Saturday, July 25, 2009

Greece - Piraeus, Athens, Delphi, Poros, Aegina (Part 1)

Wow, life on Semester at Sea is busy busy busy busy.  I get 5 hours of sleep some nights and still wake up regretting that I missed something.  But you can’t do everything in this limited amount of time, so I just try my best.  However, that leaves little time for blogging but I do need this for my class so I’m going to try to catch up.

Here are the trip descriptions for Greece.

PIR02 SIGHTS OF ATHENS & ACROPOLIS [FDP: ROGERS] (1300-1700 Monday, 13 July) Visits to the Acropolis and ancient Athens provide a superb opportunity to see the archaeological evidence for one of the world’s earliest complex civilizations and to reflect on its “collapse.” It also offers the opportunity to put ancient Athens in perspective with what was going on at the same time in the rest of the world. For example, Rome was also quite advanced and the Maya area saw the start of great urban centres with monumental architecture, but most of North America was occupied by small bands of hunter-gatherers. Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece and lies six miles from the port of Piraeus. It is one of the world’s oldest cities; its recorded history spans at least 3,000 years. Head towards the foot of the Acropolis and pass the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, the Roman archway built by Emperor Hadrian in 131-32 CE. The Acropolis, or “High City,” is a true testament to the Golden Age of Greece, that magical period at the height of Pericles’ influence (461- 429 BCE) when the intellectual and artistic life of Athens flowered. Seeing the ruins of the Parthenon, one of the archetypal images of western culture, is a revelation yet utterly familiar. Today, as throughout history, the Acropolis offers one entrance – from a terrace above the Agora. The modern path makes a zigzagging ascent through the Beule Gate to legendary attractions such as the Propylaia, Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon. Take 90 minutes to explore this legendary site. Travel to the heart of Athens to Syntagma (Constitution) Square. At the top of the Square stands the Parliament Building, formerly the royal palace, where guards in their traditional costumes keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Next, pass the Panathenaic Stadium and the National Gardens. Travel along University Street with its Neoclassical buildings before heading back to the ship. Please note: This tour requires walking on uneven terrain; sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Due to the popularity of the sites visited, the order of sites may be reversed to avoid congestion. Please be aware that traffic jams occur frequently and may cause delays.

PIR06 DELPHI – GROUP B [FDP: BREWER & FERRELL] (0745-1830 Tuesday, 14 July) Delphi, the sacred site of the oracle of Apollo, remains one of the most beautiful settings and fully-preserved sanctuaries of ancient Greece. Its building remains and sculptural treasures provide a vivid testimony of Greek culture at its apogee. Delphi is located approximately 120 miles northwest of Athens. Located on a high mountain terrace and dwarfed to either side by Mt. Parnassos, it's easy to see why the ancients believed Delphi to be the center of the earth. Home to Apollo, Delphi is one of the most enchanting sites in Greece. Overhanging the gorge of the Pleistos, the modern village of Delphi is traversed by a single main street brimming with brightly-colored souvenirs and local crafts. According to Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo at Delphi, the oracle was discovered by chance when a shepherd noticed that his flock went into a frenzy when it approached a certain chasm in the rock. The chasm exuded strange vapors, and the shepherd also came under its spell and began to utter prophecies when he drew near. Fellow villagers also experienced this strange phenomenon and chose a woman to sit over the chasm on a three-footed stool and to prophesy. Originally, a priestess was chosen from among the local virgins, but it was later determined that she had to be a woman over 50 whose life was beyond reproach. On oracle day, the seventh of the month, the Pythia (priestess) would receive pilgrims who sought divine guidance in matters of war, worship, love or business. For over a thousand years, a steady stream of pilgrims made their way up the dangerous mountain paths to the oracle. The line of questioners often formed days in advance and, after an animal sacrifice, each was presented to the Pythia. Her strange, garbled answers were then translated into verse by the priests. We will use this practicum to explore the nature and formation of beliefs from a historical as well as cross-cultural perspective, to explore how an individual’s beliefs shape their choices and behaviors in the world, and to explore the concept of internal versus external locus of control.

