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

1 comment:

  1. Eddie, I'm thrilled to see you getting so much out of your trip, and delighted that you are enjoying it so much.