Goodbye to the Local Baseball Team For This Year

I’m a sports fan. That’s a statement of fact, not to be mistaken for a confession or an admission. It is what it is.

I’m particularly fond of baseball and especially our local minor league team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, affectionately known as the Hoppers. Yes, it’s a ridiculous name, but the team is actually named for a small cannon used during the Revolutionary war, not necessarily the bug, even if the team mascot does happen to be a giant, stylized insect.

The Class A South Atlantic league wraps up its regular season at the end of August.  The Hoppers still have one more home stand before then, but we won’t be able to go to those, so we took in our last game the night before last.

It was a terrific time. The weather was perfect. After a fierce storm early in the day, the skies cleared again, but the temperature sank from 90 in the morning to 73 at game time. In addition to the show on the field, the skies presented a glorious display as the sun went down behind us.

And then there was the game itself, a perfect and perfectly odd jewel of a game. The Hoppers won 7 to nothing. Our pitchers combined for a shutout, including the starting pitcher who gave up only one hit through five innings. But the scoring… Three times in the game–three times!–the opposing pitchers walked a batter with the bases loaded. A fourth run was added when the pitcher hit a batter with the bases loaded.

But hey, a win is a win, and we’ll take it. Although our team is reasonably good, we’ve seen them win only once before this season. Every other game we’ve gone to (maybe 6 or 7) has been a loss. This was a good way to close out the season.

And there were fireworks after the game. They put on an amazing show.


 

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No Time for Surprises is now available in paperback!


The paperback cover for No Time for Surprises!  Get it for $9.99 at Amazon.

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Greece Day 8 – The Last Day

Our very last day on Santorini and in Greece. We’d planned to spend most of the day exploring the town of Oia. We had breakfast at a nice café with pastries, fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee. The first hour or two of our time in the city was fun and pleasant. We stopped into a few shops, checked out the fabulous views and had the privilege of going into one of the amazing Greek Orthodox churches that was open to the public.

They didn’t allow photography inside the church, but it was spectacularly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful.

Unfortunately they didn’t allow photography inside the church, which is understandable but a pity. The church was gorgeous. Every surface was decorated with frescos, paintings, and icons. Gold and silver leaf were everywhere, making many of the surfaces glow. Candles, candle stands, censors, and small shrines filled the place, along with benches for worshippers.

It was an odd and exhilarating experience to step from the sunshine, heat, and crushing crowds of Oia into the church, where a respectful quiet reigned, even from the many tourists circulating through it. The peace of the interior, which focused attention on the spiritual realm, was almost tangible and truly refreshing.
Then it was back to exploring the town, but as the morning wore on, the narrow streets got more and more crowded. The heat was pretty stifling as well. When large tour groups from docked cruise ships began to create gridlock, we gave it up.

The black sand beach at Perissa

Instead we decided to head for Perissa and its black-sand beach. Good decision! The beach was lovely. The water was cold and clear. The black sand, ground from the volcanic rock of that area of the island had a very different feel from the white sand we’re used to on Atlantic beaches. It’s coarser and harder. The day was hot and the sand even hotter. It was literally so hot you had to wear shoes to cross it or burn the bottoms of your feet.

Lunch came from a restaurant/bar across a narrow street from the beach. Lamb pita sandwiches (with tzatziki, of course) hit the spot, accompanied by an Aperol spritz (more on those later).

For our final evening, we brought in food and had a picnic on the roof deck, watching our last Santorini sunset and reminiscing over what a great trip it had been.

We didn’t sleep much that night since we had to get up at 4 to get to the airport in time for our early flight from Santorini to Athens. From there we’d go from Athens to Philadelphia and get a connecting flight to Raleigh.

What a fabulous trip! I’ve already talked about seeing some of the great monuments and what that meant to me here: http://classicandcozybooks.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-literal-and-figurative-weight-of.html

Let’s talk sustenance

From the sublime to the more mundane, though, is something I’ve mentioned a few times: food and drink.

