Well, I was going to write a whole post on how we got to Rome, but then I realized how incredibly boring the trip was. Here it is in one sentence; we got on this little propeller plane (picture below), flew to Athens, waited in the airport for a few hours, flew to Rome, took the train to Termini Station, and walked 5 minutes to our hostel. The end.
Okay, not quite the end. On the way to the hostel, we were stopped by this guy from Georgia who was a little older than us (26 I think) who was looking for a place to stay in the city for the night. He went with us to the hostel and they had an open room for him (good news!) and we, along with a girl who was in our room in the hostel from Canada, went to get dinner. Then it was off to bed, as the next day was to be pretty long!
We woke up early on Monday morning and headed out to see what we could see. Our first stop was the Coliseum. It was the farthest thing from our hostel that we wanted to see that day, so we thought we would walk all the way there then slowly make our way back. It took about forty-five minutes to walk there (not too bad) through the nicest streets I’d seen since we left Dublin. Walking through Rome, it actually reminded me a lot of New York City except that there were ancient ruins everywhere.
The Coliseum is an amazing structure. First off, it is enormous. I knew this ahead of time, but I never thought it would be as big as it actually is. It seated 50000 people and could hold more with standing room, and its exterior is only slightly smaller than that of Ohio Stadium. It had 76 gates through which the arena could be emptied in under 5 minutes. Oh, and it was completed in 80 C.E. Let’s not forget that part. For comparison, Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves play and one of the main stadia used for the 1996 Olympics, also holds 50000 people.
Anyway, we got to the Coliseum, payed some amount (I’m not sure how much) for a guided tour that also included a tour of the Palatine Hill (more on that later), and headed inside. We saw a lot of interesting things, like the Emperor’s personal entrance, some of the original flooring, the place where the Senators sat when they came to games, and an entrance wherein “54” is written “LIIII” in Roman numerals, not “LIV.” That means it is actually old, as the “IV” for “4” was a somewhat later invention. Here are pictures of all of those things!
There was also a big exhibition on the second floor about Nero. Nero kind of gets a bad rap in popular culture (and got a bad rap in the popular culture of his day as well), but those in the know are trying to reclaim him as maybe not so bad a guy. You’ll see a lot of things that have to do with Nero in some pictures later.
Now, I know what you’re all dying to ask me - “Frank, why would they have an exhibition to Nero in the Coliseum of all places? He was dead before construction on it even started!” Well, true. But, fun fact, the Coliseum was built on a place that was once Nero’s personal residence (the “Golden Palace”), so much of the exhibition was made of things found from that. Also, there was at one point a colossal statue of Nero just outside the Coliseum that was as tall as the building. So, there’s that.
We ate a quick lunch (I had water and a little bag of peanuts - this was the first time I had seen peanuts in more than a month) and headed to meet our tour guide for the Palatine Hill. At this point, it was nearing noon, so it was about 110° F with 85% humidity and not a cloud in the sky. We had picked the two hottest days of the summer to be in Rome. We made the short trek to the hill, past Constantine’s arch (the last picture above there), and entered the hill. We hiked all the way up to the top first and then started the descent. The following pictures are - the Hippodrome of Domitian (a stadium that the emperor Domitian had inside of his house), Mussolini’s summer residence on the Palatine (which is now a museum full of sculptures, including the famous one of the Magna Mater), a piece of marble that was (and still is, but you can’t really tell) in the throne room of the palace, and the forum from above.
After the Palatine, we headed down to the forum itself, seeing the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Romulus, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, the Vestal Atrium, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Julius Caesar, the Basilica of Constantine, and the Arch of Septimus Severus. I’m not going to put pictures of all of those up, so here are the Arch of Titus, the Vestal Atrium, the Basilica of Constantine, and the Arch of Septimus Severus.
From the Forum, we walked northwest-ish, passing Trajan’s Column and the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (pictures below), to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was once a temple to all of the Roman gods, but later was transformed by the Church into, well, a church. It is an unbelievable beautiful building, and it holds the remains of some of the most important Italians of the past several hundred years - including Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I, and Raphael, who would the next day become my favorite Renaissance artist. These pictures do not do the building justice, but here they are nevertheless (preceded by Trajan’s Column and the monument, recall).
Leaving the Pantheon, we headed toward the Trevi Fountain, which is kind of just a big fountain on the side of a building. That was the coolest part of the fountain (and, in a larger sense, Rome) to me. The Trevi Fountain is just on the side of a building. Like, an office building that people have to go to work in. It is this amazing, beautiful thing, and it’s just kind of an everyday thing to the Romans. They live side by side with people who died hundreds or thousands of years ago and they don’t even think about it. It is normal to just walk by the Coliseum and not even notice it. Or to drive past the Trevi Fountain and honk your horn at these stupid tourists standing in the road looking at a stupid fountain (that didn’t happen to me, by the way, but I did see it happen).
