Monday, April 27, 2015

The Deserted Flea Market


Above is a photo I took of the Athens Flea Market right off of Monastiraki Square back in January when we were first here in Athens. Below are pics snapped of the amazingly empty Flea Market when all the shops are closed - usually late Sunday evenings. If I remember correctly, these were taken on Easter Sunday. Yeah...all the shops were closed. 

people like to walk through the Flea Market when it is you can see,
there is artwork that you can only appreciate when the doors are closed

this is looking from inside the Market out onto Monastiraki Square - a lot of the
tavernas and cafes were open, even on Easter. Tourist business is always worthwhile.

And, this was a shot of Ermou Street - the major shopping street. Usually, it is so crowded you can hardly walk
without either getting bumped or being in someone's way. The city is eerily peaceful when the streets are mostly deserted.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nicely Done, Gentlemen!

We like to walk past the PM's residence on our way to where the action is,
and then this happened...

very sharp, indeed!

The Byzantine Art Museum

This museum features a grand collection of unusual and fantastic Byzantine art

this is an incredible iconostasis - gilded, carved wood, amazing iconography

and real gold thread in those antique vestments - not unlike today
and our class! 

Friday, April 24, 2015

At the Cycladic

OK, I think I have seen enough museums now. Perhaps it has been too many partial statues, rocks, marble, pottery, and ancient jewelry...after a while it all looks the same! Haha!

Today we checked out the Cycladic Musuem. They were featuring a wonderful exhibit on Asklepius (the healing god) and his daughter Hygeia (health goddess). They didn't allow photos for that part, but it was fascinating. Next we moved onto the Ancient Everyday Life, which I found to be a nice walk-through. I was especially drawn to the depiction of marriage. They had some artifacts, but truly the artist illustrations were most informative.

After the bride's father has betrothed her to the man of his choosing,
she is bathed and readied for the ceremony...

she is dressed with the help of other women (I'm assuming friends and family),
aren't these drawings great?

In the ceremony, which is nothing like what we would expect, the groom takes his
bride by the wrist denoting his possession, and leads her away...

to a waiting chariot or cart where the wedding procession heads
to his family home...

where his mother is waiting for them...

the groom then leads his bride to a private room to consummate
the marriage, while his best friend keeps guard. That's it.
Then she is expected to fulfill the role of wife for him -
bear citizen sons, weave cloth and make clothing,
provide meals, and take care of the children.
She is also mandated to only leave their home at certain times
when the city is less populated and only for specific errands or
special occasions.

The next day (I am hoping) women friends and family give gifts to the
bride which include household and toiletry items for her. All women
were restricted to the women's quarters of ancient homes.
Below are a few of the artifacts I snapped of the exhibit of Cycladic art - fascinating stuff!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temperature Reading: Two weeks of classes left!

Well, the weather has changed somewhat, and we are finally getting some warmer temperatures. Amazingly, these concrete apartments stay remarkably cool despite the outdoor temperatures. I end up wearing more layers of clothing inside the apartment than I do outside! But the sunshine is glorious, as you can imagine.

Classes are starting to wind down, and the profs are gearing up for the end of the semester with finals and grades. None of the other students are anxious for the semester to end, but I am ready to leave this semester behind and get back home to real life. For them, going home means leaving the freedom of living abroad and heading back to dorm rooms and parental homes, but for me going home means getting back to the freedom that I enjoy in a home of my own creation. Very different, indeed.

In looking around our apartment, I am thinking about what we are going to do with all the stuff we have accumulated. Some of it will be given away, like the computer and the extra kitchen items we purchased. Some will have to be left behind and the rest somehow stuffed into our luggage. We already send home a box full of souvenirs and books, but we have another small pile growing that will need to be packed. I will also have to find a place for my school papers that I accumulated here...I'm gonna try to be ruthless in taking home only what is absolutely necessary (paper is heavy!). I'm thinking that I will be leaving some clothing here, especially some that I am really sick of wearing! I didn't bring a lot (only really a week's worth), and I have been wearing the same things over and over. Ugh!

I think Chuck and I are just plain ole worn out. Physically. We have walked so much these past months, since we have no wheels, of course. Miles a day, often - over to the Plaka, over to Syntagma, through the markets, up to Ciaos, over to the stadium, back up the stairs to the apartment. Many, many stairs... I was doing alright when it was cooler because I was wearing more supportive walking-type shoes, but once I started wearing my new Greek sandals, my feet and legs really started feeling it. Absolutely no cushion or support is not good on marble, stone, and concrete surfaces. I finally broke down and got something that I knew would save my feet:

yep, the old standby!

So, we just make it through 8 more days of classes, two final papers (one of which I have already written) and one final (killer) exam, and we are done. Very much looking forward to flying to the southern US to visit some dear friends for a few days prior to winging our way home. I am sure I will have more to say in retrospect as we get closer, but for now I am just trying to savor all I enjoy about Greece - the sunshine, the music, the food, and the beautiful people we have grown to love.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Wonderful Lunch at Despina's

My Orthodox Church class was invited to our prof's home for a wonderful lunch - 
we all love her and the class. Those are all real smiles of happiness!