I’ve enjoyed Greek food here in the U.S. and was looking forward to trying it out in Greece. I’m please to report the food was every bit as good as hoped and even better. I only regret that I couldn’t eat more than I did, but the heat did affect my appetite somewhat. Still I sampled a lot of favorites, including Gyros, Souvlaki, Spanakopita, Dolmadakias (stuffed grape leaves), Falafel, and Moussaka, and only the Souvlaki wasn’t quite as good as I hoped. It seemed a bit dry to me. On the other hand, the Falafel was deliciously moist and flavorful. The lamb, sampled on several occasions, was always good.

Greek salad was delicious, although I’m still not a big fan of raw tomatoes. The feta was much, much better than any I’ve had in the U.S. and the salad usually came with either a huge slab of it or a generous sprinkling of cubes.

Gelato just is – there’s not much I can say beyond it’s just the best! Creamy, fruity, cold, refreshing, scrumptious! And then there were the pastries. They came in two varieties, sweet and savory. Both were good but the sweet ones were divine. Confession: I actually had a big slice of apple pie for breakfast one morning. Unfortunately I can’t eat Baklava (I’m allergic to tree nuts), which looked yummy, but milk and honey pies were my favorite.

Although I probably drank more water than anything else, several other drinks are worth talking about, starting with Greek coffee. Unlike cappuccino and most other ways of preparing it, Greek coffee is made by boiling the grounds in the water. It comes out thick and strong enough to make the spoon stand up. It’s not for everyone, but I love it, though I have to add a lot of sugar. Frappes are another popular coffee drink, involving less strong coffee with milk and sugar and served over ice.

One of the revelations of the trip was Lemon and Orange Fanta. It isn’t a soda I drink at home (I don’t drink any kind of soda much at all), but it’s everywhere there and understandably. Greek Fanta has a strong citrus flavor and isn’t as syrupy sweet as the stuff we get here. It’s surprisingly refreshing. Fresh squeezed orange juice is also a popular beverage, available pretty much everywhere. That’s not surprising since we saw quite a few orange trees loaded with fruit.

On the alcoholic beverage side my biggest discovery was the Aperol spritz. It’s alcohol content is low but the prosecco and soda water make it quite refreshing. Of course, there’s Ouzo, which is anything but light on the alcohol content. Its strong anice flavor isn’t for everyone. I like it, but I like licorice, too, and Ouzo is a lot like drinking your black licorice.

Food and drink tend to be among the highlights of most travel and in this case I can say they certainly were!

Another view of the beautiful blue water of the caldera.

Stopping in a café in Oia for refreshments. My frappe is in the foreground.

One of many feral cats who roam the area. This one was having a nap in the shade.

Another of the beautiful churches that give Oia much of its distinctive look.

Oia is beautiful but getting crowded.

Liz posing on a few rocks on the black beach.

Me posing on rocks on the black beach.

You can buy frozen cocktail popsicles at Perissa.

 

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Greece-Day 7-Santorini

 

Excavation at Akrotiri

I woke refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready to take on the day. It began with the relatively long (about 25 minutes) drive from our place on the northern end of the island to the southern end where we paid a visit to the excavations of the ancient town of Akrotiri.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_(Santorini)

Akrotiri was a Bronze-age Minoan settlement that was buried under tons of ash, dirt, and rock by the explosion of the volcano around 1600 B.C., which left a lot of it well-preserved. The good news for the inhabitants is that unlike Pompeii and Herculaneum, no human remains have been found, indicating there was enough time and warning for the residents to evacuate before disaster fell. However they left behind frescoes, mosaics, pottery and other works of art. Most of those are currently in other museums. We saw some of them in the National Archaeology museum in Athens.

The excavation covers the territory of a good-sized village. You come in at the top of the dig, which starts at the third story level of the buildings. A canopy has been built over the entire excavation to prevent damage from the elements. A walkway leads you around and then through the area excavated, going down to the next level for part of the journey. It takes some stretch of the imagination to visualize what the mostly bare stone walls and structures must have looked like, particularly when most of the artifacts and the few surviving frescoes have been removed to museums to ensure their preservation.

A few beautifully decorated pots were left on display.