It was getting pretty late and we were getting pretty hungry at this point. We headed back to the hostel to rest up a bit, then went to the restaurant across the street and had dinner. I had this dish, Orecchiette al’ Ragubianco e Funghi Porcini (Orecchiette with white sauce and wild mushrooms), followed by some pretty excellent Tiramisu.
We knew we had a long day at the Vatican ahead of us, so we went to bed pretty early. Hopefully I’ll be able to post about the Vatican day tomorrow, so there will just be one more post about the trip after that. Huzzah! Until then!
Wednesday was a pretty different day. In order to try to understand how water use in Karavas differs from water use elsewhere, the whole group travelled down to Mylopotamos (“Mill-river”) to see some of the many mills there. It was about a half-hour drive followed by a twenty to twenty-five minute walk down the side of a mountain before we reached the first of the mills. It was pretty much a ruin, but it differed from the Karavas mills in some significant ways that would be boring, confusing, and useless for me to explain to you. The river in Mylopotamos is both much bigger than the one in Karavas (perhaps even big enough to warrant the name “stream”) and much cleaner. There were even a few pools that naturally occur in the river that were nice enough for everyone to take a swim! Here are a few pictures.
After swimming, we checked out another mill that was much more intact (and even had two millraces!) and then hiked back up to Mylopotamos proper to grab lunch. After a picnic-style lunch (of our usual lunch fare), we stopped to see the ruins of a few old churches and a Venetian castle. Below is the Venetian Lion of St. Mark (the patron of Venice) as depicted on the main entrance to the castle and then some of the churches in the same general area.
After the visit to the Venetian ruins, we headed back to Karavas to rest up before the evening activities. On Wednesday evening, there was a 4 km race from a little church in Karavas down to the beach at Platia Ammos. I decided I should try to run in it so that I could maintain some semblance of in-shapedness while in Greece, so I had been running every few days since I learned about the race, as had Alex.
We left the house at about 5:20 to walk up to the church as the race was supposed to start at 6:00. Being in Greece, however, people didn’t even start showing up until 6:00 and the race didn’t start until around 6:45.
The other participants were mostly children and old men, although there were several other guys of about our age, including Lita’s son Yianni. Long story short, the people associated with our water project swept 1st through 3rd place - Alex in 1st, Yianni in 2nd, and myself in 3rd. We all finished within about twenty seconds of each other at just under twelve minutes (the race was entirely downhill). The 4th place runner didn’t come in until after the fifteen minute mark, so we pretty much dominated the field. There was an awards ceremony after the race where all three of us received a medal (gold, silver and bronze) and Alex got a trophy. They are pretty unique souvenirs! We hung out on the beach for a little while, got a coffee at one of the cafés in Plateia Ammos, went to dinner, and then went back to the house to sleep after a long day.
Thursday was a pretty relaxed day. We worked our normal 8-ish to 2-ish, this time on a new mill that was pretty much right below the house. Tim took a lot of notes, other people did a lot of exploring, and I took some DGPS points and cleared out part of a channel. Then I went outside and read for most of the afternoon and we had our last student-made dinner (as Lita would be cooking the next night). It was a pretty uneventful day.
Friday, we took a trip in the morning to Paliochora, the medieval capital of Kythera that was abandoned in 1537 after it was sacked and partially destroyed by the pirate Frederick Barbarossa. On the way, we stopped in Potamos to pick up the plane tickets we had procured that would take us to Athens on Sunday (which was one of the happiest moments of the trip for me - when I finally knew for sure that I wouldn’t have to ride the bus 7 hours to Athens and then sit in the airport for 18 more hours) and to go souvenir shopping. I picked up a really cool goblet in what was something like a cross between a hardware store and a pawn shop for €12. Then, it was off to Paliochora.
What remains of Paliochora is pretty cool. There is still some of the original fortification (from the 12th century), a lot of churches, and the enormous gorge that the city was built over. It was truly nearly impervious to attack until the invention of cannons, at which time it went from being in a fantastic defensive position to an atrocious one. The things that survived the ever popular cannonballing followed by pillaging combo are still in pretty good shape, including some of the paintings inside of the churches.
There has recently been an attempt to restore some of the castle, about which Tim and Lita are none too pleased thanks to some questionable decisions made by the restorers (like the crenellations (thanks for teaching me that word, Age of Empires II) on this wall, of which there is no evidence in the original).
As I mentioned before, Lita cooked dinner on Friday night. It was delicious, as it always is when she cooks. We were joined by our neighbors from across the street, an Australian couple named Malcomb and Jill who had taken an interest in the project. Tim showed them the powerpoint he had shown at Agia Pelagia (spiced up a little with some more recent pictures). It felt like a really good close to the project. None of us students had really realized how much we had accomplished in so short a time and it was nice to see all that our hard work had resulted in.
