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I was a geeky child, as I'm sure will surprise no one. I devoured National Geographic magazines, and the two biggest scientific discoveries of my youth were the location of the Titanic and the victims at Herculaneum. It gives me chills to explore this city, about which I wrote several middle school reports.

I've been pushing myself and starting to burn out, and a day trip to such an awesome place (better preserved and far less crowded than Pompeii) was exactly what I needed.

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I took a day trip to Ostuni today:











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The cathedral bell tower



The largest surviving bronze of ancient Rome (the cross is newer)



The castle by night

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This is roughly a ninth of the original, being the center third and the lowest of three equal levels.





Replica woman's tunic

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Piazza del Duomo



The missing column from the Appian Way, Brindisi (a 17th C gift to Lecce to thank Sant' Oronzo for ending a plague)



The Roman Amphitheater

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Piazza del Duomo



A three-sided sculpture showing the three forms of the Greek goddess Hecate



The end of the Appian Way



An eleventh-twelfth century Templar church, based on the plan for Jerusalem's Holy Sepulcher

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The White Tower (which was once, briefly, white)



Wall defenses of the Kastro



A pigeon hotel



The Vlatadan monastery...



...where the monks keep peacocks!

Apparently Salonica is for the birds (har har har)

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Knossos

Mar. 14th, 2011 05:42 pm
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It's no wonder this ruined palace was the basis for the labyrinth legend; they've roped off most of it and I still got lost! The Minotaur part reputedly came from a bull head vase decoration. The palace has been partially reconstructed, and while those recreations are controversial they do a lot to help visualize the place.


Minoan columns are oddly narrow at the base.

The original frescos, much less complete, are in a nearby museum that's my next stop.




This is a raw part of the site, and a good glimpse of what archeology really looks like.

And, for Truly, here are some pretty dresses from a doll shop in Chania:

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Tomorrow I head to Heraklion, but it's been a pleasure to be here!


(the domed building on the left is the old mosque I've been playing beside)



The Venetian lighthouse, remodeled under the Ottoman occupation.







The lighthouse by night.

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It's been too cold and wet to do any playing, but Chania ("Han-YAH") has been fun so far. Today I found the pretty Venetian quarter (as opposed to the bombed-out-during-WWII Venetian quarter), and I can finally see why it's called the loveliest city on Crete. Sporadic sunshine today has helped, too.

The weather has been atypical, to say the least. Low 40s is rare in these parts, which means my room is short on luxuries like weatherstripping and central heating. Or any heating, for that matter. Still, with blankets and sweaters it's a lot more pleasant than some nights I can look back on, kept alive by an electric blanket while icicles formed on the ceiling of my van.

I have no idea how busking the uber low season in a small city during an economic crisis will work, but I'm not too stressed. It's cheap to live here (see above), and I'm enjoying the time. I've been reading books and watching movies I downloaded before leaving the States while hiding from the weather, and I'm halfway through learning a new song I wrote in Seattle.

The language is coming along better than I'd expected. It helps that I've been focusing my limited vocabulary in useful directions, but I can do my market shopping and daily interactions without resorting to English. Of course, I've been known to have a merchant give me the price in English after exclusive Greek, but he had no way of knowing that learning to count to a hundred was the first thing I did.

Still, the breadth of my ignorance is humbling, though I've kept up my habit of 10-15 new words every day. It's a fun challenge, and I'm doing my best to rise to it.

And the weekend is forecast sunny and sixties!

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I spent most of yesterday in a rather foul mood, so I medicated by doing cool stuff. This is the temple of Hephaestus in the ancient agora, the best preserved Doric temple in the Greek world. There's one in Sicily, in Taormina, that's almost as cool, but this place is really impressive. I've wanted to wander around it since I saw it last year, but it was only recently that I found out which site included it (there are five or so on the hill around the Acropolis).

