Greek Journal Part
Greek Journal: 5/13/2005-6/8/2005
(Meteora)àIguominitsaàCorfu TownàIguominitsaàZorganian Villages, Vikos Gorge and Mt. AstrakaàAthensàLondonàDenver
5/13/2005: Denver Colorado: Have decided to only read Greek
language news papers while in Greece.
I read in the Denver Post today the illegal alien who shot and killed one
policeman and wounded another has probably fled to México. Mexico won’t
extradite to a country where the punishment for the crime might include life
imprisonment or death. 17 Iraqi civilians were killed in a car bombing
and two American soldiers were also killed. The North Korean nuclear
weapons program is moving along nicely and Iran is also making progress.
The presidents (Bush’s) Council on Bioethics decided that stem cell
research could be done as long as you first let the viable embryo die and then
rapidly extracted what ever living cells were left from the dead embryo.
It was determined to be unethical to use the living cells from the live
embryo that was going to be allowed to die. In Kashmir
a grenade tossed into ta car missed the car and rolled into a group of parents
and kids who were leaving a local school. Several parents and a few kids
I don’t have a clue how to read Greek.
5/14/2005: London, England: Just got back from a
quick trip in to London.
Took the Pennington Express in to London
and walked through the Hyde Park area to Kensington Park.
Kensington Park is where Princess Di has her
memorial fountain. My heal was still hurting too much from a little
mishap a week ago so we didn’t make it all the way to Di’s Fountain, but did
see some beautiful gardens, houses and fountains.
Princess Di’s Memorial Fountain somewhere behind this great
little sculpted and under appreciated fountain.
Ate at a little café near Hyde Park and now back at Heathrow Airport awaiting our next installment of
5/15/2005: Athens, Greece: Arrived in Athens around 2 AM and
after exploring the transportation options; (1) Metro train closed, (2) bus
ride about 2 hours, (3) taxi 45 min, we took the taxi. The travel guides
had us so paranoid of the taxi drivers in Athens
that we thought we were for being kidnapped and delivered to a band of gypsies
until the driver parked in front of our hotel and told us to get out. It
was 4 AM on Odysseos Street
in Athens and
our hotel clerk was sitting at a table in front of the hotel sharing a drink
with a friend. The hotel was less heroic than the street name, but it was
a bed and at least a temporary end to a long trip.
The hotel clerk took no ID or credit card and just told us
to pay before we left.
Slept four hours, grabbed a light breakfast and headed for
the Acropolis. Our plan was to hop on the metro and head for Monastiraki
near the Acropolis, but it was Sunday morning and we were out of Euros.
With the help of a little Greek girl who basically led us through the
throngs of Athenians, we found a place that cashed travelers checks and we were
in business. Hopped the metro at the Amonia Station and got off at Monastiraki.
It is worth while noting, that while Athens
above ground is in general an unattractive concrete monument to the
repatriation of the Christian Greeks from Turkey
after the Balkan Wars, the Metro is a gleaming efficient monument to modern Greece
and the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad.
We walked from the Monastiraki and
Plaka market area up to the Acropolis, which literally means “upper city”. This was a steep, but very pleasant walk, up
coble stoned paths lined with stores, street vendors, tavernas, people and no
cars. Most of the major Greece cities
have some form of Acropolis, but the Athenian Acropolis is the largest, most
famous, most ornate and best preserved of them all. As you ascend the walk ways and steps up to
the Acropolis you become aware that this was once a living place where people
were creating art, advanced science and new political ideas. It was kind of the Silicon
Valley of the ancient world and people who lived at that time knew
their significance. The history is everywhere.
A famous historian once wrote that “with every step you take in Athens you step on
another piece of history”. This was
written by the famous Roman politician and historian Cicero around 70 BC.
The preservation of the Acropolis
did not come easy. We are taught that Greece was the cradle of modern
civilization, that democracy was created
in the city state of Athens
(although woman, slaves and poor people couldn’t vote) and that the first great
philosophers, such as Aristotle, Pluto and Socrates taught people how to think
rationally and create societies based on fairness and inclusiveness rather than
aristocratic power. I imagined this
productive phase of Greek history must have extended over many centuries in
order to create this image, but the truth is that the Classic age of Greece
lasted about 170 years (500-323 BC) and that the majority of the Acropolis and
most of the great art, philosophy and science was created during the Golden Age
of Pedicles, which lasted less than 70
years. For the 3,000 years before this
enlightened period various groups had ruled Greece, some more barbaric than
others. During the “Classic Age” Athens
and Sparta fought each other constantly, and then after the Classic age, in
turn, Greece was conquered and/or ruled by Alexander the Great (Macedonia), the
Romans, the Turks, the Brits, the Italians, the Germans, followed by civil war
and finally during the late 20th century peace. From my historical reading it seems the only
country on the planet that had not invaded Greece
was the United States,
which could explain why the Greeks actually seemed to like Americans.