Saturday was my last full day in Kythera. I slept in for a while, packed, and then ran down to Plateia Ammos to spend some time on the beach and take a last dip in the Aegean. Then a few of us headed to the Café Armonia to grab a last coffee a nd play a little backgammon. We walked back in the late afternoon and chilled for a while. Everyone else wanted to go to Potamos to party for one last time on the island, but I was still pretty partied out from all of the festivals the previous week, so I just stayed at the house, read a lot, and ate three baked potatoes. Then I went to bed for my last time on Kythera.
Well, I think that’s quite enough for one post, so I’ll talk about my trip to Rome in a pretty short post after this. Then, I think the first day in Rome will take a full post, the second day and trip back to Dublin will take another, and then the last few days and the trip back home will take one more. So that’s just four more posts I will have to write after this, and then I’ll decide if/where the blog will go from there! So, until then!
So, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I am pretty much festival-ed out at this point. Here’s why.
Saturday was fairly lackadaisical during the day; we went down to the beach for a while, stopped at a café (one close to the beach called Café Armonia, not the Old Man’s place) for coffee, and played backgammon. Then we all came back to shower and get ready for the festival.
Saturday was the annual Kythera wine festival, held in Mitata. We got there at a little after 9 (so we were pretty much the first people there), grabbed our souvlaki and bread and wine, and found a table. The band (as well as most of the people) had yet to arrive, so we had about an hour of just sitting and talking. Soon enough, though, the crowd arrived, the music started, and the party (along with, of course, the dancing) was in full swing.
(I apologize for the blurriness of these pictures, but there was too much light for the flash to go off)
The festival was two things.
1. It was a lot of fun. I learned a few Greek dances as well as becoming accustomed to the strange time signatures in some of the folk songs.
2. It was the closest I will ever get to experiencing Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday party. Seriously. They had huge casks of wine, there were a lot of short people dancing around, a lot of tables full of people laughing and talking, the ground was covered with straw, there was folk music playing, etc. The only thing missing was a dragon-shaped firecracker, for which I suppose I can forgive the organizers of the festival.
Sunday was a pretty slow day. I did laundry, but that’s about it.
On Monday we had the day off, as did the rest of the country, for the feast day of the Assumption of Mary. We went down to Lita’s parents’ house for lunch (Pasticcio, Greek salad, etc.) and my first ever helping of πορτοκαλοπιτα (portokalopita), which from the first bite broke into my top 5 favorite desserts. For real. It reminded me of an upside-down cake, but it wasn’t quite that, and it was flavored with a hint of orange and a lot of honey. It was amazing and I will be getting the recipe before I leave. After lunch, I went down to the beach and read for a while before heading back to the house to get ready for another festival, this one in Potamos.
This festival was much the same as the first, except that it was slightly smaller. We had souvlaki, bread, salad, french fries, and wine. There was a band and we did some dancing. Basically it was identical to the first festival except that there was no straw on the ground.
Tuesday, it was back to work. Well, kind of. The six of us who are still here were taking turns going to the capital to work in the archives for a day and Tuesday was my turn (along with Alex and Panayioti). The capital of Kythera is called, believe it or not, Kythera. To avoid confusion, I’ll call it Chora from hereon out. “Χωρα” means “town” in Greek, and is what the capital is called colloquially. So, Chora.
We got there at around 10:00 and headed up to the castle where the archive is located. I think it dates at least to the Venetian period here, but I am actually not sure whether it is any older. It is basically a ruin now except for a church and the archives on top. Anyway, we had a few minutes to walk around the castle and take pictures of the surrounding area while Lita filled out some unrelated paperwork at the police station. So, the following pictures are - Chora as seen from the castle, the beach at Kapsali (to which we would be going after we were done at the archive), me working at the archive.
At the archive, our job was basically to photograph every page of some very old books that are in danger of being destroyed by time. We then would use the image to create a .jpeg file of the page so that the information will remain long after the book has turned to dust. We didn’t have enough time to do all of those steps, so mainly we were just turning pages very carefully and taking the photographs, but it was very interesting to learn more about archival work!
In the afternoon, after we had finished, we headed down to Kapsali. It was pretty nice, but on the way I saw a little church in a cave in the side of one of the mountains hinter to the beach and wanted to go explore that way instead. So I left my things (except my camera) on the beach with the others and headed up to the church.
According to local tradition, the cave in which the church is located is where St. John of Patmos was inspired to write the book of Revelation (he actually wrote it down on Patmos, hence the moniker). It wasn’t a terribly long hike, but it was pretty steep and pretty narrow for much of the time. Of course, when I got (nearly) to the top, I was greeted by a locked door and so was unable to actually go inside to take pictures, but it was a fun adventure anyway! Here is a picture of the road up as well as one of the church. It is the little white building to the right and up the mountain a bit in the picture. You have to go through the structure on the left to get there, though, and it was what was locked. Oh, well.
On Tuesday night there was, you guessed it, another festival. This one was just in Karavas, and on the menu was, you guessed it again, souvlaki, salad, bread, and wine. Since this one was just a 5-minute walk away, I just grabbed a quick dinner and came back to the house to get to bed early. I think I’m pretty set on festivals for a while.