However, you can clearly see some decorative stone lintels around doorways and windows; some gorgeously decorated amphorae have been left in place; and there are looped videos that show what some of the buildings would probably have looked like at the time of their use. These buildings were far from the crude stone huts one might think from the remains. Many of them were three stories tall. Interiors were built with wood paneling and decorated with extensively frescoed walls. Wood furniture was likely common, though it hasn’t survived the many years of being buried the way the stone has.

After Akrotiri, we headed to town of Imerovigli, the third town built on the cliff leading down into the caldera. It isn’t as big as Fira or Oia, but it’s just as charming. Refueled by a gelato break, we spent some time exploring the town on the cliff-top trail. From there we proceeded to Fira again,where we had a snack-type lunch break and got on with the serious business of souvenir and gift shopping.

The wines and snacks – all good!

Then it was on to the feature of the day, a wine tasting at the Santo Wines Vineyards (https://www.santowines.gr/en/). Santorini has a number of vineyards and wineries, with Santos being one of the bigger ones. It’s very much a tourist-focused place that is a popular venue for destination weddings.

We’d signed up for a tasting flight of five local Santorini crispy white wines along with snacks of small bread bites and mixed olives. I’ve always liked green olives, but I’ve never been a fan of the black ones. Still I ate quite a few there and enjoyed them. I’ll have to try some at home to decide whether my tastes have changed or the black olives were just better there. The wines were all delightful too, (including the one that was red rather than white, but still dry and crisp), but we pretty much agreed on our favorite, a light, refreshing white, the Athiri.

The gang at the wine tasting.

We were comfortably ensconced at a nice table on the rail overlooking the water. After spending a couple of hours over the wines and snacks, we decided to just stay put, order dinner, and enjoy the sunset from where we were. We lingered happily over shared trays of mixed salad, cheeses, and meats while watching yet another magnificent Santorini sunset.

As darkness fell and we shared a few deserts and the delicious Vinsanto dessert wine, we got a bonus. One of the weddings being held at the place put on a nice fireworks show for us. With the sun gone, the evening grew rapidly cooler. But the waiter brought us blankets to wrap up in so we could enjoy our dessert in comfort until we were ready to call it a day.

 

On the other side of the island

Watching the sea from the buggie

Excavation at Akrotiri

I’m particularly fascinated by the way complex houses emerge from the surrounding ash and dirt they were buried in.

This was probably some kind of workshop. Note the pots that are still partially buried toward the back.

 

Down a level inside the ruins.

Screen showing archaeologists’ and artists’ rendering of what the building behind might have looked like in its day.

Recreation of the interior of that same building, which was probably living quarters on the ground floor and some kind of workshop on the top.

Decorative slate floor is part of the original building.

Church in Imerovigli

Gelato at a Dessert Boutique that featured gorgeous sweet treats.

Stairs heading upward in Imerovigli.

Signpost on the cliff walk in Imerovigli. It says walking time to Fira (arrow pointing to the right) is 25 minutes. Time to Oia (the sign right below it) is 2 hours, 30 minutes.

The town of Imerovigli

Box lunch from a stand in Fira: Falafel, pita chips, olive paste, Greek salad. Note: Greek salads don’t include lettuce, rocket (arugula), spinach or anything else we’d consider salad greens. Best falafel I’ve ever tasted.

Entrance to Santo Wines

The wines and snacks

Finishing dinner as the sun descended

And yet another spectacular sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Greece – Day 6 Santorini

Breakfast picnic on the rooftop

After a late night, we all slept late the next morning. Since we had no food in the AirBnB, a couple of people went out to a nearby bakery to bring back breakfast. They returned with a variety of pastries and drinks. We had a mid-morning picnic on the roof where we each sampled the various offerings. They were all good, but the winner by acclaim was a delicious milk and honey cake.

At one o’clock we were picked up by a van that would take us to the dock to catch the catamaran dinner cruise. Collecting the rest of the passengers took us all around the island. But we ended up at the dock, where we boarded the boat and set sail.

