Monday, March 28, 2011

Written (3.25.11) w/o internet:

Tou Evangelismou! Happy Greek Independence Day! I woke up early this morning, strolled through Plaka, had a coffee, quickly walked through the empty Agora, and headed to Syntagma to see the March 25th military procession. It was nice to do that alone. It has also been surprising pleasant to tour without a camera. Since I left my charger at home and had to have one shipped here, I have been forced to enjoy everything I see for its own value since my camera died a few days ago. Enough of my classmates take pictures to keep me from thinking that I won’t be able to see these images again. For now, I can just relax and take it all in.

Me under the Heraldic Lions (but more likely Griffins) Gate at Mycenae. 
Photo by Russell Pfeiffer

The Bay of Nafplion
Photo by Caroline Morse
The Argolid Plain-View from Mycenae
Photo by Russell Pfeiffer
The Excavations at Pylos
Photo by Russell Pfeiffer 

We rolled into Athens yesterday after our six day Peloponnesian Tour of Nafplion, Pylos, and the surrounding sites. The hostel we stay at in Athens has a coffee bar, and internet cafĂ©, and a laundromat. I had a cappuccino at about 5am and tried to connect to the internet for the rest of the evening. It’s wonderful to exchange emails from home. I don’t know if I could have done this trip twenty years ago. It’s nice to know what is going on in good old Illinois.

I think that the thing that separates me from most people abroad is that my ultimate goal is to make it home as a better person with more experience and knowledge. The consensus seems to be that you need to expand your horizons and leave simplicity behind. Odysseus needs to end up at home. The whole point of the adventure is that Bilbo can return to the Shire victorious and content.

The procession today was a great show. Every branch of Greek military was represented along with a full brass band for each group. They were all well dressed and carried American weapons. The Special Forces followed the Air Force, Army, Navy, and General Officers, and everyone carried their applicable gear. The following pictures are from last year. I still don't have my camera.

UPDATE- Took a ferry to crete 3.27.11-Update about that later. Everything is pretty fantastic at the moment. It's alot to take in. 

God Bless!!!

Eddie Kristan

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nestor's Place

Typed w/o internet on 3.23.11

When DaVinci said,

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 

He had probably recently been abroad. As hard as it is to live out of a suitcase and a backpack for three months, its harder to manage anything more than that while catching busses, trams, trains, and daily hotel check-ins. I’m fairly happy with my five black tee-shirts, 3 over-shirts, jeans, khakis, shorts, toiletry bag, notebook, laptop, socks, and underwear. Anything I accumulate will push my sanity exponentially by virtue of its weight and ability to be lost or stolen. As long as I can wash myself, have relatively clean clothes, and contact home periodically, I’ll be just fine.

Anyway, we struck out for Pylos yesterday. Nafplion was great and it had been fantastic to tour the Argon Plain for 3 days, but we needed to keep moving in order to complete our tour of Bronze Age (3000-1200BC) ruins. Before heading to Crete. The ride took about four hours, and it was the classic movie scenerio where the native driver takes all the foreigners on the scariest mountain curved roads. Our driver has a cruel sense of humor.

The last week has been a grand succession of Bronze Age citadel ruins. Here is the breakdown.

Lerna: oldest formation (Early-Middle Helladic) & pre-Mycenaen. The House of Tiles was an impressive and well-excavated ruinous corridor house (communal government building). It also showed of era transition w/ an apsidal (individual house) in the back of the complex.

Tiryns: Cyclopean Walls fortifying a Mycenaean fortress. This complex was well contained so it was easy to close your eyes periodically to imagine in its heyday 3500 years ago. Also unfortunately excavated by Heinrich Schliemann.

Mycenae: Just plain awesome. Supposedly, it was Agamemnon’s domain. See last entry for further detail.

Pylos: Nestor’s Palace was extremely well preserved. Containing two megarons (grand throne rooms), a chariot workshop, a scribe-room, and a store of Linear B tablets among other things. Also, Nestor’s Bathtub was great (just google-image it, my camera charger is in Athens).

On a personal note, It’s a roller-coaster ride to experience wonder and fascination between bouts of homesickness and feeling out of the ordinary. It’s like I needed to find a happy medium between Greece and Gurnee. Canada, maybe? Nevermind.

Only joking. I’m very grateful for this experience. We’re going to a fish taverna tonight. Prof. Fisher made friends with the owner last night and he’s having us over for catch of the day. The Mediterranean is gorgeous. Our current housing looks out over the harbor of Pylos. Pretty fantastic.

Here’s a special shout out to my Grandma in Arizona. Thanks for all your support and encouragement. I think I got my travel skill from you. I’m getting pretty pro at finding my way around, ordering unknown food, and talking to locals. Hope all is well in AZ.

To all of you, please feel free to comment or ask questions.

I’ll be back in Athens tomorrow night.

God Bless,

Eddie Kristan

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mycenae- Citadel of "Agamemnon"

"Hell to ships, hell to men, hell to cities."
-Aeschylus (Agamemnon, 689)

It's humbling to study such a powerful nation in the knowledge of its total annihilation. Fascinating, but existentially terrifying.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
-Psalm 46:7-8

For the last two rainy days we have been studying at the ancient ruins of Mycenae (fl. 1500-1200BC). 