The Delphi Museum contains a rare and exquisite collection of art and architectural sculpture principally from the Sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronoia. The most famous exhibit is the Charioteer, a delicate bronze work created in about 470 BCE to commemorate the victory of a Syracusan prince in the chariot races. Another masterpiece is the pair of Kouroi (archaic male figures) representing Cleobis and Biton, twins who died of exhaustion after pulling their mother's chariot for 45 stadia (just under five miles). Other prized pieces are fragments of a silver bull from the 6th century BCE, large chunks of the beautiful and meticulously-carved Syphnian frieze, and a magnificent group of three dancing women, carved from Pentellic marble around an acanthus column. This practicum will also include a stop at Hosios Loukas, a historic walled monastery and one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, and has been listed on UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Please note: Flat rubber-soled shoes are recommended as the visit to Delphi includes climbing uneven pathways and steps. Lunch at a local restaurant is included.

PIR14 SARONIC ISLANDS (0745-1800 Wednesday, 15 July) On this full-day excursion, travel by ship and visit the beautiful islands of Poros, Hydra and Aegina. The journey to the first island, Poros, takes about two hours. During this time, learn more about the vessel and the area in which you are traveling while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Poros is in fact two islands separated from each other by a shallow engineered canal. Views of the harbor and the town from the ship are picturesque. The waterfront area, filled with many cafés, is quite animated.

Upon arrival, explore Poros at leisure for approximately 50 minutes. At the center of this small island, note the Sanctuary of Poseidon where the Athenian orator and politician Demosthenes committed suicide in 323 BCE. After exploring Poros, reboard the vessel. After a leisurely 75-minute cruise, arrive at Hydra. Hydra is different from the other Saronic Islands with its white, red and pink houses built in tiers. Substantial stone mansions and white, tiled houses climbing up from a perfect horseshoe harbor create a beautiful spectacle; this harbor also once served as a safe haven for Saronic pirates. Once a fashionable artists’ colony, it has metamorphosed into one of the more popular (and expensive) resorts in Greece. The small, narrow stone-paved streets can be explored on foot or by the island’s traditional “vehicle” – the saddled donkey. Hydra is also reputedly hallowed by no less than 365 churches. After exploring Hydra (for approximately 90 minutes), travel to Aegina. Well-positioned on the trade routes, Aegina was once a prosperous maritime center and a rival to Athens. The Aeginetans were first among the people of Greece to mint their own coins, and they also created a standardized system of weights and measures. Today, Aegina has become an inexpensive resort for Athenians. A primary attraction for visitors is the beautiful Temple of Aphaia, one of the most complete and visually complex ancient buildings in Greece. Situated on a promontory, the temple also offers superb views of Athens and Piraeus across the water. Once back onboard, enjoy the “Traditional Greek Folk Show” en route to Piraeus. (Lunch is included in the price of this practicum. Also, please note that the order of the ports can be changed.)

PIR15 VISIT TO SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGE – GROUP B (0800-1300 Thursday, 16 July) Children's Villages are in more than 106 countries and are home to about 50,000 needy children. The Greek SOS Children’s Villages Association was founded in 1975 thanks to Claudia Catzaras. She had first learned about the program’s concept while in France and, after meeting Hermann Gmeiner, decided to replicate this in her home country. Construction of the first SOS Children’s Village in Vari, south of Athens, started in January 1979. The first children were able to move into the homes in August 1982.  In the early 1990s, the number of youths in the SOS Children’s Village increased and an SOS Youth Facility was opened near the first site. Later, the program expanded and another SOS Children’s Village was built near Thessalonica. In one of the most densely populated districts of Athens, they also opened a SOS Social Centre which addresses children, youths and family problems. The facility provides educational psychotherapy for the children and support in all areas of life for the adults. Due to prevailing need in the northeastern region of Greece, the organization is currently preparing the ground for establishing a third SOS Children’s Village including a daycare facility and a counseling center in the Thrace area, not far from the Turkish border. At present there are two SOS Children’s Villages in Greece, two SOS Youth Facilities and one SOS Social Centre. During this day visit, learn about the village organization and management and have time to meet and interact with the children.

Unfortunately the last 2 got cancelled (the Saronic Islands because the transportation was closed and the Orphanage because there was no one to escort us around the facility) but I left in the descriptions because I went to some of the islands anyways and just like to read about the orphanages.