The day was very windy, which would come into play later in the trip, but the first couple of hours of the trip we stayed in sheltered waters. The views of the coast were extraordinary. Gigantic, awe-inspiring rock formations dipped down into the sea, with caves and niches in the rocks. We stopped just off-shore of the red-sand beach in a small cove. The sand was all formed from the erosion of a cliff full of iron-rich rock that loomed behind it.

Our captain guide told us the red beach was technically closed due to rock falls. One prominent large rock at the base had fall just a few days before and he pointed out a large crack running vertically down the cliff that would eventually split off. Nonetheless, a group of people were on the beach, which meant they had walked down a long, steep path to brave the possibility of avalanche. We were anchored well off the coast for a swim. (Confession: I didn’t swim. Just wasn’t up to it at that point.)

Liz and I on the boat

A second swimming area was off a white beach, where those who wanted to try snorkeling were given the option. Then they fed us a wonderful dinner, with grilled chicken or pork, salad, dolmades, pasta, and a great shrimp in tomato sauce.

A little while after that we were warned that we were leaving the sheltered waters and would hit rougher surf. And it did get rough with roller coaster type ups and downs. I got queasy. The crew gave me something medicinal in the form of a chewing gum. It did help settle my stomach but it also made me very sleepy and I ended up napping through the next hour so I missed the hot springs.

(The surf was so bad that the next day the boats weren’t allowed to go out at all.)

I woke in time to watch another fabulous Santorini sunset from the boat, positioned beautifully to frame the setting sun between a couple of rocky islands. We docked shortly after that and the van took us back to the AirBnB. The others went to dinner but I was too exhausted to be interest in eating, so I went to bed.

Random Observations:
– I think I need to swear off cruises that involve any ocean sailing. I seem to attract bad weather. I don’t have a lot of trouble with motion sickness in general, but rough waves do make me seasick.
– The crew of this Sunset-Oia boat was amazingly patient, kind, helpful, and informative. It was a fantastic way to see the island, along with great food, swimming, and snorkeling. Even with the queasiness, I’d do it again, but I’d hope for better weather.

The whole group on the boat

The red beach; you can see a rock fall on the right.

Extraordinary rock formations

 

 

The lighthouse at Akrotiri

More extraordinary rock formations

Oia from off shore. The place we had dinner the night before is on the right-hand side of the shore. You can see part of the stairs we came down zig-zagging down the cliff.

Another fabulous sunset from the boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Greece – Day 5 Santorini

The island of Santorini is one of the most photographed places in the world and one of the most recognizable. Less well-known is the fact that, long ago, the volcanic island known at the time as Thera was once much larger and held the second largest settlement of the ancient Minoan culture.

Fira is the largest city on the isl

The Minoans had a sophisticated, advanced culture more three thousand years ago. Then, sometime around 1500 BC, the volcano erupted, taking out a large section of the island and burying the ancient cities under as much as sixty feet of ash and volcanic rock. Historians believe that event brought the downfall of the Minoan culture and likely sparked many of the legends of the lost world of Atlantis.

We got up way early (like 4:00 am) to get a cab scheduled for 4:45. Our cab driver, on hearing we were Americans and hadn’t yet seen the American Embassy, decided to take us past it on the way. He seemed sort of proud to show it to us and tell us it was the largest embassy in Athens. In the pre-dawn darkness I could see it was large and sprawling and had a formidable wall surrounding it. Even with the slight detour, we got to the airport in plenty of time to make our mercifully uneventful 7 am flight.

On arrival on the island of Santorini, the first order of business was picking up the buggies we’d arranged to rent for the duration of our stay. A representative of the rental agency met us at the airport where they’d been brought. After completing the paperwork and a few quick lessons in how they functioned, we were off. We headed for Fira, the largest city on the island where we had a pleasant, relaxed brunch in the Pelican Kipos restaurant.

Refreshed and full, we walked up to the walkway along the top of the town of Fira. We also poked into a number of side streets, stopping to shop at some of the little tourist shops, and gape at the gorgeous blue water in the caldera below and take pictures of the incredibly beautiful town. All the white-washed hotels, restaurants, and residences built into the side of the cliffs intersperse with the numerous blue-domed churches and their multi-belled steeples.

