We walked to the parliament building and watched the changing of the guard’s ceremony at 11am. I could barely see because of the masses of people pushing to get a decent view, but from what I could see, it all seemed very interesting. Because I come from a small country (the Turks and Caicos), it was cool to see something so intricate and complicated that is performed hourly. This changing of the guards reminded me about my recent trip to Washington D.C. where I witnessed the changing of the guards ceremony there. These two ceremonies were similar because they both represent a powerful idea of government and policy. However, they are even more different because in Washington, I found the ceremony to be much more serious (no photos were allowed to be taken and the crowd had to be absolutely silent). The ceremony in Greece also seemed to be less rehearsed than what I saw in Washington, however, they were both equally interesting. The way that the Greek guards (Evzones) move their feet is almost comical, but interesting to watch. Their uniforms are quite intricate and have evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts, who fought the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
We then walked around Athens some more and went to the monument of Lysicrates. It is said that this monument is the most famous choragic monument. Lysicrates, a wealthy citizen of Athens, built this monument in the 4th century. This monument is well known for being the first monument to use Corinthian order in the exterior of a building. It depicts episodes from the myth of Dionysis, who was a God that was heavily involved in theatre. This monument stands in the middle of Tripodon Street, and in my opinion, it is under appreciated. The last part of our tour in Athens was a visit to some small houses near the Acropolis. Apparently, that area is where the wealthy reside. This reminded me somewhat of Toronto where wealthy people live in tiny houses downtown and pay a huge bill for rent. In this part of Athens though, the people have a way better view than in Toronto! Tomorrow we are visiting Delphi, a historically rich site!!
Delphi was dedicated to Apollo who is the God of music, but most importantly, light and the sun. He brought light in to the lives of citizens by offering advice. There are tons of statues and monuments dedicated to him throughout the entire site, and also lots of myths and legends that are told about him. These stories I find to be quite interesting because, similar to other stories about different gods, they depict a moral or important message that can relate to every day issues in the lives of normal citizens. During our tour of Delphi, I was wondering how people knew that certain gods like Apollo existed. Our tour guide said that the citizens who prayed to the gods had experienced godlike aspects in their lives and so knew that a higher power existed. I think it’s crazy that not only ancient Greeks but some parts of our world wide society today need a sort of supernatural higher power to be able to function and learn lessons in their lives on earth. The Greeks relied on the gods very heavily and it is almost shocking to me how much the western world takes after this as well.
Only men of high power in society were able to visit Delphi and ask the Pythia a question or get advice. They had to follow a certain number of steps in order to get their answer. They had to pour cold water on a goat and depending on the way the goat shivered, they were allowed to continue to the next step. Once they got to the part where they ask their question, they were brought in to an underground room that was divided in two by a curtain. The Pythia had to drink spring water from the spring that ran underneath Delphi, and Christians say that this made her “high” which was why she would mumble an answer. Priests could then decipher the answer. There were many examples of when the men got a straight answer from the Pythia, but the one that stood out the most to me was the story about Socrates: he asked the Pythia who the wisest man in the world was and the Pythia said it was him because he knew nothing and he was aware of it. I think this has a very strong message that we should take in to account today – we should try not to have a know-it-all attitude and be open to learning.
The museum was interesting because it showed the changing of the art and sculpture over time. The statues have a lot of human like aspects even though they represent gods. Most of the statues represent individuality: they are stylized. At first, the statues are stiff and don’t represent human form (i.e., the two brothers above).
In these pictures, you can see there is no flow and they are not standing very naturally. However, as time progressed, the statues got more natural and had more flow, but in some cases, their proportions were off (for example, their heads were smaller than their bodies).
The Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis was amazing. It was an uphill hike to get there but it was totally worth it. The Parthenon (dedicated to Athena) the Erectheion, the Propylaia and the Temple of Athena Nike are at the top. The columns are cylindrical drums of marble that are laid on top of each other perfectly. (Or in some cases, not so much any more). No one was allowed inside these buildings except priests or priestesses of Athena.
The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic stadium: It was amazing to stand where the first Olympics took place (in 1896) and see the brilliant architecture and planning. This stadium is a multi-purpose stadium that is used for several different events in Athens. In ancient times, this stadium hosted the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games in honor of Goddess Athena. It has since been reconstructed from the ancient Greek remains, and is the only stadium in the world built entirely with marble.
Palace of Knossos
We visited the Palace of Knossos after we flew to Crete the day before. It was a 2 hour bus ride from our hotel, but I’d say it was worth it. The Palace of Knossos covers 20,000 square feet and was named after the mythical king Minos. However, some people believe that he had another name and Minos was his title (for example, the term Minos was similar to a Pharaoh in Egypt). The Palace of Knossos has gone through many different periods of ruling including the Minoan civilization. The Minoans came to Crete and were very skilled sailors. They cultivated and exploited the environment they found in every way possible. During their rule and the rule of other different cultures, the Palace was destroyed several times by earthquakes, fires and even water. There is still evidence of this today, and below you can see the marble walls of the Palace darkened by the flames of a fire.
After being in Athens and Crete, I was able to spend a day in Santorini – one of the most picturesque places I think I have ever been to!