On the Road: Day 1

By Zoey James and Elizabeth McCulley

Living, learning, and exploring Athens was an experience like no other; but after a solid week, it was time for us to move on. Yet, we had one more site to squeeze in before our 11 day trip around the Greek coast.

Professor Salowey counting us off.

Our first stop of the day was the Monastery of Daphni, an 11th century Byzantine monastery known for its beautiful mosaics and rich history. The monastery is found along a holy road which is a direct route out of Attica. It shares its name with Daphne, the nymph who was turned into a laurel tree to escape Apollo’s advances.

Front of the Monastery of Daphni
Inside Daphni

As you enter the monastery, one of the first things you notice is the high vaulted ceiling which holds the iconic Pantokrator, the Jesus Christ figure. In this depiction, the face of Jesus is slightly distressed, and with his eyes he beckons the parishioners inside. Some art historians would say that his gaze depicts a history of pain and guilt, of one who’s spent their life on the run. Others would say that’s a bit of a stretch. We’ll let you decide.

Mosaic of Jesus Christ

Although no longer in regular use by traditional parishioners, you will find some very friendly and welcoming residents as you tour the monastery.

Guardian of Daphni

From the monastery we traveled far and wide, and arrived at our next stop: The Sanctuary of Artemis at Aulis. There we learned about the sacrifice of Iphigenia from Mary. The story, by Euripedes, details how King Agemmeom was forced to sacrficice his daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis in order for his fleet to make it to Troy. The work itself focuses a lot on the concept of changing minds; from Agamemmon’s moral decision to Iphengeia’s ultimate physical form, we see this mottif played out again and again over the course of the play.

Mary delivering on the myth of Iphigenia
Hollins at the Sanctuary

Finally, we arrived. Chalcis is a picturesque seaside town brimming with restaurants, clear waters, and the intermingling of the East and West. Before we set off to explore, Kate gave us some information on Captain Sarika Yehoushua, a female freedom fighter during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

“She’s a badass”
-Kate

One prime example of the ways the East and West meet in Greece is the synagogue and mosque we visited. Although neither are natives of Greece, they both represent what happens when a nation opens its borders, the opportunities that arise to cultural exchange. They represent what can be.

Local mosque
Local synagogue

After a long yet rewarding day, we settled down with some hot drinks to warm our hands and friends to warm our hearts.

Hot drinks and friends!
Advertisements

Your Athens, My Athens

By Pria Jackson and Emma Moore

We kicked off the day at Hadrian’s Arch. Hadrian was a Roman Emperor in the second century who was nicknamed “little Greek” for his immense love of Greek culture. Professor Richter lead us in a discussion of the multicultural influences on its architecture, as well as its significance as a boundary between the Athens of Theseus (the mythological founder of Greece) and the Roman Athens of Hadrian.

Hadrian’s Arch
Next we went to the Jewish Museum of Greece. Professor Richter provided a brief historical overview to us and a few curious cats before we went in. Anastasia, an archeologist with the museum, guided us on a tour of the 9-story building. Each level took us forward through the history of Judaism and Jewish culture in Greece. The Jewish people have been in the area for over 2,000 years, starting with a group called the Romaniotes. In 1492, the Sefhardic Jews arrived in Greece as refugees after being expelled from Spain. Despite their shared religion, the two ethnic groups differed in language, custom, and culture. Over time the groups came together through cultural exchange, intermarriage, and ultimately the tragedy of World War II and the Holocaust.
entranceway to the Jewish Museum of Greece

The museum showcases many cultural and historical artifacts, which have survived despite the attempted eradication by the Nazi party. These items stand preserved as witness of the terrible atrocities of history and as testiments to the resilience of the Jewish nation in Greece and throughout the world.

Following the museum we made our way back through Hadrian’s Arch to the Olympieion–the Temple of Zeus. It is the largest temple on mainland Greece. Finished by the Emperor Hadrian, this site had taken nearly 600 years to build! It’s completion was a marker of Hadrian’s love and commitment to this city.

the class in front of the Olympieion

While there, we met some of the most beautiful stray cats of Athens (maybe the most beautiful cats in the world??). Lulu is the mascot of the Olympieion as a worker informed us. She loves baked pastries and long naps under the colonade.

Lulu

Marble was a friendly girl that Pria has declared to be the official mascot for our trip. This kitty enjoys basking in the glory of Apollo and receiving the well deserved adoration of large troops of American tourists.

the aptly named Marble
Nearing the end of our day, we were able to visit the Khora free store, an association that provides free clothing to refugees in Athens. We met a long term volunteer, Maria. A Californian native, she moved to Greece to fully dedicate her time to helping refugees trapped in Greece due to the closed EU borders. We were able to make a small contribution of needed supplies.

