Excavations in Athens
We were told that the Hotel Divani Acropolis is built over the walls protecting Athens. Now it is covered by a glass floor. By our Hotel Hera there is excavation going on at a construction site because the foundation digging revealed an ancient road leading to Athens’ seaport at Piraeus. As soon as that was discovered, the condo construction ceased. Gail saw the site from a street behind ours, went over to the workers and spoke with the archeologist himself, who could speak with her in Italian (he had studied there) and some English. They are still working on a “mixed” layer; he watches carefully what the diggers bring up, but recently was thrilled to discover a pyre where offerings were burned and interesting objects found.
It is already clear that this is over the very road that led from Athens, near the Acropolis, to the port! Even with the Roman layers on top they expect to dig down to the 5th century BC beginnings then cover the site with a glass floor so it can be seen. Only then can the condo construction proceed. The developer is paying for this. It is essentially that the only excavation currently going on in Athens (and all of Greece for that matter) because of the financial crisis.
The pyre was recently filmed by the Discovery Channel. Kudos to Gail for finding this and taking some of us to see it.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
On Wednesday morning, we awoke at 8, got to breakfast by 9 and took a little walk to the excavation. By 10 we were loaded onto a bus and departed at 10:30. It was an interesting ride west, past plains of Athens, ringed by mountains, past fertile fields of many crops including cotton. We passed Lake Marathon and Marathon at a very well-defined distance from the center of Athens, as certain fanatic runners are familiar.
The lake is a source of water for Athens. Later we passed another lake that feeds into Marathon. Then ascent to mountains. Mountains comprise 80% of mainland Greece. Bauxite rocks (red) among others. Less brown with and slight green California style low vegetation, into many-hued and textured greens of the mountains as we climbed Mt. Parnassus. First stopped for coffee, then climbed the switchbacks with precious little shoulder or no shoulder.
We stopped in an ancient city for a very good lunch (“on your own”=self pay) with a beautiful view. After, as we continued toward Delphi, the views were so incredibly beautiful I could understand why people deemed it sacred.
Maria’s Handout says “Delphi is hidden in the heart of Phocis – Central Greece- in a wild and dreamy landscape which maintains the nostalgic echo of its eminent past. At 73 m (1833) ft. above sea level, it is hewn on the southern side of the precipitous Phaedriades, two immense rocks of Mt. Parnassus that dominate with the Delphic Gorge beneath. Together they form a dramatic setting for the sanctuary of the son of the mighty Zeus.”
The town of Delphi is relatively new (late 19th century?) created when they discovered ancient sites under the old town and vacated the spot in order to restore it. Climbing the steeply sloped narrow streets (the “new” city hadn’t anticipated tour coaches that risked hitting the balconies), buildings, houses, rise higher and higher, accessed by switch back streets or flights of stairs for pedestrians to go from level to level of the parallel streets. The bus had to back up a steep inclined one-way street to reach our hotel, the Apollonia but boy, what a view from the balcony overlooking the Corinthian Gulf! (I adore boutique hotels).
After a little nap, a little walk, then at 6:30 PM to a closed off section of the dining room for a “cooking class.” Volunteers, skillfully recruited by Maria, demonstrated the steps involved in making cheese and spinach pie also called Spanakotiropita. We used phylo sheets, a very thick béchamel sauce, yogurt, a cucumber dip called zatziki, an eggplant shoe called papoutsaki and moussaka. This was all under the direction of the hotel chef. “Shoe” because the lengthwise eggplant halves are cut slightly so they sit flat and are somewhat hollowed inside before being fried, then stuffed and baked. Very entertaining!
At 6:30 dinner arrived with what seemed like mushroom soup to me and a plate of hors d’oeuvres, chicken and sauce with salad, and fruit. After a final hit of ouzo in the lounge I was off to bed.
PART 3 to be continued…