Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 30- Headed Home

On this the final day overseas, a few of us decided to take a hike to the top of the city and grab some photos of some of the sites we have seen and some new ones. Here are the results:

Off to the airport now! See you all soon!

Some photos of the Greek landscape and the Aegean Sea.

Ladies and gentleman, WE'RE ON US SOIL!!!! Still have a long trek to school, but we're here!!!!

And stuck...

Finally back!!!!! Keep checking back tonight for more candids, edits, and just plain fun!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 29- Back to Athens

We have arrived back in Athens! We are free for the rest of today, but we will have our final dinner as a group this evening, so be prepared for those photos! 

In the meantime, I have the flight information for tomorrow's journey for those who wish to track our progress (I likely won't be able to for WiFi reasons).

Turkish Airlines Flight Number 1850 from Athens to Istanbul departing at 3:20 pm (8:20 am EST) and arriving at 4:50 pm (9:50 am EST).

Turkish Airlines Flight Number 0011 from Istanbul to JFK departing at 6:20 pm (11:20 am EST) and arriving at 9:55 pm (9:55 pm EST).

It takes about 5ish hours to get back to Elmira from JFK (not including customs, bags, and traffic) so once we arrive I will update the blog to let everyone know.  Of course, once we take off we won't have access to WiFi, so communication may be difficult.

And now for the HIGHLIGHTS!

Our final dinner pics....

And one final thank you to Heidi and Michalis for all of their hard work planning this trip, from planning the tours to scheduling flights and hotels to ordering found for 19 of us and just having to deal with us for 30 days. We hope you enjoy your gift and we all hope you enjoy your summer on Crete! THANK YOU!

Until tomorrow, ECGT signing off!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 28- Delphi

For us, this is the last official day of scheduled sites... :( (tomorrow will be a free day in Athens after about a three hour drive). So, for this occasion we visited Delphi, the religious center of the Greek world (and all the world in some ways.  The city is literally built into Mount Parnassos and is considered the center of the world according to Greek mythology, as apparently Zeus sent two eagles from Mount Olympus on a journey to find the center of the world, and where they crossed each other would be the place.  Guess where they crossed.

This is the remains of the Roman Forum (Agora).  We can tell this is late Roman by the brick and mortar walls behind these columns.  If you look really closely, you can see that these walls were also built using pieces of broken brick and not brand new ones, indicating it was built during the late Roman period (between 300-500 AD).

These two buildings are called treasuries, and were donated to the city of Delphi during the fifth and sixth centuries BC by surrounding city-states.  These buildings were designed very simply with a cubic shape, only two pillars, and a small porch, but the inside is what is truly spectacular, as they were filled mostly with spoils of war from these city states.  Why do this? To keep the gods (especially Apollo to which this whole site is dedicated) happy and on their side during wartime.

This rock in the center of the city just below the Temple of Apollo is known as the Navel Stone, or the Omphalos.  According to legend, this is where Zeus' eagles crossed paths and was raved as the center of the Earth.

Here is the Temple of Apollo, the most prominent structure in the entire sanctuary.  However, there are a few stories about the god to whom the building is dedicated to.
First, Apollo's birth: Apollo was born to the human Leto and Zeus, the father of the Greek Pantheon.  Out of anger for her husband's infidelity, Hera sent a Python to kill Leto.  In order to save his mother however, Apollo fought the serpent in the mountains surrounding Delphi, where he finally killed the beast and was granted an oracle (called a Pythia) for his work.  It is this oracle to which people from literally all across this region of the world to hear what Apollo predicts what will occur to that person and whether or not the gods agree with the plans at hand.
When someone wished to hear from the Oracle, they first had to cleanse themselves in the Castalian Spring nearby, pay a tribute, and sacrifice an animal at the Altar of Apollo.  It was not a guarantee to hear from the Oracle though because when the animal was being washed in the cool water, if it did not shiver, it was a bad day to hear from the gods, so nothing would be read.  Once the sacrifice was completed, the Oracle woman would enter the temple somewhere in the middle near the cult statue, hear what Apollo had to say about the question posed to him, and the answer would be read aloud to a priest. This priest then decoded the message (they were often rather vague and cryptic visions) and would deliver the results to the guest. Clearly a bit different way of practicing religion...

Here is the 5,000 seat theater built directly into the side of the hill, a classic Greek design with a more than semi-circle orchestra.

