Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's Tuesday, our last full day of life on Paros. It's been an amazing adventure, and we're all pretty much satiated with many memorable experiences and ready to return home. Tomorrow morning we take the ferry back up to Athens--it's a 5 hour ride--and once we arrive, we have to hurry to our hotel (the same one we stayed at when first arrived), drop off our luggage, and high-tail it next door to the newly opened Acropolis Museum. While only costing 1 euro each to get in, because of all the interest in the museum, they are only offering 2 hour blocks of time. Cathie was able to get a 2:00-4:00 pm slot for tomorrow; we are scheduled to arrive at the Piraeus port around 1:40, so once we get off the ferry, it's going to be quite a challenge to get to the museum. We figure even if we can only be there for an hour, it will be worth it.

But back to Paros. This last week has been busy, as we finished up working on the paths, learned a few steps of Greek dancing, went snorkeling, and today visited the Church of 100 Doors here in Parikia. It's the oldest functioning Christian (Greek Orthodox) church in the world, dating back to about 360 A.D. We've got some incredible pictures, including our day spent snorkeling and visiting the ancient dig on Antiparos, the one that Bob Sutton has been involved with for a number of years. Our snorkeling guide Peter took a plethora of underwater pics which I currently can't access, but will be able to show some of you at another time. Cathie spotted an underwater sponge and went down to retrieve it, so she has a momento of her first time snorkeling. Oh, and the sponge was dead, so it's safe to bring back.

We will be back in Indianapolis; seems fitting that we leave one -polis to arrive at another :-) on Thursday evening around 10:30 or so.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Here are some pics of the paths and our work.
Happy 4th of July on the 5th! We've had an exhaustive, but wonderful week full of new experiences, including learning some steps for Greek dancing, back-breaking work clearing rocks and brush along the ancient Byzantine pathways, and snorkeling yesterday off the coast of Antiparos, the next island west of Paros.

First, we spent Monday, Wednesday, and Friday out on the Byzantine paths about a 20 minute bus ride to Lefkes, then dropped off to walk down a fairly step decline into the valley, where we were met with two guides who provided us with shovels, hand saws, rakes, clippers, hoes that were industrial-strength (they looked like pick axes without the pick), sandwiches, water, and a zeal for cleaning brush. Kozmas appeared to be the main person in charge as the other guy took a weed whacker and a group of students, and Cathie and I, along with some other students and Bele, went with Kozmas. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the landscape in the hills is quite rugged, with vegetation that is course, prickly, and not a whole lot of fun to walk through, around, and cut down. The ancient walls along the path were, for the most part, intact, although there were places where years of rain and weather caused some of the rocks to slide down into the path. One of our jobs was to put some of these rocks back on the wall. Also, the vegetation in a number of places had obscured the stone paths, or limited the way through because of the overgrowth, so we had to cut, saw, hack, rake, etc. to make the paths wider.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Oh, one other thing before we left Santorini on Saturday. We experienced not one, not two, not three, but FOUR earthquake tremors on Friday night! We were in bed, not yet asleep, and the hotel bldg started to shake. Each one lasted only about 10 seconds, but it seemed longer. After the second one, we were kind of worried that the BIG one was about to come. Some of the students were in our hallway, and they thought it was great. Ah to be young and clueless again :-).

Anyhow, between knee pain, tourist central, earthquakes, roosters early each morning, we were more than ready to leave for "home" back in Paros.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cathie and I made it back the next morning to the hospital. Health care in Greece is free, and I had little trouble getting in to see the specialist. There wasn't much he could do other than to prescribe some awesome painkiller meds, along with topical drops to put on my knee three times a day to deal with the inflammation and pain. Worked like a charm too. Meds were not free however, and it cost about 59 Euro, but well worth it. That morning, the students, along with Bele and Aran, took a ferry ride out to the active volcanic island in the middle of the bay. Thank god we didn't go! When they got back, it was 15 minutes of how awful and horrible the trek up the volcanic hill was, walking on nothing but lava rock. It was hot too, and most of the students, including Bele, had worn flipflops as they did not realize how rugged the hike was.