Well, I’ll have one more post from Kythera covering Wednesday - Friday, and then on Saturday the posts will be sporadic (whenever I have both internet and the time to write a post). I probably won’t actually be finished until a few days after I get home, as I imagine there will be a lot to write about Rome, but you never know! Until then!
So, my weekend in Agia Pelagia and the subsequent work week were pretty boring, so I’m just going to give a quick update on those and then talk about some other stuff.
Basically, I arrived at Agia Pelagia on Saturday afternoon, spent a little time at a café with a cup of coffee and a huge piece of baklava, came back and shaved (leaving my first moustache), went to dinner at around 9:00, and sat on the beach a talked for a while, eventually going back to the hotel to sleep. The entirety of my Sunday was spent on the beach reading (and finishing Storm of Swords) until around 8:00 pm, when we went to dinner. Richard left that night, and Luke would be leaving the next day, so we went to a nice pizza place in Agia Pelagia for their last night here.
On Monday we started a new phase of the project. Before he left, Richard made kind of a database with all of the kinds of things we had been looking at - watermills, water channels, cisterns, footpaths, houses - and all of the kinds of information we could systematically write down about them. So basically for this entire week we have been going around to all the sites we’ve already uncovered and taking measurements, taking directional orientations, determining approximate conditions and last dates of usage, doing drawings, etc. We did a small amount of exploring around a new cistern system we found, but that was basically the extent of things we did that were not on a clipboard.
We did a few interesting things in the evenings this week. On Monday we went back to Lita’s parents’ place in Platia Ammos for a huge dinner to welcome a new archaeologist, Gina, who was joining us that night for the rest of our time here. This is a picture of a dish with as much souvlaki on it as I have ever seen.
Nate and I spent a few afternoons this week at “the Old Man’s Place” playing backgammon. I had never played before I came here, but it is really a fun game once you get used to it (and there are several versions to get used to. In the picture below we’re playing the 2nd version of the 3 that are usually played in succession to a best out of 3). That is one thing that I definitely like about Karavas. There are so few people that there is someone we call “the Old Man” and everyone knows exactly who we are talking about. His name is actually Panayioti and he owns the little café in town. He is about 85 and is full of helpful information for Lita and Tim (as he only speaks Greek) about the way things were when he was a kid (and when one of the watermills was actually still in use). We also have someone we call “Santa” because he really does look like Santa Claus and his name is Vasili (St. Basil, not St. Nicholas, being the Santa Claus of the Orthodox Church). The second mill we found is on Santa’s land, so we generally call it Santa’s mill (or, when Richard was here, the Father Christmas mill, as that is apparently the usual way of referring to Santa in his part of Australia). Also, two sentences ago, I interrupted myself three times for parenthetical explanations. I hope that doesn’t bother anyone, because I do it a lot.
On Thursday night, we had to go back to Agia Pelagia for a presentation that Tim and Lita were giving that was basically about what we were doing. Their talk (and that of the two people following them) was entirely in Greek, so I understood very little of it and basically was just sitting in an uncomfortable chair for about 3 hours. It was a blast, let me tell you.
Then last night we went to another monastery, this one called Παναγια Μυρτιδιωτισσα (Panagia Myrtidiotissa - Panagia of the Mytles (Panagia being a title of Mary)). It is the home of a really cool icon of Mary and Jesus whose faces are completely black for some reason about which I’m not really sure which was found in a myrtle bush by a shepherd and kept returning to the bush in the night after he had taken it home. Realizing that this was pretty strange, he concluded that the icon was miraculous and built a church there. It later supposedly defended the monastery from pirates by turning their ships into rocks and made a lame man able to run away from a different group of pirates.
The service itself was kind of awkward because I didn’t know what was going on and was yelled at for having my camera out (which is why the above picture is kind of off center - I was hiding the camera), and then we got a tour of the basement, where they keep the real icon along with a lot of votives and other artwork that the church has in it for one reason or another, including a lot of creepy wax babies. We left and had dinner at a restaurant in Milopotamos and then returned to the house.
And that brings us to now. I guess the week really wasn’t that boring! I still have other stuff to talk about, but I guess I’ll save that for the next post. This is my last weekend here (I’m leaving next Saturday afternoon on the ferry bound for Neapoli then will have another 7 hour bus ride to Athens), so I’m going to head out to the beach in a few minutes. So until next time!
Well, I would have gotten this posted earlier, but my internet connection didn’t exist for about 24 hours, so I guess this work week will in fact also be smooshed into one post. Oh, well. It’s really not that exciting anyway.
