Saturday, April 23, 2011

Olympia and Delphi

I hope everyone had a reflective Good Friday. I am currently in Mykonos, an island in the northeast corner of the Cyclades by Delos.

The map doesn't do it justice. This place is gorgeous. We are here for six day, three of which are free of study, lectures, and homework. It's been a while since the group has been able to relax. Mykonos is the most tourist oriented place outside of Plaka that we have been to so far. The houses are all whitewashed with blue doors and shutters. The alley ways and shoreline are picturesque. There are old-fashioned windmills lining the port of the town, and a church named Panagia Paraportiani (pictured 3 below) that is absolutely beautiful.

Anyway, the place is beautiful and we get a chance to enjoy it on our own. I went to the Orthodox Good Friday procession last night. It was really special. A group of young locals kids led the procession with decorative banners, and a flowered altar was carried by the chapel's elders. There was about 300 people with every procession (each church has one) but the town was quiet and reverent. It was beautiful. We walked around the entire town before they ended up back at the chapel. When you study so much history and related studies, its easy to lose sight of what is really significant in all of time and pertinent to life itself.

"Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all. The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master."
-Athanasius, On the Incarnation

The Good Friday Gathering in Mykonos
The Processional Altar
I should take a minute to flash back to Olympia and Delphi. We had a short time back in Athens after Crete to finish some exams and write a term paper on Minoan and Mycenaean archaeology. After 3 days, we shipped off for the 5 hour drive to Olympia. We were there for 3 nights and worked at the site of the Panhellenic Sanctuary and Games. The gradual construction of the site was fascinating. The highlights were definitely the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Stadion (which we ran like brazen tourists), and Phidias' Workshop.

The Ruinous Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Olympic Stadion
Me at Phidias' Workshop
After Olympia, we went to Delphi for 2 days to visit the Temple of Apollo (where the Pythian Priestess delivered the oracles) and the surrounding sanctuary. Delphi was by far the most naturally beautiful site we've been to. It was built on the face of Mt. Parnassus during the Archaic Period (8th-5th century B.C.) and overlooks the bay of Corinth. We spent two days studying the site and the museum. We even hiked up a mountain adjacent to Parnassus. It was really spectacular. There was a stadion, several elaborate treasury buildings, a theatre, and a temple of Athena that were also quite impressive.

First view from Delphi
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi
The Theatre at Delphi
The Bay of Corinth

Everything has been going swimmingly, except for the cold I am currently suffering. Yes, it is indeed a horrible man-cold. I am still planning to head into town at around midnight for the Easter celebrations. I'll continue to down the tea. The next procrastination review will focus on the islands of Aegina and Delos, which made up the last 2 days of the trip. I've nearly caught you up, folks. I will also dedicate a part of that post to Greek food. Stay tuned.

Until then, Eddie

Monday, April 18, 2011

Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos Flashback

It's time to backtrack a bit. It's been a whirlwind two and a half weeks.

There are four locations that will be covered in this update:
Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos

Heraklion was 4 days and contained visits to Knossos, Malia, Phaestos, and Agia Triada. It was a small city, but definately the hub of modern Cretan tourism. We ate seafood (mostly octopus, mussels, and whitefish) every night there. Agios Nikolaos was smaller and quieter. We got to experience more extra-urban Greece. Less people spoke english and we had to take more primitive transportation. Staying a week on Crete was an excellent experience. We also got the chance to see a good amount of military activity (carrier and fighter planes as well as french soldiers on leave) in connection to the conflict in Libya.

In summary, after a mid-term exam in Athens two weeks ago, we took the green-line on the Athenian Metro to Piraeus (The port of Athens) to board a ferry bound for Crete. We would spend a week there. The Ferry was pretty fantastic.

The day after we reached Heraklion we started visiting ancient Minoan palaces. The first was Knossos, the Bronze Age Minoan palace where the myth of Minos, Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur supposedly took place. We learned all about Bronze Age Minoan architecture, artifacts, and religion.

The next day we visited two similar Bronze Age, Minoan Sites: The Phaestos Palace, and the Agia Triada Villa.

The Pheatos Palace was the only site located further inland on Crete. This is because it was centrally located in the most lush and fertile plain of the area. It was similar in size and construction of Knossos, but had slight variation due to the timeline of construction.