Our Airbnb. The flat part is a roof-top deck where we had a couple of picnics.

In the early afternoon we headed to the AirBnB to drop our bags and settle in. Then we changed into bathing suits and headed for a pool/bar on the top level of Oia, where we enjoyed a refreshing swim, lovely drinks and snacks, and enjoyed our first spectacular Santorini sunset. As the sun goes down over the waters of the caldera, the glow spreads across the water and small islands, finally filling the sky with the brilliant yellow glow that reflects beautifully on the white-washed buildings. It ends with the sun blazing into a red fireball as it slowly sinks below the horizon. People actually applaud the sunset here.

Following that, we took a walk through Oia, then climbed down a long, long (very long) series of steps down to a water-front restaurant. The stairs were challenging, being steep, uneven cobbled steps that featured rough, slippery rocks and random holes. Sometimes there was a low side wall to help but often you were on your own. And then, as if that weren’t challenging enough, piles of donkey poop started to show up. And it got darker. It felt like a huge accomplishment to make it to the bottom.

We had reservations for dinner at nine-thirty and got there a few minutes early. (Late dinnertime for Americans, but not unusual for Greeks.) We soon discovered that Greeks are in no hurry when it comes to meals. To be fair, the restaurant was crowded and possibly under-staffed. But it took a long time for anyone to take our orders, then longer for food to arrive, with some people getting their dinners well before others, and a very long time after we asked for the check for it to arrive and the bills to be settled.

The food, however, was good, if somewhat unexpected in at least one case. I and one other member of our party ordered the “small fish filets.” What I expected was this:

What I got instead was this:

Everyone at the table was stunned and incredulous. They were actually quite tasty although a bit more than I could eat.

The restaurant owner called a taxi for us that took us back up to the top. We couldn’t face trying to go back up those steps in the dark.

Random Observations:
– You can’t escape the realization that you’re on the rim of a volcano as you look down the curving cliffs that drop steeply all the way to the water.
– Santorini’s distinctive architectural style of white-washed concrete buildings with vaulted roofs is a large part of its charm.
– Buggies and ATVs are the way to go on Santorini, which is a small island with narrow roads and insufficient parking for the most popular destinations.

Interior of the Pelican Kipos Inn (actually it was outside but the area was covered.)

The bay that was the caldera of the volcano. The water is some of the bluest I’ve ever seen.

Steps up to the top of the town of Fira

Landscape of the island

Volcanic cliffs

The pool bar where watched the sunset the first night

Looking out over the water from the pool bar

Sunset

Sunset

Donkey. They didn’t carry people down, just up, so this one had probably already brought his passenger to the top.

 

 

 

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Greece Day 4, Athens and the Acropolis

The amphitheatre at the base of the Acropolis (in the process of being restored)

Today was our last full day in Athens and we began it with a walking tour of the Acropolis. Our guide was very knowledgeable and informative. It was already getting warm and the path is uphill for quite a distance, but she made the journey painless by stopping us in the shade at several points to talk about the various shrines and other buildings around the area.

An ancient, classical amphitheater is in the restoration process, but a second theater designed for lighter entertainment was restored to usefulness years ago and has been the scene of rock concerts, opera performances, and other shows for the last few years.

There are shrines to all sorts of minor deities scattered along the sides of the path up the hill of the Acropolis, before you finally enter through the grand Propylaia just as those long ago people going to the temples at the top would have entered, via a long, steep staircase. It was hugely crowded the day we went, which had the odd virtue of keep the pace upward fairly slow but steady. (Helped along by people stationed along the way whose only job, apparently, is to blow whistles and yell “Keep Moving” at all the folks who want to stop and take pictures.)

Going up the steps through the ancient monumental gateway (the Propylaia) to the Acropolis

At the top our tour guide, showed us around the various temples, told her stories about various gods and goddesses, and then turned us loose to wander around the flat hilltop for as long as we liked.

Although everyone is familiar with the Parthenon, there are a number of other lovely buildings up there that are worth more than a glance. The Erectheion (a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon) is a beautiful building; the porch of the Cyclades is lovely; and there’s a small, fully restored temple to Athena Nike.

