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.
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.
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.
Although no longer in regular use by traditional parishioners, you will find some very friendly and welcoming residents as you tour the monastery.
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.
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.
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.
After a long yet rewarding day, we settled down with some hot drinks to warm our hands and friends to warm our hearts.