Categories
Italy Uncategorized

Time to spare in Bologna, Italy is a good thing

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The Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita is the copper dome in the foreground. This photo was taken by the photographer from the imposing Basilica di San Petronio a few blocks away. | Ввласенко [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Missing a Renaissance masterpiece isn’t

One Saturday last June my daughter and I wandered into the Church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy.  We were killing time as we waited to meet friends (my daughter’s Italian language tutor, actually) for lunch and a quick tour of the public library before heading back to Venice.

That morning, after arriving by train from Venice, we had savored cappuccini and croissants  and then toured the main attraction in Bologna, the Basilica de San Petronio. We spent about an hour there marvelling at the centuries-old church with the unusual brick and stone facade. Plan to read a future post on that experience soon, but here’s a taste.

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Basilica de San Petronio | Photo: M. Yung

We had also explored the Piazza Maggiore with its beautiful Fountain of Neptune and saw the city “square” rigged and ready with row upon row of temporary seating for hundreds plus a huge movie screen. Among other movies, Gone with the Wind was on the menu at some time during the summer season. How fun would that be?!

In our hour or two of free time, we also strolled down beautiful loggia-lined avenues. Eventually, we happened upon a church, the Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita.

It’s the copper-domed church in the large photo at the top of this post. While it’s quite a standout in a Bologna skyline photo, at street level it’s easy to miss. Tall buildings and narrow streets together conceal your vision of things in the upper reaches.

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Bologna, Italy | Photo: M. Yung

It was a warm and achingly brilliant sunny day. Taking a short break in a quiet place of worship enticed us to escape the Italian noonday rays.

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Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita | The architect Giovanni Battista Bergonzoni designed the church. It was built between 1687-1690.

Inside, sounds of the street faded to a cavernous quiet. The majesty and somber tone of the interior both cooled and stunned me.

The soothing soft green interior wall colors caught our attentions first. The ornate Baroque stylings caught our attentions second. The dome, completed in 1787 and designed by architect  Giuseppe Tubertini, was beautiful as well.

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But if only I had Googled to see what more this structure had to reveal.

Because here’s what we didn’t see: Lamentation Over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca (1435-1494). Italy Magazine describes the work as “A life-size group of six separate terracotta  figures lamenting in a semicircle around the dead Christ.”

I stumbled upon this sculpture as I was researching the church and I still can’t believe that I was in this very building and missed this very powerful example of Renaissance art.

I can’t get over the expressions on the faces.

Terror. Despair. Uncontrollable grief. 

Truth be told, I often feel detached from historical art. The expressions are often glum and sullen, especially in depictions of Jesus Christ and the suffering he endured on the cross. That goes, too, for the the emotional suffering of those nearby who loved him. Sometimes it’s just hard to identify.

With Arca’s work, however, the emotions of the figures are real and painfully so. I understand that kind of hurt and sorrow and panic. We see humans in painful grief daily on the news and in our modern media. To think that an Italian Renaissance artist was able to capture it accurately — in terra cotta — six hundred years ago — baffles my small mind.

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Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, by Joyofmuseums [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Words are not needed in the picture below. The emotion is palpable and horrible.

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And on that note, I’ll close this post with this final thought: When travelling, it’s a good thing to have time to spare. However, once you arrive home, it’s heart-breaking to discover something wonderful that you missed.

Lesson learned: Next time, slow down, google it, and learn what more there is right in front of you.


Thanks for reading! Follow my blog for more posts about the details in travel far and wide.

Categories
Greece (Crete) Uncategorized

Phaistos, Crete: The most famous Greek ruins you’ve probably never heard of

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A peek into the past in the hills of southern Crete

Phaistos. Phaestos. Festos. Faistos. And then in Greek, it’s spelled Φαιστός.  No matter how you spell it, each name refers to Phaistos Minoan Palace, the second most important site (after Knossos Palace in Heraklion) of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.

We visited Phaistos last summer in late June. After touring the archaeological sites at Athens, Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Knossos, we made a final stop at Phaistos. After a confusing morning journey by public bus from Heraklion, we made it to Phaistos in plenty of time to take a leisurely self-guided tour, eat a small lunch beneath a pine tree, and have a cold drink and ice cream in the small, on-site gift shop before hopping on a bus back to Heraklion. Here’s my post about how to get from Heraklion to Phaistos, click here.

If Minoans are new to you, here are a few facts about the culture from my husband:

  • The Minoans, named for their ruler, the mythical King Minos, are known for their advanced civilization that settled the island of Crete and other surrounding islands.
  • The Minoans were great sea travelers.
  • They built enormously sophisticated palaces for their royalty. The palaces were very “high tech” for the time period and exhibited a distinctive and advanced architectural style.
  • Phaistos was the region that produced Kamares ware, a pottery style dating from the 1800-1700 BC. Kamares ware, named for the nearby cave where it was found, is known for its dark background and white brushwork. Kamares wares were considered luxurious to own and were exported throughout the Mediterranean to Cyprus, Egypt and Palestine.
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Kamares ware, including these vessels, were found at the Minoan palaces at Knossos and Phaistos. | Photo: M. Yung

A self-guided tour of Phaistos is relaxing and quiet. Unlike Knossos, there are no guides-for-hire who approach you as you enter offering to walk you through the site for a fee.

While these guides are likely very helpful for many tourists, we doubted that they were truly needed, considering the large number of detailed placards placed throughout the site. Granted, that assumes one doesn’t mind reading.

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This photo is taken from the opposite side of the palace grounds.   Jerzy Strzelecki [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
When you do stop to read the signs, you can learn a lot. Here are some basic facts taken from a placard found at the entry to the main site:

  • The hill of Phaistos was inhabited as early as 4500-3200 BC in the Final Neolithic Age.
  • The first palace of Phaistos was active from 1900-1700 BC. The palace controlled the plains and valleys found below the palace hilltop.
  • The city of Phaistos — and Minoan culture in general — flourished until  323-367 BC.
  • The Phaistos Palace grounds included a central court, surrounding wings, multi-story buildings (similar to Knossos), gateways and open balconies.
  • More facts follow the next few photos.
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Phaistos is found on a hilltop in southern Crete. The valleys on all sides of the hilltop are blanketed with olive trees, grape vineyards, cypress trees, and farms. There are several caves in the surrounding hills also. Many items, including pottery, have been found in these caves. | Photo: M. Yung
  • The first Phaistos Palace was built around 1900 BC.
  • It covered 8,000 square kilometers over three terraces.
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Tickets to the Phaistos site are 8€ each. Getting there is inexpensive, too, via public bus.
  • The original palace was inhabited for 250 years and destroyed and rebuilt three times.
  • It was destroyed the last time by an earthquake around 1700 BC.

It’s amazing that visitors are allowed to walk on stones laid nearly 3,700 years ago!