So on the first day in Greece I went to Athens and to the Acropolis.  The steps and ground are made of almost all marble which makes it very very slippery.  We were saying that it would be so dangerous if it was raining because we were having enough trouble as it is in the sun with sneakers on.  We went up and saw the Parthenon.  The tour guide was saying how the bottom kind of bows up in the middle so the columns were built to not symmetrically so that it evened out the look.  Therefore it looks perfectly straight and even.  If the columns were equal and straight than it would have looked uneven.  So we walked along there and you could look out and see this giant rock formation that people (who looked really tiny) were standing on so we went down and climbed up the rocks (and I didn’t even fall – yay me).  I like how Tim asked – do we want to take the safe stairs or the fun stairs? (i.e. the man made steps or the rock ones).  So we climbed up the rock and took the steps down.  It was a really pretty view.  You could see all of Athens and the buildings had these twinkly lights.  We don’t know what they were for (they were on the islands too) but they looked nice from up there.  Then we got some yummy strawberry icy drinks.  I thought it was delicious but Alexis thought it was too sugary so she couldn’t finish it and gave it to Tim who also couldn’t finish it so I had the rest of theirs.  It was cold and it was like 100 degrees outside so I thought it was good.  We have a nice picture of Mel and I with our very red tongues on the bus.  Then we went in front of the Parliament Building and got our pictures taken with one of the guards.  They are like the ones in England and they can’t move or smile or anything.  One guy started banging his rifle to call over the security when one woman went up (we don’t know why) but the security guy came over and fixed the guards rifle.  When we were leaving they were switching spots.  It wasn’t the changing of the guards because it was the same 2 guys but they did some slow exaggerated walking thing and went to the other side.  Also there were a TON of pigeons everywhere there.  Not like normal, actually a lot.  This guy was shaking food on people’s heads so they pigeons would all fly towards them.  He would put some in your hand too.  It was crazy.  So then we went to the Olympic stadium that was used in 1896.  So then we went back to the ship and then went out to Piraeus to get some dinner.  I got a really good Greek Salad with pita and some oriental burger pita thing.  Then we walked around.  Apparently the stores close early on Mon and Wed so we couldn’t do much shopping (I think Tim was grateful for that) so we just walked around a lot.  We got to this not so good neighborhood so we turned around, got some Greek pastries (not as good as they looked, but not bad) and eventually went back to the ship.

            The next day I went to Delphi for my FDP.  It was really cool to see, but not much to talk about.  There were lots of old temples and rocks and such.  Then V and I and some other people left the group.  We would walk like 2 steps and then stand for 5 min listening to the tour guide in the sun.  Then walk 2 more steps and stop again.  It was really hot and despite how much we tried, we honestly weren’t remembering that much of what was being said so walked up to the top (lots of stairs) to the stadium which was pretty cool.  But it was really hot and there was little shade besides at the top so we went all the way back down and got some yummy strawberry icy things like I had the day before.  Then we went into the Delphi Museum where the tour guide told us about almost every single thing there.  Which was her job, and she did it very well.  But if you know me, museums aren’t high on my list of things I enjoy because I’m not a huge history person so Kaitlyn (her name has a complicated story so I don’t know how it’s spelled) and I looked around quickly and then got bored in each room.  When we walked out there was a ramp or stairs and I thought it looked more fun to walk down the ramp even though it was kind of the slippery material.  See where this is going?  Yeah I fell in front of all the SAS people gathered at the bottom waiting to get on the bus.  I now (still even though I’m actually in Bulgaria at the moment) have a huge very dark bruise.  Oh well.  So then we ate lunch in this restaurant – the food was really good.  When we were almost done eating they said that there was some question about whether or not we were going to the monastery, but we were even though we would be back like 2 hours late.  Some people didn’t want to go so they split up the buses and one went back to the ship.  I figured that I might as well take a look so we went on the bus that would be back late.  It was really nice, but my contacts were annoying me by this part because I kept sleeping on the bus (we did a lot of driving – like 3 hours increments).  They had the same chairs as in the Cathedrals in Spain or Italy where the seat folds up and there is this little ledge.  That way you can kind of sit but it looks like you are standing up.  The floors had really pretty marble designs.  I also had my first Turkish Delight there (little did I know I would be having many more of these later on).  It was like a jelly candy covered in white sugar.  So that night we went to this karaoke bar right by the ship.  Mel and I didn’t sing, but we found out Nhesthy was a good singer.  It was nice because there were only a few other people there.  So we would sing and they would clap and they would sing and we would cheer.  It was fun, but Mel found out she didn’t like Greek coffee.  So eventually we went to bed because we were getting up really early in the morning to go to a Greek Island (like before breakfast on the ship is served early).  However, it is now dinner time so that story will be for another day.

From Varna, Bulgaria, Sharon

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