While they were off doing that, Cathie and I had a leisurely brunch at a cafe overlooking the bay. As you noticed, there was a cruise ship that docked, so there were a LOT of tourists roaming around. The town, Fira, is a major tourist destination (aka trap). It ain't cheap to be there.

As the bus was taking us to the hotel, I wrenched my left knee (the bad one too) turning in the seat to look for the camera. When I say "wrenched" I mean severely strained the ligament on the outside of my knee, the one that is attached to the bend-part of the knee. I could barely walk to the hotel, which was about half a kilometer away since it's all hills on the island. Bob and Cathie stayed with me as I hobbled to the hotel. I ended up going to the local hospital, down the road from the hotel, that evening, but had to wait until Friday to see the orthopedic doc. In the meantime, Cathie bought me a knee brace, which helped a little, and we hobbled up the hill with Bob and Susan to a lovely restaurant overlooking the volcano and the bay at sunset.

Hi everyone. I apologize for the delay in posting our adventures here in Greece. Last Thursday, we (the entire group) took a high speed ferry for a 2-day jaunt down to the island of Santorini. The boat seats about 450 people, and each seat is reserved. We were inside the entire time. Here's a pic of the boat: http://www.hellenicseaways.gr/index.asp?a_id=285 While the day was beautiful, the sea was choppy, and the ferry became a roller coaster over the waves. There were a number of people on the boat who got seasick, including 3 of the students. A dubious start to this side trip, for sure. Luckily Cathie had some Dramamine (Bele called it drama-meen) that she and Cybele took. I didn't need it as I don't get seasick, and I didn't. Aran declined one too, but came out of the boat a wee bit green around the gills.

Upon arriving on the island, the first thing we noticed was that the city was built on the side of the volcanic cliff. The port was at the bottom, and we had to take a bus up to the top, which, while beautiful views were everywhere, one wrong move by the bus driver and we'd all be goners. Kinda freaked me out, but I stayed busy taking pictures, trying to avoid thoughts of "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!" For any of you who don't know, me and heights don't get along, unless I'm in control (I AM a Capricorn).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

No this wasn't Cybele being sacrificed to the gods; it was the Fire Jumping festivities on the eve of St. John the Baptist Feast Day. All the saints have one, those lucky ducks. We arrived around dusk, and there was traditional dancing, free open grilled octopus, free drink, and culminated with live traditional Greek music. The fire jumping is a yearly tradition. If one jumps over it three times, it brings them good luck for the year. Of course most of the college students did it, and Cybele summoned up the courage to do it all three times, first with Cathie, then with me, then with one of the students. Aran decided he was too clumsy to risk tripping face first into the flames, so he didn't try it. It looks much more dangerous than it actually was, but then again, some kid, maybe 10-11, landed a little too close and fell backward into trailing coals. He was immediately dragged away and patted down. He was fine, just freaked out. That minor mishap didn't do anything to dissuade anyone else, as there was some dude who did a handstand flip over the flames 3 times, a bunch of little kids going crazy running around, through, and over. Most of the time the flames were not as high as in the pictures, more like a smoldering fire that one could roast marshmallows on. Someone would stoke it by throwing dried herbs on it. There was also dancing to the traditional music just off to the right beyond the frame of the picture. We certainly are immersed in the local culture. What an experience!
I forgot to add this picture to the earlier post. Cathie thought maybe that I'd been stuck with Dmitri with no hope of escaping, so she walked slowly enough so we caught up. He was very opinionated about politics, WW II and the Greeks, the environment, etc, but I found it all very fascinating. In fact, I did manage to use my iPhone and record a lot of his stories and facts related to what he knew of the history of the area. When I told her I was fine, she moved ahead to catch up with the group, which included Cybele and Aran. They, by the way, were great about keeping up and staying interested. I think they had a good time. We were all pretty exhausted upon arriving into Lefkes. The paths were pretty rugged.