Acropolis was completed during the 5th century BC, then next two
invaders, Alexander the Great and the Romans, respected Greek society and
preserved their creations. For about
1,000 years after the Roman empire fell Greece was over run by various
Goths and Crusaders who had less respect for history and art, but it was the
invasion and occupation by the Turks in the 5th Century that really
put the hurt on the Athenian Acropolis.
As you walk up the marble steps toward the Parthenon you pass the
of Athena Nike (temple of
victory). In 1686 the Turks completely
tore it down so that they could mount a canon on its foundation. It was subsequently rebuilt, torn down, and
rebuilt again during the 1800’s. The
center piece of the Acropolis is the Parthenon.
Its foundation, columns and ornate sculpted roof supports and friezes
still stand. The Turks had first
dismantled part of it in order to build a mosque in side of the Parthenon. When this crumbled they used the Parthenon as
an ammunition dump and when the munition dump exploded 1687 it took the marble
roof off the Parthenon.
A section of the Parthenon minus the roof
Ambassador, Thomas Bruce the Earl of Elgin,
came to the rescue in 1801, sort of. The
Turks were using some of the antiquities as building materials, so the Earl convinced
the Turks to sell him a few items including the finest friezes from the
Parthenon and one of the statues of the maidens of Caryatids (see below). The Earl in turn shipped it
off to England
for safe keeping. The problem is that
Thomas sold these valuable works of art to the British Museum
in 1816 and the “Elgin Marble”, as it would become known, has never been
returned. The Greeks have even built a
modern day museum intended to house the Elgin Marble and negotiations to secure
its return continue to this day. This
was just one of the many points of friction that seem to exist between the
British and the Greeks.
On going efforts to restore the Parthenon
after 2,000+ years of abuse
In spite of this
less romantic history the Acropolis still fascinates and brings history alive
like no museum can. One of the greatest
fictional protests of all time, and one that might bring world peace today,
occurred in the Acropolis. Twenty one
years in to the Peloponnesian Wars, Aristophanes, the great Athenian
comedic play write, wrote Lysistrata. In
this play the woman of Athens
became so angered over their men going off to fight the Spartans that they
barricaded themselves in the Acropolis and denied the men sex, food and house
cleaning until they stopped fighting.
The Teatro Dionysiou or Theater of Dionysis also brought
some my education closer to life. Oedipus the King by Sophocles is one of the very few stories I remember
reading in high school. It seemed like
we must have studied that story for months.
I think I had a teacher that really felt it was important that we learn
about irony and fate. Any ways, it was
in the Theater of Dionysis that the plays of Sochocles and Aristopanes,
including Oedipus Rex, were first performed.
It was in this theater that Socrates and Aristotle spoke to the masses
of their ideas and democracy was first debated and presented to the
people. Unfortunately, in the opinion of
the Greek leadership at the time, Socrates spoke too much, and a sign points to
the “Prison of Socrates” where the great philosopher was placed for corrupting
the youth of Athens,
and as legend has it was forced to drink hemlock in order to carry out his
One other site that I found
fascinating, since it combined both history and myth, was the Temple of Erechtheion. On the north side of the temple we stood in
the shade of a single olive tree. On
this exact site the Goddess Athena and the god Poseidon competed to become the
Patron of the city. Poseidon went first
and drove his trident in to the earth from which a crystal clear spring burst
forth. Athena then stepped forward and
touched the ground with her spear and up from the ground grew the first olive
tree. Athena’s miracle won and the city
was named after her. Poseidon was given
the small island (86 sq km) of Pyros in the Cyclades.
The tree that now grows at this sight was planted in 1972, but it was still a
little mystical touching the bark on a tree that was a living connection to the
gods of ancient Greece. As for the competition, given that the
Acropolis is a decaying, all be it fascinating, ruin surrounded by a polluted
unattractive city, and Pyros is a thriving resort island, I’m not sure who
The porch of the maidens
or Caryatids which are all reproductions.
Four of the original maidens have been placed in the Acropolis museum
and are waiting to be reunited with a fifth maiden taken from the Acropolis by
Lord Elgin and now standing in the British Museum.
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