Agia Triada (named "Holy Trinity" for a nearby Byzantine Monastery) was a nice little village that had both Minoan construction and later mainland Mycenaean invasive buildings and storage for international olive-oil trade. There was a fascinating room dedicated solely  for male drinking and socializing. Ancient man cave.

We went to another comparable site called Malia. It was fascinating. I feel  bad skimming over these, but I'm pretty far behind.

Gournia was a full Minoan town surrounding a grand Bronze Age Villa. The view of the northeast coast of Greece was unparalleled the whole trip. I was quite pleased. Matthew, our instructor, led us to a place where sightings of un-excavated ship-sheds were reported. We uncovered 3 full foundations before the bus came. It was a beautiful day.

We had a final exam for Bronze Age Greece on our seventh day in Crete. Immediately after that, we headed back to port at Heraklion to go back to Athens in preparation for our next course. Stay tuned for the next flashback where I tell you about Olympia and Delphi.

At this point, I am desirous of a stable bed and a couple hours to myself. Ezra was counting how many rooms we have stayed in. I think he lost count at about 17 at Olympia a week ago. We're probably in the 20's by now. It's tough, considering I've lived my entire life in a single bedroom, surrounded  by my family who I miss to an exponential degree. I'm fine for now. This is both a wonderful and a refining experience. I can't complain about the chance to take an adventure. I may not be fighting dragons, but I'm certainly out of my element. From the food to the living conditions and the amount of work in a single subject we have, it is difficult to adjust. I can tough it out. My Grandpa came this far in a B-24 Liberator when he was little older than me. My Dad worked on the Illinois Tollway and braved traffic for 30 years to grant me this opportunity. It's time for me to buck up and conquer this adventure to full extent of benefit. After all...

"Far better it is to dare mighty things than to take rank with those poor timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt

I have to give special thanks for letters from home. They help a lot with the feelings of disconnectedness (word?). Mom and Dad have been so supportive and encouraging. I'm also grateful for Arcade Fire, The Art of Manliness, Nikon Coolpix, Paperblanks and Mirado Black Warriors, Cambridge Professors with odd british-isms, apples, and Skype.

God Bless, Eddie

Monday, April 11, 2011

Too much to tell this tired.

It’s been about 2 weeks since I’ve posted. I know.

 March to May seems like a long time, but when you attempt to condense an entire country, culture, and nearly 2,400 years of classical tradition within that time frame, the schedule gets tight. After we got back from our Nafplion/Pylos trip, we took a midterm and almost immediately boarded our ferry to Crete. We arrived in Heraklion the next morning and were back to work at the Knossos Palace site the next day. Over the next few days, we visited Phaistos, Malia, Agia Triada, Kommos, and Gournia. Remember these names. I will revisit them in the next few days. Bronze Age Minoan history, archaeology, art, and architecture were fascinating. The complexity and variance from mainland Mycenae was intense and we worked very hard.

At one point we got to swim in the Med. It was my first time swimming in salt water. It was super relaxing. I also took a pretty high jump off of a cliff face into the water. This trip is a pretty big departure for me from my normal comfort zone. That wasn’t tough in comparison.

It was on the Crete trip that my evening readings brought me through the book of Daniel. Reading of spiritual triumph of young men in a foreign land was the best medicine for me. I can’t really explain how special that was.

After our week stay in Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos (accompanied by a final exam), we caught a ferry back to Athens to write a final paper and prepare for our next class. On Wednesday, we met Maria, our new professor, and went to the National Archaelogical Museum to see some statues (I will repost details and pictures). Thursday took us on a 5 hour ride to Olympia. Three days later and we are in Delphi. It’s a whirlwind of time, space, and glorious history.

I’ll be posting tomorrow. I am healthy, whole, and staying purposeful. I miss my family, but the internet (specifically Facebook and Skype) is a wonderful invention. I also have to thank Levon Helm, Sufjan Stevens, Mumford & Sons, and Nickel Creek (among other quality musicians) for accompanying me on long rides around Greece. We are visiting the classical site here in Delphi (Temples of Apollo and Athena- domain of the Pythia) tomorrow. The food and the weather is good.

I’m going to sleep. I apologize for my lackluster blog spirit. Give me some sleep and keep the internet strong and you won’t be able to hold me back. Thanks for reading. I’ll really bring it next time.

God Bless,