But the masterpiece, of course, is the Parthenon, one of the most beautiful man-made structures in the world. Its immense size, astonishing proportions, and lavish decoration mean that pictures just can’t entirely do it justice. It’s one of those things that can only be experienced fully through an in-person visit. Here you feel the weight and depth of a history that stretches back to the dawn of civilization, and a sophistication that rivals anything being built today.

I hadn’t fully realized that most of the ravages of the spectacular temple have not been due to weather or earthquakes, but to human activity. The Persians over-ran it and and ravaged parts; when Greece was officially ‘converted’ to Christianity, much of the ‘pagan’ decorations were removed; but perhaps worst of all was during Greece’s rebellion from the Ottoman Empire, a massive explosion within the building destroyed a significant part of it. Then in the 19th century, Lord Elgin stripped much of the marble decoration from what remained and shipped it back to England.

Parthenon

Today an enormous restoration effort is underway, scheduled to be finished, according to our guide, by 2056. She was dubious about that completion date being feasible. Much of the structure is wrapped in scaffolding, though there are parts where some restoration has been completed. All around the structure are heaps of marble parts – bits of columns and friezes, some new marble panels to replace those irretrievably lost and a number of Ionic capitals, numbered and ready to be put in place some day. They’re a grim to testimony to the extent of the job underway.

It was hot and crowded at the top so we didn’t linger as long as we might have under better conditions. After making our way back down, we stopped for coffee and gelato, then had lunch. (Yes, backwards, but we’re on vacation!)

After lunch we went to the Acropolis Museum, where much of the extensive statuary that once decorated the top of the hill is now housed. Mind-bending and impressive. They didn’t allow photography, though, so I have no pictures to share from it. You can see some of the collection on their website at https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en

Part of the excavations under the Acropolis Museum

They did allow cameras in the extensive Athenian village excavation that lies below the museum. They’ve dug out several layers of succeeding time periods of homes. It was fascinating.

From there we took the Metro to Monastiraki Square (near our hotel) and paid a visit to the Poet/Sandal-maker. He had beautiful sandals that they would fit to your feet right there, but I realized the style wasn’t going to work for me. I really want more cushioning in my shoes, but a couple of our party did get them and they do look wonderful.  From there we came back to the hotel to print boarding passes for our flight to Santorini tomorrow. Liz and I decided to call it a night at that point since we had to get up early tomorrow for the flight.

 

The Odeon (musical theater), which has been restored and is used for concerts

Liz and I in front of the Erectheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon

Side of the Erectheion

The Porch of the Cyclades is on the other side of the Erectheion. (The statues are replicas; the real ones are in the Acropolis Museum.)

The Parthenon (Photos will never do it justice.)

Detail of part of the pediment

Parthenon

The other side of the Propylaia with people lined up to go back down off the hill

Part of the excavations under the Acropolis Museum

Part of the excavations under the Acropolis Museum

Part of the excavations under the Acropolis Museum

Visiting the Poet Sandal Maker

 

 

 

 

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Greece Day 3 – Delphi

We booked a day trip to Delphi before we left the Sates, and I’m so glad that we did. It’s a 2 ½ hour drive each way from Athens but totally worth the effort. (Not that there was much. We were taken in an air-conditioned and pretty plushy coach to the site.) The day was very hot and there’s very little shade, plus you have to do some uphill climb to get to it, so I probably didn’t get to appreciate it as much as I might have in milder weather, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience.

The rugged countryside of Greec

We left Athens around 9 after a bit of confusion with some people on the wrong bus. I’m pleased to report it wasn’t us!

The trip to Delphi takes you through some of Greece’s amazing countryside, and deep into the mountains. You go around and up Mount Parnassus to get to the archaeological site, passing through the nearby town of Arachova, a ski resort frequented by some of the glitterati of Europe.

