Let me start off by saying — again — that the American media is exaggerating what is happening in Greece. Yes, there was a demonstration earlier this week and, yes, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd, but this was only towards the end of the protest. For most of the day, everything was peaceful. I know; I was there in the morning.
Besides the rhythmic chanting and fist pumping, everything seemed almost like a parade. There were people standing around, talking to one another and watching different group. Some even set up stands along the route and sold souvlaki and water bottles to the protesters and the spectators. When the “masked men” showed up to start fights, most people left. Most of the people affected by the tear gas were the ones who wanted to escalate things.
The entire program went on a five day excursion to the island of Crete last week. I was able to visit the amazing ruins of Mycenaean palaces at Malia, Gournia, and Knossos — even though the hideously inaccurate reconstructions Sir Arthur Evans did at Knossos really were disappointing.
There were several museum visits where I saw the controversial Phaistos Disc (was it really found at Situ or is it just a hoax created by an archaeologist?) and an absolutely gorgeous rhyton made entirely out of rock crystal! I also had an incredible adventure in the form of a 16 km hike down the Samarian Gorge. It was loads of fun, if not a little arduous with all the loose rocks and questionably constructed bridges. My hips were burning the next day and a few days after that.
I also just got back from a small trip to the island of Santorini with a few friends. If you’ve ever seen “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” the city of Ia looks exactly like it is portrayed in the movie. Whitewashed buildings with blue -domed roofs sit on top of a cliff and look out towards the bluest of waters and the brightest of sunsets.
At the ruins of Ancient Thera, I saw some graffiti from the Classical Era. The hike was interesting to say the least — about 45 minutes spent switchbacking a mountain in the Mediterranean sun. I also went to a bagpipe museum that was run by an alumnus of my program. We got a live demonstration not only of the Greek bagpipes but also of various types of flutes, with music from Santorini’s different controllers throughout the years (Venetians, Byzantines, Ottomans, etc.).
The highlight of this trip had to be my visit to the ruins of Akrotiri, which is basically the Greek version of Pompeii. Though it has been excavated since the 1960s, the site has only been opened to the public since April of this year. Archaeologists found ash casings of people, furniture and food. The people of Akrotiri were so advanced that they had buildings 3-5 stories high, drainage and sewage systems and indoor plumbing with hot and cold water. Some people believe that if the Thera volcano had not demolished the city in 1600 B.C.E., these people could have traveled to space by the year 1 C.E.The only downside to the trip was the 8-hour ferry ride both there and back. We didn’t reach Athens until 12:30 a.m. Monday morning with classes in several hours.
Speaking of classes, they’re going great. One class in particular, Archaeology of Athens, is mostly an on-site learning class where we go to the Acropolis, the Agora, the National Museum you name it.The professors are personable and many of them go by their first names. So far the semester has been everything I’d expected and more. Yeia sas!