Letter Home (with apologies to Byron)

Dear M.

This voyage to Greece has been quite remarkable, and we wanted to relay some of the more interesting events to you.  We found that Delphi, now as in antiquity, is not only one of the most beautiful and Treasurey at Delphi

dramatic of shrines, but also still harbors cult activity.  In fact, our entire company underwent initiation into a mystery cult there.  This involved washing our hands at the Castalian springs, and being accompanied by someone who spoke intelligibly (i.e. Greek), but beyond that, none of us can reveal details.  It is, after all, a mystery cult.  And there were other mysterious happenings.  Shortly after our initiation, while visiting Arachova, we were swept off our feet and into Dionysian revels by a group of ancient Maenads!  Finally, Lindsey initiated the entire group into another cult at the temple of Artemis Orthia in Sparta. Apparently, this rite originally involved young boys trying to steal cheese under the watchful gaze of a priestess, but somehow we reversed it, with the women in our group trying to steal an orange, as Prof. Richter in the role of priestess refereed, and our true priestess, Prof. Salowey captured it on video.

 

Some members of our party have specialized in athletic prowess. Christy briefly became a pan-Hellenic champion, having won three footraces—one at Olympia and two at Delphi.  But when the officials learned she had also tried to drive off with our bus at Delphi, she was disqualified.  Brynn earned honors that were not revoked when she conquered the 790–some steps to the peak of the Castro at Naupflion in record time.  Laura holds the urban ascent record for her mastery of theAthens subway stairs. And Becca will be awarded a wreath for the most distinctive and infectious laugh.

Most of our group have fallen in love with Greek food.  Ashley is one of these, but for some reason whenever she orders bread in tavernas, waiters become embarrassed or ask her out.  We don’t really understand.  And Stephanie has fallen so in love with those beans the Greeks call gigantes, that we were afraid she might get arrested trying to smuggle a crate of them home. Athens Meat Market Lunch
Even Emileigh Clare seems fond of the food, despite having been chased through the Athens Meat Market by a butcher wielding a severed, skinned lamb’s head.  Everyone in the group has been purchasing dried tsai tou vounou, the Greek mountain tea, so they can make it when they get home, and everyone seems to love the olives and olive oil—not surprising, since, as Emily Mendelssohn points out, in a country of about 11 million people, there are 120 million olive trees.

Meantime, Michelle and Jenny have truly gone native, developing great proficiency on the Komboloi. On prolonged bus trips we can hear their beads click-clacking constantly.  And if we are all fascinated by things Greek, the Greeks are all fascinated by Meritha’s red hair.

In one of our few unpleasant events, Sam and a few others were bamboozled by a group of unscrupulous grocery store gypsies in Dimitsana.  We confronted the gypsies, but could not get the money back.  In another tight spot later, we were all truly grateful to discover that Emily Morris has excellent aim.  Her sure marksmanship saved the entire bus from an unpleasant situation that it is best not to speak more of.Regarding other members of our party, Liz has chronicled our adventures in blank verse worthy of Homer.  And Kristen, ever the stellar explorer, is investigating not only ancient astronomy, but also, always “the roads less traveled” as we make our trek.

In the end, it seems we have all been enchanted.  Some of us, quite frankly, may not return home.  And
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t
hose of us who do will leave something of our hearts behind, even as this land called
Hellas, with its landscape of ancient ruins and modern wonders, sage, goats and marble, and its tradition of hospitality, leaves something in our souls.