A spectacular museum just below the ruins displays much of the recovered statuary belonging to the remains of the shrines at Delphi as well as architectural bits like friezes and columns. Highlights include the sphynx of Naxios, the dancing maidens, much of the frieze from one of the treasury buildings, and the most iconic piece, the bronze Charioteer. Although at one time where were many bronze statues, few remain from the classical period, as most were melted down and reformed. Only four large-scale statues remain. The charioteer was preserved (ironically) by being buried in debris from an earthquake. The rest were all recovered from shipwrecks.

The Sphynx of Naxios

The site was buried under mounds of dirt and rock by several earthquakes during the years after the Roman Empire fell and the old Greek ways faded. Excavations by French archaeologists began around 1950 and a lot of statuary and architectural bits were found in process. Restoration has been done on a few things, a lot of pieces were moved to the museum to preserver them, and others have been left just as they were found.

Following the tour of the museum, we walked up a long, winding path that follows the route pilgrims would traditionally have taken to bring offerings and consult the famous Oracle of Delphi. The path winds past many small shrines and temples to various deities, what are presumed to be storehouses for the riches that were offered there, and broken bits just left in situ, leading up to the centerpiece temple of Apollo where the Oracle prophesied. Not a lot of the original structure remains, but it’s enough to suggest just how grand a place it must have been in its heyday. The history of the site is complicated. You can read about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi

Columns that mark where the centerpiece Temple of Apollo once stood.

My own reactions include the kind of awed wonder that most grand-scale architecture inspires. Photographs can’t capture the impact of the massive stones and enormous columns, the intricacy of the carvings and the complicated stories and history it all represents. Curiosity too, because archaeology has always held a lot of appeal for me, trying to tease out the mysteries of ancient people and places through the artifacts they leave.

We spent about an hour in the museum and then another hour and a half at the site, then they took us to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Exhausted and replete, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who took a long nap on the way back to Athens.

Afterward we met up with the rest of our party for a wonderful dinner at a rooftop bar/restaurant which had a glorious view of the Acropolis. We got to watch the lights come on as darkness fell, then made our way back to hotel after a long but rewarding day.

The town of Arachova sits on a shoulder of Mount Parnassus near Delphi.

Clock tower of the town of Arachova

The Dancing Ladies column

 

 

 

 

Detail from frieze that once decorated one of the treasury buildings.

 

 

 

 

The Charioteer

 

 

 

 

Selfie with Liz in front of the restored Athens Treasury building

I had this for dinner and it was delicious – Moussakas with beef cheeks, yoghurt, goat cheese and vegetable Ratatouille.

View of the Acropolis lit up at night, from the restaurant.

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Greece Day 2 in Athens

We had a much slower start this morning. Realized the lack of sleep on the plane had caught up with us, though we both went to bed early and slept late. It was almost nine when we woke which is highly unusual for both of us. But obviously we needed it. Had a leisurely breakfast, walked to Monastiraki Square where we took the Hop On-Hop Off but to the Plaka area next to the Acropolis Museum. We walked a bit and shopped for souvenirs.

Then we got on the HOHO bus again and headed for the National Archaeological museum. We started with lunch there, spanakopita for me, ham and cheese pie for Liz and big glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice on the side. Fortified we set forth into the museum, and emerged about three hours later with our heads stuffed full of new information about antiquities. I learned so much and found most of it fascinating. Perhaps the most amazing realization is how sophisticated some of those ancient Cycladic, Minoan, and Micenaean (proto-Greek) cultures were. I think this is going to require another blog post itself.

Out of the museum we grabbed the HOHO bus again. Being a bit brain-fogged and slow-moving, we managed to miss getting off the stop near our hotel, so we ended up doing the whole circuit again. But this time we sat upstairs and were able to get some much better pictures. It also gave us a chance to rest our feet during a pleasant tour of historic Athens.

Got off at the stop near our hotel this time, did a bit more shopping and had dinner at one of the many, many little hole-in-the-wall restaurants with outdoor seating lining the street. I was still feeling full from lunch so went light with a plate of dolmadakias (grape leaves stuffed with rice) and Liz had a plate of mutton in red sauce. I helped her eat a bit of it since it was HUGE. It was also delicious. And so inexpensive it felt as though we were ripping them off. I know Europeans don’t expect tips, but we left one anyway just to salve our consciences.

