January 27, 2015

live at the apollo (part 3): delphi

Filed under: greece — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 2:38 pm

we’ll leave the peloponnese for a while and move on to delphi, on the slopes of mount parnassus. it is said that zeus wanted to find the center of the earth, gaia, so he sent two eagles flying from the east and the west, and they crossed at delphi, where gaia’s “navel” was.1

the naxian sphinx,

the naxian sphinx, 328-327 bc.
the people of naxos donated this statue, which stood on a 12.1 meter high column, to the temple of apollo at delphi.

delphi, of course, is famous for the oracle (pythia) at the temple of apollo.  the legend is that apollo shot an arrow that killed python, the son of gaia, and python’s body fell into a fissure. the pythia, who had to be an older woman of virtue, sat above the fissure, and the fumes from python’s body sent her into a trance. the god apollo spoke through the pythia while she was in this trance, addressing all types of political and personal matters. according to wikipedia,one theory is that the fissure gave off some kind of intoxicating gas so that the pythia was essentially speaking in tongues, and the priests interpreted her utterances to reveal the god’s words; other scholars think the oracle was actually lucid and could be understood directly.

interestingly, prior to the construction of the temple, there was a different oracle, called the sibyl, who sat on a rock near what became the temple site. it isn’t clear what happened to her.3

the ruins today only hint at it but, in its time, the road to the temple was lined with votive statues and treasuries (buildings filled with offerings to apollo) from the various greek city-states, all tributes to the oracle. today, only the athenian treasury has been rebuilt, while some of the statues that weren’t carried off by nero’s armies are in the nearby museum.

on to the photos:

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the athenian treasury. the rock of the sibyl. the sign, unhelpfully, only says “do not touch.”
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the temple of apollo, 4th century bc. this is the third temple to have stood on this site, the others having been destroyed by fire and earthquake, respectively. the artistic shot. the nearby temple of athena, 4th century bc.

1that said, looking at delphi is not considered navel-gazing.
2without which this blog would be completely devoid of information.
3again, according to wikipedia, the sibyl rock should not be confused with sibyl m. rock, the computer scientist. i love wikipedia.

January 19, 2015

more antiquities: the sanctuary and death oracle of poseidon tainarios

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 4:23 pm

as we continued our journey through the peloponnese, we came to cape tainarios …

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… and, at its tip, the sanctuary and death oracle of poseidon tainarios. “death oracle of poseidon tainarios” sounds like the name of a swedish heavy metal band from the 90s, but it’s an actual archaeological site, albeit one that is fairly unassuming. apart from a pointing to the ruins, there is no information about how old the site is or how it was used, and the oracle site itself had a metal cover on it; an archaeologist we later met suggested that there may have been a water spout from an underwater cave at the oracle site.  other than that, i have not found any information about this site on the web, just hundreds of photos, to which i’m adding my own. quite the mystery.

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this was the easy part of the path.

from there, we set out for the modern-day lighthouse, 2 kilometers away. the weather was already pretty bad, however, and the rain and the wind only picked up tremendously, with gusts of (i’m guessing here) 20-30 mph. we made it three-quarters of the way before the winds and the treacherous path made it too difficult to continue. perhaps our dog’s trespassing on the site angered the god.

January 9, 2015

more antiquities: the temple of alea athena

Filed under: greece — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 3:05 pm

one of the more interesting things (to me) about the ruins in greece is the way that you find them in quietest of places.  when you think of greek ruins, the acropolis might be the first thing to spring to mind, but there are many small archaelogical gems tucked away in villages or in the middle of an olive grove someplace.

for today’s example, we have the temple of alea athena in tegea. it’s not clear when the temple was built, but it burned down in 395 or 394 bc and was rebuilt in 350 bc.  the new temple was notable for its superstructure, made entirely from marble – a first for the peloponnese – and its triple row of columns. the greek historian pausanias writes:

the modern temple is far superior to all other temples in the peloponnesus on many grounds, especially for its size. its first row of pillars is doric, and the next to it corinthian; also, outside the temple, stand pillars of the ionic order.

it was also noted as a place for people seeking sanctuary from prosecution.  nonetheless, to see the temple today and in its current setting, you wouldn’t know the reputation it had in its time.

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next: still more antiquities

January 2, 2015

on to the peloponnese

Filed under: greece — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 7:49 pm

the peloponnese are the part of greece south of athens. this is the area where the peloponnese war happened between athens and sparta in 431-404 bc, and where independent greece first was established. nafplio, the city where we started our trip, was the first capitol of independent greece.

the weather was fairly dismal every time i wanted to walk through town and take photos, so all i have are some pictures of the harbor. the castle in the center of the harbor is bourtzi castle, built by the venetians in the 15th century to protect the city against the ottomans. it later served as a prison, and then, from 1930-1970, as a hotel.

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when in nafplio, you have to go to the palamidi fortress, perched high above the city in the acronauplia – the edge of nafplio (in greek, “au” is pronounced “af”). unlike me, you should also remember to photograph it from a distance … anyhow, the fortress was built in the early part of the 18th century to defend the city against the ottomans, and this turned out about as well as you’d expect, although the greeks did take it during the war of independence, forcing the turks to surrender with a fight. there are 999 steps to the top. we drove.