Ever yours
T & C

Final Day In Greece

This morning we began our day early with a visit to Dr. Salowey’s old stomping grounds at the American School of Classical Studies. We went into the first of three buildings on the American School campus where we met Natalia, the archivist, who had gotten wind of the fact that travelogues were a theme of our trip. When we walked into her office she had already laid out some examples of earlier travelogues by early archaeologists and travelers, mostly ones from the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of them was a journal that had been kept by a woman who traveled through Greek archaeological sites in the 19th century, which was particularly inspiring to us as travelers and as students of a woman’s college.
Next we headed over to the library, which has an extremely impressive collection of rare books and a large collection of other very important archaeological texts. The library was started on a donation of about 200,000 volumes that came from the collection of a Greek man. Natalia told us that he had not been wealthy, but had a very serious passion for collecting these volumes and then left them to the school when he died. The building, which is very elaborate and in the neoclassical style, was paid for by a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.
Inside the library, we tried to be as quiet as a group of 18 could be as we passed through the workspace of many students doing research. We made it into the Rare Book room where we met a woman who was from Greece originally and had become an art history scholar. She specialized in Byzantine art and architecture, but seemed to be very well-versed in all the subjects that could be found in the library. She showed us some rare and old books that had beautiful 19th century depictions of some of the sites we were looking at; these depictions varied drastically from what we have seen here in Greece so far because the modern parts of the cities have come in only recently.
We then continued to another part of the building to see some journals and photographs of other travelers, including Dorothy Sutton and Heinrich Schliemann. Dorothy Sutton was an American woman who had come to Greece to help with medical care in the orphanages during the 19th century. Next we were shown the notebook that Heinrich Schliemann used when he excavated Mycenae. We were all very surprised that we were able to see such a high-profile object so close to us. We all realized that we can never tell who may be reading our journals some day…
After leaving the American School, we walked through an open-air market place in the neighborhood. Dr. Salowey and Dr. Richter got us a bag of locally grown oranges to eat while we made our way to the National Museum. We were also able to stop in the market place and pick up some Greek oregano and other spices to pack in our bags and take home with us. Really we just enjoyed the stroll outside on such a temperate, sunny day.
Finally we made it to the National Museum for our second visit there, where we would be covering bronzes, pottery and artifacts recovered from Thera, a site at Santorini. We stopped to hear a presentation about an ancient astrolabe that was discovered in the wreckage of a Roman shipwreck. It was really astonishing to hear about this device because it really showed us how advanced the Greeks were in sciences and astronomy. We also learned that the bronzes that we have survived for the most part because of the fact that they were buried underwater and therefore could not have been melted down for industrial use in later periods. At the pottery section we learned about the three types of pottery found at Ancient Greek sites: black figure, red figure and white back. There was a huge collection of intact pottery displaying the three varieties and their different uses that varied from funerary urns to wine amphoras. Lastly at the museum we visited the section about ancient Thera. Most of the artifacts that we have left from the site, including the pieces of large-scale frescoes, were preserved because of a massive volcanic eruption that took place at Santorini in ancient times.
After finishing our second and final tour of the museum, we made our final trek up to the Acropolis. It felt like much less of a trek than it had the first time because of the intense climbs we’ve had at Delphi and the Frankish Castle since then. We walked around the site on our own and walked through the Acropolis Museum, where we saw the real columns that had been salvaged from the Erectheion, as well as a great amount of statuary that had been collected from all over the Acropolis. It was a great place to end our trip as we had a view of all of Athens and the Meditteranean, much of which we had experienced up close ourselves.

Samantha Cole
Emily Mendelssohn

Mycenae

lioness gate     We left Monemvasia this morning to head to Mycenae and after 3ish hours on the party bus, and some Sunday morning British rock, we arrived. Walking around the ancient citadel was amazing because it helps to link the potential reality to the mythology. Standing on top of the fortress you can see the water and the two mountain passes that would have been critical for military control during the time of the Mycenians. The size alone makes one feel insignificant, especially after learning from Prof. Saloway that the lentel block alone ways as much as a Boeing 747 airplane. All of the bricks used to build the walls were larger than any other fortress, temple, or castle we have visited yet and we would like to hope that the legendary royal family that once resided here lived the lavish lifestyle we imagine. We even had the chance again to venture down a dark tunnel but unlike our other adventures we never found the end.

     Next on the agenda was the Tomb of Agamemnon, which has never actually been proven to be the tomb of Agamemnon. Samantha took a minute to inform us of the early archaelogists who first visited here in the form of rap to the tune of “Fresh Prince of Belair” which we all appreciated. The tomb is one of the only remaining indoor structures which is still complete. It is a dome structure with an incredible entryway which once contained one or more ancient peoples burial sites and the treasures buried with them. It was around 40 feet high and 46 feet in diameter. Our voices echoed as soon as we entered and we couldn’t help but strain our necks as we gazed at the ceiling. However, you also can’t help but get the unfortunate feeling that it may collapse on you at any moment.    

     Lunch was had at a small restaurant in town known as the House of Schliemann. It was one of the more interesting places we have been to because many celebrities and intellectuals have stayed there over the years. The owner takes pictures of the guestbook where famous people have signed and hangs them on the wall. He was more than happy to take the time to tell us about each individual signature. All kinds of people have been there from Allen Ginsberg to J.K. Rowling to Nazi soldiers, to archaeologists that only the Professors have ever heard of. It was interesting to learn that Mycenae has been a place of inspiration for many years for people of all different professions and interests.

