Final Thoughts

Hello again, everyone! Well, I’m now in Turkey, and I thought about spending this morning – my first morning off in a good long while – catching up on blog posts. But you know what, dear reader? I don’t really want to. And it’s not that I don’t want you all to share these amazing experiences, it’s mostly just that all of them seem the same now, and would even more so to someone not intimately familiar with the differences between polygonal masonry and ashlar. So, fabulous reader, I will provide you instead with an overall summary of the last ten days or so of the program, as well as some general thoughts about my experiences in Greece. Here goes…

Our last few days in northern Greece were fun. Dion and Vergina were especially cool sites; Dion reminded me very much of Charles Towne Landing in Charleston, SC – huge trees, water everywhere – it was the most verdant place we’d seen in Greece. Vergina’s museum was fascinating, not only for the artifacts it held (items from Philip II’s tomb), but also for the incredibly complex political agenda it represented. I gave my second presentation in Amphipolis, about the gymnasium, and it went well enough considering I was a bit short on time (thanks, Clem). Chris gave his second report at Philippi, which was also a cool site – a huge Roman forum and the ruins of some basilicas that St. Paul probably preached in. The absolute highlights, however, were on the last two days – we were invited into the homes of our director and then of our bus driver. The food at both was amazing and it was such a wonderful experience to be invited into their homes. It was also a very welcome respite from the relentless academic atmosphere.

Our last full day was spent on the island of Aigina, which was beautiful. We were able to spend the afternoon swimming in pristine waters, and we made the most of it. Suddenly, it was the last day, and we all ran around trying to pack, buy souvenirs, and see that one site we’d somehow forgotten. I hiked up Lykavitos, the hill on the slopes of which the school is situated, and was rewarded with the most stunning view of Athens possible. It was a fitting last-day adventure.

And now, goodbyes have been said, tears spilled, and promises to keep in touch exchanged. I left Athens yesterday with a heavy heart, not because I was leaving Greece, but because I was leaving behind 17 new amazing friends. For me, the real reward of the program was not all the sites we got to see, or the well-known scholars we spoke to, but the people in the program themselves – getting to know them, becoming friends with them, experiencing the ruthless Greek sun with them. I am not an academic and this program is meant very much so for them. I don’t feel bad saying that if it weren’t for Chris, I wouldn’t have ever thought of going to the American School, but I’m glad I did, only because of the friendships I made. I’m glad, too, that I got to see all the sites I did, but honestly, all the pottery looks the same to me, no matter where it’s from.

After a day of travel yesterday, Chris and I are now in Bodrum, Turkey, which was Halicarnassus in ancient times. Today there are no ancient sites to see, no museums to go to. Just us, the sun, and the water. ☺

Day 34 – Thermopylae

(7-20-14)

Today was basically one long bus ride. We drove to Thermopylae in the morning for a student report, but it’s incredibly hard to imagine the famous battle because the topography has changed so much. We did, however, get to see the hot spring for which the site is named, which was pretty cool, if very smelly.

After another long bus ride, we arrived at the Neolithic sites of Sesklo and Dimini. Our speaker, Nick Blackwell, is the assistant director of the American school and a really great speaker, but Neolithic stuff just isn’t my thing, on top of trying to revive myself after a long bus ride. It was cool to imagine people living there 6,000 years ago, but there’s not much on the group to look at.

After the sites, we went to a great museum in Volos, a nearby town. The layout was really informative, and the finds were really cool. They had a ton of painted grave stelai which you don’t see a lot of in other museums. Paint from the ancient world doesn’t survive too well, so it was awesome to see so many nice examples of it.

The evening was spent in Nea Anchialos, which was a small town on the beach. We were all eager for a swim, but were disappointed to discover that the water was full of trash. We hung out on the beach for a bit, though, so it wasn’t a total disappointment. Tomorrow we have our earliest departure yet – 7:00 am, so it’s time to get some sleep!