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Little at Phaistos seems to have changed since the 1919 photo above. It’s still isolated, quiet, and remote. | Photo: M. Yung
  • After the earthquake, the ruins were covered and a new palace was constructed on that.
  • This last palatial site was smaller, but according to the placard, “more monumental.”
  • This last Phaistos Palace was destroyed in 1450 BC, but not rebuilt.
  • Two more facts follow below.
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It’s amazing how little has changed over the years. This photo from 1919 shows the steps leading to the West Court. The theatral area and diagonal wall appear in the lower half of the picture. | Frederic Boissonnas [Public domain]
  • The city of Phaistos continued to be inhabited and thrived in Hellenistic times from 323-367 BC.
  • In 150 BC, Phaistos was finally destroyed by Gortys. When Rome conquered Crete in 67 BC, Gortys became the capital, replacing Knossos.

But back to our tour…

The main reason we wanted to visit Phaistos: the pithoi.

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Two pithoi appear below a reconstructed walkway. | Photo: M. Yung

These pithoi (the singular word is pithois) are well-known in art history circles and Phaistos is considered the premier site for this particular kind of storage vessel. In fact, my husband hoped the site would have more available to see, as he had seen photos of many more pithoi on display here.

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A room with storage jars known as pithoi. | Photo: M. Yung

Still, it was fun to wander the grounds and find a pithois tucked away here and there. There were more to see in an area of the grounds covered with metal shelters; however, these shelters were in large areas closed off to visitors.

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Mitch walked as far as he could into the Magazine of the Giant Pithoi, a room that contained  several large pithoi jars. | Photo: M. Yung

In fact, this was our main disappointment with Phaistos:

a good portion of the site was closed.

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The shrines of the West Wing were predominantly small rectangular rooms that contained benches. According to the placard, inside these rooms excavators found ritual vessels, figurines of deities and other cult objects. | Photo: M. Yung

There was definitely a feeling that Phaistos is overlooked and forgotten.

  • a few signs were missing
  • some barriers were broken
  • a wooden observation deck had missing boards

Generally, Phaistos seemed neglected. And this isn’t really surprising, considering Greece’s other economic priorities.

True, due to its location, Phaistos sees fewer visitors than other more popular Greek archaeological sites. In fact, Phaistos doesn’t even make this Top 20 list of Greek ruins.

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Photo: M. Yung

Still, Phaistos is a valuable peek into the past, and among art historians, it’s well-known and revered.

The Phaistos Minoan Palace reminds us that we shouldn’t underestimate the abilities and ingenuity of ancient cultures. For example, precisely placed stairs and drainage pipes made of solid stone show us the resourcefulness of the Minoans.

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Drainage pipes were used at Phaistos. | M. Yung

 

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This is the Queen’s Megaron (throne room) found at Phaistos. It is covered by a metal shelter on this side…
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…and this side, too. | Photo: M. Yung
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The Phaistos Disk is on display at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The disk represents one of the greatest mysteries of archaeology. No one knows the meaning of the symbols incised into the clay. It was made between 2000-1000 BC. It measures about six inches in diameter. | Photo: M. Yung
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Photo: M. Yung

It was a beautiful sunny day when we visited Phaistos. In fact, by early afternoon, we were ready to hop on an air-conditioned bus and make the trip back to Heraklion.

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This photo shows the theatral area on the left and stairway to the West Court on the right. | Photo: M. Yung
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Here I am walking near the theatral area in the West Court. The wall to my left can be seen on the left side of the preceding photo.
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Kouloures, large stone-built structures, show time-consuming craftsmanship. | Photo: M. Yung
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Relics from the past are scattered across the grounds. | Photo: M. Yung
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This photos shows the surrounding hillsides. I’ve circled in red additional outlying structures that were subordinate to the palatial hilltop above.  We ate our lunch (that we had packed and brought with us) on benches beneath a pine tree right above this scene. | Photo: M. Yung

Mysteriously, no one knows for sure the reasons for the collapse of Minoan culture, including the civilization at Phaistos.

Perhaps that’s a fitting conclusion for this archaeological site that today is still out-of-the-way, obscure, and famous.


Thanks for reading! This post is another installment from our cross-country Greek odyssey last summer. It’s amazing how many more sights I have yet to write about. Follow my blog for more travel posts, including this one from our final day in Greece when we visited the site of Paul’s To an Unknown God sermon.

Categories
Greece (Peloponnese) Uncategorized

Visit Mycenae: Feel the quiet power of the Lion Gate

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No, this isn’t our photo, but we did take the next one below. The photo above, however, shows more of the famous Lion Gate at Mycenae. Credit: Andreas Trepte [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D

What you can expect to see at Mycenae

Ask an art historian about Mycenae and they will likely mention the Lion Gate, the monumental sculptures carved at the entrance to the citadel at the Mycenaean acropolis.  While the Mycenaean civilization they guarded through the millennia was buried and ravaged by time and destruction, the lions remained quietly standing, sentinels that protected the inhabitants within.

Today, Mycenae is still a protected site. Mycenae and the nearby Tyrins were inscribed upon the UNESCO World Heritage Liston December 4, 1999.

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According to a placard at the entrance to the site, “Inscription on this list confirms the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural property which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity. The two most important centers of the Mycenaean culture dominated the Eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to the 12th centuries B.C. and played a vital role in the development of the culture of Classical Greece.  The two citadels are indissolubly linked with the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, that affected European art and literature for more than three millennia.”

 

This isn’t the first post I’ve written about Mycenae. My first post was written on the road during  the middle of our cross-country six-week Greek odyssey last summer. That post was much more concise; it included a handful of photos, but nowhere near the number of photos in this post.

Enjoy these photos and if you have a visit to Mycenae in your future or if you’ve been there already, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Tickets are 12€ each and include entrance to the archaeological site, the museum and the Treasury of Atreus.

After purchasing your ticket, you’ll walk on grounds that surround the hillside below the citadel on the acropolis, the uppermost part of the site. Beehive tombs and other city structures can be seen around you.

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The latest “funerary monument” beehive tomb is on the hillside below the acropolis. It was discovered by chance by villagers during the time of Ottoman rule.
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The same tomb… just a little closer.
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And closer still. Here, I’m standing in the doorway where apparently some scaffolding is used to bolster the heavy stones. My husband, Mitch, is standing along the far wall, to show the size of the tomb.
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And… looking up at the ceiling of the beehive tomb.
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Outside the tomb, you can see theater seating (circled above in red) put in place by Greeks in Hellenistic times.

And another tomb…

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Another beehive tomb we encountered on our way up to the acropolis.
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I took this shot inside the tomb. The stonework is unbelievable.
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Get a load of those lintels above!
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Here’s a shot looking straight up at the underside of those mammoth lintel stones.

