We went to Epidauros but I have little to say on it. It was brutally hot and they don't let you sing in the amphitheater anymore. It is amazing the first time but I felt a little jaded due to the heat. Read Henry Miller for a good romanticized description of the site.
Temple of Zeus at Nemea
We went to Nemea and had a good tour by the Director of the site, and did the obligatory class race in the stadium. It felt home-y, since we lived in Isthmia for a few weeks in 2008 training for the revived Nemean games. It felt even weirder going to the beach at Kenchreai, and passing the sign for the Kalamaki Beach Hotel on the way. I waved at it.
above and below: submerged foundations at the Kenchreai beach
yeah, so I'm gonna start every post with a sleepy dog photo. It's why you read this, right?
The sanctuary of Isthmia looks out primarily toward the east to the Saronic Gulf with and eye on the Corinthian Gulf to the west. The site itself is important but has the appearance of emptiness, as the construction of the Hexamillian, the wall built across the isthmus in the 5th century, caused most of the blocks to get up and walk away to be repurposed. Here the little fences that so often surround antiquities, giving the impression of buildings in jail, are actually helpful in delineating temples that are mostly robbed out.
part of a huge, amazing mosaic in the Roman baths at Isthmia
Archaeologists have to be an imaginative bunch. Much like turning a cardboard box into a fort or a rocketship as kid, you must look at a haphazard outline of stones and build up a building, a palace complex, an entire city. When you look at white marble friezes you must paint on the rich hues of antiquity that are so often forgotten by we who are only overexposed to their surviving marble bones. (Guy Sanders says the painted marble was "pretty....tacky.")
Hey all, we are currently in Naufplion, a Venetian city in the Peloponnese. We're about halfway through our Peloponnese trip, and internet has been and continues to be sketchy, so I will run through a few of the places we've been so far. I'll break it up into a few separate posts so you don't feel like you're reading a novel.
cute dog at Corinth
We were shown around Corinth by the director there, Guy Sanders. He is one of the many characters in archaeology. I fear I love archaeologists as much as I love archaeology. He is very British and very engaging and is one of the few tour guides we've had that I actually was enraptured by. The best guides give you stories and the tone of a place, without a bunch of facts with no context, and remind you that we don't know everything and that there's always the chance we don't actually know anything. He showed us a sacred spring, a secret passageway. He made plant life evoke specific goddesses and prompted us to think about who is Helen, really?
Corinth with a view of Acrocorinth
He talked about the Turkish cemetery and hospital on the site and all the gruesome awesome ailments/causes of death they have found evidence of, including: anemia, arthritis, childbirth, brucellosis (from eating feta that hasn't been aged enough, "if you're lucky it kills you in five days), trepanation, a spine missing either the axis (C2) vertebrae or the axis's odontoid process (it was unclear from his explanation), a man that has been identified as a horseback-riding Mongolian bowman, a man who died from not going to the dentist (an untreated abscess led to blood poisoning), a cut achilles tendon (my greatest fear next to being buried alive), and evidence of a frontal attack with a sharp implement (sliced skull, cut off fingers from the victim defending their head with their hands). For this last death he amused himself by describing it in vivid detail, to the extent that he discussed the pooling blood rippling from the still-twitching fingers. At this point I was muffling my mouth with my hand because I was hysterically laughing. A student warily asked, "How...do we know about the puddle of blood?" To which Guy replied, "We don't! But isn't it gruesome?" He's my kind of archaeologist.
a tiny vessel depicting the bibasis (athletic competition where you jump and kick your butt)
votive arms left at the Asklepion (healing shrine of the cult of the healer Asklepius)
Then we hiked up Acro-Corinth. WOOF. Slippery cobblestones up to the sky. Of course the burning muscles were worth it once we reached a peak housing the ruins of a temple to Aphrodite and had a 360 view.
"It was one of the few times in my life that I was fully aware of being on the brink of a great experience. And not only aware but grateful, grateful for being alive, grateful for having eyes, for being sound in wind and limb, for having rolled in the gutter, for having gone hungry, for having been humiliated, for having done everything that I did do since at last it had culminated in this moment of bliss." -Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi
Ok so sketchy and intermittent internet made for a weak posting week. Sorry. And this is not a quality vlog. I will try to actually put something relating to classics, Greece, or archaeology in the next one. You know, the stuff I'm actually doing here.