One of the history lessons I learned from Dmitri related to how old the walls along the paths were. Many of the stones were black, and he said they were the real ancient stones, dating back almost 20 centuries--2000 years ago. We were walking on paths that old. Isn't that awesome?
Getting primed for the upcoming days of walking, and cleaning some of the ancient paths in the hills of Paros, near Lefkes.

Yesterday, the group, with two guides, was bussed into the hills and dropped off to walk one of the paths back into Lefkes. The day was a prelude about the flora and fauna that grow wild. There was a plethora of herbs, including thyme, oregano, and sage all along the paths. The scents were amazing.

As you can see, the paths wind along the hillsides. Dmitri, one of our guides, was quite an interesting character. I walked with him the entire way back into Lefkes (seen in the distance), and was regaled with my own personal history lesson. He is a municipal police office for the island during the day, but is an amateur actor/historian in his spare time. You'll notice we got so far behind that the group was no longer in sight. It didn't matter as I knew I'd catch up eventually as I was with someone who knew where he was.
Inconsequential-but-cool-nonetheless-Tom Hanks-in-Parikia-sighting yesterday. Attsa right. Tom Hanks was in a car pulling out of a parking spot just as Cathie, Cybele, Susan, a couple student and I were walking past. No one noticed him but me, and that was by accident. I heard the car start as I walked by, glanced over. His wife and son were with him. He had a ball cap on and sunglasses, but looked as normal as anyone. We were nonchalant about it, didn't yell out or say anything to respect his privacy. Susan said that he bought a house over in Antiparos, the next island to the southwest, a short ferry ride and that they love coming to Paros and Parikia. We had heard from a reliable source that he was in town. Tom actually participated in a dig with Susan's husband Bob a few years ago on Antiparos while vacationing after filming The DaVinci Code.

As Curly of the 3 Stooges so aptly put it, woobwoobwoob!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Last night (Monday) we were lucky to witness an usually beautiful sunset, courtesy of a southern wind coming off the Sahara Desert! When winds come from the south, according to John Pack, the local area resident artist, it sweeps in off the Sahara, bringing with it sands from the desert. In turn, these sands get mixed in with the clouds, producing breathtaking views at sunset. Denise, who owns the local gelatto store that faces the west, told us that in the seven years she's been here, she's never seen it look that beautiful. So we were very lucky to be here.

Plus, it's romantic as hell!

Monday, June 22, 2009

OOPS! Angie reports that Bele's YouTube link I gave you isn't the right one. Try this one:

The opening was supposed to begin about 7:00 or so, but for reasons unknown to me or others with us, it didn't start until almost 8:00. It began with one of the local priests blessing the people, including the dignitaries, musicians, bldg., etc., but it lasted a good 15 minutes. Speeches abounded after that, all in Greek of course. The shot of the white bldg on the hill is the monastery that overlooks the bay. You can also see how long we were there waiting for the good stuff--food and drink.

Among the island dignitaries invited to the opening, the woman in the picture with the speaker over her head was part of the Greek resistance during WWII. She didn't speak at the opening, but it was quite apparent the she was revered by many of the people who greeted her.

On our way to the celebration. The sailboat was really beautiful, so I had to snap a shot. It appeared to be all wood, and they were flying the Canadian flag. You can see the umbrellas on the beach up ahead. See how rugged the landscape is? I am constantly in awe.

Yesterday (Sunday) we headed over to Monastery Beach from Naoussa, seen in the background behind our boat capt. Notice the state of the art steering (for you landlubbers, that's "rudder" in boat lingo). Our destination was the official opening of the new Environmental Park that was just completed the day before on the beach that we picked up trash. The celebration was a huge one, with many island dignataries in attendance.

Here is a slide show that Cybele created yesterday. Enjoy!