 

 

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There’s more than one acropolis in Greece. This is the acropolis –the highest place — at Mycenae. It is also referred to as the citadel and was the home of the palace, House of Columns, grave circles, and other structures. If you tap the photo and zoom in you can see tiny figures walking along the very uppermost edge. The walking tour takes you from the edge of this parking lot up to the various sights on the acropolis and the surrounding hillsides.
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This is Grave Circle A, part of “an extensive cemetery” at Mycenae, according to a placard at the spot. “It was used exclusively for royal burials during the 1500s BC. The shafts, which you can walk down (see below), were near graves that held the bodies of royal family members and grave goods. Those goods can be found at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Here’s my post on that museum.
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This circular enclosure was an updated feature added to enhance the royal burial ground. When was the updating done? 1250 BC.
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A view from the citadel at the acropolis. The hillside is filled with myriad structures, foundations, and remains.  According to a nearby placard, most of the ruins visible today date to the 13th century B.C., but there is evidence that use of the site began in the Early Helladic period (3000-2000 BC.) 
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This is another photo from the citadel. Some of the structures on the acropolis include a large court complete with porticoes and antechamber, and the megaron, a political hub with administrative and military functions.
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We marveled at the size of this lintel piece on the citadel. 

There’s much more on the acropolis at Mycenae. Click here to see my other post about Mycenae that includes more photos from the top, including the House of Columns.

But for now, on to the museum…

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The sign at the entrance  to the museum reads in Greek “Archaeological Museum Mykines,” which English speakers say Mycenae.
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The cup looks very contemporary; however, it was made from 1350-1300 BC. The deep bowl in the back was made 1250-1150 BC.
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This ivory Mycenaean sculpture was made between 1250-1180 BC. It stands between only 3-4″ h. Read this post for more information about this little number.
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These “anthropomorphic figure” sculptures captivated me. I still am surprised at how contemporary the expressions and poses appear. These were made about 3,200 years ago… 1250-1180 BC! Simply stunning. 
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This anthropomorphic figure appears at the far right in the photo above.
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The spiral motif is timeless. This stairstep was decorated with a repeating pattern. 1450-1350 BC.
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A variety of personal items were excavated from the sites at Mycenae. These combs are dated 1300-1180 BC. The colorful faience and glass necklace at left? 1400-1040 BC.
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This large storage jar is overwhelming in its size. 

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This photo, found on Creative Commons, shows the back side of the museum. When you visit the museum, you enter on the opposite side and and unable to see the various levels of the museum that descend down the mountain slope. Photo Credit: George E. Koronaios [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
After touring the museum, we decided to leave the main site and walk back down the highway to bring our Mycenaean odyssey to a close. The sun was out in full force and we felt the pull of a mid-afternoon nap in our comfortable AirBnB. Here’s a post about our wonderful hosts.

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By the time we left, the crowds were increasing. Even so, the park wasn’t especially crowded. No lines. No waiting. No hassle.

But before that, we knew we wanted to check out the Treasury of Atreus, also known as the  Tomb of Agamemnon. One arrives at it when you head back down the highway toward the town of Mycenae. We had noticed it on our way up earlier that morning.

The Treasury of Atreus isn’t an afterthought… it’s a must-see.

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Just outside the main site, your ticket will allow you into the Treasury of Atreus. Here, you’ll find a guard station, a park bench or two under some pine trees, and, if I remember correctly, a vending machine. There are no facilities. 

But why is it called a treasury?

It’s called a treasury — and not a tomb — because treasures were placed inside to commemorate the ruler buried within.

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This is the Treasury of Atreus, also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon. It’s a large “tholos,” or beehive tomb on Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae. It was built in 1250 BC.

Just so you know…

The Treasury of Atreus has no real connection to Agamemnon. The Mycenae archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann named it thus and the popular name persisted. According to this article, the royal buried here would have ruled at an earlier date than Agamemnon.

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I took this picture looking back from the entrance to the Treasury of Atreus.
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That lintel above the entrance to the tomb weighs 120 tons!
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This is a more accurate picture of the inside of the Treasury of Atreus. It’s dark inside… and nice and cool, too.
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We walked along an asphalt highway up to the Mycenae Archaeological Site. It was a sunny and breezy day. 

I hope you enjoyed this photo essay about Mycenae. It’s a lonely yet so important archaeological site.

Greece, including the Peloponnese region (that part of Greece connected to the mainland by the land bridge at Corinth), offers a plethora of ancient sites. It’s truly difficult to visit them all. In fact, we already are making a list for sites to see when we return someday.

But in the meantime, if Greece is in your future, make time for Mycenae.


Thanks for reading! Make sure to leave a comment or share a thought about this post or to share news about your own visit to Greece. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. 

 

Categories
US (Kansas) US Travel

Timing is everything: Fort Scott National Historic Site

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The dark buildings straight down this path include retail shops, restaurants, and a senior services center. During the fort’s early years as a frontier outpost, the view down this path would have included only empty open prairie.

Photos and fun facts from Fort Scott National Historic Site

Over the Christmas holidays, my daughter and I visited my hometown, Fort Scott, Kansas (pop. 8,000) in the southeast corner of the state. While there, we decided to visit what locals call “the fort” —  Fort Scott National Historic Site.

During my growing up years, I toured the fort numerous times, and my daughter had taken the tour when she was little. Even so, we were both up for a refresher tour of the fort that, in 1853, was closed by the time it was truly needed about ten years later.

According to American Heritage, “…the fort was a very peaceful place in its first years, sending escorts on occasional excursions West and troops to the Mexican War but seeing no action whatever nearby. In 1853 so little was happening that the fort was abandoned, its buildings sold. More bad luck: This happened just in time for Bleeding Kansas, the civil war that preceded the Civil War, when a fort here was truly needed.”

Yes, timing is everything.

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The hospital building at right contains the visitors’ entrance and gift shop on the lower floor. The upper floor contains medical exhibits, including a sick ward, and a multi-media theater.

We visited the fort on Thursday, January 2, and it was obviously a slow day for tours. We arrived at the entrance at 1 p.m. Park Ranger Laura Abbott was gearing up to conduct a tour that would begin in about five minutes, so we decided to wait a few minutes and then take a tour that she told us would last about one hour.

Since no one else was waiting in the visitors’ center, we enjoyed a private tour with Abbott. It was nice to be able to take our time and experience a more personalized tour than we would have experienced in the busy season. Plus, I was able to ask lots of questions and re-learn lots of forgotten facts, such as…

  • Fort Scott was established in 1842 and was one of a line of nine forts from Minnesota to Louisiana that promised a “permanent Indian frontier.”
  • Fort Scott was named for U.S. Army Gen. Winfield Scott.
  • Infantry and dragoons from Fort Scott left the fort to fight in the Mexican-American War from 1846-48.
  • The fort was abandoned in 1853 as the idea of Manifest Destiny took hold, causing the promise of a “permanent Indian frontier” to die.
  • Fort Scott served as a major supply depot for the Union armies and a hospital 
  • Fort Scott also served as a refuge for people fleeing the war, such as displaced Indians, escaped slaves and white farmers.
  • Kansas entered the Union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861.
  • The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry was sworn in at Fort Scott. “This was one of the first African American regiments to engage Confederates in combat,” according to the National Park Service’s Fort Scott brochure.
  • The fort became a national historic site in 1978 after decades of random use and misuse, and the kind of neglect that just happens with old, always-been-there structures. 

These photos follow the route we took through the seventeen-acre historic site. The last building we toured was the Western Hotel, located just north of the large, square hospital, contains new interactive displays with video interviews with historical characters. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see two of those videos.