Monday was the last day Jon and Matt would be here, and I had yet to learn how to use the DGPS (differential global positioning system), so I went around with Jon and basically learned how to take points all day. DGPS is a system that uses satellites and other locations on the ground with absolutely known positions to be able to locate a point on the ground to within about a centimeter, which is pretty amazing. There is rather a lot of sitting around waiting for the machine to be satisfied while taking these points, so much of the day was spent talking with Jon, which was pretty helpful because he is a Classics professor and was willing to talk pretty candidly about the job and how it really is. After work, I just came back and did some reading outside until dinner, then ate and went to bed.
Tuesday was a “lab day” for most of us, as there was a lot of information processing to be done on the computer, so we didn’t go out into the field. Anne, Marie, and myself went with Lita down to the capital, in the very south of the island (about a 45 minute drive through some very winding roads), to check out the archives housed in the castle there. The archives are a lot of official records that go back very far (at least to Venetian occupation). With the economic troubles in Greece, though, they do not get much money for upkeep or people to work on them, which is pretty sad. The point of the trip down there was for Lita to try to talk to the archivist and strike some sort of deal wherein we would help the archives out with some work in exchange for the ability to be able to look in the English archives for anything to do with Karavas or the watermills. The archivist ended up not being there, so basically we just looked around town after we found that out. I got a pair of real sandals (as opposed to the flip-flops I brought) in a store in town because filp-flops are not very comfortable to walk to the beach in. We went back to Karavas, and again, that evening I mainly just read and ate, then went to bed (a theme should be becoming apparent in my evenings).
On Wednesday, we went back into the field and mainly did a lot of brush clearing. I also made a “bridge” out of a lot of rocks over a rather treacherous little stretch of our path along the stream into which I had already fallen twice. Repeat the usual evening.
On Thursday, I got to put my newly acquired DGPS skills to the test, taking about 20 points around a system of cisterns we recently found during the (very hot) day, then coming back to upload the points onto the computer and process them. It was really pretty fun, and I did well! We got a pretty good map of the cisterns out of the process, so it was worth it! Repeat the usual evening.
Friday was the first day of our long weekend. We were going to go to Crete to check out Knossos and some other stuff, but it turned out that that was going to be way too expensive (between the ferry over and back and buses and lodging and food while on the island). So basically we just slept in, had breakfast (Greek cocoa krispies) went to the beach for much of the day, came back and chilled and read for a little while (and had my world absolutely rocked by certain events in Storm of Swords that were very unexpected and insane), and then went into Potamos in a cab driven by “Crazy George,” one of Kythera’s two taxi drivers (about whom Lita says “oh, he’s crazy” every time his name is mentioned), for dinner at around 10:00. Then we came back, watched a few episodes of “Wilfred” (which is a brilliant show, by the way), and went to bed.
It is currently about 11:45 am on Saturday, and we are getting ready to go to Agia Pelagia (a beach area that is fairly close) for the rest of the day and to spend the night (yay for long weekends!). We’re probably going to have Crazy George come to get us at around 1. And with that, I am finally caught up! Huzzah! Sorry if this was the most boring post of all, but really not a lot happened this week. Hopefully this weekend will be more eventful. Until next time!
My first weekend in Kythera was a blast. We all woke up at around 10 am on Saturday, ate breakfast, and piled into the cars to head south to a beach at Paleopoli (not the beach we usually go to). The sand on the beach was a kind of cool red color (although you can’t tell that in this picture) and there was a cave system carved out on the right side of the beach. It was explore-able by swimming and was really awesome, but we did have to watch where we stepped so as not to land on a sea urchin.
We stayed there for about two hours, then it was time for lunch. We headed to a little resort town called Avlemonas and ate at a little restaurant there. I had a Kytherean salad (tomatoes, feta, and olives on top of παξιμαδια (paximathia in English, I guess, although that’s not quite right), which are basically little fried slices of bread similar to bruschetta (and apparently they are also called “rusks” in English)) and then a pork souvlaki gyro. It was rather delicious. Here are a pair of pictures of Avlemonas.
After we ate and sat for a while, a few of us went to explore this ruin of a Venetian fort. Kythera at different times has been held by the Minoans, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians, the Turks, the French, and the British, all of whom left their mark, so there are a lot of places much like this all over the island. This one was built by the Venetians to guard the port of Avlemonas against pirates (oh yeah, pirates also litter the history of Kythera, its medieval capital Paliochora having been sacked by Barbarossa himself).
We left Avlemonas at around 4 pm and headed to Mitata, where we saw a fairly old church that had recently (within the past 5 years or so) been destroyed by an earthquake as well as this spectacular view (which was basically all we went to Mitata to see, since we were near it in Avlemonas). This is the view, followed by a close-up of the village you can see there and then the obligatory O-H in front of it.
After that, we stopped at the market to grab a few things. Everyone else went out on the town to Αγια Πελαγια (Agia Pelagia), a little port town (that used to be a big important port town) near Karavas, but I decided I needed a night off to just read and relax. I baked a potato and got some serious reading done, then went to bed.
