Sunday, November 27, 2011

Football Match

I stepped, no, pushed my way onto the packed metro headed to Irini, the Olympic Stadium of the 2004 games, this afternoon. While on the train, I could not move more than two inches in any direction and I was squished even more at every stop. However, after just a few stops, some of the men behind me started chanting and singing songs. I couldn’t understand them, but I heard PAO and OFI in them. I was headed to a soccer match between Panathenaikos (PAO) of Athens and OFI of Crete. These teams are part of the Superleague of Greek football clubs. The singing on the train made me even more excited than I already was for this game.

When the train finally made it to the Irini stop, almost everyone on the train rushed off of the train and down the stairs out of the station. I saw small carts of souvlaki and others with PAO souvenirs. I was with five of my classmates and we headed over to the ticket booth. Of course, there was no line, but a giant swarm of people pushing and shoving to get up to the window. The booth appeared to have around 10 windows, but of course only 1 or two were open. Randomly one would open and the crowd would shift, but it would close after only one or two sales. It was quite a struggle just to get the tickets. Luckily, the tickets were not nearly as expensive as professional sports teams in America. We also each purchased a PAO scarf from a vendor to show our support for the home team. As I walked into the Olympic complex, I was in awe of the beauty of this structure; with its white metal curves and modern architecture, it stands in contrast to other buildings I am used to in the Athenian concrete jungle.

Once we took our seats in the stadium, I was immediately drawn towards the packed section behind the goal. It was filled with Panathenaikos fans, and as it would turn out, also the liveliest section of the stadium. They held enormous signs, displayed four massive flags throughout the game, and set off multiple flares (kind of like fireworks) during the game. They always started the songs and constantly stood and danced. The entire section seemed to pulse. That is not to say the fans in my section were not into the game- they joined in with many of the songs, shouted profanities, and showed the offensive open hand gesture.

The game reminded me of American sports games I have been to (at Fenway or TD Garden); I even had a hot dog during half time! Major differences between American sports games and this one are that in Greece, flares and smoking are allowed in the stadium. The game was a ton of fun. Panathenaikos beat OFI 3-1 and the atmosphere was wonderful. I highly recommend attending a soccer game.

Northern Greece

Last weekend I joined around 40 of my classmates on an optional field trip to Northern Greece. Over the course of three days, we would clock over 1000miles on the odometer. We started out early Friday morning and drove up to Thermopylae, the site of the the famous Spartan battle against the Persians depicted in 300. The pass is no longer as narrow as it was over 2000 years ago- the coastline has been expanded about 4km. There wasn't too much to see there but I got a visual of what landscape the battle took place on. This is a photo of the monument set up there. Leonidas is the central figure with the shield. You can see the famous quote MOLON LABE "Come and get them (if you dare)."

The next stop we had was unplanned; the national road up to Thessaloniki was closed so we had to detour through Kalambaka. I had previously traveled to Kalambaka to see the monasteries of Meteora. This time we could not enter the monasteries, but we did have much better weather. With the fall foliage and the fantastic lighting the monasteries and rocks are absolutely stunning.

After dark we arrived in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. We walked through the center of town and had a delicious dinner at a taverna- Northern Greece is known for its food.

The next day we went to Pella. We saw both the museum and the archaeological site. Pella was the capital of ancient Macedonia. This was the area from which Alexander the Great came from. There were some gorgeous mosaics on the floor of some of the buildings in Pella.
We followed Pella up with a stop at Vergina. A goat herder was once herding his goats across a hill when he suddenly fell down though the earth and on top of a giant tomb. As it turned out, there were a number of elaborate tombs buried under the hill. Archaeologists believe that these tombs belong to the Macedonian royal family. The Vergina museum displays these tombs and many artifacts found in them. There was this one really cool shield with beautiful ivory decoration that may have been Alexander's (how can they really tell?).

We then returned back to Thessaloniki for the evening. We walked around a bit more, but once again most of the shops were closed. I did get to try the chocolate covered tsoureki! Tsoureki is a delicious sweet bread, but in Thessaloniki (remember it is known for food) there is this shop that covers them with different glazes.
Sunday morning we got a tour of Thessaloniki by the professors accompanying us on the trip. We saw Agios Demetrios, the church of the patron saint of the city. Although I was a little uncomfortable, it was really cool to see this beautiful church during services.
We also saw the Acheiropiitos church, the rotunda (which has beautiful mosaics), the Gallerius Arch, the palace, and the White Tower. The White Tower is a symbol of Thessaloniki and used to be a prison. One of the inmates painted it white in exchange for his freedom. The tower has stairs spiraling around the inside edge of the tower leading up to a beautiful view of the sea.