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This gift shop and book store is located inside the Visitors Center, which is located on the first floor of the hospital building. The hospital is shown in the top photo. Free tours start here.
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When we began our tour, the skies were bright with clouds and sun. Officers’ Quarters No. 1 and No. 2 are shown in the distance. Dragoon Stables are on the left. The Gunpowder Magazine stands at center left.

 

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After its initial closure in 1853, the fort’s Infantry Barracks became the pro-slavery Western Hotel in 1855. The building in the distance on the right was the anti-slavery Fort Scott “Free State” Hotel. The fort would become caught up in the controversy over whether Kansas would become a free or slave state during the Bleeding Kansas years before the war. 

Let’s start the photo tour…

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The Guardhouse, located right next to the Visitor Entrance, was where soldiers were stationed to receive arriving visitors, who could even sleep overnight on wooden shelving. The stone house was also used to discipline criminals in cells such as this one. 
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Ranger Laura Abbott shows us the Dragoon Stables…

Did you know that the colors of horses were used to identify army regiments?

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…and the Dragoon Barracks’ mess hall…
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…with its kitchen…
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…and the sleeping dorms upstairs. Enlisted men slept in the bunks, while non-commissioned officers slept in the narrow gray cot along the wall near the fireplace.
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Four enlisted soldiers shared each bunk bed. Yes, two men slept on each mattress. The beds were labelled with their names, which I’ve circled on the photo above. 

Did you know four men shared one bunk bed in the sleeping dorm?

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The laundresses worked and stayed in this room down from the mess hall. These quarters contained a bed on the opposite wall (not shown). 
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Park Ranger Laura Abbott leads the way to Officers Row.
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Inside the residence of Captain Thomas Sword, family and guests were entertained in these second floor rooms. The building contained three floors.
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The parlor at Captain Sword’s residence on Officers Row.
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On the third floor, the Sword’s clothing is laid out.
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The Sword Family enjoyed a large front porch view of the entire fort grounds.
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The Quartermaster’s Storehouse contains food and other basic supplies on three levels, including a totally dry stone basement.
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The Quartermaster Storehouse kept basic food supplies.
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The marks of a diligent craftsmen’s hewing marks still show themselves today in the storehouse.
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Audio narrations are available when you dial the number shown on cards at many points across the grounds. 
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Inside the Bake House, large ovens provided bread on a daily basis.

Did you know the army didn’t issue bread recipes until the late 1800s and that men were not allowed to eat fresh bread? Stale bread was thought to be better for digestion, according to a placard in the Bake House.

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Wooden spatulas needed to be long enough to extend through the entire ovens to pull out the bread.
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A tallgrass prairie trail shows what the area surrounding the fort would have looked like.
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Near the tallgrass prairie trail, you’ll see several tidy stone structures used to house carriages and other vehicles.

 

 

 

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Howitzer and artillery cannons stand quietly in the Post Headquarters.

Did you know that a howitzer was carried in three pieces by donkeys? It could be reassembled and fired within one minute, according to a placard inside the Post Headquarters.

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Artillery notes and inventories decorate the wall in the Post Headquarters.
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The backdoor and transom windows of the Post Headquarters make a nice picture, I think.
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The backside of Officers Row looks nearly identical to the front side.
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A perimeter walking trail borders the northern edge of the grounds. The banks of the Marmaton River are just a short distance further north of this trail. The river formed a protective boundary for the fort, eliminating the need for walls on Fort Scott, Abbott said.
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This structure is not identified on the park’s brochure and I didn’t ask the ranger, but if memory serves me right, it is a replica of the original well house.
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The ammunition magazine, a round brick building isolated in the middle of the fort, stored gunpowder. Notice the lightning rod (circled in red) placed precisely to keep lightning away from the explosives inside the structure…
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…like these.
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The upper floor of the hospital building, shown here, houses a sick ward and medical equipment and supplies. 

Did you know that many soldiers left the hospital in worse shape than when they entered, due to ignorance about sterilization?

According to a placard in the Fort Hospital, “In threading the needle for stitches, it was customary to point the silk by wetting it with saliva and rolling it between the fingers.”

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Abbott invited us to visit in early December to attend an annual candlelight Christmas tour of the fort.

Inside the Infantry Barracks, new displays and exhibits bring tourists back to the past when these areas composed Bleeding Kansas, a region torn between Union and Confederate causes and beliefs.

Interviews with a variety of area residents speak directly to you in these video displays inside the Infantry Barracks. Here are two previews of the video exhibits.

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New displays and interactive exhibits keep visitors involved and learning.
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Believe it or not, these bricks cause controversy in my hometown. Many people don’t like to drive on the rough, loud, and bumpy brick-paved streets.
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Fort Scott National Historic Sites owes its existence to Congressman Joe Skubitz, who served the local constituency from 1963-1969, and saw to it that this area be turned back into a historical tour destination.
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Park Ranger Laura Abbott wraps up our tour near the Bake House. Before moving to Fort Scott, she worked as a Park Ranger on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

 

Stop in at Fort Scott National Historic Site the next time you’re in southeast Kansas. Thousands of people cruise right by Fort Scott on U.S. Highway 69, which bypasses the town, as they make their way north to Kansas City (about an hour and a half away) or to points south. Plan out your itinerary to take a tour or just walk across the grounds; it would make a nice break on your journey. After all, timing is everything.


Thanks for reading! Touring the fort took about an hour and a half and was a great way to spend part of an afternoon. Also, it reminded me how fortunate Fort Scott, Kansas is to have this important historic site preserved and honored here. 

Don’t forget to tour the destinations near your home. Here’s a recent post about another local getaway.

 

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Your Acropolis Ticket is A Ticket to History

Athens’ Acropolis attracts a global audience hungry for history

When you visit The Acropolis during the summer months, expect crowds. In fact, The Acropolis hosts more than 2.5 million visitors from January through October. However, despite those crowds, expect to enjoy quiet moments for gazing at and studying the historic wonders that exist there.

Yes, you will observe the construction work site that is the Acropolis,…

That’s me striding off to the right. Notice the crane and scaffolding around the Parthenon. This is a giant construction zone.

…but you will also observe a global audience entranced by ancient history. Whether they arrive alone, with a spouse or friend, their family, or an entire tour group, nearly everyone here is a history fan. Yes, perhaps the itinerary stop is one they can’t opt out of; however, once on the hallowed site, I would dare to say their reticence evaporates.

Even if you don’t know much about Greek history and ancient architecture, there are many detailed signs at The Acropolis with illustrations and diagrams to inform you about what you’re seeing.

For your €20 ticket, you can walk the grounds considered holy by the ancient Athenians.

My husband and I were enthralled with the Erechtheion and it’s caryatids, the columns in the forms of female figures.

When my husband and I visited The Acropolis in late May, it was crowded, but I supposed it could have been busier. We approached The Acropolis from the Plaka neighborhood to the south, taking some back streets that slowly ascended as we neared the hilltop.

