July 7, 2017

climbing mount olympus

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 9:49 pm

for our final weekend in greece, we climbed mount olympus. mount olympus, the highest mountain in greece at 2,918.8 meters, is the legendary home of the greek gods (zeus, hera, poseidon, demeter, athena, apollo, artemis, ares, aphrodite, hephaestus, hermes, and dionysus. the god of the underworld, hades, stayed home). according to the mythology, the jagged peak of olympus, stefani, was zeus’ throne, and the gods threw up obstacles to keep mortals from reaching the heights, but we were not to be dissuaded.

the view from litochoro village.

scenery on the way up.

our group started our ascent on friday from the “village” of prionia, which consists of nothing but a cafe and a bathroom and which sits at approximately 1,000 meters above sea level. the initial day’s climb was 6 kilometers long, but with a gain of another 1,000 meters – definitely a challenge. we were carrying backpacks that included some cold weather gear (because the temperature can be very low at the summit, even though it was in the 80s at the start of the hike), as well as about 2 liters of water each, and i soon realized that, despite having run two marathons this year, i was in no shape for this. somehow, my pack became heavier at each step, and by the the time we reached the hostel at the midway point, i was exhausted. were the gods telling me something?

the hostel is one of many that dot the mountain area, and it was ready for the 100 or so hikers that were on this part of the mountain. (the mountain was also host the next day to the olympus marathon, a 44 kilometer race up and across the face – but not the peak – of olympus, so there were a lot of red cross personnel staying that night. good for us, just in case …)  the kitchen was serving up heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs, so we ate, drank, and went to bed exhausted and well-fed. we should have dropped off immediately, but the food gave me indigestion that kept me up all night, and abby tripped getting out of the top bunk of the bunkbed and fell face-first into the next bed, giving herself a serious shiner. again, perhaps the gods were suggesting that we were in no condition to continue. nonetheless, undaunted (and armed with a newly-purchased pair of hiking sticks), we set off early saturday to reach the summit.

this time, although the climb was 800 meters, the distance was only 3 kilometers, meaning that the path was much steeper.

how hard could it be?

at the top of the hill, we dropped our packs and found the path leading to the peak: a class 3 free climb down, followed by climb of the same difficulty back up. “class 3” means that the route is steep and requires using the hands as well as the feet, but if you fall, the injury is unlikely to be fatal. (“hi, mom! nothing to see here.”) the way to negotiate it is to keep at least three points of contact – two feet and a hand, two feet and a butt, a full body lean – against the mountain whenever there isn’t a flat path.

upon reaching the top of stefani, we looked out and saw that we in fact were not at the summit of olympus, but that there was one more peak, called mytikas, which served as the pantheon where the gods met and argued about the affairs of men, and that was still one more free climb down and back up. so that’s what we did.


looking back at it, it is amazing that we scaled the mountain. we were scaling the mountain at angles greater than 45° at some points without ropes, clambering hand over foot and using muscles that none of us knew knew we had. and we finished just in time, too: just as we completed the final stretch back to our packs, the mountain vanished as the clouds rolled in, the thunder began rumbling, and big fat raindrops began to fall.

and with that, our greek adventure ends. my next blog post, most likely, will be from thailand, and i even might start using capital letters.

June 26, 2017

more exploring tinos

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 3:14 pm

we took a long hike on the second day we were in tinos, using a guide that abby found on the web. the guide incorporated the marked hiking paths on the island, but also included byways that the author had found on his own excursions.

when i remembered to start taking pictures, we had already climbed a great deal.

tinos is dotted with dovecotes, buildings that shelter pigeons. the venetians introduced pigeon-breeding to tinos and other cycladic islands, for the meat. especially during the second world war, pigeon meat was very popular. the majority of them standing today are from the 18th and 19th centuries. some of them are well maintained while others have been left to fall to ruin. inside, they aren’t very interesting and, unsurprisingly, they smell like bird poo.

we went through some dramatic scenery, but we also went through some hellacious weeds. the hillsides were filled with thorny bushes and undergrowth, and at one point, our guide mistranslated the word “right” as “left,” so we ended up plowing through knee-high scrub, taking much of it home with us in our shoes and socks.

obstacle course. weeds as designed by dr. seuss. there’s no real path here.

it was a hot day, and – with the hills – the hike was brutal, but ultimately we were treated to a pretty spectacular view:

next: onward to skopelos.

