Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Greece, July 16, 2016, First Full Day

Today Joanna led us via public transportation to several neighborhoods at the center of Athens. There we enjoyed some free time to shop or visit various cafes. Above us loomed the Acropolis, an old Greek word for the highest habitable point of a city, where the temples and treasures were kept. It was walled and fortified in case of siege. On our walk to the Acropolis we saw the old Roman agora or forum with a structure dedicated to the Winds, which in Greco-Roman times were gods.

Roman building in Athens dedicated with relief sculptures of the Winds
We also watched the ceremony for the changing of the guards in front of Athens' Parliament-building. Athens has been invaded and occupied by a variety of other countries over the centuries, and this ceremony and the soldiers' traditional uniforms are Bavarian. Their kilt-like garment has four hundred folds, we were told, to represent the years of Turkish rule under the Ottomans. The guards' moves and uniforms were similar in some respects to those of a folk-dance we saw later in the day at Greek "Culture Night."

Greek guards in front of the Parliament

Next we were given a handout and sent inside the Acropolis Museum for a self-guided tour. The museum is beautifully designed and includes important original sculptures and artifacts from the Parthenon and elsewhere. The air conditioning also gave us a welcome if temporary respite from Athens' almost-unbearable summer heat and sun. Don and I watched a video about the Parthenon a couple of times and I used nearby models to explain what some of the architectural terms, like triglyphs, metope, and pediment, mean.

After our too-brief visit to the museum, our group made its way to the Acropolis itself. We entered through traditional gates called the Propylaea, which looks much like a Greek temple. Besides the Parthenon, we saw the Odeon, the Theater of Dionysus where Western drama was born, the Erechtheion, and, of course, the famous Parthenon. From the Parthenon we also spotted the remains of the Temple of Zeus. Unfortunately, there are only a few columns left of this once-impressive structure.

Don and I pose in front of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece
After a bus ride back to the hotel for a chance to freshen up, our group made its way to dinner and Greek Culture night, an amazing experience. The food, service, music, and dancing were all fantastic. Don and I were permitted to practice some West Coast Swing to Greek music before the show started, a big hit with the owners of the restaurant.

The point of the night was to grow a deeper respect and appreciation for Greek music and culture. The Greek spirit is expressed with shouts of "Opa!" and even the smashing of plates. We learned some steps of a couple of Greek dances. Don, who's made of tougher stuff than I am, danced more than I did. After the travel, the walking, and the heat of the day, I confess I was dozing over my plate, afraid I'd fall face-first into my food like a toddler. Nevertheless I managed to see and enjoy all the different styles of Greek dance, including the man who danced with a hoop with a shot-glass full of spirits, which he whirled and spun without spilling a drop; the dancers with candle, with fire, belly-dancers, and a wider variety of dances and music than I can describe. The climax of the evening came at around 11 PM with a smashing of plates on the stage and performers dancing around and through the smashed plates. Opa!

No comments:

Post a Comment