Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some Peloponnese pics

Temple of Zeus at Nemea
 A beautiful church I found in a seaside town we stopped at for lunch.
 Some ruins from the Olympic Temple of Zeus.  Hard to capture the scale of these column fragments but they were HUGE!
 View from Mycenae!
 Another view from Mycenae.
 This is what we saw from the bus on our drive home! Absolutely breathtaking.
 The Corinth canal.
Me and a friend trying to read the ancient inscriptions on this block in Epidaurus! We sat there for a good half hour going line by line, trying to get fragments of the words.  It was very exciting!!

The Peloponnese and Paris!

I'm sorry for not writing in awhile, I've been in the Peloponnese!! Last week we loaded into two coach buses and traveled across the Corinth canal and from there visited the sites of Nemea, Isthmia, Mycenea, Olympia, Mystras, Messene, and Epidauros! It was a whirlwind trip full of many photo ops and fun times, as well as the opportunity to visit my favorite town of Nauplion again.  We had fun but it was nice to come back to our little apartment and settle in for a normal week of school.  I'm still really enjoying Modern Greek and feel like I'm learning more and more every day.  A lot of the employees at my favorite places in Pangrati only speak Greek, so it's fun to order my coffees and loaves of bread in Greek, as well as surprise the English-speaking shop-owners with an ευχαριστώ (thank you) or Υασας! (hello/goodbye) I want to research whether any colleges in the Willamette Valley offer Modern Greek, because I don't want to come back home and lose all of my Greek! I suppose everyone who studies or lives abroad for a short period of time struggles with the same thing.  
        Today I had a really amazing morning with two on-site classes in a row.  For History and Culture of Modern Athens we met in front of the Parliament building in Syntagma Square to begin our exploration of the Neoclassical buildings of downtown Athens.  Of course, I used the opportunity to leave a little early and grab a take-away coffee at Costa, where I finally found coffee cups the size of what I'm used to!  Feeling sufficiently caffeinated with a 20 oz. americano, I walked around the city and saw King Otto's palace (which now houses a museum of Modern Athens) and the trilogy of neoclassical buildings; the National Library, the National University of Athens, and the Academy of Athens.  Also on our tour we passed by the charred exterior of the beautiful old cinema which was set on fire during the rioting last week.  Following that class, I headed to the Acropolis to meet up with my Ancient Architecture class!  After we entered the site the Professor veered off the path, across a rope and started to take us to the exit.  He then proceeded to lead us around the western side of the Propylaea and we climbed up next to the temple of Athena Nike where we were able to walk around the construction area and get a close-up look at some of the pre-classical foundation.  It was so amazing to be able to cross all of the ropes and walk over to the ledges of the Acropolis.  At one point my professor had us walk out along the cliff next to the Erechtheion and look down at a piece of temple jutting out which hasn't been fully excavated yet. My professor has been working on the Acropolis for many years, and is still an active member of the technical team for the Preservation of the Acropolis Monuments as the architect in charge of the preservation of the Propylaea.  If you can't tell, the class has definitely picked up after the last two weeks of architectural theory and drawing we've had.  I can't wait for the rest of the semester, because if on the first day we were able to go in the staff rooms and climb along planks connecting ancient walls from active restoration projects, I can't imagine what the next few months hold! 
           After that exciting morning, I am now packing for my flight to Paris in the morning.  We are staying in Montmartre and on our itinerary we have the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Catacombes de Paris , Versailles, and the Eiffel Tower, of course!!  We will return on Clean Monday, and hopefully make it in time for some of the festivities and the Kolouma meal in Athens.  Apparently the Municipality of Athens hosts an event near the Acropolis where they serve free olives, wine, halva and lagana (special Clean Monday bread) and fly kites and have Greek dancing! I will post some pictures of my trip to the Peloponnese in a minute; I took probably 400 pics but will spare you all and just choose some of the good ones. :)  Hope everyone is doing well!! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In the eye of the storm...