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The Plaka

Small restaurants, tavernas, and boutiques lined the terraced, tree-covered lanes and stone and marble-paved thoroughfares of the Plaka neighborhood.

 

Once we reached the Acropolis entrance gates, we blended into the line that was forming and seemed to be made up mostly of tour groups. The tour group line eventually veered from our path, since their ticketing arrangements had already been prepared. We, however, remained in the line and inched our way toward the ticket booth.

I looked around at the international variety of people. A party of four ahead of us in line consisted of a husband and wife, their small child, plus one other man.

The husband asked whether a student discount was available off the 20 Euro ticket price. The ticket clerk indicated that yes, he would receive a discount if he provided a college identification card.

“Mine is from a college in England and my friend goes to school in Chile,” the husband said.

“That’s fine,” the clerk replied in his Greek-inflected English. The two men showed their student cards, received tickets for the entire group and sped along.

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 The sounds of clinking tableware on china and the low rumble of conversation fill the streets of The Plaka on a warm June evening in Athens.

We quickly purchased our two adult tickets and entered the gate.

Those who entered with us included families, empty-nesters, retirees, young solo travelers, teenagers. The mix of languages babbled across the grounds: Greek, German, English, French, Chinese, Italian, and others I couldn’t identify.

In the roaming clusters of people navigating their steps over the marble walkways and ledges, I spotted a young man wearing a Texas Christian University t-shirt, a woman in a billowy sundress covered in a pattern of crimson roses and greenery.

I noticed a child in a black tank with a metallic gold Nike logo. I smiled at the irony: here we were, at the palace where Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, once held Nike in her hand.

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Over the course of the day, thousands of sight-seers inched up the ancient ramp of The Propylaea, the renowned entry to the very top of The Acropolis and its Parthenon, Erectheion and the Temple Athena Nike.

Once they reached the top, it was gratifying to see that all those travelers were not expecting to see a performance, ride a roller coaster or experience any other type of attraction. Those travelers had journeyed from across the globe to simply experience history.


Thanks for reading! It’s nice to know people appreciate history enough to take the time to see this incredible site. Follow my blog for more travel stories from Greece, including Skopelos and Crete, as well as Italy, including Venice and other locales.

Categories
Art Greece (Athens, Delphi)

The Zeus of Greek museums: Our visit to The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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Bronze sculpture of Zeus (or Poseidon) in the Severe style, 460 BC.

From golden goblets to frying pans to perfume

On our next to last day in Greece last summer, we capped off our Greek museum tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was the last museum we would see, having already visited other museums in Athens (The Acropolis Museum), Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Heraklion. You would think that we would have been “museumed out,” but actually each museum is so unique to its location that each one feels quite different from the others.

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So what sets the National Archaeological Museum in Athens apart from the others? In a word, I would say “breadth.” In fact, you will find the widest gamut of Greek artifacts and art. This museum has pieces from all those other areas we had visited across the country, in addition to hundreds (possibly thousands) more.

By the way, here’s a list with links to posts I’ve written about the other museums we visited in Greece:

For example, when we visited the Museum of Mycenae, the golden Mask of Agamemnon that was discovered in a grave circle there, was not held in that museum.

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The original Mask of Agamemnon is in Athens; a replica is in Mycenae. Photo: Wikipedia

The mask on exhibit in Mycenae is a replica,  a guard told me. The original could be found in the National Museum in Athens, he added. Upon hearing this, we made a mental note to seek out the mask when we would eventually tour the National.

Watch this video from Khan Academy for more about this mask.

When one visits a museum in Greece, you truly feel that you are in the hub of antiquity. Each museum is an art historian’s dream;  art history students will also be amazed at seeing in person so many famous works commonly found in textbooks.

This description of the National Museum can be found on the museum’s website:

“The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. The rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.”

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We saw Cycladic non-stick frying pans that date from 2800-2300 BC.
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These Cycladic frying pans really captured my interest since they resemble modern day frying pans.

Here’s a listing of the various collections within the museum:

  • prehistoric antiquities
  • sculpture
  • metalwork
  • vases and minor arts
  • Egyptian antiquities
  • Cypriot antiquities (those from the island of Cyprus).
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Ancient Greek Cauldrons
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Fragments of a fresco from Knossos Palace in Heraklion on the island of Crete. This is an image of a “figure 8 shield” covered in animal hide.
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Part of the museum’s collection of gold artifacts. These are from Mycenae’s Grave Circle A, where many tombs of the wealthy were found. The pieces are found in the shapes of cocoons (a symbol of rebirth), pomegranates (a symbol bounty), and butterflies.
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These golden goblets, known as the Vaphio Cups, are finely detailed and depict bulls.
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Egyptian artifacts proves trade between the early Greeks and Egyptians. The Greeks learn some of their quarrying techniques from the Egyptians. In addition, archaic kouros poses were borrowed from the ancient Egyptians.
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Part of a temporary exhibit, “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.”
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Vials of perfumes to sniff in the “Countless Aspects of Beauty” exhibit.
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These amphoras (pedestal vases) were awarded at Panathenaia, an important festival held in honor of Athena in Athens.
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Close-up of an amphora.
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Members of the Roman Julio Claudian Dynasty (31 BC-68AD). During this period, Greece was a Roman province.

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Renowned bronze of Zeus or Poseidon found on the Cape of Artemision, in northern Euboea near Athens.
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This Zeus, in the Severe style, also known as the Early Classical style, “marks the breakdown of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century,” according to this Wikipedia article. Works in the Severe style show a change in drapery of clothing.

 

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The Severe Style more accurately represents the human body. Also, Severe style works have an “interest in emotion and motion.” As for emotion, figures reveal a more serious character and expression.  As for motion, figures are under strain or in action, but always in motion.
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Here’s an example from the museum of an early Cycladic figure that shows the contrast of earlier artwork to later pieces of the Severe style.
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Close-up of the youth Perseus or Paris. Also of the Severe style, this is a good example of how artists commonly used bronze to produce their sculptures.

Visiting the National Museum in Athens was our final stop of our five-week Greek odyssey. We left Athens at 6 a.m. the next morning, for a short layover in Amsterdam, and then Atlanta, and then finally to our home airport in Springfield, Mo.


Thanks for reading again about our travels in Greece this past summer! Now that we’ve both started new jobs and are in the full swing of new school years, this trip seems like a lifetime ago. However, there are still posts to be written, and I’ll get to those eventually. My next one will likely be about the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which I was able to see briefly during my week-long stay there in June. 

Now that the year is beginning to wind down, I also hope to write soon about “2019… My Year of Living Changerously” and how I managed to stay buckled up and on the tracks.

Categories
Greece (Crete)

I say Heraklion, you say Iraklio

At first, Crete’s largest city threw us for a loop

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Central Heraklion from the top of the Venetian fortress in the harbor.

The arrivals terminals at Crete’s airport may disappoint you.

First, it’s curiously dim. I remember telling my husband it felt like a Walmart store. Its cold LED lighting cast a cool glow on the blue and gray interior.