Rotunda mosaic:
View from the White Tower:
The bus ride back to Athens was long. And while I enjoyed watching both 300 and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on the bus, I wish the ride had been a bit shorter. If Thessaloniki was a bit closer, I definitely would go back for some more of their food.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An Out of Library Experience

Generally, writing a research paper involves hiding away in the library for several weeks while laboring over what seems like a small academic miracle. That is often a rewarding experience, but I just completed a research paper for my ancient Athenian democracy class, not while living in the stacks for a month, and gained a new perspective.
This paper was challenging, but enjoyable. The topic? One that I've been wanting to address for a while now: the impact of communication on ancient Athenian democracy. I chose to narrow my focus, examining how the interaction between orators and the masses kept the democracy on stable footing. So there was a good amount of time in the library, but it was an atypical experience.
CYA works with the American School of Classical Studies to ensure that three students per day can have access to the school's library, the Blegen. With more than one hundred students at CYA, time at the Blegen is very limited. When my day at the library finally arrived I was very excited, but a little nervous at the same time. I had heard a few horror stories about other CYAers' experiences at the library. My time at the Blegen was wonderful, though. The staff is very serious, but that is understandable since they have to protect the works in the non circulating library. No books can be checked out of the Blegen and its staff have to ensure that nothing leaves. Before being able to use the library I had to undergo an orientation during which I learned about the library's technological and print resources, protecting book bindings, and filling out a card to let people know I had temporarily taken a book off its shelf. Yes, this seemed daunting at first, but I admire the Blegen's system. I felt like a true academician while researching there.
Before I knew it, my time at the Blegen was over. I strolled back home, enjoying a bit of people watching in Kolonaki, one of the nicest Athenian neighborhoods. When I went to cross Vasilissis Sofias, a major street in Athens, I was a bit shocked at the fact that there were absolutely no cars anywhere to be seen. Then, in the middle of the street I looked right and saw a sea of people marching behind a banner! They were five feet away from me and I was the only person in their path. I quickly ran out of the street and paused on the side walk to watch them. It then dawned on me that it was November 17th, the anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising against the Junta. The anniversary is commemorated each year with marches and demonstrations that can sometimes turn violent. Now, everything made sense to me. I had been wondering why, on my walk to the Blegen, I had passed a group of ten police officers taping off roads at every corner. Those marching on the street began to chant and sing and that is when it hit me that I was living within my research paper topic! The march happening right in front of me was an example of communication in democracy. Unfortunately, the multiple groups of riot police walking right next to me clearly showed I was having a modern democratic experience, not an ancient one that I could add to my paper. Still, though, it was an incredible and pertinent experience, which made my paper into a living entity rather than words on a page achieved from living a month in the stacks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music and Marathon

I just returned from a musical evening at CYA. One of our staff members sang with a guitarist and bouzouki-player a collection of Greek music from the 1930s up through today. It was a ton of fun to hear the Greek music. The music they played is called "Rembetika" or the Greek 'Blues.' Some of the other staff members got up and danced to some songs. They also sang along to many of the songs. If you want to hear a sample of Greek music check out Melina Mercouri from the movie Never on Sunday or Vassilis Tsitsanis who is a well known bouzouki player.

Yesterday was Marathon Sunday- the day of the Athens Classic Marathon. I woke up early to volunteer at the marathon. I took the metro out to the Katechaki Bridge and helped out at the water station there. I handed out water bottles to runners of both the 10k and the marathon. I have so much admiration for those runners. As I stood there shaking in the cold, they were running their 38th of 42 kilometers!

I also visited Parliament last week. I went with a group of students from school and we went on a tour of the building. It was very interesting to hear the history of the building and then to actually go into their assembly room (the one you always see in pictures of the delegates meeting). Their chairs are really comfortable! It was cool to be there at a time when the next prime minister was still being decided upon and the coalition government was being set up. It is so cool to be in Athens during such a hectic time. I am here while they are making the decisions that will influence the future of the European economy!