Though neither of the writers attended the cooking class that ended this long and educational day, we did hear that the group made tatsiki as well as chicken and potatoes. This hearty meal was the perfect send off from Athens. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the road again! Where are we going might you ask? Well, just check your syllabus or stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to find out!

Sunday in Athens

By Lilly and Faith

We started our gratefully sunny day at the Athens Polytechnic. Here we learned a bit about the different political parties in Greece and the Greek culture of protest. The Polytechnic is a building of historic significance because in November of 1973 a group of students barred themselves in the law center to protest the current dictatorship. This brave act and the resulting clash with police consequently caused a mass uprising by the Greek people and eventually a coup. Since then, the Polytechnic has stood as a hub of protest and a symbol of resistance against tyranny. Our favorite protest story was that of Loukanikos, a stray dog whose name translates to “Sausage.” He was famous for joining in on protests, always on the side of the anarchists.

Next we walked to the National Archeology Museum. We saw a myriad of artifacts from the Mycenaean period, including golden cups, bronze weapons, and a helmet made of boar’s tusks. Many pieces gave us a glimpse into the impact of international influences on Greek culture. We also got to hear from Carly about the Sounion Kouros, a statue of a young male that previously stood at the temple of Poseidon. There was so much to see in every room of the museum that we were only coaxed into leaving because Professor Salowey promised we could return later in the trip for further exploration.

After we left the museum we had a presentation from Preston in the Byzantine churches we would be seeing. She explained the styles of architecture and iconography that we would see. The first church we visited was the Kapnikarea. It was a beautiful old church a square in the city. From the outside it was a fairly unassuming building but the inside was spectacular. It was covered in Byzantine frescos and had beautiful paintings of icons and Byzantine furniture. Everywhere you looked there was something interesting to see. The next church we visited was just a little ways down the road in another square. It was called Pantanassa and was similar to the other church on the outside but had more brickwork including two small domes. The inside of this church was also beautiful, decorated with intricate ceiling frescos and icons. The last church we visited was for me the most fascinating it was called the Panagia Gorgoepikoos and it is constructed entirely of marble and many pieces are taken from other marble structures such as pagan temples or grave stones. The result of which is a unique building with many different figures on it all coming from different religions and myths.

After we visited the Byzantine churches we went to lunch at a nice Souvlaki restaurant where we had gyros, Greek salad, dolmas, and other traditional Greek food. After lunch we had the option of exploring the market or returning home and I chose to explore the market. This was a great way to finish off the day and  experience more of Greek culture.

The First Field Trip

by Valerie Sargeant and Staren Henry

The day started off a little rocky with a delayed bus and a few students feeling under the weather. Despite these setbacks, we persevered and continued on to our first location of the day — the temple of Artemis at Brauron at the eastern edge of Attica. Unfortunately because of the weather the site was flooded, but we were still able to enjoy the archaeological artifacts on display in the museum.

Our museum visit was kicked off with a presentation by Jules on Sacred Space, which started off with an exercise in silence. This gave us the opportunity to fully appreciate our surroundings and eliminate the inherent academic bias we have has college students before exploring the museum. The placement of the presentation towards the beginning of our trip in Greece will be particularly effective because it will allow us to fully appreciate the gravity of the spaces we visit in relation to our body and senses.

Following Jules’ presentation at the museum of Brauron, Professor Salowey laid out the Eteology of the temple of Artemis Brauronia in connection to Euripedes’ Iphegenia Among Talris. The temple was important in that it was the location in which rituals concerning the rite of passage for young Athenian girls into womanhood took place, as well as women’s fertility and failed childbirth.  We saw examples of young girls practicing fertility rituals in religious objects called krateriskoi — which are smaller kraters with 2 small handles on the side and a similar shape. There were also several statuettes of children, which were votive offerings celebrating successful childbirths.

We then took a 30 minute bus ride to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St.Paul in Paleokamariza to observe the life of the sisters who serve there. As we donned our skirts and became a part of their world, we were shown great hospitality as we were allowed to enter their church. Once inside, we learned about the iconography of the Greek Orthodox church and were taught about it’s importance and origin, as well as the expertise needed to paint them. It was very interesting to discuss with one of the nuns how she became involved with the church and learn about how integral the Monastery was in the local Greek community.

Lunch was served at a lovely seaside restaurant in Sounion with a stellar view of the Temple of Poseidon, which was dramatically highlighted by the cold rainy weather.

