My Grecian Saga – Part IV

My Grecian Saga – Part IV: October 28, 2008 ~ Pictures 1 ~ Pictures 2

Hello again from Poros!

Its been over a month since I last really had time to sit and think about all that’s been happening over here! I’ve been keeping quite busy with the dig, reading Homer, studying Greek, day trips, and of course all the shopping, preparing and eating of food that is to typically Greek! All my clothes still fit (albeit a wee bit tight) but generally the digging is helping to facilitate all the eating of delicious Greek cuisine!

The end of September and early October were pretty much dig dig dig. The weather FINALLY took a turn back to good, so we were able to put in some really full and good days at the site. Trench Gamma Treia (C3) continued to give us seemingly endless pieces of pithos and pottery, without actually finding anything of any great importance. We did manage to uncover a tombstone with the name of a woman on it, however, it looks like the tombstone fell into the grave during one of the massive earthquakes here about 1500 years ago or so, and totally smashed the burial.

On October 4th we took a short field trip up to the Mycenaean Tholos Tomb that is just between Poros and the next town, Tzannata. The tomb was excavated in the mid-90’s by a Greek archaeologist. It was a particularly rich and interesting tomb, with a small golden axe head found, as well and 7 generations of Mycenaean kings. Mycenaean remains are very important to Kefalonia, as many believe this island to be the location of Odysseus’ ancient kingdom of Ithaca. The presence of such a rich tomb here, and the complete lack of Mycenaean remains on the modern day Ithaki (our neighbouring island to the North) indicate that currently Kefalonia is in the lead as far as the race to find Ithaca goes. However, it is because of this harsh competition that the excavation reports for this tomb are only being published this fall!! The Ithakians basically conned the Greek archaeologist and the government into not publishing his finds in return for a cushy job in Athens ~ this is a CRAZY country!! Anyway, the finds are finally getting published, and hopefully this will draw more attention (and money) from foreign archaeologists to the island, so that more of the Mycenaean era sites can be excavated.

That night we all went to Vasillis’ bar for a party for our dig assistant Gioria, who has just graduated with her degree in Archaeology – it was an excellent party, we ate cake and drank and got to learn our first Greek dances! Basically, it’s the same step over and over to every song that sounds typically ‘Greek’, and you dance around in a circle. If you feel like a bit of solo dancing, you just step around inside the circle with your arms out and snap, occasionally jumping, occasionally snapping, and occasionally hitting the ground.  Remember – most Greeks are very, very drunk by the time they get to the dancing stage, so it can’t be too complicated.

We had our ‘week off’ break in the middle of October, and I went to EGYPT!! I left Poros on the 8th and got back on the 21st – a total whirlwind vacation that was absolutely amazing!! It will have to make up another email, because this one is already long, and really, Egypt deserves lots of attention.

Got back to Poros in the morning of the 21st and since Greece was having a national strike that day (the government here is HORRIBLE) we had some class and basically caught up on everyone’s vacations. We had scattered all over Europe: to Paris, Vienna, Italy, other parts of Greece, and Turkey. It was really great getting back home and seeing everyone again. We spent hours and hours sharing stories and pictures and finding out what everyone did on the week away.

Our time back in Poros was pretty short lived ~ Geoffrey had planned a weekend trip to the mainland for us. We barely had time to do our laundry (17 people + 2 washing machines + a week away = non-stop washing) and pack before we caught the 7 am ferry the morning after Alyssa’s birthday party at Vasillis’. Once on the mainland we drove straight to ancient Olympia and Geoffrey took us around the sanctuary. We ended up at the stadium and had a race (of course!) in the ancient Olympic Stadium. Chris won both races and was crowned champion, Lock-To fainted from the exertion, and Anthony threw up – it was a pretty eventful morning.  The Temple of Zeus is pretty much in ruin – however, as it used to house the statue of Zeus made of ivory and gold, I got to tick another Ancient Wonder off of the list! I think I only have two or three more to go before I’ve seen them all! After we saw the site we had a couple of hours to eat and shop. And eat and shop we did!! Everyone arrived back at the bus full and weighed down by souvenirs – end of tourist season sales are pretty amazing here in Greece, and all of us girls definitely took advantage of the jewellery sales.

The Olympia museum is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever seen. We had just over an hour inside to check things out, including the amazing pediments of the Temple of Zeus and really good statues of Athena and Hermes. Then it was back on the bus for a couple of hours down the coast to Pylos, where we spent the night and had dinner in a traditional Greek taverna. Apparently in very traditional Greek cuisine, you go into the kitchen to look at the dishes and choose on sight what you would like for dinner. It was a great way to look at the menu!! The food was really amazing and we all had a great dinner. It was Michelle C’s birthday that day, but we were all pretty bagged from the night before and the day of travel so we all hit the sack pretty early and enjoyed the extra hour of sleep from the time change!

The next day we started off with a visit to a Venetian castle, Methoni. Technically it was originally a Greek castle in the Hellatic period (500 BC) then it was a Roman, Byzantine, and Turkish castle before the Venetian’s got a hold of it in the early modern period (about 1500 AD). It was really beautiful, and is right up there with Culzean Castle in Scotland for my favourite castle of all time. Then we were on the road again and headed to Nestor’s Palace. Book Three of the Odyssey describes it in detail, as well as the sacking and burning of it. The layout of the Palace is still pretty complete, and you can even see some ancient char marks from where the building burned. There was another tholos tomb nearby and we stopped there quickly before driving all the way back to Kyllini to take the ferry home.

Yesterday was another dig day – pretty uneventful. Geoffrey decided that after digging about 6+ feet down in our trench and not finding anything he would move us to another trench where he ‘promises’ there will be burials – we’ve dug about a foot of topsoil and have found some interesting pottery and a few bone pieces, but no burial yet. There is still two weeks left to the dig season, so hopefully we will come down on something tomorrow or the next day.

Today is ‘Oxi Day in Greece – a national holiday, where the Greek president said “’Oxi” (No) to the Italian invasion in 1940. Fortunately it stopped the Italians, unfortunately, it started the Albanian War. I slept in for the first time in weeks and am enjoying doing absolutely “tipoti” (nothing) today. Hopefully the internet will be working later on so I can send this out, along with posting some pictures online.Look for an Egypt email soon, and pictures as well! Hope everyone is doing well back home in Canada and thanks again for your emails and updates from home!!

-Michelle

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