April 2, 2017

going for the gold day 3, including live at the apollo (part 5)

Filed under: general, greece — Tags: — cohn17 @ 5:12 pm

i woke up in parikia, had an entirely adequate breakfast, and set off on the bike again to look for a local church and some caves. the church was easy to find – it was visible from the main town – but since the road didn’t actually go along the coast, i had an early dose of hill riding/pushing to do. again, the area was pretty empty because tourist season hasn’t started yet.

possibly rental cars that are sitting in a field awaiting delivery. these will figure into the story later.

my first stop was agios fokas, a small church located 6 km from town. the church itself isn’t particularly notable – it’s a typical chapel – but nearby is what appears to be an abandoned naval station of some kind, and a memorial marker for the passenger ferry ms express samina, which struck a reef on september 26, 2000, killing 81 passengers. the story (which you can read by clicking on the link) is pretty awful.

from there, it was off to find the archilochus caves, located (according to the guidebook) only 10 minutes away. there were no signs, but i followed the road back, figuring they were just over the hill. you can guess how that turned out.

after far too much time searching for the caves, i decided to move onto the temple of delian apollo, which was up a different series of hills.

remember the cars? they’re down there.

the temple of delian apollo was built in the 5th century bc. “delian” refers to delos, the island birthplace of the god apollo. the site location was well marked, but you can tell how important a site is by the amount of security around it, and there was nothing more to protect the temple ruins than a rusty open gate. with little exception, it appeared that any stone that had any type of carving on it had been taken down to the archaeological museum.

i returned to parikia to begin my exploration of the town. one of the main attractions is the ekatontapiliani church, built in the 4th century, possibly by constantine the great, the roman emperor for whom constantinople was named. it’s very impressive inside, and perhaps as a result, the building comes with a sinister legend:

according to the popular legend, during the reign of justinian, ekatontapiliani was build by the former assistant of the chief craftsman of agia sofia, ignace. when the pupil finished the temple, he invited the master to admire his work. the chief craftsman felt envy and was afraid that his pupil would overshadow his reputation. pretending that he wanted to show him an architectural fault, he took his pupil on the roof of the church. from there, the chief craftsman pushed his pupil with intent to kill him. the pupil however held on to the teacher and finally they both fell and were killed in front of the church.

for the rest of the day, i strolled the narrow backstreets of parikia, admiring the shapes i found in various doorways, alleys and staircases. and cats.

next: day 4, which comes after day 3.

January 19, 2017

new websites

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 6:33 pm

I’ve started a website for my non-profit-oriented work,, and redesigned

November 21, 2016

street photography in chengdu, sort of

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 9:41 pm

as i was running around the streets, taking photos, i was struck forcefully by how many people were using their phones to take photos. more generally, i noticed how many younger people in particular had their eyes fixed on their screens, even when they were in groups. at the risk of sounding like an old fogey (and a hypocrite), this struck me as a serious problem. if steve jobs had wanted to enslave the population by turning them into appendages of technological devices, he succeeded.

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as something refreshingly not telephonic, here is a photo of two girls and their dad playing with a parakeet at the song xian qiao antique market:

November 6, 2016

playing outside

Filed under: general — Tags: , , , — cohn17 @ 4:08 pm

does it look like there’s a haze in the air? there is.

after a week, i returned to chengdu, to begin work.

the state department measures the quantity of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and suspended particulate matter in the air at its china missions and publishes an air quality index daily.  for most of the time i was in chengdu, the air was rated “unhealthy,” with index values over 150 and particulate matter concentrations of 50 μg/m3. (as of the date that i’m writing this, the aqi in chengdu is 186; by comparison, the new york city region’s aqi is 38.) i was warned off exercising outside, but even just walking to work each day, i felt a slight burning in the back of my throat. i got used to the sensation fairly quickly and forgot about it, which was a good thing, or it wasn’t, depending on how you look at it.

of course, when you live with this kind of air day to day, you get used to it and don’t let it hold you back. i saw lots of people enjoying the outdoors, particularly at night.