Second, the ladies bathroom was a mess. Forget toilet seats. Apparently, they were deemed unnecessary. And the hand dryers seemed pointless also. That’s because they blew a softer gale than the one outside. Shaking the excess water from my hands, I left the bathroom and joined my husband to explore our ground transportation options.

As we walked, I asked myself, This is Heraklion? My preconceived ideas of a sunny, bright and sparkling Crete had quickly evaporated and we weren’t even outside yet.

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We flew to Crete on Volotea Airlines, a regional carrier based in Madrid.

But that would change soon enough. After fielding a taxi to our AirBnb, checking in with our host, picking up some groceries at the small corner market, things improved.

Yes, Heraklion, the largest city on Crete with a population of 174,000 and Greece’s fourth largest city threw us for a loop at first. However, it took just overnight for us to become more accustomed to our corner of Greek life in Heraklion’s Fortetsa neighborhood.

Over the next five days, we explored much of Heraklion’s major attractions, navigated its bus lines, and took a daytrip into the countryside south of Heraklion to the Phaistos archaeological site.

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We sat down and surveyed the ground transportation options before deciding to take a taxi to the Fortetsa neighborhood. Our driver had a difficult time finding it. Apparently, the neighborhood is not a regular stop for tourists.
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At the top of Crete’s historical attractions is the Knossos Palace, the center of Minoan culture; read my post for more information. This is the oldest city in Europe and dates from 1380-1100 BC.
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This strolling Greek band was loud and persuasive. The man on the left approached out table and held out his tambourine for a 2 Euro donation.
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If you look deep into this photo, you can see several tavernas and restaurants ready to snag tourists with cappuccinos and gyros.
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This is part of the Venetian shipyards, erected during the Venetian occupation of the port and the island in general, which in those days was known as Candia.
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This sign will fill you in on basic Heraklion history, including a history of Crete in general.
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This portion of the Venetian wall extends into Heraklion.
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This fountain is another relic of the Venetian period.
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Pedestrians pass under and through the Venetian wall on foot or in vehicles. They can walk up the stairs beyond the tree on the right-hand side of the photo and walk on top of the wall.
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This portion of the Venetian fortress extends into the harbor. It protected the city from invaders. Notice the symbol of Venice, the lion, in the relief sculpture at left. For scale, also notice people between the crenellations along the top of the wall.
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I just couldn’t get over the blue-green waters of the Sea of Crete north of Heraklion.
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We walked inside the Venetian Fortress Museum. It was well worth the 2 Euro ticket price to learn a little history along the way.
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This is Morosini Fountain in city center Heraklion. It’s a remnant of the city’s glory days under Venetian influence and rule.

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This is the sunny plaza at noontime just outside the Church of San Minas.
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This statue of Eleftherios Venizelos stands near a downtown plaza. Venizelos is “Considered by most as the greatest Greek of modern times, he is the man whose name you’ll encounter almost everywhere: from the Athens International Airport to hundreds of streets all over the country. Born in Ottoman occupied Crete, he studied law in Athens, took part in several revolutions and fought for the independence and union of Crete with Greece (1913).
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The front entrance to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in the center of the city.
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Cathedral of Saint Minas
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The interior of the Church of Saint Minas
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Adjacent to the Church of Saint Minas is the Church of Saint Katherine Museum of Christian Art. It showcases a collection of Greek Orthodox artwork, including murals, tapestries, metallurgy, and, of course, incredible icons.
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A detail from a painting inside the Museum of Christian Art. This painting is called
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We rested inside this shady park situated next to a portion of the Venetian wall.
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This outdoor mural in inspired by the “Ladies in Blue,” a fresco originally found at Knossos. The original fragments are displayed inside the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
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Scooters everywhere!
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Snack kiosks such as this one are ubiquitous in Heraklion. Some of these also sell city bus tickets.
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This is a popular retail district in Heraklion. Notice the brilliant blue of the ocean in the distance.

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The harbor at Heraklion with the Venetian fortress on the left.
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Pottery found at Phaistos, which we visited one day when we took a daytrip south. A post on this daytrip is forthcoming. Stay tuned! Check out this post for how to get to Phaistos by bus.
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The front door of our AirBnb in the Fortetsa neighborhood of Heraklion.
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The street outside our AirBnb. Our taxi driver seemed a little surprised that we were staying here. I guess it’s not the expected tourist neighborhood; however, it was safe and quiet. We felt like we were getting to see the real Heraklion that many tourists may not be privy to.
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We stayed in Fortetsa. Notice the Greek spelling above the Roman or Latin letters.
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Greece held elections on July 7. All 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament were in play, including president. Posters were plastered in bus stops and in other public areas throughout the city.
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I took this photo while sitting in the bus stop looking up into our Fortetsa neighborhood. We were getting ready to board a bus downtown.
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We stopped in at this market a few times during our stay in Heraklion. The melons were perfectly sweet.
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The living room of our AirBnb in Heraklion.
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Another photo of our AirBnB.
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The ceiling in the departures terminal of the Heraklion airport (above) is quite a dramatic difference from the arrivals terminal. The arrivals area was stark and uninviting  in comparison.

Thanks for reading! My husband and I are in the process of moving out of the house we’ve lived in for 25 years. It’s been a job accomplishing the move and writing more about our trip this summer to Greece. I plan to add several more posts over the end of summer and fall. That’s my plan; however, with a new teaching job starting in a little over a week, it will be a challenge. 

 

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Need a new perspective on Ancient Greece?

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This plaque has Acts 17:22-31 inscribed in Greek. The scripture appears later in this post.

The Areopagus in Athens puts Ancient Greece in its proper perspective

This morning, we walked through Athens to the Areopagus, the location of a judicial

court, where Paul made his “To an Unknown God” sermon to the Athenians with—wait for it— the Acropolis in the background with its temples to Athena, Poseidon, Erechtheus and  other mythological deities of Ancient Greece.
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The Acropolis is right there! Paul was pretty daring in his speech to those gathered. Notice the procession of tourists creeping up the steps of the Propylaea, the entry staircase to the Acropolis and its monuments. And yes, that is graffiti on the rock in the picture. There is graffiti everywhere. Some of it is artful, but much of it is mere vandalism.
How fitting that we saw this on our last day in Greece. Walking on the rocky (and extremely slippery) outcropping where Paul would have stood is a highlight of our trip. This spot puts all the pagan monuments and temples that we’ve seen in their proper perspective. Yes, they are beautiful works made by man, but they are worthless in the eyes of God.
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The rocky outcropping is expansive with incredible views of Athens below. I would tell you to wear good shoes, but even good shoes will slip on the time-worn marble. Everyone was sliding around, grabbing onto each other, scooting down on their rear ends. There are metal stairs, but even those are slick. 

Acts 17:22-31 

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a]As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

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Our last day in Greece! Our plane leaves at 6 a.m. tomorrow!

Thanks for reading and for joining me on our trip to Greece! I have only missed a handful of daily postings during the time we’ve been here. Writing and posting daily was one of my goals, and I feel positive about my progress. Follow my blog for more stories and travel memoirs that I will be writing in the coming weeks. I have so much more to share! 