Day 33 – Delphi

(7-19-14)

Today was probably one of the best days of the entire trip. We spent the day in Delphi, and the location of the site alone is incredible. Surrounded by mountains, Delphi sits on a slope, which means that to explore the site, you must hike ever upwards. It’s beautiful, and we were blessed with extraordinary weather. I didn’t know too much about Delphi, so it was cool to learn all about the religious aspect of the site – it’s a sanctuary to Apollo and most people came to see the oracle there, though there were the Pithian Games held here every four years. Like any other aspect of human interaction, there was a political charge as well. Cities would build treasuries along the main road to house the offerings of the dedicants from that city. It became a sort of competition to see who could build the most lavish, and of course, the Athenians won with a huge structure made out of marble with beautiful sculpture. The island of Siphnos, however, gave them a run for their money, though in my opinion there was a bit too much happening on their treasury.

So, we spent the morning hiking around the site and hearing student presentations. Just as we were coming down for lunch (which was the only unpleasant part of the day – we had to eat at the site café, which did not have anything very palatable), it started to pour, but luckily, we were already seated under the café’s umbrellas. After lunch, we walked through the museum, where most of the sculptures from the treasuries, as well as tons of votive figures, are housed. There is also an amazing bronze sculpture of a charioteer, so detailed you can see the eyelashes around his eyes.

After the museum, we explored the other side of the site, a bit further down the slope. There was another student presentation about the sanctuary of Athena there, and we all marveled at the huge rock that had fallen during a rockslide during a Persian invasion.

Because the other side of this part of the site was closed, a group of us decided to spend our rare afternoon off hiking up Mt. Parnassus, on whose slope Delphi sits. It was really fun, if totally exhausting. We hiked for about an hour and a half up the mountain, but unfortunately we were not able to see the site from where we were on the top. The views of the rest of the valley were more than enough to make up for this disappointment however, and I was really glad I had decided to go.

Dinner was another fun affair – it was Lee’s birthday (Lee is one of the leaders of our trip), so we all met at a nice restaurant in town to surprise him. We ate and drank and were generally merry later into the evening than usual, but a good time was had by all.

Day 32 – Thebes, Chaironeia, and Hosios Loukas

Today was the first day of our northern Greece trip. We started off by driving to Thebes, where there isn’t much to see, unfortunately. It’s a very important site, but the modern town is built essentially directly on top of the modern town, which means that the government has to buy the property in order to excavate and there simply isn’t enough money for them to do so. We learned a lot about the complications of the process, and the resentment that can develop when money for a project doesn’t come through.

After Thebes, we drove to Chaironeia, which is were the decisive battle between Philip of Macedon and the Athenians, with their Theban allies, took place. Philip was able to crush the Greek soldiers because of his superior military skills (including his use of cavalry) and after that battle, all of Greece was basically his. It was neat to see the battlefield, as well as the lion monument built for the Theban dead.

We had lunch in a small town called Levadeia, where there was an oracle associated with the beautiful springs. It was almost like being back in the US, with the copious amounts of flowing water and so many tall trees! It was truly a tranquil spot.

Our last spot for the day was Hosios Loukas, a monastery dedicated to St. Luke (not the Evangelist). It was truly a marvel of Byzantine art, with beautiful mosaics all over the walls and ceilings. The entire complex was so serene, which made it all the more interesting to watch a thunder-storm roll in over the mountains. It never made it to us, though, and we had sun the rest of the way to Delphi, where we just got back from a delightful dinner. I’m looking forward to seeing the site tomorrow!

Days 30 and 31 – Museums and Walls

(7/16-17/14)

Yesterday was a bit rough. It started out well enough – we went back to the Agora and saw some ancient houses, toured the museum, and spoke to a bone expert (which was really cool, if also very grotesque). As we were walking back to the school for lunch, however, all hell broke loose. We were heading back up a very busy, crowded street, full of shoppers and tourists, when all of a sudden we saw policemen running towards us, motioning us back the way we came. People started running and the word “gun” was shouted a few times. It was all very confused and frankly, terrifying. Apparently a high profile terrorist had chosen that spot to attempt a bank robbery and ultimately engaged in a shoot-out with the police. The roads were closed so Chris and I walked a very long way ‘round back to the school, which meant that we were very late for lunch. We hastily chowed down before heading out to the next museum, exhausted but glad to be safe.