L to R: (top row) Sarah, Chris, Nicolette, Dr. Despina Iosif, Bianca, Dillon,
(bottom row) yours truly, Sarah, Catherine, Samantha

Friday, April 17, 2015

Lessons Learned, Part II

So, more lessons learned from our time in Greece...

Let's talk about coffee. It is really good here, and you don't really want to buy your usual Starbucks choice (although, there is one right off of Monastiraki Square). Drink like the Greeks - have a frappe, espresso freddo, or live dangerously and order a Greek coffee. Sit at a cafe and they will serve you with water, your coffee order and some sweet treats on the house. It is really of my favorite things about Greece. I particularly love cappuccino - give it a try.'s the best is far cheaper than Starbucks! Yes, skip the 'bucks and hit a kafeneio instead.

One thing we realized right away is that Athens is a very noisy city. Lots of traffic, lots of tourists, and Athenians just trying to get where they need to go. Motorbikes are absolutely everywhere, along with taxis. You will definitely feel like you are in someone's way at some point, be it on a narrow sidewalk or on a street full of shoppers. Everyone is always dodging cars and motorcycles on narrow streets - thankfully, they don't want to hit you, either. The one place we found for a quiet space where you could hear yourself think was inside a church. Don't be shy...if they are open, just go on in. You don't have to be an Orthodox Christian, although it will feel a little foreign at first. This is not your typical American evangelical Christian church experience. Go in, find a seat, refrain from crossing your legs (it is considered disrespectful in a church), and just breath. The faint scent of incense and the dim lighting will definitely calm your soul while you take in the beautiful icons and architecture of these bastions of Eastern Christian tradition.

It is customary to drop a few lepta in the offering box and light a candle. As my prof says, don't forget to make a wish! People come and go all the time in Orthodox Churches (as long as they are open) in order to kiss the icons and leave their names for prayer, even if the priests are saying the Divine Liturgy.

Another good thing to do while visiting or living in Greece is to find your favorite shop-taverna-cafe-bakery-pharmacy and then keep going back. You will become a regular and it will be a far more satisfying and enjoyable experience. Business owners love return customers, and we have even had restaurant servers remember our names and our specific orders!

Which leads to another lesson, and this one is kinda important - don't tip. As Americans it is tough not to express your thanks for good service and food by tipping, but the tip is already built into the bill. In addition, the servers are paid well and don't expect a tip. And, if that doesn't convince you, know that Athenians may even consider it showing off to tip like an American. You certainly don't want to do that, especially out of ignorance. If you absolutely must tip, no more than a euro or two, max. Truly, rewarding by return business is the best kind of tip you can give.

Concerning language, most Athenians, especially if they are in service jobs, speak several languages enough to get by. Restaurants usually have an English menu to facilitate getting what you really want (which is NOT the Caesar me on this one - I haven't had a good one yet). I have seen taverna 'recruiters' speak many languages, and will sometimes address you with their guess of your nationality (we have been mistaken for French, and Chuck was mistaken for German!). As the weather has gotten warmer and more tourists are arriving, the shop owners are now all asking where we are from - they are sincerely interested and will always tell you to enjoy your time in Greece. I believe they are very happy to have the tourist business, even if tourists can sometimes be not very pleasant to deal with. Which reminds me - be a nice, kind, and generous tourist. You are in their "home" - don't make a mess, don't complain, and don't be a butt. *smile* In any guidebook there is a short list of survival Greek phrases - learn them, use them. It is fun and the Greeks get a kick out of it.

Don't miss the National Gardens - they are wonderful with lots of walking paths -
we walked through it almost every day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The University of Athens and the National Library

After getting a glimpse of these fabulous buildings from our tour bus, we decided to take a stroll uptown a bit to check out the University of Athens. On one website I was looking at, it stated that this is surely what ancient Greece looked like. Impressive!

Beautiful Apollo

The Goddess Athena

the smell of the orange blossoms is heavenly

this can be none other than Socrates

and his pupil Aristotle

incredible pediment statuary - with Zeus and Athena

this pediment features Athena in the middle

Photos just can't express how grand this architecture truly is.

And, then we went inside...

what a room!

We wandered to the next building, which is another impressive Greco-Roman building. However, there was a protest/hunger-strike gathering going on there, so I snapped this young man below, and we kept going onto the National Library.

that is the Library with the sweeping staircase

no wonder the US adopted this style of architecture for its government buildings -
they are very authoritative and impressive

We couldn't take photos inside the library, nor could we browse through the titles. This library boasts books and codex that go back to the 9th century, so you can imagine that they don't want people just poking through them! What we could see, though, was impressive enough - very old books and bindings from floor to ceiling. The really old books were behind the shelves we could see. In order to look at a book, one has to request the book and be approved. Then, you come at your appointed time to sit with the book - no lending here. Very impressive.