Sunday was a pretty lazy day for most the morning and afternoon. I did some more reading, sent a few emails, did a little more research on watermills, and just kind of sat around for a while for the first time since being on an airplane. At around 6:00, we all piled into cars again and were off to the Church of Agia Elessa, whose feast day started at sundown.
Elessa was this girl in I think the 4th century C.E. who lived somewhere in the Peloponnesos. She decided she was to become a nun, but her father (who was still a pagan) didn’t approve of that, so he tried to kill her. She fled south and made it to Kythera. Long story short, she evaded him on the island through a series of miracles for a while but eventually he killed her. The end.
So it was the church of which she is the patron saint that we were going to see. The drive took us up a pretty high mountain on a perilous one-lane road (which within the past year had received its first guard rail) after which we found that the church parking lot was full, so we parked at what I was told was a NATO communication tower and walked the half-mile or so back to the church.
The festival was not terribly festive. There were a lot of people kind of just standing in the courtyard and not really talking to each other while the service that was going on inside was blasted over the loudspeakers at a volume with which they might easily have actually woken Agia Elessa from the dead. We walked into the packed church (which smelled quite wonderfully of incense) and saw the priest giving the homily from the right side, a pair of rather ornate bowls (I guess they were bowls?) full of rocks into which people were putting candles while saying prayers, and walls just covered in beautiful paintings. I didn’t take many pictures of the walls because I wasn’t sure if that would be rude, but I did grab a picture of the candles. If those things have a name other than bowls, someone let me know!
Walking back outside, I was wondering just what would possess someone to bring all the materials - rocks, mortar, paint, metals, all kinds of stuff - up to the top of this mountain just to build a church. It seems like you could build one just as nice (if not nicer) at the bottom! Then I walked around the back of the church and my query was answered.
That would be the view from the top of the mountain out over the Aegean Sea. If you’re going to build a church somewhere that will inspire something in people, that’s the place to do it. On the right side (the first picture), way off in the distance, you can see the middle finger of the Peloponnesos and its termination point with the sea, Cape Taineron (one of the entrances to the Underworld for the Ancient Greeks). On the left (you guessed it, the second picture) you can only see the sea up to the horizon, but if you go that way for long enough, you’ll reach North Africa. The mountain is high and open enough that there is a constant wind of at least 25 or 30 mph, with gusts much stronger than that. It was absolutely one of the prettiest and coolest places I have ever been.
It was around dinner time at this point, so (after a short stop in Λιβαδι (Livathi) in which the restaurant we were going to go to didn’t have room for us) we made our way back north to Potamos and ate in the main square there (I had a delicious plate of goat and a salad) then came back to Karavas to sleep and get ready to resume work the next day.
It is now Wednesday afternoon here, so I’m almost caught up! Huzzah! I’ll hopefully be able to get Monday through today on here tomorrow and then we’ll be on schedule. Until then!
So, not all of the work weeks will be condensed into one post, but this one will for a few reasons.
A. I am trying to catch up and this will afford me the best opportunity to do so.
B. We pretty much did the same thing every day this week.
C. I think lists should always have at least 3 items.
Basically the scope of the project is to find out as much as we can about the water systems in Kythera. Tim and Lita spent a lot of time beforehand talking to the locals to find out what they knew and give us likely spots to look for things (Lita having grown up in Karavas helped that process tremendously), and so now we have been kind of wandering through specific places near-ish to the village in the mountains looking for streams, springs, water channels, and any other man-made changes to the water system. Most of our time so far has been spent clearing out Watermills - places that use a channel to bring water to a waterwheel in order to turn machinery to grind something, be it grain, olives, or something else. Now, these are not the kind of mills you are used to seeing in movies, because there are no rivers big enough to support something like that. Basically there is a channel on top of a big chute and the water is channeled into a chute, at the bottom of which (sometimes underground) is the wheel. The wheels are always relatively small as well as horizontal here: not the big vertical ones you are used to seeing. When I finally get around to taking my camera out to the sites, that will all make a lot more sense.
This week we found three old water mills, cleared them of brush and anything obstructing observations, made observations, took GPS points to aid in mapping, made very detailed scaled drawing using triangulation to figure exact distances, and did a small amount of excavation in one of the mills. Oh, and we had to learn how to do most of that first (with the exception of clearing brush). Jon handled the GPS and drawing and instruction in those, Richard handled GIS (a computer program that is basically very helpful in mapping and data entry and organization), and Tim took care of organization and observations (this being his project to run).
Our daily schedule is as follows -
7:00 am - wake up and make breakfast if you want it
7:30 am - head out into the field to work
2:00 pm - lunchtime!
2:30 pm - 7:30 pm - free time
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm - dinner preparation (for those whose turn it is to cook)
9:00 pm - dinner
Those whose turn it is not to cook are split into two other groups. One of the groups is in charge of going into town to buy food and anything else that is needed. The other is in charge of cleaning up after meals. I was on clean-up duty on Monday and Tuesday and on Food-buying duty on Wednesday - Friday. It is a pretty good system!