     The bus ride finally ended in Nafplion where we are staying the night. Some of us chose to climb the 833 stairs up the hill to ancient Venetian castle before dinner. The stairs were gruesome, but as I have come to learn from all of our adventures so far in Greece, the climb was well worth it. On top we could see the entire city and the water surrounding it. It was absolutely breathtaking to watch the sun set over the mountains from our castle top view.

     Our night came to end at a taverna where we all met for dinner. The food was great as usual. Our amazing and hilarious bus driver Dmitri has been promising us a surprise for the last couple days and tonight he finally came through. At 8:30 as promised he had some people come to the taverna to teach us to dance like true Greeks. Just watching them was entertaining, but having the chance to dance ourselves was of course ridiculous, but also a lot of fun. This is the second time in Greece where dinner has led to dancing and laughing. The night was perfect and we are all thankful to Dmitri for helping us to learn more about the Greek culture. Hopefully pictures will be coming soon…

 Brynn Hoffman

Emily Morris 

 Note: This post was originally from January 21. Sorry it is out of order but we just realized today that it never posted.

The Value of Connections

Sleeping in yesterday spoiled us. However, we were all up and out of the hotel by 8:00 am. The trek to the Agora proved to us that this trip has gotten us in shape because we were hardly out of breath by the time we got there, unlike the first morning in Athens.

Today we learned once again how lucky we are to have Professor Salowey for a guide. Before we entered the Agora, she showed us part of the current excavations which are unmarked and unexplained to the passerby. The two main features of this area were an altar of Aphrodite and the Painted Stoa which would have marked the main entrance into the ancient Agora. Although the western corner of the painted stoa has been excavated, the plans to unearth the remainder of the building must wait until more of the surrounding modern buildings can be purchased and carefully torn down to expose the ruins beneath.

Once inside the Agora, we made our way past the statues of giants which were the only pieces of sculpture or architecture standing above ground when excavations began in the early 1930s. It was amazing to see the statue bases standing about 10 feet above the ground and thinking of the entire area around being filled with dirt and silt from the river and the surrounding hills.

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Giant statues in the Agora

From there we walked to the altar of the 12 Olympian Gods, which would have stood near the entrance to the Agora in ancient times. This was the point from which all distances from Athens were measured and citizens in trouble could seek refuge. Unfortunately, all that remains of this important landmark is a single corner of the foundation.

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Professor Salowey at the Altar of the 12 Gods

At the tholos building, Ashley gave a presentation on ancient Athenian democracy. We learned that democracy in ancient times was similar to our modern democracy with a few significant differences. The Athenians were very concerned with the idea of “majority rules” but did not allow the lowest class or women to participate in government decisions. Also, the most numerous artifacts found in the Agora were “ostraka” or pottery sherds which were used as voting ballots. Unlike our modern elections where the ballot indicates the candidate of choice, ancient ballots were inscribed with the name of the public official who was thought to be the most detrimental to government affairs. The person with the most votes would then be exiled from the city for 10 years.

Perhaps the most impressive structure in the Agora is the well-preserved temple of Hephaistos, the god of metal-working and craft. This was our chance to test our skill at reading ancient temples. We walked around the temple looking for clues of the order, plan, decoration, and remodeling of the building. We passed with flying colors, noting that the temple was Doric, had some unusual decorative sculpture, and had been modified into a Christian Church in a later period. Professor Salowey was proud.

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 The Temple of Hephaistos in the Agora

We made a cursory walk through the site museum, looking at material from graves and homes in the area of the Agora. However, the real treat of the day, thanks to the connections of our esteemed professor, was getting a private tour through the conservation labs and storage rooms of the American School’s basecamp at the Agora excavations. First, we went to the conservation lab where every artifact which is brought out of the ground on site is cleaned, preserved, and catalogued. The process was fascinating. We were impressed with the detail, patience, and knowledge required of the conservationists and the passion they have for their work. We saw many artifacts from several different decades, which depending on the preservation and restoration techniques were in various states of deterioration.

We did not want to leave the lab, but we were soon drawn out into another area by Marcy, an archaeologist at the site. She has been working on the Agora excavations for almost ten years and obviously loves her work. For those Hollins people, she was the Achaeological equivalent of Renee Goddard, very animated, very passionate. She showed us the amazingly detailed notebooks of the process of excavation, which include not only the ancient sites they excavate but also the buildings they tear down to begin digging. Though they have incorporated some new technology, they have been keeping records in the same way for 75 years. Then she took us to what we think is one of the most amazing places we have yet been, the basement storerooms of the center. In the basement along rows and rows of wooden shelves are ALL of the artifacts from the site.

