again! This post covers a long period of time because I really didn't do that much. After submitting my final project for Helma, our class took a break for Easter and just to have a week off of school. Everyone else went off somewhere, but lucky for me, my vacation was coming to me. On Thursday morning, I got up early to pick up Katt from Piraeus, the Athenian port. She had been in Crete for the past month doing grunt work at INSTAP, an archaeological center in Crete. She had taken the overnight ferry from Iraklion to Piraeus, and she got in at 5 am, two hours before I could get to her. I met her in the train station in Piraeus, and she was exhausted and stressed, so I got her the closest thing I could to a chocolate muffin and we set out for Athens, where she would meet up with Angelo, her landlord, and settle into her flat in Athens, where I would also be staying until the last week of May and commuting to the Athens Centre. It was totally worth it, because I got to spend almost every night with Katt, and I lost a significant amount of weight just from walking roughly 6 miles a day. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Katt's first weekend in Athens was Greek Easter weekend, and if you are not aware of how they celebrate Easter over here, you should seriously look it up. All I can say is that one description we found said that they mark midnight Easter morning with fireworks, gunfire, and dynamite….and that's about right, because it sounded like a warzone. Anyhow, after Greek Easter/Blow Ourselves to Bits and Hope We Get Resurrected Too Day, I had a week off, and neither of us felt like doing much of anything, so we didn't. Pretty soon Greek Civ round 2 with Alain began (along with the reopening of my favorite gyros place, which made me so happy). The first two site visits were to the Acropolis/Theatre of Dionysus and the National Archaeological Museum, both of which I had been to before, so nothing really new there. The excitement arose, however, with our trip to Corinth on the 30th, where we encountered the chain-smoking, grizzled, British archaeologist we all secretly hoped we would meet someday: Guy Sanders. Guy is an archaeologist trained as a geologist who could tell you about the geological and archaeological history of Corinth if you asked him. He could even give you his interpretation of the Persephone myth in correlation with the rape of Helen, but apparently he does that a lot and his stories always lead back to Helen. He is in charge of excavations at Ancient Corinth, which is excavated by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and he knows Paul,, since Paul had dug there a few years back. He gave us a private tour of the ruins, and by private tour, I mean we walked behind all the ropes and down into old fountain houses and made other tour groups either jealous or confused by Guy's insistence that the areas we were in were closed and they were not allowed in. After thoroughly confusing several people, he led us to a Medieval house/structure with a courtyard and exterior shops where he explained the history of the site. He then led us to the pottery sheds where he gave us a lesson in trade and economics through pottery. He also showed us the newest excavations on the site, where we saw people digging and sifting away, trying to add to the roughly 4% of the city that has been excavated thus far. After offering our goodbyes and a bottle of wine, and petting his fun-loving Jack Russell terriers, we were off to lunch and our other sites. We went first to Perachora, where there is a sanctuary to Hera right on the coast opposite Corinth, marking the boundary of Corinthian lands but also giving us another opportunity to clamber on rocks overlooking the site of the old apsidal temple. We even found a cave to climb into. It was fun times. We hopped back on the bus to the Diolkos, the ancient precursor to the Corinth canal, wherein the Corinthians charged a fee to drag goods or even boats across the Isthmus between the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs. After a bit at the two long ruts in the ground, we headed back to Athens, where we got ready for a four day weekend, including of all things International Labor Day, May 1st. So, faithful and patient readers, until next time…

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rhamnous and Marathon, etc. (APRIL 10-15, 2009)

