Sunday, March 29, 2015

Northern Greece- Ancient Macedonia and some Byzantium

We started off the 6-8 hour ride north with pretty much everyone sleeping on the bus until we reached Ambelakia, a small town where we got lunch and saw a church dedicated to St. George interestingly enough because that is the supposed spot where St. George slew the dragon. I watched Disney's Hercules as we were going to drive past Mount Olympus (very cool) and when we arrived in Thessaloniki we had time for an orientation walk to give us an idea of where we were relative to the waterfront, and show us how different the city was from Athens. It is much more of a college town, and much less tourist-y.
Day 2 was all Macedonia! We went to the Pella Museum where I got to see mosaics I have studied in person - the famous lion hunt mosaic, and the famous Dionysus riding a leopard were incredibly detailed and I was in awe to see them in person. We followed this with a trip to the actual site of Pella - the capital Philip and Alexander once lived, breathed, and walked within. We did not get to go to the ruins of the Palace, but we walked through the areas where the houses that contained the mosaics were to get an idea of the mosaics in context. Even though some parts of the site did not have much left, just the idea of being there, and envisioning what once was gives an incredible experience - I felt like I was standing just inches away from history with just a thin pane of fogged glass separating me from it. (Below is a photo of Mariah and I - Tufts in Pella!)

Class in Pella!

After that we went to Lefkadia Tomb, the tomb of a Macedonian soldier, most likely the 8th special guard of Alexander the Great, a man who bore the king's shield. There were four main frescoes that still had fine detail, and the size of the tomb, as the first in situ full scale tomb I have seen, made me think that things like this are the reason I study archaeology.

We rounded off the day with a trip to a winery for a wine tasting, and a quick trip to Mieza, where Aristotle taught Alexander. It was an incredibly wonderful day.
Day 3 we stayed in the city - Professor Karavas took us on a walk through the Byzantine side of Thessaloniki, starting with the Rotunda, and seeing the churches of St. Dimitrios and the Roman Bath remains underneath it (pictured below with a shrine to the saint), Aghia Sofia, the Archeiropoiitos Church, and the agora before going back to the Galerius complex to see the Arch. For the afternoon we got northern style gyros (which have ketchup and mustard in them but trust me it still tastes great) and explored some.

This chandelier was made of griffin!

Day 4 was Byzantium and Macedonia - we went through the Museum of Byzantine Culture which has some amazing tomb frescoes set into the walls so that you can see how it would have looked in its actual setting, and a large floor mosaic from a villa set with frescoes from the same villa, and much more before we went to the White Tower for a view of the beautiful sea.

We visited the archaeological museum to see the Macedonian gold exhibit (highly recommend it, it's one of my favorite exhibits I've been to, beautiful craftsmanship) where I got to see the amazingly detailed and gorgeous Derveni Krater, as well as Macedonian crowns.

After a quick spanikopita for lunch we were off to Macedonian Amphipolis! We went to the museum and saw more Macedonian tomb artifacts, visited the very well preserved site of Argilos, and despite rain stopped by the Lion of Amphipolis monument. As a break from Greek food we found an Indonesian restaurant and had fun trying something new (it was very good).
For our last day we started the drive back to Athens, with two stops along the way. Our first was Vergina, where we got to see the Vergina Museum that is built around four famous tombs, with beautiful fresco paintings (unfortunately no photos allowed, but you can google Vergina Tomb B to see what I'm talking about), and the beautiful gold larnax (cremation burial box) that has the famous Macedonian 16 pointed star on it. Outside of the museum we went to the site of the theater where Philip II, Alexander the Great's father, was assassinated and reenacted the assassination with our Professor as Philip, one student "stabbing" him, another chasing the assassin down, another proclaiming the tragedy, and another one of my friends proclaiming "Alexander" (me) the new king. It was immensely entertaining - history came alive! Or rather was assassinated.
Our second stop was Thermopylae, where we saw the famous plaque of the Spartans, pointed out where the pass was in the mountains, and walked the battlefield at sunset before a quick photo with the monument and heading out, back to Athens.

Fantastic trip, I enjoyed every minute of it!

Friday, March 27, 2015



I took a weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain to see the other side of the Mediterranean and found beautiful gothic architecture, Roman ruins, and colors galore! The trip started out with a run to the Picasso Museum, where I got to see much of his early work and sketches that I have not seen before, and see the beautiful architecture of the building itself (first picture below), and also walked through the Barri Gotic area by the Gothic quarter (second picture below).
The second day of the trip involved viewing much of the more modern architecture, especially Gaudi's work. We went through Barceloneta and saw the Columbus monument, the port, and grabbed some quick food before a quick stop into the Maritime museum (they have the full hull of a pirate ship) around lunchtime. After that my favorite site to visit was the Sagrada Familia because viewing the stone from the outside I thought it to be impressive but had no idea of the absolutely beautiful colors and play of light I would see inside. The stained glass was beautiful! 

And the colors were so vibrant that they turned whole colonnades into green and yellow forests! 

We spent time admiring the great cathedral, and after that we were off to see the also colorful Parc Guell, a small area full of mosaics made of colorful ceramics of all shapes and patterns. 
We went to the Gracia area to look around after that, and though it was raining we found our way back to Barceloneta for paella.
Our sunday morning was nicer weather and equally fun as we walked through the gothic quarter to see the beautiful stonework in daylight - having never been in western Europe before the architecture was something I had never seen, and the size of it floored me. There was one gothic style cathedral that I thought was much darker on the inside than Gaudi's cathedral, but the stonework was beautiful.