Are you traveling anywhere over the summer months? Leave a comment with your plans or a link to your blog!

Categories
Greece (Crete)

Travel on Crete: How to get from Heraklion to Phaistos by bus

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It’s not easy, but it is possible to take the bus from Heraklion to Phaistos

Today, my husband and I visited Phaistos Minoan Palace, arguably the second most important Minoan archaeological site on the island of Crete in Greece. Phaistos has been on our bucket list for our journey through Greece, and because we’ve relied on bus travel for much of our trip, we’ve learned that things can go wrong.

For example, your driver may miss a stop, turn around, and go back. Your driver may make a package delivery you weren’t expecting, adding minutes to your ride and causing you to miss a connection if you have one.

That’s why yesterday we figured out EXACTLY how we would make the trip today. We bought our tickets a day early for not only Phaistos, but also for the bus station from where we would depart. In the end, we had a successful trip, but it wasn’t without a good dose of head scratching, miscommunication, wrong turns, and a frantic last-minute ticket purchase.

Part of our confusion was due to the scarcity of up-to-date timetables and not knowing the location of Heraklion’s KTEL Central Bus Station (the main bus terminal in Heraklion). The rest of the confusion was due to a general lack of detailed, timely information on how to get to Phaistos in the first place. It’s not listed as a destination on the pull-down destination menu on their website; however, the printed timetable does list Phaistos as a destination. Go figure.

In addition, there simply isn’t much info on websites such as TripAdvisor and Rome2Rio. Instead, what you will mainly find are other people on TripAdvisor looking for the way there, too.

Here’s how to get from Heraklion to Phaistos:

  1. Get a KTEL bus timetable brochure from any KTEL ticket kiosk or at the KTEL Central Bus Station. You will need this timetable to figure out when the buses leave and return from Heraklion and Phaistos.  Read on for how to find KTEL Central Bus Station.
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    I’ve circled the part of the KTEL timetable brochure that shows the Heraklion to Phaistos and the Phaiston to Heraklion schedules. Side note: There are multiple ways to spell Heraklion and Phaistos. Heraklion is also spelled Iraklio. Phaistos can be spelled Faistos and Festos. Moires is also spelled Mires. Take a look at the Greek spellings, too, so you can recognize them if needed.

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    Here is the June 2019 KTEL timetable brochure. We used it July 6 and the times were still the same.
  2. Go to KTEL Central Bus Station (the main terminal) and get there well ahead of your bus’ departure time. Get there early (thirty minutes or more) on the day you plan to travel or buy them the day before like we did. Do this in case any unforeseen complications arise and cause you to arrive late and  miss your bus because you didn’t have your tickets purchased.
  3. To find the KTEL Central Bus Station, we asked a ticket seller in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. (We didn’t see any informational signs to direct travelers to the station from the popular museum where both city buses and KTEL buses drop off and pick up.) The ticket seller told us to walk behind the ticket kiosk on the circle next to the museum, and then take the stairs down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, turn left and follow the street until you come to a large dark gray bank (Pancretan Cooperative Bank) on your left. It has a modern look, with lots of large mirrored windows. When you get to the bank, you will see the KTEL Central Bus Station in front of you at the corner of Efessou and Leof. Ikarou.IMG_1072
  4. Walk down the stairs behind the bus station, go through the waiting area that looks like a large outdoor cafe, and go inside.
  5. Get in line at one of the six ticket windows and tell the clerk when you want to go to Phaistos based on the times available per the timetable brochure. We purchased only our tickets (7.10€ each) to Phaistos ahead of time. Because we didn’t know how long it would take to see the site, we didn’t know what time to schedule a return bus. IMG_1074
  6. You will take an approximately one-hour bus ride from KTEL Central Bus Station in Heraklion to Moires, where you will change to another bus bound for Matala. Phaistos is on the way to Matala.
  7. When you get to Moires, get off the bus so you can hop onto another bus headed for Matala. To do that, go inside the KTEL ticket office (there’s not a station–just a bus stop and a ticket office with a bunch of boxes scattered on the floor). The ticket office has a small KTEL sign on it and is about one hundred feet from the bus stop. Ask the ticket clerk how long it will be before the Matala bus arrives. In our case, it was about ten minutes away.
  8. Watch for the Matala bus. You will not need another ticket to get on the Matala bus.
  9. The bus ride to Phaistos from Moires on the Matala bus takes about fifteen minutes. The driver should stop at Phaistos, but he might not if you don’t tell him you need to stop there. Do that when you board or during the ride. Don’t assume other riders are going to Phaistos. (If they’re tourists, they’re probably going to the beach in Matala.) We were the only two people on our bus today headed for Phaistos. Here’s the sign for Phaistos Minoan Palace. Get off here.

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    Here’s the sign for the archaeological site. Note the spelling variation.

9. Tour Phaistos Minoan Palace. It might be a good idea to buy a guide book and thumb through it before entering the site so you can understand better what you’re seeing. Phaistos doesn’t appear to have the marketing support that other sites such as Knossos does. By the way, tickets to the archaeological site cost 8€ each. It took us about 1-1/2 hours to see the site. It would have taken longer, but some of it was closed for maintenance.

10. Leave Phaistos.  There were bus schedules taped to the windows at the archaeological site ticket booth and inside the bus stop out near where we disembarked. These should coincide with the KTEL timetable brochure. But to double-check, use the chart (see photo below), and find the bus that departs from Matala and arrives in Heraklion. In the photo below, I’ve circled the part of the schedule that contains the route that begins in Matala, stops at Phaistos, and makes the connection in Moires again onto a bus that returns to Heraklion’s KTEL Central Bus Station where you started.

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11. When your bus arrives from Matala to pick you up at Phaistos, board it and buy your tickets from the driver. Our tickets were 1.80€ each. This paid our way back to Moires.

12. At Moires, you will need to disembark, (just like you did earlier), go inside the KTEL ticket office, and buy tickets to take you from Moires back to Heraklion’s KTEL Central Bus Station where you started. For us, these tickets cost 6€ each. We nearly missed our Heraklion-bound bus in Moore’s because it was fifteen minutes late arriving in Phaistos. As a result, we arrived at Moires at 1:55 for a 2 p.m. ride. If there’s any question that you might not have your tickets before the bus leaves, go ahead and board the bus, and as you board, tell the driver you will be buying tickets directly from him. We saw many riders on both KTEL and city buses buy their tickets directly from bus drivers.

13. Once you’re seated on the bus in Moires, enjoy the approximately one-hour drive back to KTEL Central Bus Station. Our return ride took a different route from what we took in the morning and it followed a windy, mountainous road with vast, breath-taking views of olive groves and vineyards punctuated with oleander and cypress trees.


Thanks for reading! Greece can be tricky to navigate, especially with changing bus schedules, language barriers, and stations that close or change locations. We needed a blog post about this very topic a couple of days ago. We searched quite a bit to find the way to Phaistos. I hope this helps some readers find their way there. By the way, I plan to write a post about our visit to Phaistos in the next few days. 