Professor Salowey told us about how the temple serves as an important symbol for the area, as the temple was the first landmark that indicated home for the weary sailor arriving from Asia minor. The temple was well known for housing refugees and also served as a fortified garrison in antiquity, and also sports the graffiti of Lord Byron — a romantic British figure. After that concise offsite lecture, we got back on the bus and ascended to the Temple of Poseidon before existing and exposing ourselves to the harsh elements. Bracing the cold was well worth it though as the view of the Aegean sea was breathtaking!

This concluded our field trip as we all funneled back into the bus, overjoyed by the opportunity to defrost as we headed back to Athens. Now that we’re warm, we can’t wait to see what the next day holds for us!

The Acropolis

By: Carly Grudzinski and Christine Sears

This morning we were once up bright and early; we met at the Panathenaic Stadium again at 8:00am to start our trek to the Acropolis. Things weren’t looking so good as it was sprinkling and the forecast was calling for rain until tomorrow morning, but thankfully a little while after we got to the Acropolis museum the rain let up! Before we entered the museum, Professors Richter and Salowey stopped to give us some information about the museum as well as the Acropolis itself. Some interesting facts were that the Acropolis was a thriving natural area in ancient times, and that it was home to many small animals and even had a spring, though it is not accessible today. It was initially home to a fortress in the Mycenaean era, before being used exclusively for religious purposes in the Archaic and Classical periods.

Professor Richter told us about the Acropolis museum, and the many controversies that it created. One of these controversies was that building a new museum would require architects to cover a large excavation site; to overcome this, glass floors were utilized. These transparent floors allow not only museum patrons to observe the ground where artifacts are excavated, but they allow archaeologists to continue excavation.

We then went into the museum, checked our bags, and began viewing ancient art. This newer museum displays hundreds more objects than the old museum, including special vases dedicated to the nymphs in hopes of blessings for marriage, reliefs of body parts placed in the Sanctuary of Asclepius to heal people, statues of women in ecstasy from the Sanctuary of Dionysus, a treasury box from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, and numerous Kore and Kouros votive figures.

The most noteworthy pieces we saw were the pedimental sculptures, continuous frieze, and metopes of the Parthenon. From Professor Richter, we learned that a large amount of the sculpture is missing because it was stolen by the British. He told us that the missing pieces are currently being displayed in the British Museum, and that Greece has asked for the pieces to be returned numerous times. Each time the rightful owners have requested the sculptures from the Parthenon, Great Britain has refused.

Their original argument for this was that Greece did not have the means to conserve and/or display these pieces, which is no longer the case. Now that there is a new Acropolis museum, Greece and its many art historians and conservators are more than capable of this. Great Britain now claims that the pieces are more valuable at the British Museum where they can be viewed by a larger audience.

After that, the group spent a few minutes in the gift shop and looking at other pieces before we finally ascended the Acropolis.

Once on the Acropolis, we were able to see the many ancient structures that still stand today; some of these include the Parthenon, Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Propylaea.

The Propylaea is the gate that ancient (and modern) peoples had to enter before arriving at The Parthenon, and is characterized by large columns and a coffered ceiling. The Erechtheion is a temple that has caryatids (sculptures of women that serve as supporting columns) on a porch extending from the temple, and according to Greek mythology is where Poseidon struck the earth with his trident.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a large marble theatre that is still used today, and the Parthenon is one of Greece’s most famous temples, which attracts many tourists.

We learned a bit more about the conservation efforts being made on the Parthenon, as well as some stories about the Acropolis during World War II.

After a good amount of time both learning and taking photos, we headed back down the slopes to lunch and an evening on our own. Tomorrow brings yet another early day, but it’s one we all look forward to!

The Greek Agora, the Roman Agora, and the Modern Marketplace

By Vanessa Taylor & Mary Daley

Today was an early start for us, as we had to meet in front of the Panathenaic Stadium from yesterday at eight a.m. We walked through the Plaka all the way to the Ancient Greek Agora, where people would have sold their wares, practiced politics, worshipped, and talked with other Greeks. Professor Salowey showed us the boundary stone, which is exactly where the Greeks would have known they were entering the marketplace. Right outside of the boundary is where scholars believe Simon, a shoemaker and friend of Socrates, lived. Apparently, because young boys were not allowed in the agora, Socrates would borrow his friend’s house to educate them in the ways of philosophy.

Down the path farther is the Altar of the Twelve Gods, which shows up in ancient writing frequently as a way to measure distance. Professor Salowey described it as the center of Attica, and it’s an interesting way to see the combination of modern and ancient Greece, because almost all of the foundation is covered by train tracks!