There was another small assignment we all had to do. Some people worked with Richard on plotting a route using GPS and GIS and others had to find out all we could about Watermills and their function and construction. I was part of the second group, but will spare you what would be for you the excruciatingly boring details of their function.
I headed to the beach on Tuesday and Thursday during free time (probably how it will usually go) and stayed behind to read (while still working on my tan) on the other days. I’m about 40% through Storm of Swords and 30% through a history textbook I’m reading (how fun is that?!) and I’ve decided to start over on Ulysses because I took a several day break after my original plane ride read and it is a book that requires basically constant attention and thought. Oh, well. At least I was only like three chapters in!
Well, it is nearing dinner time, so I will fill you in on a fun Saturday and Sunday tomorrow. Until then!
Disclaimer - I have not yet transferred any pictures from the island from my camera to my computer, so this post won’t have any. If that’s a deal breaker… Sorry.
We woke up on Sunday, had the hotel owner call Nikos (our cab driver) for us, and were taken to buy our tickets and then to the ferry. The ride was a fairly uneventful hour and a half over tranquil blue waters, after which we were finally on the island of Aphrodite. We stepped off the boat and started to look for Tim (Professor Gregory), who was supposed to be meeting us there to pick us up. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. We sat down at the café at the port and contemplated what we would do next, neither of us having a telephone or his number. The café owner had just come up to us to tell us we couldn’t sit there if we weren’t buying anything when Tim showed up. There had been some traffic in one of the villages he had to drive through, Ποταμος (Potamos), so he was a few minutes late. We breathed a sigh of relief and got in the car for our first view of the island.
Good roads are hard to come by in Greece, and even harder to come by on Kythera. A fair amount of the time, the roads are one lane wide, having originally been roads for donkeys which were later kind of paved over. Couple that with a large number of Australians here who forget to drive on the right side of the road and you have some moderately dangerous driving (I certainly wouldn’t want to drive here) (also, sidenote, a lot of Kythereans have historically moved to Australia, so a huge percentage of visitors to here are Australians). Fortunately, everyone driving us has been doing it for a long time and also the roads are so winding that you can’t really ever go faster than about 30 mph. That also means it takes quite a while to get anywhere.
Anyway, we got our first glimpse during that car ride of the landscapes of the island. There are basically two types here. First, you have these huge areas of just dry sandy ground with a few little pointy bushes here and there. That is mainly in the south side of the island, and not what we are working in. Second, you have this very mountainous landscape that is green(er) and full of little rivulets and gorges and vegetation of all kinds, almost all of it sharp and pointy. That is what we would be walking through exploring and clearing out. But I’m ahead of myself.
So we are riding up to the very north of the island and pass through a few little villages, including Potamos, and finally arrive in ours, Καραβας (Karavas). It is a pretty quaint little hamlet with 100 or fewer residents and full of abandoned houses in various states of disrepair. You also see several of the beautiful whitewashed houses that you think of when you think of Greece. Ours is one of those. We finally get there and walk in to find two guys there who are not from OSU but who will be working on the project with us for the first few weeks. One is from Gettysburg College and is named Matt, and the other is an OSU alumnus named Luke. Tim’s wife Lita is also there as well as Lita’s son Pana, and there are two other gentlemen, one a professor from Michigan State named Jon and the other a cartographer of sorts from Australia named Richard, neither of whom are present at the time.
Alex and I are very hungry at this point, and so we make some lunch with Matt and Luke. We had fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, salami, bread, water, and plenty of tzatziki. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would pretty much become the standard lunch that we have every day (which is fine by me!). We ate and talked for a while and then decided to head down to the beach. The beach is at a place called Πλατεια Αμμος (Plateia Ammos) and is about a 30 minute walk from the ARC (the Amirialis Research Center, our house here, named after one of the nearby springs). It is fantastic. The water is clear enough to see down to the bottom even when it is many fathoms deep, there is a really cool rock outcropping and a little natural inlet on the right side of the beach, and (most importantly) there is no sand. The beach is composed of lots of little pebbles, but they are much too large to be sand. This is moderately painful when you walk on them, but it more than makes up for that pain in the fact that there isn’t any sand to clean up. We stayed down there for a while, then started to walk our way up to the house when Lita’s father (who lives about 50 meters from the sea) came up behind us and told us he would give us a ride back.
Shortly after we got back to the ARC, the other group from OSU (who had gone to London and Barcelona before Greece) arrived. We all had a little downtime and then Lita took us on a tour of the village. We stopped and talked to a lot of old people on the way (Lita having grown up in Καραβας and so knowing everyone there), and got to see the big church at the very top of the village, the bakery, and a few other things, then we headed down to a veritable feast at Lita’s parents’ house. It was fantastic. They had everything at this dinner (including some of Lita’s Dad’s homemade wine!). We stayed and talked for a while, all fourteen of us trying to get to know everyone else a bit better. It was a very nice night. After that it was time for bed so we could get up the next morning to start work.