As a means of proving that Delphi was force to be reckoned with during the 6th-4th centuries BC, the citizens arranged for the start of the Pythian games in 582 BC, very similar to those played in Olympia 200 years earlier.  After a long hike up the hill, we were all dying to get this picture taken of all of us.

This is a gorgeous view from the stadium walkway.  From the bottom to the top, you can see the theater, temple of Apollo, the gymnasium (the place where athletes would train from the games), and the Tholos Temple of Athena in the very top (the circular building with three standing pillars dedicated to the goddess of wisdom).

In addition, we made a stop to the museum on site.  Here are some highlights.

This is the only restored frieze and pediment from the Treasury of the Siphnians. Originally, the structure was made of solid marble and was intended to represent the workmanship and style of those people on the Aegean Islands and modern day Eastern Greece. Since the Siphnians collapsed in the year 524 BC at the hands of a barbaric tribe, this building must have made its way here at some point before then, just before the classical period of Greece. The pediment itself shows Zeus breaking up a fight between Apollo (who had received an oracle from Pythia) and Herecles (who had not. Here, Herecles is grasping onto a tripod used for religious ceremonies and Apollo is grasping for it back.  The frieze depicts the assembly of the gods following the Trojan War with several dead heros laying on their sides. Most notably, Zeus, Area, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Apollo attended this gathering.

These two panoramas show the metopes (the square pieces of marble of a Doric temple between the triglyphs but under the roof) of the Athenian treasury here in Delphi.  The building, just like the first one by the Siphnians, was constructed to demonstrate the strength of the Athenian people as well as the strength of their democracy during the Classical Period (between 510-480 BC).  The top photo is dedicated solely to Theseus, the supposed savior of Athens, and therefore their political system, who was credited with securing victory in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.  The second photo depicts Hercules and some of his superhuman abilities, including the killing of the "Cerynean Hind," a mythical horse creature, chargin at an Amazon fighter with a shield, and grabbing an opponent around the waist and throwing him to the ground (notice all of these were done in order to show the superiority of the Athenians over the barbaric peoples).

And now for the HIGHLIGHTS!

Callan gave an awesome presentation on Delphi and the Oracle on site. Thank you!

Until Athens again, ECGT signing off!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 27- Olympia

The birthplace of the most famous sporting event in the world! And we're right here!!!! Our tour of the sporting sanctuary of Olympia begins with...

The gymnasium! Starting in 776 BC with the first ancient Olympic Games, this area (a rectangle created by four stoas, only two of which  are still present) was used as a training center for the running and throwing events of the Games, including sprinting, javelin, and discus.

Wrestling was also another sport commonly practiced during this time period (Jared and Nate went back in time for this picture, even with a whistle from the people working at the site).  This building was called the Palaestra and  is comprised of a single row of pillars making up the square grassy area.

These pictures are the remains of Phideas' workshop, the sculptor credited with creating the cult statues of Zeus here in Olympia and Athena in the Parthenon in Athens.  In the first photo we can see that the foundation and the brick structure were not made at the same time.  This is because the Romans overtook the sanctuary during the first century AD and rebuilt it, essentially placing their new technology (in the form of bricks and mortar) on top of the Greek foundations.  This building in particular was transformed into a Christian church, which we can see in the second photo.  The wall here is the wall that hides the altar from few inside the semi-circular jut-out of the building, a common feature in Greek Orthodox churches.  It must be noted that originally the workshop was built to the same specifications as the Temple of Zeus, so he knew the massive statue would fit inside the building when the time was right around 470 BC.

All three of these photos are of the (mostly reconstructed) Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest Pagan temple in Mainland Greece and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (two in one trip!!!) None of the Doric columns standing today are original, but were completely redone to show visitors how massive the structure was all those centuries ago.  In the 6th century AD, two massive earthquakes topped the columns (that's why they are lying on their sides is a kind of domino pattern today), bringing the end of the massive structure.

This is the Temple of Hera, situated only a few steps from the temple dedicated to her husband.  Every two years (a few months before each edition of the summer and winter Olympics), a ceremony is held here to begin the trek of the Olympic flame from here to the host city.  What is interesting about this ceremony is the Olympic flame is not eternal, but started anew at this ceremony using only the sun's light and a bowl shaped mirror to start the fire, just as the ancient Olympians had done.  Sorry to break your hearts....

In the foreground is the remains of the Altar of Zeus where ancient athletes would be required to take an oath before competing in the Games.  Behind it is called a nymphium, or a fountain.