I played a morning set on the shopping street, οδός Ερμού (Odos Ermou: the Street of Hermes, god of commerce of course!), and had a lovely time for awhile. I was beside a church, and it was a bit of a shock when people would stop right in front of me and cross themselves; I felt like I had to be either an awesome saint or utterly depraved to warrant that!

Then an amplified band started up the street, which was irksome. A few minutes later two gypsy kids started playing accordions right beside me, successfully chasing me off. I was in high umbrage, but didn't exactly see a lot of options.

I thought this was why I was grumpy, and I canceled my evening set due to a slight drizzle after visiting the Agora. Then I had a really good set this morning on the Acropolis Promenade, but only after being scolded by a cop on Ermou. I got home after my set and decided to take a short nap; three hours later I came to the conclusion I was definitely sick. I'm kind of encouraged, I didn't like the thought that I was becoming a Debbie Downer from some minor setbacks.

But today's Promenade set had been truly lovely. High schoolers were given the afternoon off to wander in costume for carnival, and they made great audiences. After my nap I decided not to force an evening set from an unwilling body, and visited the Parthenon Museum instead. It was a good call, since my body protested even that, and I really enjoyed the museum full of artifacts (and the view of the Acropolis from the third floor was breathtaking).

Here's hoping I feel better tomorrow, and since I found a market stall with stuffed grape leaves for $3 a pound I'll be sure to have some veggies!

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It was a grand birthday! And a local dessert, ekmek, that combines cake (soaked in honey), ice cream, whipped cream, and pistachios was a pretty fabulous topper.

I spent the afternoon in Aigina, an island off the coast in Athens. Despite it being chilly and rainy I had a lovely time. I alternated strolling through the town with huddling at cafes over cappuccino and hot chocolate, and made a short pilgrimage to the ruins of a nearby temple of Apollo. I've got high hopes for the year!



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Last year I was too busy seeing archeological sites to make it to any museums, and this is my chance to fix that. Today I started with the biggest museum in Greece, and one of the best in Europe, the National Archeological Museum.

The collection was stunning. Despite a sign at the entrance noting rooms closed due to funding problems (they can't pay for guards and so had to limit the exhibitions), there was so much there that I hardly noticed.

Six rooms full of bronzes!!! This is a big deal; since bronze was later valuable for weaponry (especially cannons), the only surviving statuary tends to be from shipwreck recoveries. Most European museums have one or two figures, and most American museums don't have any (although Cleveland impressed me with a really nice one).

And, of course, the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog computer that scientists are still trying to figure out.

The vase rooms were closed, but there are entire museums in Sicily consisting of little else so I didn't miss them. There were tons of marble statues (pardon my pun), however, which finally gave me a good basis to compare Early Classical, Late Classical, and Roman Imperial styles (most museums focus on one of them). I always thought I preferred Roman to Greek out of national chauvinism, but it turns out there are major differences: Greek portraiture was highly idealized while the Romans expected a portrait to look like its subject. This made the latter a lot more idiosyncratic and less formulaic.

Now it's naptime before I head out to break the ice on busking this evening!

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I just took a walk around my favorite areas from last time.

Note the Acropolis mount in the background.


My favorite part of Athens is all the sunken 11th century Byzantine churches scattered about.


I made some friends in the ruins.


Γεια σας!

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There are 19th century graves in the Pacific Northwest. I was kind of surprised.

This is a test of the functionality of posting pictures to various RSS feeds via Livejournal, thanks for your patience!

Vince

Mosaic II

Jan. 17th, 2011 02:04 am
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I've uploaded the music and graphics files for Mosaic, so I should hopefully have copies in hand when I come back to Ohio after a month in Seattle. It's exciting stuff!


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Royal Street









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Taormina

Jan. 20th, 2010 10:05 am
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Taormina is simply stunning, a combination of natural splendor, ancient ruins, and medieval charm. It's no wonder that it is such a huge tourist magnet, but in January I feel as though I have it all to myself.

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The bottom shot is of the neighboring Greek Odeon.

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