Quick update - it is Sunday afternoon here now, and in about 2 hours we are going to head up to a saint’s festival at this church not too far from here. I forget the saint’s name, but it will certainly be interesting! After that, we’re going to go out to get dinner, and then it is back to work tomorrow! I was gone all day yesterday and so didn’t have time to update this then, but the posts about work really won’t be very long, so hopefully I will actually be caught up soon. Until next time!
Saturday began with checking out of the hostel relatively early so that we could visit a few sites we couldn’t get to on Friday before our bus for Neapoli left at 1:15. After breakfast as the same café as the previous day, we headed to Haridan’s Library and the Ancient Agora. Hadrian’s Library was relatively small and had a few columns and a cool partial mosaic floor, but wasn’t too overly impressive (at least compared to the Acropolis).
Then we reached the Agora. We turned right, down the Panathenaic Way, and passed an Altar to the Twelve Gods, the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, the Temple of Apollo Patroos, and a pretty impressive statue of Hadrian. Then I saw a set of steps to our right, and, not knowing where it went, decided we had better climb it. This was the best decision I have made thus far in the entire trip. I am considering making that a new rule for me for life. “If you see a set of stairs and you don’t know where they lead, climb them.” At the top, we found the almost entirely intact Temple of Hephaestos. It is the most intact Ancient Greek temple remaining, and was built (well, completed) in 415 BC. I could see how the Parthenon once looked; I could see the altar, the gardens that would once have decorated this incredible sight, the incredible amount of marble it took to build something like this. I was in awe. Here are some pictures.
After we left the temple, we walked down the Street of the Marble-Workers (where that last picture of the Temple was taken), saw an enormous Capital from the Odeion of Agrippa, and checked out the statues outside the Agora Museum (which we didn’t have time to go through). They had statues of Apollo, Nike, Athena, Herodotus (whose picture is under this paragraph along with the Capital from the Odeion), Antoninus Pius, and Trajan (among others).
We left the Agora and went through the huge Flea Market right next to Monastiraki Sq. where I finally found a chess set that is small enough to keep on my desk yet big enough to actually play on. It was a little before noon at this point, so we headed back to the hostel to grab our luggage and grabbed the city bus to take us to the bus station where we would catch our bus south.
Nothing too terribly interesting happened while we were waiting on the bus. We got our tickets and some food, and an American who spoke Greek helped us make sure I had us waiting outside the correct bus (which I did). He also let us know we would have to switch buses when we reached Sparti.
It was a long, poorly air-conditioned bus ride to Sparti (which, by the way, is a very small town with very little left from the glory that once was Sparta), and another one that was even worse than that to Neapoli. All in all, we spent 7 hours looking at a landscape that was absolutely beautiful. The entire peninsula is covered, and I mean covered, in olive trees. I must have seen quite literally millions of them. The landscape is also very mountainous. I did not realize we would be mountain-hopping for the entire ride. Apparently, neither did the guy across the aisle from me who spent a fair amount of the time vomiting into a baggy.
I’m sure there is a worse way to experience all that beauty, but I can’t think of it.
Anyway, we finally reached Neapoli around 8:15 when we realized that the hotel was 4 km away and we had no way to get there. But, as my luck would have it, also in the bus station was a Greek woman who needed to take a cab to the ferry to Elefonisos (which was about 500 m past our hotel). The cabs were still on strike, but as it happened the bus station knew one cab driver who would still take fares if they called and asked him. We shared a cab with the woman (a bonus for my wallet) and she arranged to have the cab driver, Nikos, pick us up in the morning in time to get us to the ferry to Kythera. With the huge weight and worry of how we would make our boat off our shoulders, we checked into the hotel and decided to get something to eat in the restaurant that the owner ran on the first floor.
This far south in Greece in a non-touristy town, you don’t run into many people who speak English. They have no real reason to. The hotel owner was no different. He could tell pretty much by looking at us that we didn’t speak Greek, so he came out to us at the table and motioned to follow him. Slightly wary, we did so. He took us into the kitchen and showed us all of the dishes that were being made and basically told us to point at what we wanted and he would bring it out. I wish every restaurant had that option for choice of meal. I ate something (I’m still not sure what it was) that was delicious and looked like this, as well as this wonderful Greek salad with a HUGE slab of feta on top (the salad was a lot bigger than this, I just didn’t have much on my plate at the time).
We put our stuff in the room, took a quick dip in the Aegean (where we were the only people on the beach - probably because it was dark), and went to bed. I was ready to stop moving around every night and finally have someplace I could unpack and keep my stuff. It would be about 12 hours before I could do that, and I was excited!
Well, I’ll talk about the trip to Kythera and the first few days here in the next post or two, then be all caught up! So far we’ve found 3 water mills, the 2nd and 3rd ones relatively intact, so hopefully we can get some good information from them! I’ll update again when I can. Until then!