Sunday, May 30, 2010

Explorations in Greece: Kerameikos and East Attica: Brauron, Marathon, Sounion

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

Joe, Adam and I in front of the Temple of Poseidon

The Boys being Bros at Sounion.

The temple of Poseidon at Sounion.

The temple of Artemis at Brauron

It has been a busy and exciting week. On thursday, we visited the Kerameikos and saw graves, pottery and the Themistoclean wall. We learned that you can date the Athenian wall layers by how it is built. The first layer is haphazardly thrown together, whereas the third and fourth are more angular and organized. We also saw the sacred way to Eleusis for the festival of Demeter, which also is the exit from Athens.

On Friday, we had a very interesting field trip. The class ventured to East Attica and we first went to Marathon. This is the famous place where the greatly outnumbered Athenians beat the persians in 490 BC. The name of the athletic long-distance endurance race, the "marathon", comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, who was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. The most noticeable markings of the field was a large mound or tumulus. This was where the 192 Athenians that died in battle were buried.

The next visit was to Brauron. After studying the cults of Brauron, it was interesting to see it in person. Brauron is a cult of Artemis dedicated to the young girls' transition into womanhood. Girls ages 7-10 would stay there The girls would act as arktoi (young bears) and train in athletic events. The girls in our class had a foot race, which apparently is a sacrilege.

The last visit was my favorite. The trip was to Sounion to see the temple of Poseidon built around 440 BC. The view was breath-taking. The temple was on the top of a cliff and overlooked the sea. It was believed that this temple was built by the same architect who built the temple of Hephaestion. They both have 6 x 13 columns and are built in a similar style. Lord Byron carved his name in this temple. I didn't see it, but some of my classmates found it and managed to get a picture. The weekend was relaxing. It was my first trip to the beach since visiting here. My roommates and a couple other girls went to a public beach. The water was slightly dirty and the beach was rocky, but the water was nice. On Sunday, I woke up early and took a walk around the city. I stopped by the McDonalds and ordered a sweet McFrappe for 1 euro. Afterwards, I saw the changing of the guard in the syntagma. This was very cool to see the soldiers in their costumes march to traditional Greek music played by a band. Then I meet up with my roomies, we shopped around monastriki and bought gelato. Tomorrow, class starts up again with a visit to the National Museum.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Second Day of Class: Temple of Hephaestion and Stoa of Attolis

Views of Thesion/Temple of Hephaestion

The second day of class we visited the Temple of Hephaisteon, also known as the Thesion. This is the best-preserved Ancient Greek temple and a standard example of Greek architecture. It has a classical columnade with 6 columns in front and 13 (2x +1) on the side. This temple is in the Doric style, invented at Corinth.

Part of the reason it was preserved so well was because it was turned into a Christian church. When the temples were converted to Christianity, the sides were changed. The Ancient Greek temples were oriented to the east, so the gods couldseethe sunrise. When Christians used the temples, they flipped the side so the entrance was on the west.

The Roman architect Vitruvius wrote books on the architecture of these Ancient Greek temples. These works pointed out that the architecture didn’t have straight lines in Greek buildings. The platform and the columns are both curved. This is for aesthetic purposes as well as it allows water to drain. There are no straight lines on these columns, but they bulge out like a parabola. He also pointed out that the Doric style columns are simpler, thicker and moremasculinewhereas Ionic columns are more ornate and feminine. The columns of this temple are Doric with fluting. The fluting catches the shadow and demonstrates shape of column.

The frieze on this temple features the deeds of Theseus, famous for killing the Minotaur, and deeds of Heracles. There are also carvings of the centaurmachy.

The next building we visited was the Stoa of Attolis was built by King Pergamum in the 2nd century BC. It was built for commercial purposes and had less decorative, utilitarian columns. On our way back to campus for lunch, we walked back through the acropolis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day #1: Introductory Walk and Climbing Mt. Lycabettus

Today was our first day of class. We met at 10 am outside the academic center to begin our journey. Our Professor led us on an introductory walk to the neighborhood. He showed to us several practical places to know such as the grocery, a euro exchange and a bakery. We also passed an outdoor theatre that plays the newly released American movies with Greek subtitles.

The main feature of the trip was to climb Mt. Lycabettus. This mountain in the middle of Athens gives you the best vantage point to view the city. There were some interesting flora and fauna on the way up such as pine trees and huge agava plants (the ones that you put on you if you get a sunburn). At the top of the mountain, there was a church to Saint George and a restraunt, which would have cost a small fortune to eat there. The church was quaint but still beautiful. The pray offering candles smelled very good, like honey.

Interior/Altar of the Church of St. George.

The restaraunt near St. George.

Here is the church of St. George.

The view from the top of the mountain. Here you can see the Acropolis.

The group then continued onto Syntagma Square, meaning the Constitution Square. This was named for the Constitution King Otto was forced to sign in 1843 after a riot by the people. It is still a popular place for political demonstrations. And, as expected with the turbulent economic times in Greece, there was a riot as we walked by. We saw the tomb of the unknown soldier and the palace built by King Otto, where now the prime minister or president resides.

Another great feature of the day was our Traverna dinner. Our class went to dinner with our professor to have an introduction to the food. For our appetizers we had fries, fried zucchini, deep fried meatballs (spiced with the secret ingredient of mint), Greek salad and breki mezes, known as the "drunkard's snack." The last was my favorite. It was a pork dish flavored with cinammon. The main course featured meats such as lamb, chicken and pork. The night was finished with a stroll around the city.

First Night in Athens

A picture of my roommates and I with the view of the Parthenon.

There were a lot of stairs to get to the top, but the view was worth it! The view of the Acropolis at sunset was beautiful (see below). We met several interesting people there from around the world. At one table Canadians, Americans, Germans and Brazilians were represented. The different perspectives and conversations with people from around the world were very enlightening.

We made friends with three Phi Psis from University of Colorado-Boulder at the Hostel. Here are pictures from our scenic detour in Athens with them below. On our long route, we saw the National guards in their uniforms. It was interesting to see them march and stand guard. And two stood guard at the gate, raised their legs and clacked their clogs together.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Arrival in Athens

I left South Bend yesterday at 6:30 am to catch a flight to Philadelphia and onto Athens. After hours in the air, my friends Steve Mech, Rachel Warner, among other new CYA friends and I finally arrived to Greece at 9:00 am today. The apartments are great. Our apartment has a kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms. I have four randomly assigned room mates but they are all very sweet. And, what a coincidence, two of them are ADPis from Michigan! The picture on the right is the view from our apartment.

My roommates and I settled into our apartment and then explored the neighborhood. First, we stopped into a local grocery to pick up some food as well as some great wine from Samos. It was a very sweet white wine. On the way back, we visited a bakery to have some bread and olive oil appetizers. The guy at the bakery was very nice and recommended places to try our first ouzo drink. He also told us to check out the parthenon at night. Orientation is at 6:00 pm tonight, but I plan
to take up these suggestions!