My Grecian Saga – Part VI

My Grecian Saga – Part VI: December 14, 2008 ~ Pictures 1 ~ Pictures 2  ~ Pictures 3

Hello from (COLD & SNOWY) Vancouver!

Yes its true! I escaped the Grecian riots, managed not to get lost too badly in East London and survived the flight home to make it back to beautiful although very very very very cold Vancouver. Prior to landing in London in Monday afternoon the coldest temperature I had experienced in 3 months was 13 degrees – and I was freezing then!!

So my last three weeks in Greece were pretty busy, we had a lot of class time washing all of our pottery and processing all of the small finds like beads, amulets and bronze pins that our group found in burials throughout the site. Processing pottery is a very detailed and time consuming process, every sherd has to be analyzed in great exacting detail: is the piece a pinky peach or a pinky orange, or perhaps an orangey peach? Is it a diagnostic piece, ie, does it come from the rim or foot of the vessel? What kind of slip, or glaze, does it have? Red, black, purple? What material is it made of? Are there any inclusions in the ceramic, like red, black, white or grey bits? . . . . on and on and on . . . for probably about 2000 pieces of pottery that our group found. Somewhat luckily, we only analyzed the burial pottery that was found, meaning that some excavation teams had over 200 pieces to analyze, whereas myself and Alyssa had none! That’s right! No pottery for us! Now, one might think that this was a big disappointment, and at the beginning it was . . . but considering the hours and hours and thousands of words, both hand written and typed that other people had to organize, we were pretty happy that our small finds of four bronze pins and an animal tooth amulet were all we had to write up at 800 words. I did, however, get to put my organizational skills to good work and made up a few spreadsheets that catalogued all those pieces of pithos that I counted up – fun times!

The tropical storms also continued throughout the rest of November, and Poros got rocked by winds of up to 100 km/h!! We had power outages and our laundry almost got blown off the lines, but luckily everyone survived – except the trees in the playground. Pericles, our dig helper, is hired by the municipality of Poros to do odd jobs around the area, so even though we didn’t get to see him on the dig site everyday, he was often in town fixing things that the wind had torn apart. Pericles lived in Montreal for a few years, so although the gruff Greek man pretended to not understand what we were saying, he understood perfectly well!! So really, when we told him to stop digging because of a possible artifact in the dirt, or to use a trowel instead of a pick axe, he really did know what we were asking and just feigned ignorance. However, we eventually got over our differences, and Pericles ended up being one of our most favourite people in all of Poros. When the end of semester parties and farewell dinners started, Pericles was always there, and always very very sad and subdued. He said that he would miss us very much and is worried that we will forget him now that we’re home, as much as we tried to reassure him, he was still worried when we left. Chris took the addresses of all our Greek friends, and I’m pretty sure that as soon as we world travellers finish getting settled at home, Christmas cards in broken Greek will be flying back across the ocean to all of our new friends.

The last two weeks have been a flurry of parties and dinners all accompanied of course by rounds of beers and ouzos. On the 29th we held our big ‘Thank You!’ party for all those in and around Poros who had helped make us feel at home while we were there. We had a great dinner with Hettie, Makis, Phillipos, Kostas the Mayor, Vasillis, Pericles, Gioria, Stella, and Katerina and Angelos (the kiosk owners). We gave out the gifts we had been collecting from parents and vacations, and then went over to Vasilis’. Anthony brought the cards and the rules, and we introduced our Greek friends to the joys of Canadian drinking games!

The following day we had lunch at Phillipos’ house near Skala, where Hettie and Niki (Makis’ sister) had spent the entire day before making dish after dish after dish of traditional Greek food! There was roast chicken and potatoes, keftedes, tzatziki, dolmathes, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, meat pie, spanikopita, Kefalonian cheese and olives . . . and then chocolate cake for dessert! It was an amazing meal and a wonderful afternoon. We lounged around on the couches and listened to music and mused about the previous thirteen weeks of life on a Greecian island. Hettie handed out a fantastic souvenir picture of all of us at the dig, and that just started the waterworks!! We still had another week together so the boys told us to dry our eyes and be happy about it.

On the first of December we had our Greek final exam. We had all been worried about it for a few weeks, as Greek grammar and noun declensions are not exactly easy to master. Stella, our Greek teacher, assured us that there wouldn’t be too many hard grammar questions and that the irregular past tense verbs would be kept to a minimum – she kept half of her promise *sigh* Oh well, its all done now! Despite all our talk of heading out for a few drinks after the exam, only Leigh, Chris and I actually went. We headed down to Andante’s and were the only people there for the entire night. This actually worked out quite well for us. The nice but slightly sleazy looking barkeep gave us free beers and shots of tequila – an excellent way to say ‘Geia sou!’ to Greek class.

On Wednesday (Dec 3) the mayor had a farewell dinner for us at Sunset Taverna, complete with traditional Greek dancers! It was a really great dinner and the archaeologists from the Ephoreia were there, as well as the conservators of the Skala mosaics. We had an amazing meal with all of our Kefalonia friends and the mayor gave us each a replica coin of the Ancient city-state of Pronnoi, a very fitting gift as we were digging up its necropolis! After dinner a few of us and the conservators headed to Andante’s and had a great time. We were pretty much the only ones in the place so they let us choose our own music and make our own drinks! They finally kicked us out at about 3:30 in the morning, and we wandered home to eat grilled cheese sandwiches before bed.