Bob's mission to find the Church of St. John the Theologian of the Cave was ultimately successful, making the suspension-less car trip up and down dirt paths, almost driving over the side of cliffs due to extremely small spaces to turnaround, wrong turns, etc. in the afternoon heat worth the effort (although Cybele and Aran might disagree; they were pretty uncomfortable with the ride, couped up inside). Bob has a friend who was doing research on this church, and asked that he try to find it and take a picture of the inscription inside the church. Apparently the column with the inscription was found long ago, brought to this site, and the church was built around it. Bob believes the inscription dates back to at least 5 BC (doesn't yet know what is says but is working on it). There is only one known picture published with this inscription, so it was important to try to find it. It is difficult to describe how isolated and rugged this place is, so to find it after searching all day long was really cool. Once we got to the church, there was a family who were caretakers and lived in a house right next to the church. The woman said (in Greek) that her grandfather took care of this church, so it is at least 150 years old. You can see by the pictures that it is indeed built inside the side of the hill, and has the feel of a cave once inside. The black "ceiling" was a result of years of candles being burned.

On Saurday, Bob and Susan rented a car and invited the four of us along for a trip into the hills of Paros. The car itself was not much bigger than a shoebox, but apparently was the largest available, seating 5 uncomfortably. However, there were 6 of us, so Cybele rode in the cargo area behind the back seat. I don't have access to those pics; they're on Cathie's laptop. We'll post those later. The car was not used to 6 passengers, so the suspension was not the best. Added to the rough ride, the tires were not much bigger than riding lawnmower tires! We were on a mission to find the "church in a cave," which was not on any map. Susan had a map that showed some roads to where they thought it might be, but it wasn't much good, so Bob picked various rocky paths to drive up the side of the hills until we found the place. The pics show how rugged the terrain was.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Photo Gallery

In progress--here are some from the first few days (including the first beache cleanup).


Friday, June 19, 2009

Here is a nice description by Cathie. http://www.iupui.edu/~oia/impact/

The article features the cleaning of the walking paths in the hills of Paros (and it is quite hilly!). This past Wednesday and today (Friday), we spent 4 hours each morning picking up trash along the coastlines of two of the beaches on the island. On Wed., we were taxied over to the other side of the Parikia harbor and worked our way back to town. One of the local environmentalists was our guide. I don't have pics uploaded yet with the past two days' work cleaning the beaches of trash, but will do so soon. It has been a wonderful experience. My interest in cultural anthropology has expanded googleplex fold :-).

We're off to a late dinner (it's 10:30 pm), but that's okay. People are chillin', there's a live band on the square, and ouzo awaits.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I decided to post multiple pics so we can get closer to the actual day we are here.

The man and the donkey are standing on a veranda to the entrance of Cathie and my favorite breakfast restaurant (so far). We've been ordering a bowl of fresh fruit, yoghurt, muesli, and honey with filtered coffee, which comes in a small coffee press. The man shows up daily, and one of the restaurant employees comes out and buys fresh tomatoes (which are huge!), fruit, and other veggies he sells. There are stairs that come up from the left and exit to the right, so the place sits up about 4 feet from the "street." Notice the sunken archway in front of the donkey. Stairs directly behind the man lead down to the "alley". The hotel where the students are staying is up that way about 100 yards.

The two pictures of the water and students are part of the morning tour. Notice the one that has Cathie, Bele, and Aran in the shade. Shade is a premium here, since the sun is pretty intense. The air is not humid, and there is usually a lot of wind that keeps it quite comfortable during the day. The evening cools down, and everyone seems to be sleeping just fine without air conditioning. I did buy a fan today though, to keep the air moving in our room.
One of the pics shows a view behind the town looking up into the hills. Paros is quite hilly, and we will be getting up close and personal next week when we begin the cleaning of the Byzantine era walking paths in the hills.
Finally, the pic with Aran shows the front of the hotel where the students and Susan and Bob are staying. I will take some of our place and get those posted here another time. Notice the narrow path. This leads directly to the place where the donkey and man were standing.