The afternoon was tiring – we went to the Numismatics Museum, interesting to me only because it was formerly the house of Heinrich Schliemann. After that we spent time at the Byzantine/Early Christian Museum, which was interesting but so big it was overwhelming. Our last stop was the Lyceum of Aristotle, and I honestly can’t tell you anything about it. A rough day, to say the least.

Today was very light, especially compared to yesterday. We spent the morning in Pireus, Athens’ harbor town. We went through the museum, which has some wonderful (if slightly creepy) bronzes and saw the remains of the Long Walls that once stretched for 22 miles back to Athens. We were back in Loring in time for lunch and are now preparing for our last trip, this time to the north of Greece. Chris and I will both be giving our last presentations there and when we return to Athens, we’ll only have 5 more days of the program. Tempus Fugit!

 

 

 

Pictures!

A random assortment:

The Caryatids from the south porch of the Erechtheion (now in the Acropolis Museum)

The Caryatids from the south porch of the Erechtheion (now in the Acropolis Museum)

Nike adjusting her sandal - from the Temple of Athena Nike

Nike adjusting her sandal – from the Temple of Athena Nike

Roman statue of Venus - from the National Archaeological Museum

Roman statue of Venus – from the National Archaeological Museum

Creepy marble statue from the Antikythera shipwreck - marble doesn't do too well underwater for 2,000 years

Creepy marble statue from the Antikythera shipwreck – marble doesn’t do too well underwater for 2,000 years

ZEUS!  I love this bronze statue - from the National Archaeological Museum

ZEUS! I love this bronze statue – from the National Archaeological Museum

The Olympieion

The Olympieion

IMG_3006

Part of the fortifications on Acrocorinth

Part of the fortifications on Acrocorinth

The temple of Apollo in Corinth with Acrocorinth in the background

The temple of Apollo in Corinth with Acrocorinth in the background

The fountain of Peirene at Corinth

The fountain of Peirene at Corinth

The Bourtzi at Nauplion

The Bourtzi at Nauplion

The theater at Epidaurus

The theater at Epidaurus

The Lion Gate of Mycenae

The Lion Gate of Mycenae

Part of the fortifications of Mistra

Part of the fortifications of Mistra

The courtyard of the active church at Mistra

The courtyard of the active church at Mistra

Looking back up the mountain at Mistra

Looking back up the mountain at Mistra

Methoni

Methoni

A church inside the fortress of Methoni

A church inside the fortress of Methoni

The temple of Zeus at Olympia

The temple of Zeus at Olympia

The sculpture from the pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia

The sculpture from the pediment of the temple of Zeus at Olympia

Day 29 – Rhamnous and Marathon

Caught up again, if ever so briefly! Today was actually a pretty pleasant day – we went to Rhamnous in the morning then Marathon in the afternoon.
Rhamnous is a small site with two main temples, one to Nemesis and the other to Themis. There is also a fortified town there which overlooks the sea. The position is very strategic because you can see straight across to Euboea, so enemy ships would have had a hard time sneaking up on them. The view is spectacular, and we had a great time scrambling over the ruins. Our visit was cut short, however, by a huge storm that rolled casually in over the mountains. Luckily we got back to the bus in time, because the town is rather difficult to get to, with a small path full of loose stones – it would not have been easy to get back in the rain.
It really began to pour as we approached Marathon, though we had a bit of clear weather – just enough time for our guest speaker to give us an overview of the battle and the plain we were looking at. We then hurried to the museum where we spent most of the time marveling at the force of the rain pounding on the roof.
We were scheduled to go to the beach but obviously because of the rain we simply came back to Athens. This wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds, though, because I had to finish working on the presentation I will be giving when we go north on Friday. Not as fun as the beach, but work that had to be done (and now is done!)