Here are two photos of the ancient stadium, which is sort of still in use today.  It is officially 197.27 meters long (the length of one stadia- the unit of distance for the ancient Games) and about 30 meters wide.  This is where all the running, wrestling, and throwing competitions would be held during the games, as watched by hundreds of thousands of men who would sit along the hillside.  Wooden seats were eventually added to the stadium during the Roman era, but have since rotted away.

We also visited the museum at Olympia and here are a couple items worth mention.

This 6th century pediment comes from a group of treasuries just to the north of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. Made of limestone, this structure depicts the epic battle between the Gods and the Giants, a battle we have seen quite often on this trip. In the center, Zeus appears to have a struck down one of the Giants (who appears to be falling down, with the help of Athena, Poseidon, Herecles, and Ares. The Romans are credited with adding the bottom inscription "Megarians" referring to the group of people who defeated the Corinthians during the Roman period.

By far one of the most famous statues ever found in Olympia is the marble statue of Nike, the Goddess of victory. Here, she has thrown her right hand behind her along with her right foot, as if she is flying down from the great Mount Olympus. Symbols of Zeus' power is also evident here, as Nike is riding in the air on an eagle's back. Standing 2.11 meters tall, it was found in a corner of the Temple of Zeus on the triangular base you see here. Originally, this was a gift of the Messenians and the Naupactians to the Gods after defeating the Spartans in 421 BC during Athens' classical period.

And now for the HIGHLIGHTS!

Thanks to Adriana for her presentation on Olympia and the Olympic Games. Wel done!

And the winner of the Genuine Fake Olympics 2015 was your truly after a 197 meter run. As a reward, how about a genuine fake olive wreath!

Until the last day of touring, ECGT signing off!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day 26- Nafplion

Since we've been on the road for 25 days, it's about time we take a day for ourselves to tour the city on our own, go to the beach, and climb 888 steps to the top of the city! Here's what I did personally today (though everyone else will have a slightly different story).

These pieces of pottery came from the Nafpion Archeological Museum (along with the next few photos).  The pot on the bottom right is probably the most interesting, as it is one of the first attempts of those in the Neolithic world at refrigerator.  The pot could actually be partially buried underground where it is cooler, and the contents could still be accessed easily.

This floor painting was found in the Mycenaean city of Tiryns only a few kilometers from the citadel of Mycenae which we visited two days ago.  If you notice, the paintings are of two dolphins facing away from each other. How cool!

These burial trinkets are rather interesting as they were made into the shape of Greek letters.  The ones that look like they are seated are called taf (T), the ones with arms up are the psi (PS), and the ones with arms crossed are phi (F).

Speaking of Tiryns, here is a model of the city.  Just see how tall those fortification walls are. Have fun scaling that!

This bronze body armor suit and boar's tusk helmet may be the most famous piece in the entire museum.  This piece and all the pottery beneath it were found in a tomb of a soldier.  The interesting bit here is the blue tint to the boar tusk helmet, as boar tusk is usually pure white.  The most likely scenario is that the helmet was burned in some sort of fire, either before the piece was discovered or as it was being excavated (as oxygen rushes into the tomb, any small spark could set a fire), causing the blue color.

And some photos of the city from ground level (trust me, there are plenty of elevation photos too!)

For some it was a beach day in Karathona, only a short 20 minute drive from our hotel. I heard the water was as calm as a lake with hardly any waves; perfect for wading and swimming!

As promised, here's the photos of the Palamidi Fortress, some 888 steps above the level of the city of Nafplion.  It was originally constructed in 1711 by the Venetians who had originally occupied this area, but before it could be finished completely the Ottoman Turks invaded the fortress, kicking out the original builders and finishing the construction.  However, this is the sight of supreme significance to Greek independence as well, as Nafplion was the first capital city of Greece and the start of the war for Greek independence from the Ottomans, overtaking the Fortress and using it for the remainder of the war.  You can see how well-positioned it is, with a view of the land and sea surrounding it (the view of the city was amazing!).

And now for the HIGHLIGHTS!

A big thanks to Shelby and Kelly for their presentations on Greek Independence from Turkey and Greek Orthodox Churches and Byzantine Art respectively.  Great job!

Another highlight from me... I definitely got lost in the fortress and wandered around for a while trying to find the group. Thank goodness I had by worry beads with me!

Until tomorrow in Olympia, ECGT signing off!