Monday, November 7, 2011


(Real ancient pottery from a September class trip to the Agora)
During orientation, which seems to have taken place so long ago, I signed up for a Conservation Seminar. The Seminar was billed as a very exclusive opportunity to work with an archaeological conservationist over three sessions in November, but not much other information was provided. Thanks to Professor Hitchner's stories of digging in Carthage and tour of a site in Vienne, France, I've recently caught the archaeology bug so I was eager to learn about conservation.
Well, November has finally rolled around and we had our first session last Tuesday! Leading up to the first meeting we had been sent a mysterious email asking us to come prepared with a bag of rice and a cheap imitation of an ancient pot. Since three of my flat mates are also a part of the seminar the apartment was filled with rice and pots. All weekend we screamed theories about the mystery supplies back and forth between the kitchen, living room, and our bedrooms. We all agreed that we were going to break the pots. As one roommate pointed out, "it would be awfully pointless to conserve a brand new imitation pot". Yet we were still very confused about the rice. Our most elaborate scenario involved using the rice to absorb moisture from the pots after submerging them in a model well. I hope it won't disappoint you too terribly, but as it turns out, the rice was not used for such a scheme. No, it was actually used to stabilize the pots as we put them back together.
How did we break them in the first place? We all arrived on Tuesday at 7 pm, clutching our pots protectively. My roommates and I were very serious in choosing the perfect ones! Ashleigh chose Poseidon because she, like me, horseback rides. Picking their favorites, Stephanie chose Athena and Emily chose Artemis. I chose Aphrodite looking at her reflection in a mirror as I'm benefitting from self-reflection here. Our instructor entered with a very serious looking conservationist kit. He explained that in our three sessions we would reconstruct our pots, plaster any missing pieces, and paint the plaster. We will also take a trip to the Agora's conservation lab! Then we fearlessly placed our pots in a plastic bag and gently knocked them against the marble floor of our classroom. Just one light tap was all it took to break the pot into pieces. We then began the puzzle like endeavor of putting our pots back together. I was surprised because this task was both easier and harder than I originally expected. Let me explain! It was easier in that it was pretty quick work to find what pieces fit together, but it was more difficult in that it's not as simple as jut piecing whatever fits together. You must work in one direction, from bottom up or from top to bottom and you must always think a step ahead. If you're only thinking about the current pieces you're gluing then it's likely that you're next piece may not fit perfectly. This happened often and we'd have to take the pieces we had already glued apart to find a better way to reconstruct.
Finally, we all finished, put our pots on a shelf for next time, and said our goodbyes. Two of my Thursday classes are in the same room so it was great to see the pots again then! You can barely tell that they were ever broken...until you turn them around and see huge gaps of missing material. We'll take care of that tomorrow, though! For now I'm just happy that I learned so much and that I had a semi-suitable replacement for Tufts Classics and Archaeology's annual Halloween Pumpkin carving event!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Break: Istanbul and Berlin

Upon our return from the Peloponnese, our week-long fall break began. I, along with VJ and Katie, went off to Istanbul early Monday morning. Istanbul was unlike anywhere I had ever been before. The culture of Istanbul was totally unique- a mixture of European with what I imagine is Middle Eastern. On our first day walking to the Grand Bazaar we heard the call of prayer played throughout the city from the loudspeakers atop the minarets. It was so cool to be able to hear this. The Grand Bazaar is this huge indoor market where vendors lure you to their stalls with their go-to phrase “how can I help you spend your money?” There were scarves, lamps, carpets, towels, hookahs, shoes, tea, and more. On the other side of the Golden Horn, there was even more shopping. There were tons of shops lining the street from the Galata Tower up to Taksim Square. We went up the Galata Tower and had a bird’s eye view of the entire city. Our dinner in the new city was delicious- couscous, eggplant tahini, hummus, fried zucchini, and soup. The next day we went to the Basilica Cisterns, the archaeological museum, the blue mosque, and took the boat over to the Asian side of Istanbul. There wasn’t too much for us to do over there and it was clearly less touristy. On our third day in Istanbul, we finally entered the Hagia Sophia. It was beautiful, but I think I liked the Blue Mosque better because it still is a place of worship while the Hagia Sophia is just a museum. We also went to the Tokapi Palace which was also beautiful. It has this really fascinating weapon room with all these different maces, swords, and suits of armor were on display. I really enjoyed seeing Istanbul.

Thursday morning Katie and I moved onto Berlin (VJ returned to Athens). Berlin was a breath of fresh air-literally: it is one of the cleanest cities and is surrounded by pine forests. There was very little traffic, bikes were abundant, and everything was so new! I loved the city, but it did make me miss home a little with its cooler weather and autumn leaves. We went to the DDR museum, a hands-on, interactive museum about East (Soviet) Berlin, the Jewish Museum which had a really cool Holocaust section of the building, and the Museum of German History. We went on a walking tour where we learned all about the history of the city and saw Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate. We went up the dome of the Reichstag Friday night and saw the city all lit up. We visited the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. It is covered with murals by artists from all over the globe. Most of the murals were very interesting. Berlin was a wonderful city and really made me want to see more of Germany.

I have been back in Athens for almost a week now. This morning I hiked to the top of Lykavittos Hill, the highest hill in Athens. I often forget how large Athens actually is, but when I reached the top of the hill, I could see just how many buildings are in the city. There must be a ton, for there are nearly 5 million people in the city.