Even though I posted just yesterday, I felt that I had to write more on the state of Athens as at this very moment there are 284 members of Parliament in the midst of a great debate inside the Parliament building in Syntagma Square.  The vote is set for midnight and the square has been filled with protesting Greeks all afternoon. While I was out at the base of the Acropolis today going to the metro station, I ran into an assembly which escalated into a full-scale march; the main street towards Syntagma was closed and motorcycles were zooming by as people of all ages and demographic drifted toward the square.  The air was smoky and filled with the boom of what were either stun guns by police or homemade fire bombs by anarchists.  As I was riding the metro away from the city center around 3:30, it was eerily silent even though completely filled with people.  I've already heard of a few students from my program who were tear gassed later in the afternoon as they went too close to the action in Syntagma.  The news reports indicate that roughly 6,000 police have been stationed in the center of Athens for the purposes of holding back the anarchists' bombs and blocking the chunks of marble being hurled at the Parliament building.  What is so fascinating to me is how strong the national unity and pride is in Greece. It is so different from in the USA where patriotism is associated with specific stereotypes and political stances.  In Greece, everyone marches, everyone participates, and everyone is affected.  As we wait for the verdict from Parliament, I'm torn.  I don't have enough of a background in economics to truly understand the entire scenario, but from the limited news reports I've been following since in Athens, it seems that either way, Greece is in for a world of pain.  I think a consensus is that they need new political leaders, and I wonder if the austerity measures do pass tonight whether the EU advisers will encourage Greece's next Prime Minister to be a non-Greek, as their first President was when Greece was liberated with the help of France, Russia, and Britain in 1833.  This could be a long shot, but it seems to me that if Greece is going to stay in the euro zone, they need a leader who is objective and who will see the big picture with Greece as a member of a larger body of countries.  Every day Greek culture fascinates me more and more, and today was a terrifying, surreal, and very touching experience.  One thing can be said for the Greeks, they know how to assemble and they are very passionate.  You have to admire that. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Athens is heating up!

View of the Parthenon from the Acropolis.

 The church right on my street in Pangrati!
Quite a lot has happened since I last posted. I'm sure if you're following the news you've seen television footage or read articles concerning the latest proposed austerity measures in Greece as well as the severe discontent.  The violence that erupted yesterday was surreal for me.  I awoke to the sound of chanting and shouting from Syntagma Square, and later that day, when I got out of class, there were hundreds of videos online of the violence happening just eight minutes away.  My roommate's teacher took her class on a walk through the demonstration in the morning at 11, and I guess it was a very cool experience for them.  Apparently protests are a natural way of life in Greece, and the old and young showed up.  Unfortunately, this demonstration inevitably escalated in the afternoon to something I would imagine is similar to Modern Warfare 2.  The one thing that is so interesting to me here is that the police have almost no authority. They cannot legally use their guns unless they are shot at first, and you can imagine how this rule has affected how the anarchists view the police.  What results is what we see on the news in the states, Molotov cocktails being thrown by men and women in all black, gates being broken, etc.  Although yesterday I was pretty freaked out, most of my fears have been subsided.  While it seems from the video footage and news articles that the whole city is in flames, in reality, the very small area of Syntagma Square is the only area affected by the violence. When there are marches through the other large areas of the city small things might break out but most groups reserve their big ticket demonstrations for Syntagma in front of the Parliament.  In my Modern History and Culture of Athens class we've been talking about how national identity was formed when Greece became independent around 1831.  It has been so amazing to be in a class where we are actively studying the history and culture of a nation which is experiencing such extreme changes in the present. It has been especially valuable for me as a student of the Classics, because I never realized how much the Modern Greek identity has been affected by their classical past.  This week on Tuesday the whole school is going on a four day trip to the Peloponnese, which is the southwestern region of Greece, including Kalamata, Corinth, Nauplion, and Olympia.  I'm really excited to revisit some of the sites and towns I went to through the Willamette Post-session like Mycenae, Nemea, and Nauplion.  When I return I'll post about how the trip went and give an update on the state of Athens!!