Hello again! This post covers 6 days because not much of interest occurred for most of those days. I didn't do much on the weekend since I was exhasted from the week before. On Monday morning we went to the National Archaeological Museum, only to find it didn't open until 1: 15 pm. So instead we did our planned to visit for Tuesday to the Pnyx which I had already been to before as you should already know. We did go a little further up the Hill of the Muses to the Monument of Philopappus, which provided a pleasant view of the land between Athens and Piraeus, with remnants of the long walls still somewhat visible. On Tuesday, we actually made into the museum, which I had already been to as well, but we did walk through half of the sculpture collection which we had skimmed over minimally before; the other half was preserved for Alain in two weeks. On Wednesday, we boarded a bus early in the morning for Rhamnous, the northernmost ancient deme (political subdivision) in Attica. We saw the temple of Nemesis which was almost 6 inches away from another smaller temple and covered with modern inscriptions in the vein of "Stavros was here" (some of which were in script). After passing through a locked (but not very sturdy) fence, we walked down (and up and down) a ravine/road lined with tombs and dedication bases until we saw our final destination: a fortified ruined city on a promontory flanked by two stunningly blue bays. We proceeded into the city, which had impressive stone walls and other remnants such as herms, broken pottery (which we had fun identifying) and just absolutely gorgeous views of the sea and the surrounding countryside. There was no question why those who settled here did so, as it was both secure and beautiful. After a quick look at the unpublished materials excavated from the site, we went on to Marathon, site of the great Athenian victory over the Persians in 490 BC. We had lunch overlooking the Plain of Marathon and then entered the museum, which was impressive (but unfortunately didn't allow photography) and had within it the Trophy, a monumental single Ionic column set up by the Athenians where the Persians turned to run. We left the museum to see the early tombs on the site, and were lucky enough to be there when the archaeologists were on site, so we could be allowed into the Tomb of the Plataeans, where the Plataeans who died in the battle were allegedly buried. After admiring their bones, we went off to the Tomb of the Athenians, which looks like a gigantic mound of earth. We then got back on the bus for the ride back. When I returned, I was excited, because I would see Katt again the next morning, since she was getting in on the EARLY ferry from Crete. Well, faithful readers, until next time... (pictures later)

The Argolid Pt. 2 (APRIL 8-9, 2009)

Hello again! I know it has been a REALLY long time since I've updated this blog. I've been really busy and doing too many awesome things that if I were to write about them immediately my computer would likely burst into flames or something. Anyhow, in order to get caught up, I'm going to be much more brief in my posts. So, where were we? Ah yes... days 2 and 3 of my Argolid trip. After a night in Nafplio I woke up and set out for another Mycenean period acropolis, Tiryns. Not much to report on there except for gargantuan rocks in orderly piles resembling walls. They were made more interesting by Eric's insistence on jumping off one of the Rocks making up a gateway about 12 or 15 feet high. He fell on his side when he landed, his sunglasses flew off, and he skinned his palm, but otherwise he was fine. After leaving Tiryns, our next stop was Argos and its archaeological site, in which was an immaculately preserved greek theatre, as well as the remains of a Roman bath. After bounding around the ruins of the agora looking for hidden treasures, we visited another archaeological museum with a preserved mosaic depicting personifications of all the months of the year (this was of course of Roman period or later). After lunch, we headed to the Argive Heraion (which wasn't as close as the name suggests), and Paul enlightened us on the importance of the site from the archaic period onward. Also during this time, Eric tripped on a rock or something and sprained his ankle, needing to be carried down the hill the temple was on by John P. After those fun times, we went back to Nafplio for a wine tasting and dinner. After our last night in Nafplio, we headed for Epidavros to the Sanctuary of Asclepios, the Greek god of healing. While we were there we learned much about the cult of Asclepios and the procedures pilgrims would undergo in order to be cured of anything from blindness to a five-year pregnancy! After wandering around the sanctuary and witnessing the re-erection of Asclepios' tholos-Heroon, we went to another immaculately preserved theatre, where Nick serenaded us from the bottom while we stood at the top. We then left to return to Nafplio for our visit to the Venetian fortress Palamidi overlooking the city (which in some places seems rather precarious). After enjoying the breathtaking view, we had lunch and slept on the long bus ride back to Athens. So, readers, until next time...