This is the ruin that Schliemann invaded and immediately began attributing graves, masks, and treasures to the house of Atreus. While a lot of people might criticize him for this, I think I might have done the same thing in his shoes. It's like when Roman and I were running around the creek when we were little. Every extraordinary little treasure had intrinsic value an an exponential scale of imagination. Therefore, the largest Tholos tomb belongs to Agamemnon's father Atreus:

There are 9 total massive tholos (beehive) tombs. The most famous ones are attributed to Atreus, Clytaemnestra, and Aegisthus. The citadel and palace outsize the rest of all bronze age ruins (including our selection for the rest of the week: Lerna, Tiryns, Pylos, Heronaea). There are two fundamental grave circles from which we get a great deal of artifacts. There is a Megaron that overlooks the Argolid Plains and views the bay of Nafplio. There is a possible second Megaron and a stone carved cistern at the rear of the complex. It's pretty fantastic. This is where the "Mask of Agamemnon" was "found". The most exciting thing to see on the citidel is the "Lion's Gate"

Taking notes in the fresh hilltop air of the Argolis has been fantastic. It feels like were standing over the plains of Rohan. Bronze Age History is never dull because of the lack of concrete evidence. Progress over time is shown through burial, architecture, and manufacturing practices, and all through insufficient archaeological evidence. It involves a great deal of inductive reasoning and comparisons with other sites.

Also, yesterday I tried Moussaka, which was delicious. It's essentially a casserole with eggplant, spiced lamb, potato, and cheese custard. We ate at a cafe called Noufara for dinner. For lunch we usually hit up a gyro stand or a bakery for tyrokopita (fillo cheese pie). You eat a lot of spiced meat, cheese, and oil here. Coke flows like water and the coffee is thick. 

Tomorrow, we are going to Pylos to visit good old Nestor's home. Every once in a while my mind returns to glorious days in a small white room at a church in Bristol, where a small handful of students were introduced to the further question and the idea that truth (in its absolute form) is a valuable and attainable pursuit. Through the works of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Herodotus, and Plato we learned that we were created to glorify God with purposeful understanding of history, philosophy, beauty, and our place in the world God created. Thank you, Dr. RJ Snell, for taking the time to open the eyes of a bunch of kids to destiny through the development of character. Thank you. I miss my fellow Omnibus students and wish they could have this opportunity that each and every one of them deserves. Know that I am thinking of our time together and praying that we will reunite some time soon. 

Goodnight and God Bless, 

Eddie Kristan

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week One Abroad

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for. -Socrates

After 7 days abroad in Greece, it is time for me to finally collect my thoughts and present them to you.

As you probably gathered from my last jet-laggy post from the 12th, I made it to Greece safe and sound. I flew Lufthansa because it was the cheapest tickets I could find 2 months in advance. It was interesting hearing all the PA's in German. I think it prepared me for culture shock. I flew over Ireland and hit my connection in Dusseldorf before arriving in Athens at 2:45pm. 

The shuttle bus took me to Syntagma (where Constitution Square is located) and I found my classmates at our temporary lodgings in Plaka, almost in the shadow of the Acropolis. Here was my first view of the Acropolis. 

3.13.11- The group woke me up at 10am for an independent tour of the acropolis since it is open for free on Sundays. The place is magnificent. The Parthenon, Erechtheon, and Temple of Athena Nike are so iconic and brilliantly built and preserved that it takes your breath away. When you walk through the park, there are no guards or eyesore barricades. All Greek sites of antiquity inspire their own respect. Temenos- Set apart. 

Here is a picture I took of the Temple of Athena Parthenos (The Parthenon). It's size is magnificent and its completeness is endearing. Two days later we visited the New Acropolis Museum that holds some of the statues, friezes, and various bids of pediment sculptures and architecture. However, at the start of the program we are only studying Bronze Age History, Architecture, Art, and Archaeology. When we get to Classical Greece, we will broaded the study and return to these sites. 
After a climb on the Areopagus we ventured into some of the more tourist areas of central Athens from the Plaka to Monastiraki for Gyros. 

There are stray dogs everywhere. This little guy was sleeping below the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

One of the many fantastic views from the Acropolis.

3.14.11- Breakfast at the hostel before a 7.30am walk to the Areopagus preceeding a trip the Benaki Art and Artifact Museum. Sitting on the rock, we could hear the Orthodox Chants from St. Paul's below. It struck me that his inspired words on that rock were the inspiration for that worship little more than 1940 years later. Powerful. The Benaki Museum was interesting and had artifacts spanning from Early Cycladic to Modern Greece. We met our library facilitators at the Canadian Institute afterwards. Jonathan and April are terrific and have availed their excellent library for our use. Dined for the evening at a Taverna. The food here is terrific, but takes some getting used to. I'll have a dedicated post regarding that later.

I had to document my first gyro. It was pretty good.

Everybody tries to make a couple euros in the Plaka. Some are better than others.