And of course, I found Rome! The Roman ruins of El Born were a familiar sight for little classicist me to see, and it was cool to think that this was my first time in the western part of the Roman Empire, and that I was in a city founded by Romans. 

We had to leave around midday for our flight out, but Barcelona was a fantastic experience, and I wasn't finished adventuring just yet. We had a layover in Zurich, Switzerland that was conveniently close to the actual city - several of us decided to hop on the 10 minute train into the city, which was great fun. It was like an hour of intense tourism - run, stop and take pictures, run again, stop to take pictures, run to the river where we can see the largest clock face on a tower in Europe, stop for pictures, and take a 5 minute refreshment respite before running back to the train station (we got to our gate with plenty of time to spare). So I can say I've also been to Switzerland, which is sort of fun.
I loved Spain though, I'm so glad CYA decided to have this optional trip!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Life of an Athenian (American) Girl - Skyros, Delphi, and Marathon, oh my!

Hello again!

Wonders never cease. For Greek Carnival I went to Skyros, an island of rolling hills, whitewashed buildings, and an interesting custom of men in sheepskins and bells dancing through the streets with women (and men) in traditional garb behind them. We hiked up the hilly main town to see this tradition at sunset the first day, and the next we roamed the island, seeing the harbor Achilles supposedly graced with his presence and the majestic steeds of the ancient race of Skyrian horses (they were so cute).

The following week I worked in my marble carving class on a relief of Hera, and had Archaeology class INSIDE the Parthenon! I didn't have time to stop smiling after that because the next day I was off to Ossios Loukas, a Byzantine monastery that was lovely - it had stunning mosaics, including probably the cutest? representation of satan or death in the form of a small jack-o-lantern underneath a crucified Christ - and Delphi!

Delphi, in addition to being covered in cats, was rainy but it only made the ancient stones stand out more to me. We took the old path of those visiting the Delphic Pythia priestess from the purifying spring through the market, past the treasuries, to the great temple of Apollo (below), from where we looked down upon the valley and mountains of central Greece stretching alongside the Mount Parnassos we stood upon. Everything about the site itself is awe inspiring, and the museum holds artifacts that follow that trend. I got to see the beautifully preserved white ground kylix vessel depicting Apollo again.

My incredible study abroad in Athens continued with on sight classes, and some cafe discussions of Demosthenes for Macedon History, and went for a walk and talk in Plato's Academy for Philosophy, discussing morality in Plato's Republic. I followed these on site tours with a visit to Rhamnous and Marathon! The optional day trip took us to the site of Rhamnous by the sea (below) and its temple of Nemesis (where we admired the sturdy columns and took a fun picture) before heading over to Marathon to see the burial mound, the museum, and the very beach the Persians landed upon. 

The opportunities I am getting here are incredible, what a dream come true!

(Note: if you click on the pictures you can view them larger, and after clicking one you can use the side arrows to flip through them all)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Time in Athens

I can't believe it's already March. In a little over a week from now I will have been here in Athens for exactly two months. It feel as if just yesterday I was arriving at the airport, moving into my apartment in the Pangrati neighborhood, and getting lost for three hours as I attempted to find the academic center that I later learned was less than three minutes away. I would like to to think that I have come a long way since then--thanks to my classes, the educational trips I have gone on with CYA (to the Peloponnese and Delphi), and the independent exploring I have done with my new friends here (both around Athens and this entire country).

Through my Aegean Art & Archaeology and Philosophy classes, I have gotten to know Athens as it once was: the nexus of Western civilization and sociopolitical thought. We have discussed and explored the many sites found throughout this ancient city, as well as the museums in which the best of Hellenistic culture is displayed.

Through my Contemporary Greek Politics & Society course, I have gotten to know Athens as it currently is: a complex city at the nexus of European Union affairs. During our first week, less than three days before the parliamentary election, our professor took us to a rally organized by Syriza, the leftist party that was accurately forecast to win and is now in the process of attempting to deliver on the many promises its speakers made at this event. Most prominent among these presenters was Alexis Tspiras, the charismatic young leader of Syriza who was sworn in days later as Prime Minister.

Through my Service Learning class, I was given an internship placement at the Greek Forum for Migrants, an non-profit community-based organization that advocates for the social and legal rights of minorities. In this capacity, I have designed literature that has been distributed to immigrants explaining what a "hate crime" is and what recourse they have. Many of them do not speak fluent Greek, and English tends to be the language most of them have in common to a degree. So I was glad I could be useful in disseminating this important information. As I have learned through conversations with my colleagues, minorities is Greece have been historically mistreated by the Greek government. However, the Forum is hopeful that they will have an ally in the new "progressive" Syriza-led coalition.

To this end, I have learned as much talking to my colleagues at the Forum--as well as the taverna owners, bartenders, cab drivers, and of course Greek people my age--as I have in any of my classes. Everyone I have met is eager to share their opinions on politics, religion, romanic relationships, popular culture, sports, and just about anything and everything else you can think of. In turn, they are equally interested to hear my opinions, as someone new to their city. This experiential education has greatly complemented my academics, and together have profoundly enriched my worldview. I look forward to it continuing to do so.

Alexis Tspiras leading a rally of the Syriza party days before becoming Prime Minister of Greece

Sun setting over the Panathenaic Stadium with the Acropolis in the background

The sun rising over the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Greco-Roman sculpture collection at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Peloponnesian canal

Sunset in the coastal city of Napflio 

The view from Palimidi Castle in Napflio

Statue of King Leonidas in Sparta

Entrance to the main stadium at Olympia

The village of Kalambaka, as seen from an Orthodox monastery in the mountains of Meteora

One of the many floats from the Carnival parade in Patras

The sanctuary of Delphi