Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Greece with Kids: Rabbit for Lunch, Cheese for Two, and We Traumatized the Children on the Road to Meteora

Day 01 is here and here.
Day 02 is here.
Day 03 is here and here.
The first part of Day 04 is here.

And here's what we did after that!

After tromping around Delphi all morning, we stopped for lunch before we headed down Mount Parnassus. My daughter ate rabbit:

I ate the cheese plate for two:

Technically, I shared this with the rest of the family, but still... I ate a lot of cheese.
My other daughter had--surprise, surprise!--the pasta. Rather than think of her as a picky eater, I prefer to pretend that, just as I enjoy eating Mexican food wherever I travel so that I can experience that place's take on my favorite cuisine, Syd longs to taste every possible interpretation of spaghetti.

She did also consume her weight in cheese plate, at least...

As we drove northwest up the mainland, the landscape that we'd become used to, with olive trees as far as the eye could see--

--gave way to--

Sunflowers! As far as the eye can see!

They're grown for their seeds, and I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

You'll notice that the sky was really hazy on this day; it's not smog, but airborne sand from the SAHARA DESERT!!! So as I'm taking photos of Greece, I'm also taking photos of the Sahara--it's like two vacations in one!

We had to book it to Meteora, so didn't have time for many stops (we did stop at a gas station that stands on the spot where the Persian army camped before the Battle of Thermopylae, so that's something...). So of course you might think that once we arrived, a certain little kid would be tired and ready for a nap.

Hey, let's ask her. Little Kid, are you ready for a nap?

No? Well, let's go swimming, then!

After one last evening of swimming in paradise, we got cleaned up and headed over to a party hosted by our tour group. There was going to be wine, and traditional Greek music, and they'd hired a traditional Greek dancer, and we were going to get to dance, too! Sounds exciting, right?

Some of us thought this sounded exciting. Others of us did not.
The kids actually had a wonderful time on this trip. They loved being with us, the adventure of traveling, seeing the sites that we've been reading about for a year. There weren't a lot of complaints about the hiking or the heat (and their presence made sure that I couldn't complain, either--can you imagine if the kids had heard me complaining about the heat? It would have been a free-for-all of endless complaints until the end of time), and they didn't even seem to notice that there weren't any other kids in our tour group to hang out with. They were generally right behind our tour guide every time she led us around a site, avidly hanging onto her every word. They had their own hotel room every night, where they went to bed right after dinner, and were up and getting dressed when we came in to wake them up every morning.

And you'd think they'd have a wonderful time at this party, too. Traditional Greek music! Traditional Greek dancing! A special dance just for the ladies!

This is right before Costas began to kick his leg over all of us sitting on the floor. It was awesome.
But no. Watching their mother enjoy traditional Greek dancing seemed to have stunned even the more even-keeled of the children:

She is drowning her sorrows in sour cherry juice.
And when their mother got up to dance, too?

Oh, Lord. Her face!

I, however, was having a marvelous time.
Matt took this photo of the children actually comforting each other, they were so traumatized by my joy:

Even at dinner, everyone in our tour group was still all aflutter from the fun of the dancing, and we all chatted excitedly to each other as the wine continued to flow. To the children, this was not much of an improvement over the horrors of watching adults dance:

Whatever. Matt and I had a fabulous time:

Our tour guide actually came over to check on Syd; she was looking so miserable that Militsa's happiness alarm went off somewhere across the room, and she suddenly appeared at my shoulder, asking the source of Syd's distress so that she could fix it:

There's lamb on the buffet, and fava beans, spanakopita, tomato salad, and eggplant, so of COURSE she's eating pasta and white bread for dinner.

Alas, I had to inform her that Syd's misery was nothing that could be fixed, but instead resulted from having to watch adults party--most specifically, having to watch adults DANCE (insert shudder here).

This is Militsa informing Syd that there won't be anymore dancing on the trip.
It's important, though, to savor even the most uncomfortable moments in a new place, because in just twelve hours, we'd be touring the breathtaking monasteries of Meteora. In just 24 hours, Matt and I would be sharing a pint of Solo while waiting for our fish and chips order to be ready. In just 36 hours, we'd be on a plane to Zurich.

And in just 48 hours, we'd be home!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Greece with Kids: Ancient Delphi, Castalian Spring, and How We Lost Syd

Day 01 is here and here.
Day 02 is here.
Day 03 is here and here.