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December 11, 2014

a little late

Filed under: travel within india — Tags: — cohn17 @ 2:35 am

it only took me 22 months to put these photos on my website.

November 16, 2014

χανιά (chania)

Filed under: greece — Tags: , — cohn17 @ 7:22 pm

some photos from the town and the surrounding area.

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November 14, 2014

the legend of the minotaur

Filed under: greece — Tags: , , — cohn17 @ 8:26 pm

while on crete, one has to visit knossos, to see the ruins of the palace of king minos, where – according to the greek myth – the minotaur lived in the labyrinth under the palace.

king minos of crete – the one of myth – was the son of zeus and europa, whom zeus had kidnapped and, presumably, also lain with while in the form of a bull. one day, minos wanted to honor his uncle poseidon, so he asked poseidon to send him a bull to sacrifice. poseidon caused a bull to emerge from the sea, but it was so beautiful that minos couldn’t bear to kill it. this angered poseidon, and perhaps for that reason, minos’ wife, pasiphae, developed an unreasonable passion for the bull. daedalus, the palace architect and resident genius, constructed a wooden cow for pasiphae to climb inside, and she mated with it. pasiphae subsequently bore the minotaur, a human with the head of a bull. not too pleased, minos locked the minotaur in the labyrinth, a giant maze under the palace.

later, minos’ son was killed while visiting athens. in retaliation, minos led an expedition against athens, sacked the city, and in a further act of revenge, he required the athenians to send seven boys and seven girls to knossos every year to feed to the minotaur. this went on until theseus, the son of king aegeus, killed the minotaur with the help of minos’ daughter.

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the ruins of knossos.

the reality is different, but close to the myth. king minos did sack athens in revenge for his son’s death, and he did require the athenians to send seven boys and seven girls each year to knossos. the tribute was a combination of the hunger games and jallikattu, however: the youth had to enter the ring with a bull and vault over its back, as depicted in the mural shown below. the labyrinth doesn’t refer to a maze beneath the palace – the only thing below the palace is a series of storerooms – but instead to the god “labyros” whose symbol was a two-headed axe. one can see the axe, a symbol of the king’s power, carved into the palace walls at various points.

the myth therefore tracks closely with the reality of the situation: there was no minotaur, but the children of athens were sacrificed to a bull every year. and with regard to the rumor about pasiphae and the bull, has debunked the more contemporary version of that one.

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November 13, 2014

το φαγγάρι ίμπρου (imbros gorge)

Filed under: greece, nature — Tags: , — cohn17 @ 5:22 pm

this past weekend, we visited crete and saw the imbros gorge. crete has many gorges, including samaria, which (the cretans claim), at 18 km, is the longest gorge in europe (although the 18 km includes the distance to the two villages at either end).  imbros is only 11 km – still a respectable hike.

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November 4, 2014

what i’m doing during the week

Filed under: greece, social and economic development — cohn17 @ 5:42 pm

20141103_Daily_007during the week, i volunteer at a food pantry, assembling (on mondays and wednesdays) and distributing (on tuesdays and thursdays) boxes of food for low-income families.  with the continuing economic problems in greece, many families who used to have decent incomes now need extra help, so the municipal service center for the poor operates a program, underwritten by one of the local private utilities, to assist 100 families with weekly groceries for a six-month period.  the boxes contain basic staples – juice, pasta, dried beans, cereal, tuna, and the like, as well as cleaning products: not enough to completely feed a family of five for the week, but it helps.

the clientele is a mix of greeks and legal immigrants. if yesterday’s demonstration was any indication of the size of the need, 100 families is just a drop in the bucket, but one drop is better than no drops at all, and the people who come in seem awfully grateful for the assistance they get.

November 3, 2014

το μεγάλο συλλαλητήριο – the big demonstration

Filed under: demonstrations, greece — cohn17 @ 8:55 pm

on saturday, more than 900 groups (allegedly) convened on syntagma square, in front of the parliament building, for an anti-austerity demonstration. demonstrators called for increased employment, a living wage, income support, and free education, among other issues. i went down to take photographs with the expectation that there would be a sense of electricity and maybe danger in the air, tens of thousands of protesters just one provocation away from starting a massive brawl in the city center. my initial impressions didn’t disappoint me: certainly, the students’ union group promised a high degree of theater as they mustered outside the square.

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top, the student fighting front (rough translation) on the march; bottom, the panhellenic musicians’ union prepare to play “of struggle”, and the marchers’ flags were on staves thick enough to beat someone’s head in.

some of the other groups also had an ominous cast to them, such as the infrastructure workers’ union:

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soon, however, i got the sense that despite the size, this protest was not going to be particularly confrontational. yes, it was crowded, and yes, there was political theater (including the folk singers and che guevera posters) that you expect at demonstrations …

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… but the marchers included the press and social media professionals’ union, who just didn’t seem like the rock-throwing types, and also the old age pensioners (who might have been rock-throwing types at one point, but weren’t now). throughout the morning, the crowds grew thicker, but the energy didn’t grow to match: the demonstration leaders on the stage began calling out slogans in between snippets of protest songs, but the response was pretty tepid.

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play the video
for the first hour, the dogs couldn’t even bother to move themselves out of the square.

in the end, the local new york times affiliate only gave it two paragraphs, which suggests to me that for a lot of people, after seven years of crisis, this was nothing new.

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