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mahjong under the 2nd ring road overpass public personal grooming
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swing dancing in front of the mall picnicking and ballet further up the street

next: something about food

February 25, 2016

migrants and refugees (1)

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 4:58 pm

earlier this month, i went to the port of piraeus with volunteers from caritas, a catholic charity that provides a variety of services to the refugees coming into athens. the volunteers were there to advertise caritas’ offerings (clothing distribution, a soup kitchen, english and greek lessons, psycho-social counseling, etc.) to the people coming off the ferry from lesvos, and i was there to photograph the scene. i used my leica m6 and ilford hp5 film because i enjoy the challenge of shooting with a fully manual rangefinder.

ironically, i also took some photos with my fujifilm x100s, which is a rangefinder-like digital camera with auto-focus and auto-exposure, and i left the lens cap on for half the shots.

we start at the train station:


refugees wait at the piraeus metro station for their handler to take them into athens.


a group of refugees makes its way through the ticket validation machines.

some of the refugees left behind the sleeping bags that they got from the u.n. high commission on refugees. presumably, they didn’t think they’d need them any longer. i expect they’ll regret that decision later …


new arrivals mix with long-time residents.

out to the port itself. this was the first day after a multi-day ferry workers’ strike, so there were a lot of people on board.


photographers await the new arrivals.


travel agency touts (many of them recent immigrants themselves) advertise onward transportation. the majority of immigrants and refugees don’t want to stay in greece, but to head northward through macedonia to germany.


proof that they’ve made it to the mainland.


no suitcase – no problem.


a woman looks through donated goods. many ngo’s and charities offer clothing and household goods at the port to incoming migrants to help them replace what they’ve lost.


“you hold the baby while i shop.”

February 2, 2016

final havana post: havana, part 8

Filed under: general — cohn17 @ 9:35 pm

as promised, some black-and-white photos.

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next: an entirely new topic

November 2, 2015

girls and boys: havana, part 4

Filed under: general — Tags: , , , , — cohn17 @ 5:17 pm

20151010_cuba_243if you want to see glamorous girls and stylish boys, you have to visit the tropicana club in havana. the tropicana, opened in 1939, was flashiest cabaret and casino of its day, seating 1,700 patrons and featuring the “sequin and feather” shows that were subsequently copied in paris and las vegas. josephine baker, paul robeson and carmen miranda all played there, and stars like sammie davis, jr., maurice chevalier, and marlon brandon were frequent visitors. the tropicana also was the haunt of famous wiseguys santo trafficante, jr. and meyer lansky, if you know what i mean.

alas, all good things come to an end, at least somewhat: after the revolution, the government closed down the casino and nationalized the property. still, the tropicana continues to operate, and today it caters primarily to tourists.

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what if you want to see glamorous girls in colorful costumes, but you can’t make it to the tropicana? in that case, you can always catch a local drag show. which we did. we couldn’t photograph the performers on stage, but we were allowed into the dressing rooms, and we shot the goings-on beforehand.

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next: how we ended up at a cuban drag show.

October 28, 2015

work and play: havana, part 3

Filed under: general — Tags: , , , — cohn17 @ 4:10 pm

since raul castro began to liberalize the cuban economy, many people have opened small businesses that they run out of their apartments and the stairwells of their buildings. manicures, bicycle repair, tattoos – all are home businesses in the truest sense.

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of course, the traditional occupations are still well-represented.

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there aren’t many parks in the inner neighborhoods, so sports and games are also very much a localized affair.

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