Walked back to the hotel and went up to the rooftop lounge to get pictures of the Acropolis lit up at night.

Random Observation 1: The food here is almost ridiculously cheap. Admittedly we’re not eating in really high end restaurants, but even in the Museum café we paid far less than I would’ve expected.

Random Observation 2: Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to here has been not dropping toilet paper into the toilet. The sewage system cannot handle it so even used toilet paper goes in the bin. Kind of gross and goes against a lifetime’s habit of dropping it in.

Random Observation 3: Athens is an extraordinary mix of beautiful new buildings, nicely and semi-nicely maintained older buildings, and structures that are totally falling apart. They occur right next to each.

A Street in the Plaka

Random building in the Plaka area

The Greek National Library

Lunch at the Museum, Spanakopita for me, Ham and Cheese pie for Liz and fresh squeezed orange juice for both us. Delicious!

Amazing gold jewelry in the National Archaeological Museum. It’s hard to believe this is more than 3,000 years old.

Minoan statue of a girl

Classical period statue of a woman

An excavation site right by the side of the highway.

The Acropolis lit up at night, from the roof deck lounge of our hotel

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A Visit to Greece Day 1 in Athens

My daughter Elizabeth and I headed for Athens, Greece, on Sunday morning, flying from Raleigh-Durham airport to Philadelphia and then on to Athens from there. The trip was remarkably hassle-free for a ten-hour flight across the ocean. The flights were all on time so we didn’t worry about missed connections.  We arrived right about when we were supposed to arrive. The only issue is that neither of us managed to get much sleep on the plane, so we arrived feeling a bit bedraggled.

But we know better than to try to nap. Beating jet lag is easier if you can power through that first day and stay awake until dark.

We were fortunate that the hotel had our room ready when we got there so were able to settle in and change clothes before venturing forth.

The map showed our hotel was an easy seven-minute walk from Monastiraki Square, the center of a lot of the tourist activity in Athens. It sits right at the base of the acropolis, with those ancient architectural wonders looming over the area. It’s also where you can catch the hop-on, hop-off busses. We planned to get right on one, but we were seduced by the shopping opportunities and waylaid by hunger. We had lunch at one of the many, many places near the square that cater to the tourists. We both ordered Souvlaki. The waiter promised us the best Souvlaki we’d ever tasted. I can’t say I agree. It was decent but I’ve had at least as good at several Greek places in the U.S.

The shops targeting tourists are many but surprisingly unvaried. The usual assortment of shops for trinkets and small gifts for all your buddies are there, along with leather purses and billfolds, leather sandals, specialty foods, and clothes. Many of them seem to carry the same assortment of merchandise from the same vendors.

Then we got the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which took us around to all the major sites. Being mostly zombified from travel, we stayed on the whole time and enjoyed getting the big picture.

Even from a distance, seen from several angles including from the rooftop lounge of our hotel, the acropolis is spectacular. We’ve booked a guided tour for Thursday and I’m eagerly awaiting it.

Tomorrow we plan to do a bit of wandering around the town, some more shopping in the morning, then get to the Archaeological Museum in the afternoon. The place is vast, and almost certainly more than we can take in in one afternoon, but it seems like good preparation for viewing the acropolis.

We’re pretty beat by this time, so we had a light dinner (pizza) in the bar/lounge upstairs along with a drink and now we’re falling asleep trying to get our notes made. It isn’t even dark yet, but I doubt I can hold out much longer.

Random Observation 1: It’s not hard to see why the Greeks built temples to their gods on the hill of the acropolis. It literally looms over the city.

Random Observation 2: The Greeks still love smoking. An amazing number of people do it.

Random Observation 3: Athens is a huge, sprawling city in a setting this is closer to being a desert than I expected.

The drive into Athens. Liz and I were both struck by how much of a desert it appeared to be than we expected.

The view from the balcony of our hotel room.

Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis looming over it.

Our waiter promised us this would be the best Souvlaki we’d ever tasted. It wasn’t.

View of the Acropolis from the Hop-on Hop-off bus.

View of the Acropolis from the rooftop lounge of our hotel.

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