And here we are in Day 04!

Syd's doll, Zelda, joined us for breakfast this morning--

--where I also enjoyed my trifecta of The Perfect Breakfast:
Friends, that is Greek yogurt smothered in sour cherry spoon sweets and Nutella. It was heavenly. I dream about it. This picture is the wallpaper on my phone, I loved it so much.
Well-fortified for the morning, off we went as pilgrims to Delphi!

Before entering Delphi, you must purify yourself in the water from Castalian Spring. Everyone who entered Delphi, from the supplicants to the oracle, to the athletes competing in the Pythian Games, to the oracle herself came here first. You can still hike up the mountain to the original spring, but more recently (although still a long time ago...) a fountain was set below it. Our tour guide encouraged Syd to drink from the fountain--

--and then told everyone that local legend has it that girls who drink from the fountain will be married within the year:

Syd's face as she gives our tour guide the "I thought we were friends!" look
If you're already married, drinking from the fountain will cause you to fall even more deeply in love. So we all did our duty:

We followed the aqueducts that carried the spring water down to the gymnasium area, where athletes trained for the Pythian Games. The setup was much like that of Ancient Olympia's gymnasium, with a covered running track, hot and cold baths, and other athletic facilities:

The aqueducts also run even further south, where we hiked down to see the ruins of two temples to Athena:

As typical spring water, it is cold and refreshing!
The leaves of wild olives are smaller than those of domesticated olives.
But they still bear fruit! Here's a baby wild olive as proof.
Although the purpose of the two temples is clear, between them stands a piece of architecture that to this day nobody understands the purpose of:

This is the tholos. As you can see, it originally had twenty columns, three of which have been reconstructed.

Now that we've cleansed ourselves and paid our respects, let's travel on to Delphi!

Delphi was built into the face of Mount Parnassus, so as you walk it, you travel up and up and up the steep paths, all of which are as slick as ice. Next time we visit Greece, I will do so in new hiking boots, not my seven-year-old Keens.

We toured the archaeological museum first, and then hiked the ancient site, but I'm going to mix up my photos a little so that I can put the treasures that we saw with the places where they were displayed.

Here's the beginning of the winding pathway up:

Midway up the path, you can see the tops of the columns of the Temple of Apollo. We'll be hiking there and then going higher!
On the Sacred Way, these treasuries were built by city-states to show off their people's offerings:

Inside each nook would be statues and other beautiful gifts.
There are also inscriptions covering the walls along the path:

Can you see the Ancient Greek word for Delphi in that inscription?

Most offerings were small bronze statues, but wealthier city-states, or those who attributed the Oracle's advice to victories at war, would go all out, and the nicest treasuries were entire buildings. Here are the ruins of the Sikyonian and Siphnian Treasuries:

The Siphnian Treasury had one of my favorite architectural features, the caryatids!

Whenever you see holes in a sculpture,  you know that something used to be attached there. Usually it was metal embellishments, such as a wreath or a sword, but they'd also use that method to attach fiddly marble bits.

That same treasury also had friezes on all of its walls:

Gods fighting giants.

Here's my favorite one:

Because this!

All of these would have been brightly painted, which is hard to imagine now, though there are some remnants of Ancient Greek painting, such as these terracotta roof bits, extant:

These twins, an offering from Argos, are the oldest of the monumental offerings:

Up and up, we come to the Athenian Treasury, first dedicated with spoils from the Battle of Marathon (we saw more offerings from that victory at Ancient Olympia, remember):

It contained metopes celebrating the victories of Herakles and Theseus:

Remember that we saw metopes of Herakles' labors at Olympia, too. The Ancient Greeks LOVED Herakles!
 Past the Athenian Treasury, the path leads to the Rock of the Sybil, the origin point of the oracle of Delphi:

The oracle was later installed inside the Temple of Apollo, which you can see on the path above the rock:

Past the Rock of the Sybil, we scrambled around the ruins of  the Halos, a ritual space set at the location of the fountain where Apollo killed the Python:

Standing at the Halos, you can see the gymnasium and, farther off, the Tholos.
Up and up, past more inscribed walls--

--to the Temple of Apollo!

The Sphinx of Naxos, now in the archaeological museum, once stood here:

And this statue of Dionysus lived up on the temple's west pediment:

Also found in this Temple is one of the most beautiful works of art from the entire site, the Charioteer:

He's made of bronze and originally had much more of a scene around him, including his chariot. You can't tell from this photo, but every detail on the Charioteer is perfect--there are even thin wires of bronze that form his eyelashes.