3.15. 11- This day we had our of the New Acropolis Museum. It's fantastic to see Phidias and Polykleitos works. Most of us have encountered these famous pieces in various studies, and it feels almost unreal to stand in front of them. Information/Amazement overload. Jonathan from the CI gave us a walking tour of Athens from Syntagma to Exarchia Square, which included a visit to the old parliament building, the Athens University, and the bypass of Omonia.

Evzoni Soldiers changing the guard at Constitution Square, Syntagma,

Plato at the Athenian University
Statue of Socrates at the Athenian University

3.16.11- Early meeting with our professor from Cambridge. We took the metro to the Canadian Institute during commute hours and experience Our brit professor is brilliant and uses enough slang to keep the lectures amusing. We were all assigned projects for the next few weeks. I chose to write about sea trade in the early bronze age. Afterwards we went to the National Archaeological Museum to see the treasure of Mycaenae. Agamemnon's Death Mask (most likely fabricated by Heinrich Schliemann the evil archaeologist of Troy, Mycaenae and Tiryns) was fun to see because of its prevalence and reputation. We weren't allowed to pose next to it because the Greek Government had to think about its reputation.

3.17.11- Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Matthew (our professor) took us to the Cycladic Museum in Syntagma to look at some of the Cycladic Figures. The Cycladic Museum, like the Benaki, was privately owned and beautiful, but suspicious in legality. Alot of their artifact have mysterious pasts and therefore are hard to study in connection to their geographic origins. We know that these are from the Cycladic Islands between Greece and Ionia and that they were made during the early Cycladic Era between 3000-2000BC.

We went to the James Joyce Irish Pub to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. They had two guys standing on the bar playing bodhran and guitar and the crowd was at about 300 people spilling into the street. It was a great time, but it was still hard not being home with my family.

3.18.11- First Archaeological Site @ Tiryns. Beautiful ruinous citidel, unfortunately excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. It was a pleasure to stand at the foundations of the megaron at the peak and try to image what the place looked like during its peak almost 3500 years ago. The history here is mindblowing, and we haven't even scratched the surface. We ended the day with a walk through the Palamede Fortress overlooking the bay of Nafplion were we are staying for the next three nights. The view of the bay is magnificent... truly magnificent. It was also cool to see the place where the freedom fighter Theodoros Kolokotroni was imprisoned in the mid 19th century.

3.19.11- Today we visited the ruins of Lerna, an early Helladic site that holds evidence of a transition from early to mid helladic buildings and burial practices. It was well excavated (unlike Tiryns) and therefore very informative. Later we hit a couple of minor sites on the Argive plain, which is pretty cool. Looking out across it you can see for miles. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. Very cool.

I guess that brings us up to today. I have to say that I am missing home. Skype is a lifesaver. I got to talk to both my folks this afternoon and I am glad they are doing well. I miss them like nothing else.

Heres to my friends back home, at CLC, Lake Forest, Trinity, or just hanging around. Here's to my family in Gurnee, Waukegan, Chanahon, Arizona, and Colorado. Here's to all those who are graciously following my journey.  You are in my thoughts and prayers. I am prepared to start posting more regularly in the near future.

God Bless,

Eddie Kristan

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I made it to Athens safe and reasonably sound. Our current location has internet but it is limited. I will be brief. Athens is awesome. It hasn't sunk in that I'm in Greece, but we can see the Acropolis from the top floor of the hotel. There are electric rail busses and stray dogs, gyro stands and tons of souveneir booths. I will post again within the next few days. The flight went well, including my connection in Dusseldorf. We have four days in Athens before we venture into the Peloponnessus.

Until then, Eddie Kristan

Monday, March 7, 2011

4 Days and Counting

On Friday afternoon, I will be flying to from Chicago to Dusseldorf and from Dusseldorf to Athens for the space of three months. Until then, I feel like the hobbit in his hole... and that means comfort.

"I should like to know about risks, out-of-pocket expenses, time required and remuneration, and so forth" - by which he meant: "What am I going to get out of it? and am I going to come back alive?"-Bilbo Baggins

Off for the misty mountains, I suppose. I've puttered around Waukegan and Gurnee for too long now. When you begin to call a drive to Racine an 'adventure,' it's time to broaden your horizons. Considering that I've never been out of the country, never been away from Gurnee more than two weeks, and I've lived in the same room for more than 19 years, this trip seems a bit daunting. Although, walking in the footsteps of Socrates, visiting the ruins of Mycenae, and sailing around on the Aegean makes me feel more less 'hobbitish.'

The Great Conversation inspires courage. The idea of real adventure calls for a fierce and jealous love of the horizon.  

Embellished idealization calms my nerves. If Bilbo Baggins, Elwin Ransom, the Baudelaire Orphans, and Arthur Dent can travel outside of their comfort, so can I. From March 11-May 27, I will be studying a range of history, philosophy, literature and art in Greece. The program is through my school (Lake Forest College) and fulfills requirements for both a History and Classics degree. I'll be staying with a fantastic group of students, studying under great faculty members, and visiting some of the most amazing places of the ancient and modern world. Should be worth leaving my hobbit-hole for a while. 

I'll do my best to keep you posted on my whereabouts and activities. 

Sincerely until then, 

Eddie Kristan