Our final Friday (Dec 5) in Poros dawned a beautiful day. Almost 20 degrees and sun shining, we were all in a flurry of activity packing, eating the last of our food, typing our conclusions and printing our essays, packing some more . . . Vasillis came with the bus at 4 pm to load the majority of our bags. We were taking a short trip to southern mainland Greece on our way back to Athens so he wanted to get most of our luggage on board that afternoon so our next morning departure of 6:30 am would be as smooth as possible. Surprisingly, there were no tears as we loaded the bus. I spent one last afternoon with Leigh and Zofia as their third roommate, and had quite a lovely nap on Zofia’s bed for most of the early evening. Zofia, Kaeli, Holly and I headed out to Kentikron for some last gyros before walking to Vasillis’ one last time. As always, we had an amazing time there. Listening to Greek music, dancing inside and outside of the bar, talking and telling last stories and promising to write, email and call each other. It was a great way to end our time in Poros.

The next morning was a total gong show. On the way to the bar I set my alarm for 5:40, which would have given me plenty of time to wake up, wash my face, get ready, finish packing and clean up before heading down to the harbour to catch the bus at 6:30 for the 7 am ferry. This was a flawless plan – or so I thought. Thank God Lock-To is one of the loudest human beings on the planet. I cursed his name when I heard him through the walls before my alarm went off at 5:40 . . . . but decided to check the time anyway: 6:20!!!! I was out of bed like a shot, clothes on, teeth brushed, swept all belongings in sight into my bag and ran down the stairs to the bus. NOT a very great way to wake up just over 3 hours after falling into bed . . . Everyone managed to get on the ferry in time and we left Kefalonia before sunrise.

Once on the mainland, we had a few hours drive to Ancient Mycenae. Mycenae is where Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon in his bathtub, and was the hub of the ancient world in the 9th to 7th centuries BC before Greece became a real super power in the 6th century. It was a really impressive site, fairly well preserved, and different architecturally from the classical period, which is most of what you will see in Greece. There was also a really impressive intact tholos (or beehive) tomb. The echo in it was amazing, and we all had a lot of fun yelling things at the ceiling. The tomb was also an engineering marvel. The lintel stone over the door is thought to weigh 150 tons!! Gotta love those ancient Mycenaean’s!

After Mycenae, we headed down the road to the first capital of Greece, and one of the most well-preserved Venetian towns in Greece – Nafplio! It is an absolutely stunning town and I would highly recommend paying it a visit. If you’ve never been to Venice but you have been to Vegas, take a walk through the Venetian casino and you are practically in Nafplio!! Rather horrible to say I know, but honestly, this place was spotless and incredibly beautiful!!! We checked into our hotel and immediately ran down the street to have . . . GELATO!!! We hadn’t seen ice cream in Poros in weeks, and the prospect of real Italian gelato was almost more than some of us could bear. After ice cream we walked around, took about a million pictures and went for dinner. Holly, Zofia and I were sharing a room, and even though I was ready to hit the sack at 7:30, they made me stay awake until 9 so that I wouldn’t wake up at the crack of dawn. However, you know what happens when girls get talking . . . we eventually got to bed at midnight.

The next morning Zofia and I headed out to the streets of Nafplio once more and took another million or so pictures before getting on the bus and heading off to the best surprise of the semester! The Venetian castle of Palamidi that overlooks Nafplio was absolutely breathtaking. It might trump all other castles and win the prize for best castle I’ve ever seen over Culzean and Methoni. We spent a couple of hours scrambling around the ramparts and enjoying the beautiful Greecian sunshine – that’s right, it was still SUNNY! And not just sunny, also WARM – there were people swimming!!! Nafplio will definitely be a repeat destination for me.  Once we left the beautiful town, we headed out to Epidavros, a cultural centre of ancient Greece famous for the healing cult of Asclepius. There is a massive theatre there that is pretty much completely preserved. To test out the acoustics I sang some Beatles to my field school friends and we just had a great time relaxing in the best seats pretending to be ancient kings and queens.

Once we left the site it was back on the bus and into Athens. The riots had started the night before, and because of this Vasillis couldn’t drive us into the city as the streets into and out of Athens were blocked off. We had to say our goodbyes on a side street near a metro station and then the 12 (5 had gone ahead the day before) of us packed all of our luggage onto and off of the metro for half an hour until we got to the closest stop to our hotel. Then it was a short uphill hike to the hotel and we were all reunited once again. Some went off for last minute shopping while I repacked my two bags and threw out more stuff to try and make them a bit more manageable for the journey home. We ordered pizza for dinner and then went up to the rooftop terrace to look at the Acropolis for the last time. Some of the group had to leave at 3 in the morning to get to the airport on time, so we stayed up till about 2:30 talking with them.

The next morning Holly and I caught our flight to London, where I went to catch up with an old friend for the night. We had a great time talking about the old times and drinking pints of proper English cider. I hit up the Sainsbury’s for some Magners and a pasty, and the next day had amazing bangers and mash in East London. Back to the airport, back on a plane and 10 hours later landed in Vancouver! Mom and Dad were waiting with sushi and we headed off home.

Whew! So that wraps it up, just over fourteen weeks of travelling, learning, digging, processing, drinking, and making lifelong friendships – what a fall!! The field school was an amazing experience that I’m really happy I could partake in. I miss my friends already, and we are already planning the next reunion.  So thanks for reading and for the updates from home, and hopefully I’ll get to see you in person soon!

-Michelle

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