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Greece 2

 

Mani

The far southern section of the Pelopennese is a peninsula known as Mani and it is a free campers heaven.  Basically desolate, under populated but with numerous coves and beaches, it is attractive for a few days of quiet and solitude.

In the photo above the building complex in the middle is a 5 room hotel.  To the left out of the picture is a road to a secluded cove on the eastern coast.  And the road on the extreme left wiggling over the mountain is the one we took to reach Cape Trianrios, a mile or 2 further south.

 

But Mani's most noteworthy feature is the architectural style of the homes with their distinctive towers.

Beginning in the 15th century the hot blooded inhabitants of Mani decided that life was too sweet and that the sport of "Blood Feud" would be a worthwhile addition to their lifestyle.  Mastering the game in a short while each family decided to build taller and taller towers for both offense and defense against their neighbors and soon every village was towered up.

Over time the strain of this lifestyle, and the harsh living environment presented by the land, and poor communications with the modernizing outside world, led to the area becoming more and more depopulated.  Thus today half of the buildings in a village may be empty and derelict.  On the other hand, city dwellers are discovering the charms of the area as a weekend retreat and many families are returning home on a weekly basis.  And because the towers are a distinctive landmark of the area, most new construction (of which there is a lot) is featuring the towers as decoration.

What goes around, comes around.

We hope to return for a longer stay in the future.

 

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The Greatest Day in World History???

 

 

 

There are so many stories in western civilization that we are familiar with.  Stories that capture our imagination and allow us to soar, or stories that define who we are as a species or a people, or stories that that are the foundations of our faith.  Some stories that we know to be true, some that we classify as myth, some that you just wished were true and some that do not have a clear and concise ending that we can wrap our minds around.

Homer wrote in the 8th century BC about a fabulous lost culture, a wondrous lost city, a place he called Atlantis.

The historians write of the great cultured land of the Minoans, Home of the Minotaur, now long past.

The Bible tells us of an angered Pharaoh who dispatches his legions to destroy but who are destroyed instead.

And the modern geologist points to Mt. Saint Helens and writes, "Its happened before."

 

The Greek island of Santorini is an exploded volcano, of that there is no longer any question.  Still active in the past century, it exploded midway through the 2nd millennium BC.  It's eruption went on for months, spewing forth rock and ash that covered the entire eastern Mediterranean Sea and surrounding lands.  The smoke and soot blackened the sky and turned day into night, and the ash buried the crops and starved the populace and killed in such quantities that it could be said that the loss was as if the first born of every household was taken.

And when the fiery fury was spent and the molten rock withdrew into the earth the sea followed with such a volume that it caused the climatic explosion that blew off the top of the volcano and into the void the sea rushed again and the resultant tsunami was rippled throughout the sea and the great Minoan centers were awash in water and the great Atlantis came to an end.  And on the north coast of Egypt, on a spit of land that encloses a water that is known as The Reed Sea, the land was inundated such that no mortal could pass.

And all was calm once again.  And the stories could begin anew.

 

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If you do not have Goals, any Road will take you there

On Santorini we had to check out of the hotel by 12, and our flight was at 8 PM - thus we rented a car

We made a U turn rather than go straight.

We drove down the hill rather than up.

We turned left at the Tee junction.

We entered a Do Not Enter Street and had to back out - we then turned right.

There we saw

and we always follow the road to the end

 

The Catch of the Day

 

These restaurant owners get to see what their menus will be featuring this fine day.  With 5 establishments to chose from the gourmet amongst us can be very selective. 

        Bon Appetit!

 

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Sega, sega

The Greeks have a phrase for it; Sega, sega (say-gah, say-gah).  It is said slowly, and the word is repeated once with a slight pause in the middle.  A very litteral translation could be:  "Cool your Jets there Cowboy!"  But more correctly it means:  "Slowly, slowly, chill, take it easy, relax."

Words to live by.

 

 

Olympus

We are told that Olympus was the greatest of all ancient Greek shrines.  And magnificent it is.  Whereas Delphi was all vertical and sun swept, Olympus is flat and heavily shaded.  Zeus was honored here while Apollo was the center of attention at Delphi.

But there were less Treasuries here than at Delphi, and more significant, none of the major Greek City States had one here except for Sparta.  Most of the Treasuries were from the colonies in Italy and Sicily.  I am not sure what that means, but I have much more respect for Delphi than I did before.

To the right is the entrance to the Olympic games stadium for the competitors.  We went in and walked a lap.  In ancient Greece women were not allowed to attend the games and all competitions were conducted in the nude.

 

Behind us by 75 yards is the courtyard of the Temple of Hera were every 4 years the flame for that years modern Olympic Games is ignited by using the Sun and mirrors.  From there the flame will make a wandering but triumphant circuit to the site of the latest Olympiad.  

 

Over the centuries the earth has rumbled and heaved here in spasms of violence that have reshaped the planet, and the works of man.

 

Here the columns of the Temple of Zeus lay like soldiers in their ranks and remain where they fell as the ground snapped back and forth.  Two quakes in the 500's ended Olympus as a viable site for anything.

 

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Greek Roads

Driving in Greece is different from anything that you have experienced in North America!  Just accept that notion and you will do okay here while you adjust to a very new paradigm.

Here you see the normal accepted mode of travel on the main, and some secondary roads.  The slow guy will drive to the extreme edge of the paved surface so that others may pass him wherever and whenever it pleases them.  Yes of course they are making the assumption that the oncoming traffic is also driving on the extreme right so as to leave a passing gap in the middle.  The real fun begins when 4 vehicles are driving abreast in opposite directions at a closing speed of 100 to 140 MPH.

 

Even main highways, like this one on the western coast of the Pelopennese, have to pass through the narrow streets of the villages.  In this encounter that lasted 10 minutes, a truck of equal size was going in the other direction.  One man must yield and BACK UP (an absolute loss of manhood in the eyes of everyone who sees it).  Here the winner passes and "salutes" a participant of this slice of Greek life with a gesture and some guff.

There were a dozen actors in this drama - myself included, and there must have been a dozen and a half different opinions concerning the chorography required to get everyone moving again.

I was a raw rank rookie here and very much out of my league.

 

When taking secondary scenic roads one must again pass through villages that present some most challenging problems.  First a Motorhomer must be very aware that Greek balconies are low and that they stick out over the street.  We did not have problems but others have.

Secondly, the back villages were built before the roadways and no one is going to remove a structure for the sake of making the road easier to traverse.  Thus there is not a through way through the village.  On the right is pictured the "main" street through a village.  As you can see it is one lane and has a 90 degree turn.  Papillon is 24 feet and it had some problems in some villages.

Thirdly, there is a real paucity of traffic direction signs in the countryside.  Again the photo on the right shows only one directional sign to Athens - that tiny thing on the pole above the headlights pointing to the right.  This was the only sign in the entire village - actually for 10 miles.  On more than one occasion we simply stopped dead in the middle of the intersection and waited for someone to come by and help us out.  And to their credit, and to the joy of traveling in Greece, someone usually arrived in seconds.

 

 

Driving in Athens is not particularly maddening, but why do it if you do not have to.  To get a feel, or gain some practice, drive around old Boston or lower Manhattan without a map for a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.

 

Yes, that is the Acropolis with the Parthenon straight ahead but no we did not get anywhere near it.  There are streets that autobuses use so I know Papillon could get there, again I had no reason to drive there and parking is nonexistent.

 

Corporate signs will be very familiar to you.  You will see hundreds of signs of companies that you know and many in English.  The Apple sign in this instance is advertising for Greece's most popular brand of men's under shorts.

 

 

d    s    9    $    "    8

 

Meteora

The monasteries and the fantastic rock sculpture

 

The hermits and the Monks came here to get away from it all

But "it all" has come to them

Here you see the tour busses lined up at 2 Monasteries high on the Meteora mountain.  One monastery is visible in the upper left and another is just out of view to the left of the lower line of busses.  Easily swamping a small site, a dozen busses at once can swamp a large site.  We ate a sandwich and within a hour all but one bus was gone and peace returned to the mountain and we viewed the Monasteries at our peaceful leisure.

We do love the Slow Travel mode of tourism that a Motorhome allows.

 

What a difference a day makes - Meteora in the early morning fog and rain

A landscape most surreal

 

2 Nickels

We were walking out of the Meteora campground to select a Taberna for evening supper when we heard voices - American voices.  Under a picnic shelter type of structure were 3 young men from the US who were sipping some beer.  It had been 2 months since we really chatted with anyone from the US so after a moment we joined them for awhile and shared stories.  They were taking 2 months to see Europe after college and prior to "growing up" and starting careers.  Nice young guys, they were using the popular Eurail Pass to travel about, which also has ferry and bus service privileges, and they were traveling to out of the way venues like Epidaurus and Meteora.  They told their adventures with a spirit and a freshness that only the young can convey.  I heard myself forty years prior as we listened.  We were also impressed by the budget discipline that their journey required - a budget that suggested to us that they really didn't have 2 Nickels to rub together.  And with that we treated them to dinner at the nearby Taberna - just as I was befriended so may years before. 

Sorry for the blurry mess fellas - Ben, David and Nathan

 

Dogs in Greece

The three Americans told a most animated story about the antics of a Greek Dog at a bus stop that had us all rolling.  Dogs in Greece are almost as sacred as cattle in India.  They have been revered since Classical times (see the Barking dog decoration on some pots and vases from the era) for their fearless protection of home, hearth and food supply.  By traveling via Motorhome we have been able to see many town, village and countryside neighborhood that had it's share of free ranging dogs and listened to their "song of joy" when anyone or anything got too close for their comfort.  Many a campground night was spent listening to the nearby hounds compete for Best in Voice well into the evening.  And at first it was an abomination, but eventually we really didn't hear them anymore.

Here are some canines long past being bothered by the passing shoppers on the main walking street of the Plaka district in Athens

 

And this fine specimen to the right reviews his domain from his squat spot in the middle of a sloping walking street in  the restaurant area of Plaka.  This self appointed "Chaser Extraordinaire of the Evil of All Cats" has pledged to cleanse 3 neighboring restaurants of all felines when spotted.

This is done with a headlong Kamikaze rush into and under the chairs and tables of the patrons.  With barking and banging, and a bevy of wait staff in pursuit splashing water from pitchers, our boy Bowser cleans 'em out and keeps the world pure in his realm.

And the citizens go on about their pleasures without a murmur or a concern about the behavior of dogs.

 

 

 

Alexander the Great - Pella

On a very rainy and blustery day in Macedonia we visited the ancient ruins of the Macedonian capital of Pella, where Alexander the Great grew up.

The town was sacked by the Romans and their district capital was established in Thessalonica so the remaining foundations are as of Alexander's time.  Not much has been recovered but the small museum has stunning "Pebble Mosaics" from the period.  Pictured (with an irremovable glare) is the best of the show.

Alexander and his Companion hunting a Lion.

The pebbles are rough shaped, un-cut stones that the Master Artist must laboriously review and select to best match the color scheme he is trying to present.  Also thin strips of lead are sometimes used to define sharp edges.

Dated 330's BC

 

And though there were other adventures and misadventures, we close with Greece and say "Adio"

 

Next - Turkey

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