For the past two weeks we have delved into the early beginnings of civilization with the Minoans, Myceans, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and Turks all leaving their mark on the landscape. Similar to Turkey, Greece is packed with history and ancient sites. Our one day tour of the Athen's Acropolis and Parthenon followed by a tour of the Acropolis museum provided a wonderful overview of early Greek culture, buildings, and mythology. Considering that much of these buildings were constructed more the 2500 - 3000 years ago, the skill of cutting the stone, stabilizing multi-ton foundation stones with iron-lead metal joints, and sculpting the numerous statues to adorn the temples was incredible to view. Not sure if we modern humans really have much over on these ancients considering their level of building skill, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. On a three day bus tour we were able to visit an ancient Mycean site (including the tomb of King Agamemnon), the ancient Olympic contest field at Olympia, and a breathtaking mountainside location of the Oracle of Delphi. Thanks to a recommendation from a work colleague whose father is from the Greek island of Kythira, we spent five wonderful days on this quiet island off the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula. This was before the deluge of Greek tourists that come in July and August, so we felt like we had the island to ourselves. We went to five different beaches and were the only people at the beach each time - just like our own private resort. Our stay at the Pelagia Aphrodite Hotel in Agia Pelagia became almost like coming home as we were welcomed by the family that ran the hotel as old friends instead of short term guests. Annabelle was pretty excited about visiting this island because according to Greek myths, this is where Aphrodite was born in a trail of foam from the sea.
This is one of the more impressive engineering marvels I have have seen - the Corinth of Canal. Although the ancients had a vision to build such a canal to link the Gulf of Corinth (Ionian Sea) to the Saronic Gulf (Aegean Sea), it took the modern technology of the late 1800's to actually accomplish the task. This waterway enables travel between the Ionian and Aegean Seas without the much longer route around the tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula (now technically an island due to this canal).
Quite famous "Lions Gate" entrance to the Bronze Age city of Mycenae of approximately 3400 years ago. The stone work was quite impressive considering that these people did not yet possess iron, but rather used bronze (copper and tin alloy) to shape, transport, and construct the stone walls. One of the kings of Mycenae, King Agamemnon, was known as the leader of the Greeks that fought and defeated the city of Troy in modern day Turkey using the Trojan Horse strategy. Imagine all this bloodshed for the sake of one woman - Helen of Troy. Some things never change.
Annabelle and I are running for the olive branch crown at the Olympia field of competition. The stone trough on the side of the field was constructed by the Romans about 2000 years ago to provide drinking water for the thousands of spectators that would line the banks of this running track. Interesting that running was done back and forth, not like the running in a circle we do now. But then we are much more adept at chasing our tail than the ancients were. By the way - Annabelle won, but by a hair.
Delphi - what an incredibly beautiful collection of ruins amidst the splendor of Greek mountain landscapes. The ancient Greeks came here to approach the Oracle of Delphi (usually a young priestess) and request a prophecy or solution to a pending problem. Think of it as an ancient version of Googling.
The sculpting ability of the ancient Greeks is very impressive. This is a closeup of the famous "Charioteer of Delphi" that was found near the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Only the rider of the chariot was found, not the four steeds that was driving, presumably due to earthquake burial of the charioteer and thus, retention until excavation in the late 1800's. This statue appeared almost lifelike and was just a little spooky in its reality.
If you visit a Greek island, you must visit Santorini one of the most beautiful. The only problem is that everyone else on the planet also visits Santorini making it a very busy, congested, and noisy place. Nonetheless, the geography is breathtaking being made up of an outer crescent of island(s) surrounding a deep watery caldera and central volcanic core. This view is from the volcanic core looking back at Fira on the main island. The towns on the island cling to the top of the land with long pathways, mule paths, or cable car access from the seaport to the city center up above.
Akrotiri on the southern end of the main Santorini island of Thera, was a thriving Minoan city until 1637 BC when the volcano finally erupted with such force as to completely bury the city with ash and stone. Surprising there were no human remains found in this site suggesting that at least there was enough warning from the volcano to provide time to evacuate the city. In addition to destroying this city, the volcano created a Tsunami that also destroyed many other Minoan coastal cities in the Mediterranean area forever crippling this civilization and enabling the rise of the competing Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland. Seems like there is always someone to benefit from another's misfortune and take over the lead.