March 22, 2015

the temple of poseidon

Filed under: antiquities, greece — Tags: , — cohn17 @ 8:00 pm
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having seen the sanctuary and death oracle of poseidon earlier, it was only right for us to see the temple of poseidon at sounio, about an hour’s drive from athens.  the temple of poseidon dates from 440 b.c.  according to legend, this was the spot from which the greek hero theseus’ father, king aegeus, threw himself into the sea: theseus had gone to crete to fight the minotaur in a ship flying black sails, and had told his father that if he won, he would fly white sails on his ship upon his return, while if he died, the crew would fly the black sails.  theseus did defeat the minotaur, and he won the hand of king minos’ daughter ariadne as well.  athena told him to leave ariadne behind, however, and he was so distraught that he forgot to change the sails to white. aegeus saw the black sails from the distance and threw himself into the sea (which subsequently was named the aegean sea).

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closer to today, one can see lord byron’s name scratched into the base of one of the pillars.  byron visited greece for the first time in 1810, before becoming known as a poet and supporter of greek independence, and apparently this was the thing to do. i didn’t find his name, but i found the names of plenty of others from later in the century, including one from (presumably) an italian soldier toward the end of world war ii.

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you will need to click on these photos to see them more clearly.

February 27, 2015

not dog sledding in kiruna

Filed under: general — Tags: , — cohn17 @ 9:16 pm

after we finished our dog sledding adventure, we had a day to relax in kiruna, the northernmost town in sweden (pop. 18,148 in 2010). the town grew up around an iron mine which opened in 1890. (iron was discovered as early as 1696, but the climate was too harsh, and the mining techniques too primitive, to make commercial exploitation viable until the 19th century.) according to our sledding guide, kiruna was the wild west of sweden until the government began formally settling the area at the start of the 20th century. the population was 18 in 1899, growing to 12,884 by 1930.

in 2004, the state-owned mining company notified the local government that it had to dig deeper into the hills just outside town, and this excavation could cause a number of apartments and public buildings to crack or collapse altogether. sure enough, fissures began to open up around the city, and the government therefore began planning to move the entire city center two miles to the east, a move that will start this year and be completed in 2034. this is a massive project, with all sorts of psychological and sociological implications: how do you make anything beyond the most minor life decisions when your entire town is in limbo? how do you redesign an entire community, and what happens to its memories?

so, let’s look at kiruna while we still can:

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kiruna architecture: some charming, some not quite so charming.
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i do not know what “obs snöras” means, but i like how it looks. meet me at the corner of a lot of syllables and even more syllables.
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the city center, with inexplicable metal sculptures.
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a fantastic clock tower on the town hall, foundlings left outside the public library, and, just outside the city center, above it all, the mine.

February 26, 2015

dog sledding in kiruna

Filed under: general — Tags: , , , — cohn17 @ 1:53 pm

for my 50th birthday, we went dog sledding in kiruna, in swedish lapland. why, you ask? because i like dogs, and when we were in albania in 2008, we met a guy who had gone dog sledding in finland, and he put a bug in my ear that was still there seven years later. so … to celebrate 50 years of not dying yet, we met some friends for the weekend in copenhagen, and then we all went up to the arctic circle where it still was warmer than anything our friends and family were experiencing in massachusetts, dc or new york; and after an overnight stay in a cabin at the company’s lodge, we had breakfast, suited up (thermal underwear, sweats, a thermal jumpsuit, hat and gloves) and met our dog teams. our guide gave us a quick lesson on how to steer the dogs, and off we went! and off we each promptly fell at the first big turn – it isn’t as easy as it looks.

my dogs and i bonded.

my dogs and i bonded.

my dogs turned out to be very easy to manage once i got the hang of it, and also were very friendly. as it happened, they all were female, and all in heat, so i went first (after the guide’s sled) to keep the other teams of dogs running in the right direction.

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dogs at camp; sleds ready to go; my team – risti, selka, smita and darro.

it’s hard to describe the experience: it is like sledding, of course, but also a little like water-skiing, in that you have to keep your legs loose so you can manage the hills and bumps without falling off. the dogs followed the lead sled, so we just had to use the braking mechanisms judiciously to keep from tipping over on the turns, or to create a drag on the downhill parts (so we wouldn’t run the sled into the hind dogs’ legs). otherwise, we just admired the views while feeling the wind rushing past. abby took a video that shows it pretty well:

we spent two hours out on the first leg of our journey, and then stopped for lunch in a cabin out in the woods, where we met other dogsledding teams, before heading back. once at camp, we took the dogs off the harness, gave them snacks and dinner, and then piled into our cabin to relax before our own meal. the camp had neither electricity nor running water – instead, we drew water from a hole cut into the meter-thick ice covering the lake, cooked over propane, dined by candlelight, and heated the cabins with wood stoves. very rustic, but very comfortable.

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lunch in the woods; selka bedded down for the night; camp in the early morning.

one of my hopes had been to see the northern lights, and on our first night in the wild (and my 50th birthday itself), we saw them. at first, i was surprised, because – for reasons i don’t understand – in the sky, they look something like this:

when the camera captures the sky, however, it sees this:

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this may become an annual tradition.

February 7, 2015


Filed under: general, greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 7:35 pm


February 5, 2015

peloponnese scenery

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 1:46 am


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.

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