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Rows and rows of Amphoras!!!

There were literally hundreds of drawers of pottery sherds and shelves and shelves of stones bearing inscriptions. The long, rows of identical shelves reminded us of the last scene in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. There really are places like that!!!

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Professor Salowey’s friend, Molly Richardson, who is an epigraphy expert then gave us a demonstration of how to read ancient inscriptions. She first used water to bring out the text on a grave marker. As a group, we determined that the marker was for a woman from Antioch. Molly also told us that of about 20,000 inscriptions we have from Attica, over 7,000 are from the area in an around the Agora. We saw when walking around the storerooms and talking to Voula, a scholar currently revisiting all of the inscriptions in the Agora, that the Agora is truly a treasure trove of ancient inscriptions and artifacts.

After a quick lunch at a souvlaki place, we made our way to Kerameikos, which is the ancient entrance to the city of Athens.

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A view of Kerameikos

We focused primarily on the cemetery area. Jenny gave a close reading of two grave stelai which are preserved in the site museum, and then we went out on site to get in idea of how these monuments would have been placed in ancient times. Upon entering the ancient city of Athens, a traveler would first pass through the monuments of the city’s deceased citizens requiring him or her to acknowledge the ancestors of the city. We concluded our official itinerary for the day at Kerameikos and were left to enjoy another afternoon and evening in Athens.

Lindsay and Michelle

01.22.2007*

Theater Overview 1/2

Theatre Overview 2/2

Canine Escort

At Epidaurus exists an ancient theatre which can hold 10,000 people(and indeed, even as Professor Salowey can personally vouch for, has held as many in recent years). The acoustics in the theatre are magnificent. Someone standing in the orchestra section of the theater can talk softly, even whisper, and still be heard by all the audience members. To prove the quality of the acoustics, some of the members of the group decided to act out a Cliff’s Notes version of Beauty and the Beast. Samantha, Brynn, Christy, Lindsay, and Laura all put on a wonderful show while the rest of the group observed from the top of the theatre.

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Christie at the theatre.

Professor Salowey

As Epidaurus is known as a place of healing and the location for the sanctuary of Asclepius, the theatre also was meant to exist in a healing capacity as well. Seeing the performances that took place here could very well be therapeutic to ailing patients as they sought refuge and healing here. Beyond the theatre, we were able to visit a stadium area, where footraces would take place.

Stadium at Epidaurus

To see the original ruins at the site, juxtaposed with the reconstruction, made us more aware of how daunting a task trying to rebuild these ancient buildings, as well as the dangers of going overboard in trying to reconstruct the architecture here.

Partial view of the site at Epidaurus

Column Drum

On our way to Ancient Corinth, we drove through many fruit orchards. The leaders of our trip made an executive decision to stop so that we could buy(for only 5 euros!) a bag of plump, juicy oranges from a group of friendly gentlemen on the side of the road. The fruit in our grocery stores in the United States seems rather puny in comparison to the produce that is grown here in Greece. In addition to the oranges, which we devoured in record time, lemons were also being sold. Some of these lemons were so large that they were mistaken for grapefruits by a few groupmembers.

Having filled our stomachs with the unexpected treat of the oranges, we made our way onwards, to Argive Heraion, a sanctuary of Hera, queen of the gods in the Greek pantheon. The view from this site over the plain stretched nearly as far as the eye could see, and the landscape before us was indeed, as Professor Salowey pointed out, a testament to the area’s power and wealth. Our time at this site was restful, marked by a moving story about two young men which Professor Salowey read to us as we looked over the scenery:

Solon, to indicate to King Croesus that some people in the world were more blessed than he, tells the king a story about two young men, Cleobis and Biton. The mother of these two men, a priestess of Hera who desperately needed to get to the sanctuary for a festival taking place, could not find the oxen that pulled her cart. Dutiful as they were, the brothers yoked themselves to their mother’s cart and took her to the sanctuary in that fashion. Afterward, in the midst of the festival, the two brothers went into the temple and died peacefully, in their sleep.

This sanctuary was our last site for the day. Off to Corinth we went!

Stephanie Prosack
Liz Brown

*Our apologies that our post for the 22nd is out of order. We hope it will not make reading the travelblog too confusing for everyone to read.

Free Day in Athens!

What do you do on a free day in Athens?  Sleep in, well not for too long.   If you are like us and staying near the Acropolis there are several great places you won’t want to miss that are within walking distance.  Take Monastiraki for instance, a great little quarter of Athens located on the Northern side of the Acropolis.  This site was named after the Manastiraki Square, which was one of the first metro stations in Athens.  Nowadays people come here to see the alleged flea market which has now progressed into more of a touristy area.  Here you can find shops galore, quaint cafes, and the well known market, in which you never know what you might ‘meat’.  No need to bargain, Monastiraki, has some of the better deals in Athens and you can most likely find whatever your heart desires.  Moving directly eastward from Monastiraki, one may find themselves ending up in an area known as Syntagma.  Syntagma, is the site of the Old Royal Palace which is known today as the Greek Parliament Building.   Guards at the Parliament Building, called Evzones, are specifically chosen for their height and strength, and serve as protectors of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Parliament Building itself.  They are much like the guards at Buckingham Palace, but these guys wear pleated skirts and shoes with pom-poms, and every so often they do a ritual dance to stretch out their legs from having to stand all day.  This has also become a major attraction and people from all over come and view the bizarre march of the guards.  Also in this vicinity, one can find upper class shopping areas that are very stylish and chic.  This is also one of the busier portions of town because there are a lot of offices located in this area, meaning that there has to be places to eat while you are on the run.  Here there is a wide variety of food places, including your traditional Greek restaurants and cafes, and if you are looking for a little slice of
America, you can visit McDonalds or Applebee’s.  Moving back to towards the Acropolis, south from Monastiraki and Syntagma, you will find yourself in the Plaka.  The Plaka is one of Athens’ most historic sites, and is a great retreat from all the hustle and bustle of the city.  You can find most anything here, from souvenir shops to tavernas and restaurants, and if you have a sweet tooth, you can find great chocolates, crepes, and gelato.  This is a wonderful place to take a little break, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the view of the Acropolis.  If you are looking for a little venture outside of the surrounding Acropolis area to have some delicious food, and go back in time with a restaurant called Ancient Times located in Metaxourgeio.  Here you will get a little taste of what type of foods and eating habits the ancient Greeks had in the days of antiquity.  The meal was set at a slower pace and in many portions so one can enjoy and savor the flavor.  This was a very satisfying way to end the day.  Until tomorrow, Kalinychta!

Laura Risley & Meritha Rucker

 

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Back to Athens

We started our day exploring the Nemean ruins; this time accompanied by a pack of watchdogs. Nemea is under supervision of the University of California at Berkley. This site showed us the effects of properly done preservation. However, the extent of their reconstruction and rebuilding efforts showed us the delicate balance in recreating the past. Restoration can be controversial when re-creation takes precedence over preservation.

Afterwards, we went to another site, which is supervised by the American School in Athens. The Corinthian ruins were extensive. We started by seeing the Temple of Apollo where professor Salowey pointed out some of the evidence that indicates that this is an early archaic temple. We explored the fountain of Glauke, the Agora and the Lechaion road, walking on marble that was placed by the Romans.

Then we shopped at local supermarkets to supply a picnic lunch before heading off on our greatest challenge to date: the Acrocorinth. As we started our journey we encountered a woman dubbed “Evil Maria” by another archaeologist. This woman is a legendary sheepherder and ancient ruin ruiner. She lets her sheep roam over the ruins of Acrocorinth. It should be noted that sheep dung is not the best preservative for marble and ancient rock. It gave Greece’s current travel theme of “Explore your senses” a whole new meaning.

 

Evil Maria

Evil Maria

 

We then began the arduous trek up 1600 feet of pure Salowey torture. We have become Salophobic, which is the fear of hiking mountains at a fast pace. We love her, but we hate the disease. We are planning a return trip to the Temple of Asclepius to cure our sore feet, although we have little hope of curing the phobia itself. However, even thus daunted, we all made it to the top, including the geriatrics who showed up after a slight delay. But, what goes up must come down. Following the example of Prof. Richter who has learned to live with his Salophobia, we all excelled at downhill.

 

 Acrocorinth

 

Upon arriving at Athens we got a strong sense of longing for the quaint villages we had explored. However, we do appreciate the use of telephones, internet, bathtubs and hot water. As much as we love exploring the traditional village cultures and try to be travelers and explorers in the truest sense, we struggle with our own culture’s spoiled nature of having these conveniences. Now we are comfortably back in Athens, nestled in our modern conveniences.

 

Kalinichta!
Jenny & Ashley