Crete

After an overnight ferry from mainland Greece to the island of Crete, we docked bright and early on Sunday morning in Heraklion. Our first stop (after breakfast at the hotel) was the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion. We saw lots of findings from digs on Crete (including from the palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, both sites that we would visit) and learned about the Minoan civilization that we would be encountering over our next two days in Crete. Highlights included the Phaistos Disc and the Snake Goddesses:

After some time off to check into our rooms and grab some lunch, we boarded our bus (as always, with our fearless guides Mitch and Ilias, as well as our amazing driver, Pavlos) and headed to the Palace at Knossos, which is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. Knossos, which was primarily excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in the early twentieth century, has been partially reconstructed. Some of us were fans of this technique, and others less so. Regardless, it was still amazing to see such an expansive palace complex, and to get a glimpse into what a Minoan city center (might have) looked like. We saw the Lustral Basin, the place where the Snake Goddesses were found, many magazines and pithoi, and some interesting reconstructions of murals.

The next day we headed to Phaistos, another Bronze Age settlement and center of Minoan civilization, as well as the smaller sites of Gortyna and Agia Triada. At Gortyna we stopped to read some Ovid in front of the plane tree where the myth that Ovid describes supposedly took place.

Our group at Gortyna in front of a 1,000 year old olive tree!

At Phaistos we were able to see the place where the Phaistos Disc was recovered and had some spectacular views of the Cretan countryside and mountains. We stopped to talk about the differences between our experiences at different Minoan palace complexes as well as the palace that we visited at Mycenae.

The next day we were able to explore two more seaside towns in Crete, Rethymno and Chania, before departing on our ferry back to Athens for the last leg of our trip! Today in Athens we saw many relics from Mycenae, and lots of other sculpture and pottery. Tomorrow we will head to the Athenian Agora and Cape Sounion to visit the Temple of Poseidon before heading to bed early in preparation for our day of travel on Friday.

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Delphi & Crete

Yesterday, we visited the ancient site of Delphi, where we learned about the Pythia (the oracle who gave prophecies to a select few). We first ‘washed ourselves’ by sprinkling some water on our heads in the Castalian Spring where the Pythia would have first bathed. Then, we went up through the site, moving through the various offerings from many Greek states such as the Treasury of Athens (pictured below). Finally, we reached the temple of Apollo where we did some readings and learned about the gases that may have existed in the temple long ago. After the site, we got a chance to explore the museum.

Before braving the long journey back to Athens, we were given some time to wander about the town of Arachova, a ski town near Delphi. There, we got magnificent views of snow-topped mountains and some delicious snacks.

We had a two-hour drive to Athens to catch our over-night ferry to Crete. We arrived in Crete early this morning and had a long breakfast before heading out to the museum. There, we saw an array of ancient artifacts found mostly at the surrounding Minoan palaces. We saw frescoes, pots, metalworks, jewels and more. This afternoon, we went to one of the palaces, Knossos, where we learned about Sir Arthur Evans’ unique excavation of the site as he recreated many pieces of art and architecture. We saw the interesting style of the Minoan culture through one of their grandest palaces.

We had some free time this afternoon to explore Heraklion. Some students went down to the port while others went into town. We’ve just finished a long, delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant!

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Mycenae & Epidaurus

This morning we left Nafplio and headed to Mycenae, a stronghold of the Perseid and Atreid dynasties in the Late Helladic Period. For those of us who have read or are reading the Aeneid, the Iliad, or the Odyssey in Greek, Latin, or English, this visit was pretty exciting, as Mycenae is an important setting in the epic cycle.

We were, naturally, treated to a dramatic reading near the ruins of the Megaron (the great hall of the Mycenean palace), this time courtesy of Ms. Martin-Nelson, who played Clytemnestra brilliantly.

After looking through the museum, we took a quick stop at the Tomb of Agamemnon (Treasury of Atreus), a huge tholos tomb right outside of Mycenae. After that, we were on our way to Epidaurus! There we visited the theatre and sites relevant to the cult of Asclepius, which was established at Epidaurus (apparently Asclepius’ birthplace).

 

The acoustics at the theatre were amazing! We could hear the performers clearly all the way to the top row!

Now we are off to dinner in Olympia! For more up-to-date pictures from Julien A. ’19, please be sure to follow us on Instagram (@grotongeos).

-Mrs. Bannard

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Athens, Eleusis, Corinth, & Nafplio

After two smooth flights, we landed in Athens on Monday afternoon and, with the help of our guides Mitch and Ilias, made our way to the Hotel Attalos in Athens. After a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep, we set out for the Acropolis.

On Tuesday, we saw the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus, and a later Roman theatre. We read some passages in Greek and Latin that related to the sites we saw, and were treated to a dramatic reading by one of our students in front of the Erechtheion (the first of many dramatic readings on the trip, we would soon find out). After exploring around the Acropolis, we grabbed some lunch before heading to the Acropolis Museum.

On Tuesday morning, we left the Hotel Attalos for Nafplio, a seaside town southwest of Athens. On our way to Nafplio, we stopped at Eleusis and Corinth. In Eleusis, we were able to see the site where the Eleusinian Mysteries would have happened, and stop by the fountain where Demeter mourned the loss of her daughter Persephone, after Persephone was taken down to the Underworld by Hades.

Before we left Eleusis, we stopped by the Archaeological Museum, which was small, but packed full of interesting monuments and relics.

After a quick lunch we drove to Corinth, where we climbed the hill of Acrocorinth, saw the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the Pirene Fountain, and stood by the place where St. Paul preached to the Corinthians. It was an amazing afternoon, and we all agreed that the hike to the top of Acrocorinth was pretty spectacular.

After visiting Corinth, we drove to Nafplio, where we’ve settled in for the night after dinner (and gelato). Tomorrow morning we head to Mycenae!

-Mrs. Bannard

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