The song in the video is "Eyes" by Peter Bjorn and John
Hi there, we're in Crete, and new video/pictures/words are forthcoming. But I just wanted to say hello, I'm not dead, we're having an awesome time, and I will give you an actual post that isn't a waste of time in the very near future.
Yasas! Camped out in Blegen again but I put together a teeny video of some of this week's excursions. See for yourself: the Roman Agora in the Plaka (with a view of the Acropolis), a panorama of Athens as seen from on top of the Areopagus (with a view of the Acropolis), and a panorama (and my windblown face) at the temple of Poseidon at Sounion. The background music is actually from the first clip, a musician was playing in the street by the Agora. Greece so often provides her own background music! Sorry it's so tiny, I filmed with my phone. Just full-screen it.
N.B.: Behind me is NOT the ocean, the Mediterranean is a sea. silly me.
Today was our first swim in the Aegean and tomorrow we finally ascend the Acropolis in the morning...and then board an overnight ferry to Crete in the evening.
I cannot remember how to say "and." Have been replacing it with "um." Looking up some phrases now. Hopefully it will come back to me...
Anyway, I'm here! Staying in a cute hostel between Syntagma Square, the temple of Zeus and the Plaka, where I just ordered too much food for dinner (Joyce, you know what I'm talking about) but managed to eat most of it. Psomi (bread), cucumber and tomato salad, and gemista (tomatoes stuffed with rice, pine nuts and herbs and baked until it falls apart in your mouth and basically digests itself. YUM.)
My roommates are two impressively tanned french girls who chattered away this afternoon while I napped and dreamed about how to talk to them about premature wrinkles and see if they've ever been to Ibiza.
I did an obligatory stroll through the Plaka/around the base of the Acropolis. Do you have an idea of what this might be like? Does it involve the amusingly familiar notes of Zorba the Greek coming from some light-strung terraced taverna that fade as you walk away and are replaced by a cheerful bouzouki medley? Are cats everywhere, languidly stretching in front of blankets laden with fake designer bags? Do you smell cigarettes, roasting meat, flowering trees, dust, and something that smells both musty and cold, like eating gelato inside of a closet filled with coats that have mothballs in the pockets, which is the only way I can think of to describe the smell of marble that is layered under everything else. Because all these sensory imaginations are accurate.
Greece is not at all boring but a little predictable. The light - the light! Everyone talks about the LIGHT because it is true. It's different here. During the day it is bright and pure, throwing everything into sharp relief, color-saturated. At dusk it softens until it wraps everything in a mild glow. The sunset over the hills ringing Athens takes the sky from ruby to coral to a dusky blue before settling into pitch.
I am familiar with this neighborhood but I usually stay in Exarchia - the funky area of students and communists and bonfires blasting music in the middle of the night. I didn't stay there this time but I actually miss it - I know where everything is! A gyro place, a bakery, a crepe place, an oh-so-charming taverna. Tomorrow my program starts and I will leave this neighborhood and go over to Kolonaki, a fairly swanky area where most of the foreign archaeological schools are housed, as well as luxury shopping and a hospital and a few museums.
Everything I own is packed up and will be put in my car for storage in the morning, and everything I need for the next 6 (7?) weeks is in a backpack and a small duffel.
I like to read books about the places I am traveling to while I am traveling there, but picking which books to bring with me to Greece is like picking favorite children. I finally narrowed it down to No-Man's Lands by Scott Huler, and The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller. Can't wait to get them even more dog-eared, windblown, and sea water streaked.
I also went from 6 cameras to just my small digital Nikon, some disposables, and my phone. And only 3 pairs of sunglasses.
Hi there! In a couple weeks I will be back in my favorite country, traveling all over and learning a lot. And probably getting sunburned. But loving it! So I am reviving this here bloggity blog as a travel blog. So follow now and all summer you'll get pictures of food, ruins, me sweating my face off, and maybe even some sincere vignettes.