After viewing the Altar, we were treated to our first presentation. Staren taught us all about Athenian democracy, and who was included in it.

Then, we climbed up the hill to see the Hephaisteion, a temple dedicated to the God of smiths, Hephaestus, as well as a version of Athena that excells in crafts. Professor Salowey took us all around the building, showing us pieces of the temple that were carved out so people could take the metals used to hold it together, and slots in between columns where sarcophagi used to be placed.

We climbed back down and proceeded to a museum, where artifacts found in the agora were on display. There were pieces from the Mycenean period, all the way to Roman occupation, and it was fascinating to see the evolution of art and sculpture.

After we left the Greek Agora, we walked to the Roman one. There used to be a direct path between the two, but now, we had to walk along the modern Athenian streets, though it wasn’t a problem because of the interesting differences in building styles and the various restaurants and vendors we passed.

The Romans, when they made their marketplace, actually mimicked the Greek style instead of using their own architectural elements, which speaks to the respect that the Romans had for the Greeks. While we were there, we saw a building that had been used to tell the weather based on where the wind was blowing from, and we also visited a museum in what used to be a mosque, focusing on photographs taken by Nazis during their occupation of Greece in World War II.

After finishing up at the Agoras, we trekked over to the modern marketplace. While many storefronts were closed when we first headed out for the day around 8, the scene had evolved dramatically into a hustle and bustle market with everything from luggage, hats, coats, and an interesting assortment of camouflage clothing; to a massive block of endless colors – fruits and vegetables freshly picked and displayed in a rainbow variety.

Another section of the market held fresh meats. And when I say fresh, I mean very fresh. It’s an unusual sight to many of us who have always been so far removed from farm fresh meat – pre packaged, cut, de-boned, etc. The only thing in my experience I could compare it to was the night markets of Taiwan, featuring a ton of freshly caught seafood.

Mariah and Lilly presented on the market and Greek food, giving us insight as to what we were about to experience.

After returning from the markets, half of our group got to partake in a cooking class, but neither Vanessa nor myself were in that group, so we will let them tell you about it.

Many of us enjoyed turning in for an early evening to journal, read for tomorrow, and rest.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds!

IT HAS BEGUN!

OUR FIRST FULL DAY IN ATHENS. We met at the CYA facility for an orientation by our hosts. Before getting into the fun stuff its necessary to lay down the law of the land. We also got a tour of the building where we have access to the lounge, printers, library, and laundry. 

After we familiarized ourselves with the facility, we walked out the front door, took about twenty steps to enter the Panathenaic Stadium, otherwise known as Kallimarmaro (good marble), our next-door neighbor. The stadium was built with Pentellic marble from the nearby mountain, same as the Parthenon. Though most of what you see today is restoration, the size and location of the Roman edifice is still how Pausanias, the ancient traveler, describes it, except the river that once flowed has now become ebbing traffic. During the Panathenaic festival to Athena, the massive garment priestesses would spend four years weaving for the gigantic statue of Athena would embark from the stadium on that river, and the old one would be brought back down and deposited behind the stadium. 

We returned to CYA for a lovely Greek lunch in the cafeteria. After a short break, we headed out for Philopapos. There was much to see on the way. A shortcut; from Pangrati you can cut through the national gardens to the main road that brings you to the capital square—and you get a free nature walk. Within the gardens is the Zappeion, an exhibition hall funded by a wealthy Greek, whose head is enclosed in the wall of the lobby! We also saw roman baths next to the busy avenue. They were discovered along with many other archeological remains unearthed with the construction of the metro.

Philopapos hill is aligned with the Acropolis, and the valley forming a ‘hallow’ or koiloi road is an ancient way from the sea into the center that is still used today, although reform has excluded cars from the precincts of the area nowadays.  We made our way up to our first stop which was a byzantine church, the Church of Agios Demetrios Loubardiaris. Before the Christian church was erected the site was once a sanctuary to Ajax or Heracles; prominent military heroes not unlike Loubardiaris, who was a patron saint of the military. We also passed Socrates’ prison and got to marvel at the artistic and mosaic like pavement designed by the landscape architect Dimitris Pikionis. Pikionis was instrumental in making Philopapos the modern sanctuary it is today. 

Imagine you’re a traveler, maybe you’re competing in the Olympic games. Its ancient Athens and you get off the ship from the port and you start walking to the Panathenaic stadium. You walk the koiloi for what seems like thousands of miles, it’s a busy road, and it’s the sun is beating down on you. You start to wonder why you even came to this place; and then just as you reach the top of the hill, you see this: