On Sunday, Professor Christiano and I took the slow boat from Santorini to Athens. We left at 7 a.m. and arrived at the port in Athens (Pireaus) at 3:30 p.m. That gave us time for one more museum run. We choose the Acropolis Museum, which we had to speed-walk through on our first day in Athens.
The Acropolis Museum is new and wonderful. It is a world-class museum that tells the story of the Acropolis and its main feature, the Parthenon. In so doing, it also tells the story of Athens and of Greece writ large.
You begin by walking over glass floors showing an archeology dig to set the tone. The artifacts are smartly displayed. They begin with the social story of everyday Athenians and their marriage customs, and then move to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. At the top is a re-creation of the Parthenon itself, with its elaborate sculptures mirroring their locations on the building visible through the glass walls.
On the walls are the few actual marbles that remain, along with white replicas of what are in the British Museum, courtesy of Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. The museum was clearly built to convince the British Museum that Greece could make a nice home for the Parthenon marbles.
I'm convinced. The Brits should give their marbles back to the Greeks.
The argument is if the British Museum does so, then it should have to return great art to the Egyptians and the Italians and the French and so on. But that's not true. The Parthenon is the only building of its kind in the world. So many Egyptian artifacts exist all over the world that they could never all be collected and returned, and shouldn't be. The Parthenon is different.
I spoke last night with the nice ice cream man I made friends with two weeks ago. He said he is waiting for the British Museum to return the marbles.
I hope he will be able to see the museum in his lifetime.
Today was a trip to Akrotiri, an archeology site digging up the remnants of the Minoan culture that fled before Santorini blew its top in 1600 BC. The site just re-opened after being closed for 7 years. It was the most extensive archeology site I've ever visited.
Nearby is red beach, so named for the red-rock remnant of the volcano. The red sand is really more brown than red, and hardly the soft sugary beaches of Florida. But it was a distinctive geology lesson. See pictures for more.
Tomorrow we return to Athens to fly home on Monday. Our month of memories is nearly complete.
Yesterday we held our version of the Olympic games on Santorini. It's a sort of triathalon: limbo, lemon pass and water balloon toss. Jason Cain's Green team won the competition, though several accusations of pre-game shenanigans were hurled and protests are being filed with the proper authorities, whoever that may be.
A beach bar was kind enough to invite our students over for a post-game dance party with DJ, who at one point played the Gator pep song. The Gator Nation is, as they say, everywhere.
Afterwards, some of us detoured to the Santo Winery, which offers both breathtaking views and some spectacular wines. A gorgeous sunset provided a perfect coda to the day, as the pictures show.
On Monday, we took a fast catamaran from Mykonos to Santorini, whose iconic views of blue-domed churches hugging the cliffs overlooking the Aegean exemplify island life in Greece.
If Santorini is the most scenic of the islands, Oia (EE-ah) is the most scenic spot on the Aegean. Getting a good picture is easy: Just press the shutter button. Meandering streets lined with restaurants and souvenir shops offer distinct views with just a few steps. It's easy to spend a day staring into the viewfinder and forget that real people live here, that it's not a movie set.
The pictures shown on my picture page on this website were taken yesterday. It has taken awhile to get Internet access, mostly because the 85 students are now floating along the caldera at the center of the five islands that make up Santorini. Regretfully, I had to skip the trip for fear a rocking boat might reignite a surprise attack of motion sickness that surfaced on the catamaran trip from Mykonos.
Unlike Mykonos, where our hotel was about three miles from the town, our locale in Santori is at the north edge of Fira (FEE-rah) and within walking distance to town. "Town" in this case means a similar fare of restaurants promising volcano views and souvenir shops.
Today I had a pita at Obelix gyros. The largely take-out place licenses the character from the Asterix comics I read as a kid. Set in the ancient Roman empire, Obelix is Asterix's beefy sidekick who helps the subversive Gauls (France) outsmart the dim-witted Roman overlords. Fortunately, the pita was as good as the comic. Two thumbs up, presuming that gesture is not a obs
A few Gators took a ferry Saturday from Mykonos to the nearby island of Delos, scene of the most amazing set of ancient ruins I've seen after Pompeii.
Aside from a couple of houses for the roughly dozen residents, a museum and a cafe, the entire island is nothing but ruins. Unlike Pompeii, the ruins are in disarray, with many of the structures having been plundered for their marble and stones centuries ago. But the island is remarkable to see today, and it has a rich past.
Delos, whose history stems from 3,400 years ago, was a spiritual center of the Greek islands. Zeus had a temple here. Nearby islands kept their temple treasuries on Delos, making it a Fort Knox of its day, in the words of Rick Steves. Some 30,000 people called it home, until a warring king devastated the island in a surprise attack.
Little of Zeus' temple remains atop the highest point on the island. In fact, nothing is whole is most of what remains are partial walls and a few mosaics. Lots of goodies have been carted off the National Archeology Museum in Athens. Still, you get a sense of life here. Shells of some of the 3,000 shops and thousands of homes remain. The fact that walls still stand speaks to the careful craftsmanship of the early Greek builders, who didn't need zoning laws to produce a sound structure.
See pictures for more.
Today began with a four-mile run up a few hills along the Aegean and ended with a nice sunset over the water. In between I worked on proofing a dissertation and went into the city on the island to snap a few pictures and haul back a few supplies, including water.
This is the first place I've been where tap water was so unpleasant that I have to buy bottled water. I hate to spend that money and create the waste. But not drinking water isn't good for the body, either.
The high temperature was probably 80 degrees and little humidity. Tonight is getting chilly and should be in the lower 60s. Compared to the Florida steambath, this is heaven.
See pictures for more.
This morning we climbed about 1.25 miles from our hotel to the top of the island, where an abandoned lighthouse offered a terrific view. Rain clouds threatened but left us alone.
See pictures for more.
We took a ferry from Athens to Mykonos today. See the pictures. 'Nuff said.
This will be short because Internet access at our Athens hotel is spotty and slow. After more than a day of trying, I finally uploaded some pictures from yesterday.
My short assessment of Athens: Amazing ruins befitting the birthplace of democracy. A noisy, polluted, challenging city reflecting the country's economic woes.
For any worried parents: We are quite safe. I saw a protest yesterday at the main public square for those opposing genocide. That's a pretty safe topic and it generated a pretty safe protest. The people may be waiting for new elections in June to make their wishes known.
Meanwhile, the Anglican minister at church today thanked visitors for coming to Greece during these difficult times. Visitors help Greeks feel wanted, she said. Can't say that I've ever heard than from a pulpit before.
Before he turned his full attention to his life's work, designing the La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Antoni Gaudi created a curvy apartment building that blows away the look-alike rectangle buildings on every other street corner.
Gaudi designed La Pedrera, or Casa Mila, with a curvy exterior and even a curvy roof. Everything has a purpose -- some of the intricate designs on the roof hide ventilation shafts and store water.
He also designed the building with two courtyards so that daylight could enter every room in every apartment. One of the apartment is open to the public and is filled with furniture from a century ago.
After La Pedrera, I toured the half of the Catalan art museum I didn't have time to see yesterday. It's a nice tribute to the region's terrific talents -- two of which (Picasso and Miro) have their own museums. Catalunya can be proud of its art heritage.
Finally, I rambled down La Rambla, a pedestrian-friendly walkway lined with shops and next to a marker, where I got olives and fruit for the faculty's final Barcelona dinner, a bring-tapas-to-share meal. Tomorrow we gather at 7 a.m. to head to the airport to fly to Athens. I'm going to miss Barcelona.