Other nearby artworks included this statue of Aghias--

--and the Dancers of Delphi:

Notice how cleverly I'm thwarting the rule that you can't take photos of people "with" the artwork. Why, that child just happens to be in the background of my photo--can't help that!
The most important, however, is the omphalos, otherwise know as the bellybutton of the world:

Zeus wanted to find the center of the world, so he let loose two eagles to fly in opposite directions, at the same speed. Where they met is where he placed this rock.

It's unknown exactly who this statue represents--possibly a priest of Apollo or possibly a philosopher--but I was mostly struck by the backdrop that shows the dig where he was discovered. How amazing is that!

You can always find Roman artifacts, as well, from the time when it had conquered Greece. Here's a bust of the Roman consul Titus Quinctius Flaminimus, the guy who conquered Delphi for the Roman Empire:

I like his stubble. And that hair!
Up and up and up, then, to the stadium above the Temple of Apollo:

Here's the view down to the Temple of Apollo:

You can still just see the gymnasium in the distance, with the Tholos just out of sight.
I wanted to see the whole stadium all at once, so you know what that means... up and up and up!

Made it!
One thing you should know about me is that my face gets beet-red when I'm hot. I get hot when I work hard, and I get hot when it's, you know, over 100 degrees out. Both situations applied on this morning, so much so that total strangers stopped me to ask if I was feeling well, and to suggest that I sit down and rest.

Solicitous strangers subdued, sit down and rest I did, practically on top of the world:

Syd regretted coming up with us when it was clear that we were just looking at the same stuff you could see from lower down (Will had declined making the extra hike), and soon got our permission to head down and wait for us at the entrance.

And that's when we lost her.

The rest of us made our way down much more leisurely than that little mountain goat; to tell the truth, I personally made my way back down the path clutching hands with another tourist, and yes, we DID slip a couple of times. That old marble is SLICK!!! Our homeschooling family is a novelty wherever we go, so Will and I also regaled this fellow tourist, a retired teacher, with relevant tales from Story of the World, and I patiently answered all of her questions (but what about socialization? Writing instruction? College?).

Thanks to our extra hike and our ginger descent, we were among the last of our group to return to the entrance, so it was a while before I noticed that Syd wasn't where she'd said she would be.

I was really only worried because there were several feral cats at the entrance to Delphi, and I couldn't imagine that Syd would willingly wander away from feral cats. We asked around and none of the other members of our group had seen her, so our tour guide called the bus driver, waiting in the parking lot, and he bizarrely said that she was there, with him!

It was very bizarre, because the bus dropped us off at the entrance before parking, and so Syd shouldn't have known where it was, but indeed, when the rest of us made it to the bus there she was, cool and comfy in the air conditioning. I asked her how she'd known where the bus was, and she just shrugged and said she'd asked someone. I'm still not sure if she asked another member of our group where our specific bus was, or if she asked some random person where the buses in general were, but it turns out that what had actually happened is that Syd had gone to the entrance to wait for us, like she was supposed to, and she had stopped to pet all of the feral cats, like I'd assumed she would. But petting the feral cats reminded her that she'd stolen a bunch of lunch meat from our breakfast buffet that morning, and it was all wrapped in a napkin in her backpack, which was on the bus.

Her next move, then, was apparently to figure out where our bus was parked, then to hike there all by herself, get our bus driver to let her in, get the meat from her backpack, leave the bus and hike back to the entrance to Delphi, and feed all the feral kitties. When she was out of meat, she remembered that the bus was nice and cool, and so she decided to just go back there and meet us.

If you're wondering if foreign travel builds a child's confidence, independence, and problem-solving abilities... yeah, I'd say that it does!

I have more wonders from this day to share--fields of sunflowers, Greek cheeses, traditional dance--but now I have to move on with my real-life day. We're making solar ovens to cook our lunch, I have to figure out a troop meeting schedule to prep for the big workshop we're running in a couple of weeks, and a friend is coming over tomorrow to make soap with me, so I should probably clean the kitchen and, you know, pick out a soap recipe. And I need to plant the fall garden. And get my 10,000 steps and 45 minutes of aerobic activity completed. And check the kids' math...

I'll daydream about our trip from Delphi to Meteora another day!


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