Yesterday, I forgot to mention that a pretty amazing thing happened. For dinner, Nicola, Doug, and I decided to just stay in the hotel and eat at their bar. While we were eating, we suddenly see Steve Fineberg walking from table to table with a little menorah in his hands, complete with birthday candles. He made his way through the room, where many alumni were eating, and slowly collected a group of people who participated in Hanukkah. It included Nicola, a student, a few older and younger alumni, the seven year-old son of Professor Judy Thorn, Sam, and Steve and Brenda themselves. They all gathered around some couches in a corner to say the prayers and light the candles. It was an amazing thing to witness, so many people from all different backgrounds coming together to celebrate. I’m glad I got to see it.
Today we went to the Acropolis. We started the day by going to the Acropolis Museum which was just down the road from our hotel . There, they specialize in having artifacts that were specifically found just on the Acropolis, from all time periods. To the right is a picture that I sneakily took of some ancient Athenian coins. I really love the iconic one, with Athena’s owl on it. It’s in this pile somewhere. It was amazing just to see the sheer number of artifacts that were found in one place at the highest point of the city. Here, they held religious festivals and daily religious activities devoted to the patron deity of Athens, Athena. There have been many temples dedicated to her on the acropolis, along with temples to Athena Nike or Athena the victorious. But obviously none are as know as the Parthenon, the one we still see today. It’s very impressive looking, especially where it’s placed on the Acropolis. Walking up to it, past beautiful theaters, was surreal. I’ve been interested in Greek mythology since the beginning of high school, where I first learned about it. I remember one of my teachers had a picture of the Parthenon pinned to a board at the front of the room that I would look at everyday in his class. Seeing it in real life was an amazing experience. It was like seeing a childhood hero, in a way.
So, as I said, we walked past a few other sites on the way up the hill. We saw the Theater of Dionysus, which was fantastic! It was the first theater that we saw on the trip, so I was extremely impressed with it. In this particular theater, the stage was most impressive. the base of the stage had engravings that depicted satyrs holding it up! Just down the way from this was another theater, though this one was Roman. It was so beautiful, I fell in love with it. The seats and flooring were all redone because they hold a music festival there each year! Man would I die to go to that. But, that theater is a great metaphor for all of Athens, or even Greece, as I experienced it. Something thousands of years old can be repurposed into a modern entertainment venue. Throughout Athens it was shocking to be looking directly at an ancient temple and see a crane through the corner of your eye, towering over the city.
All of these theaters so close to the sacred site of the Acropolis was interesting to me. Most of my experience in the classical world has been with Rome so I kept thinking of theater in the more degrading way. But, for these Greek theaters, with their close proximity to holy sites and the assigned seats for priests, it is obvious that things were very different here.
So we continued to the main gates of the Acropolis, the propylaia. Walking through these monumental gates, I felt the same as when I saw the Temple of Haphestus the day before. Traveling to Athens is like traveling back in time and into a surrealist painting at the same time. I could easily, and yet not so easily, imagine the ancient citizens of Athens walking through these columns, holding the new clothes for the statue of Athena each year.
We all walked through the gates and then, expecting to see the greatest site to behold in Athens, it it us. THE STRONGEST WIND TO EVER HAPPEN. It was painful, really. I actually stumbled and could have easily fallen over. I would snap a pictures every few minutes when it died down, but I was terrified that it was going to snatch the camera out of my hand. But, despite this, seeing the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the view from the hill was worth it. But I must say, I was disappointed that I didn’t have some sort of “yes, this is it” feeling at being in the presence of it. I thought perhaps I would have some sort of completed feeling, like when you reach a fitness goal after working out for 8 months. Or something. But, I felt that later at the Temple of Poseidon and at Delphi. To the right is the view of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Agora from the edge of the Acropolis.
I had heard something about this before, but I found out for sure that explosives were stored in the Parthenon sometime in the beginning of the 20th Century. This is actually shocking to me. Well, maybe it isn’t. But I was pretty pissed after the confirmation. I just do not understand what would make people think it is okay to store bombs and gun powder in a 2,000 year old religious space. I want to punch whoever made that call. We even saw an old cannon laid out next to the Parthenon. Ridiculous!
But, the Parthenon is just as beautiful as I thought it would be.
I can’t remember when this day was. The day that we went to the Monastery was the only day that I didn’t write in my journal. I know that we went to visit this beautiful, Byzantine Monastery in the mountains and were given time to wander. Jason, the crew, and I talked about studying abroad, future, and Knox. It was nice. The view was beautiful, probably my favorite since being on the trip. Here are a few photos.
Later today we went to the National Archeological Museum, it was pretty awesome. Doug, Nicola, and I got to linger in the back with Jason so we could go at our own pace through the exhibits. That was actually really helpful, because we didn’t often get to talk to Steve or Brenda, as they were usually the center of conversations or adding to what the guide had to say. So, we directed our questions and things to Jason. I had a specific question about the shape of the ivy leaf and its connection to the iconic heart symbol. The shapes seem so similar, especially when you look at the idealized forms in which the Greeks would portray the leaves. Of course now that I can do a little research on the Internet, signs point to no connection. But still, the shapes strikingly similar and I think it could be worth looking into.
It was great to be able to academically discuss what we were looking at while actually looking at it. And, to be able to make jokes and talk about pop culture at the same time. That is why it was great to be with Jason, because he would act as our peer as well as our professor. Considering we only had three students on the trip total, it was nice to have him too.
I just got back from dinner, it was wonderful! The food was good and mostly traditional. There was pleasant music and fabulous conversation. We mostly talked classics for a while, Doug leading the conversation usually. But Nicola chimed in some with Near East ideas. It’s always pleasant to hold intellectual discussions in a casual environment. One of the alumni, Doug Beyer, was very interesting to talk with. He was a Beta as well and was a physics major. He told us about the evolution of his professional life, which was very impressive. He even used to work for Microsoft! But now he likes beekeeping. He seems like a very sweet man. Then there was the dancing.
Seeing professors folk dance around a restaurant was a beautiful thing to behold. Brenda jumped right in after strongly encouraging Steve to join her, the learned the dance and continued on for at least 20 minutes. They even pulled a rather distressed Jason in! It was a very lighthearted night. Then, a little later, another alum named Michael went up and took the mic from the singer and sang a little rendition of ‘O Sole Mio! Some, like myself, sang along.
Today at breakfast, my roommate, Sarah, and I talked to a Knox alum from , I believe, ’66. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi, the fraternity, and had many fascinating tories to share about how different things were. He told us about his life in a fraternity, how similar, and yet different, it was to Greek life now and about why he picked Knox. Yet again, he mentioned things that sounded familiar to me and Sarah. The people, he said, are what draws students to Knox. He visited on a whim and loved it. Just like me, Sarah, and Doug. The people, the atmosphere, the “something.” But, we all decided to give Knox a chance because of different random events and ideas. “The best things in life are often serendipitous.”