Click like, leave a comment and follow my blog for my daily travel posts from Greece and Italy, including our AirBnb stays and also to catch that Phaistos post. 

Categories
Greece (Peloponnese)

Carrying a torch for Olympia, Greece

Olympia, Greece was worth three bus rides and a taxi

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Here I am just looking out at all the layers upon layers of excavations.

Yesterday, we toured the Sanctuary of Olympia, the mammoth archaeological site at Olympia, Greece.  Thanks to the Olympic Games, I would venture to say that most of us have heard of this site. However, I myself didn’t realize that there was virtually a complete city in this location, in addition to the athletic contests.

Above is a diagram of the Olympia site that our AirBnb host showed us when we arrived at our apartment. See what I mean by city?!

It’s a good thing the archaeologists and designers placed an ample supply of informational placards around the site so people like me can understand and appreciate more of what they’re seeing.

To summarize, the placards placed at two locations near the front of the site read as follows:

“In this place Zeus, father of the Olympian gods, was worshipped, and splendid athletic contests, the Olympic Games, were celebrated. In the cella of the temple of Zeus was placed the enthroned gold-and-ivory made cult statue of the god, work of the famous Greek sculptor Pheidias, one of the seven wonders of the antiquity. Here too, nowadays the ceremony of lighting the flame for the modern Olympic Games is held.”

After I read those placards, I looked around and here was my first thought:  this place is huge.

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One ticket gets you into the archaeological site, the archaeological museum, and the museum of the history of  the Olympics.The site and museums are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Adult tickets are 12€ each. You can leave and return later in the day to any of the sites and even return the next day to continue your visit or see more. Note: We did not visit the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games. There was only so much time. If we had had another morning, we could have visited it then.

As I gazed across the grounds, as far as I could see were partially reconstructed colonnades, temples, baths, workshops, dwellings, and myriad other structures.

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The colonnade is a popular photo subject. Google “Olympia” and you will see lots of pictures of these columns.

This ability to see layers upon layers of excavations is the one major difference when I compare Olympia to Mycenae and Delphi, two other sites we had just seen during the previous three days.

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The Philippeion Tholos, a circular temple,  and the Temple of Hera in the background

By the way, we’re on a whirlwind tour of Greece. We’ve spent three weeks on the island of Skopelos and now we’re taking two weeks to see Athens, Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia and Crete. We will return home July 9.

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The Temple of Hera is in the background. In the foreground is the site of the lighting of the Olympic Torch that begins each modern Olympic Games.

At Mycenae and Delphi, you can definitely survey the sites across a hillside or from a high point (The Citadel at Mycenae, the Stadium at Delphi); however, at Olympia, you are looking through the site.

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The Tholos, a circular temple
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I took this picture because I couldn’t believe how sharp the scroll carving still is on these Ionic capitals.

For example, before you stands the colonnade of Palaistra. Beyond that, however, you see the impressive Tholos, and beyond that you see the standing columns of the Temple of Hera, and beyond that you see  the multi-tiered Nymphaion aqueduct fountain, through which you see the arched entrance to the stadium, the site of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC.

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Passing through the arched entry to The Stadium
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The marble starting blocks for the competing athletes at The Stadium
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The stadium, where foot races (forerunner to today’s 200-meter races) were held in the ancient Olympic Games.
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This is the workshop of Pheidias, the sculptor for the statue of ivory, gold, and bronze status of Zeus housed in the Temple of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
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This slab of carved marble is in Pheidias’ workshop

In other words, from any spot at Olympia, you will see layer upon layer of ruins in various stages of reconstruction. And then compressed between all those layers are stashes of more pieces.

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An earthquake in 522 AD 551 AD toppled these columns that stood in the Temple of  Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Notice how the drums fell and appear almost like dominoes.

Perhaps a field of column drums, a row of lion head water spouts, a random six-foot-tall triglyph, a plot of Ionic column drums, then a plot of Doric drums, then a composition of more rare Corinthian capitals.

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Here I’m standing next to a triglyph, three carved “columns” that were placed between metopes, relief sculptures below the pediment (the triangular-shaped friezes). See caption for next image.
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I’ve circled a triglyph in the image above. I’m standing next to one of these in the preceding picture. I couldn’t believe how large it was.

 

So many pieces and parts, but if you need a quick list of the top sights within Olympia, I think they would be:

  • The Temple of Zeus
  • The Temple of Hera
  • The Tholos
  • The Stadium
  • Workshop of Pleiades
  • The Palaistra , which includes the Colonnade

What’s more, when you tour the park, you will walk right among most of the artifacts and monuments and stones. You may even walk right on the original marble steps placed in this city of 2,500 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lion water spouts in a row on the ground surrounding the Temple of Zeus.

There are 1/2″-inch ropes that show you where you can and can’t go, and if you stray where you shouldn’t, you’ll hear a park employee sitting on a nearby park bench remind you with a sharp blast on a whistle.

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More columns.
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This was a building for council members. It contained water around the outside of this “curvy” centerpiece and also around the inner section.

Late last night, one couple climbed upon a large “rock” to see the floor of the Temple of Zeus, which was roped off unfortunately. (You can see them in the picture below.) Suddenly, a shrill blast! They didn’t hear or didn’t recognize their offense. Another blast! They looked around, the park employees shouted something in Greek, and down they jumped.

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We couldn’t believe how large this capital (the top of a column) that  once topped a column on the Temple of Zeus. Note the visitors standing on the stone shelf—that’s a major no-no.
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Each capital had these notches carved into them to help them lock onto the column.

Perhaps they didn’t realize they were standing on an architectural relic. After all, there are so many stones EVERYWHERE.

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We returned in the evening to see parts of Olympia again. The light put a different cast on the monuments.

To be safe, when you’re at Olympia, assume that any rock is not actually a rock, but rather an artifact. If you want to sit down for a bit, look for an actual park bench. There are several. That’s the safest bet.

Or head over to the Olympia Archaeological Museum.

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The Olympia Archaeological Museum front entrance
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Various helmets excavated at Olympia
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This was a statue of Nike that used to be mounted on the Temple of Zeus.
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This is a statue of Hermes and was found in the Temple of Hera.
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One of two reconstructed friezes from one of the pediments on the Temple of Zeus. This one features Apollo (son of Zeus) in the middle.
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One of two reconstructed friezes from one of the pediments on the Temple of Zeus. This one features Zeus in the middle.
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More lion water spouts and other prominent sculptures are placed around the outside loggia of the museum. You can just walk right up to these. But don’t touch, obviously. There were no guards anywhere around, which surprised us.

Although Olympia takes some planning to reach, it’s definitely worth the visit.

The site and museums are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Adult tickets are 12€ each. You can leave and return later in the day to any of the sites and even return the next day to continue your visit or see more. We arrived at the archaeological site at 8:30 a.m. and left about two and a half hours later. Tour bus groups arrived around 10.

As it was getting quite hot, we left at 10:40, went out for gyros and a soda, and then returned to the air-conditioned museum for about two hours in the afternoon.

Later that evening, we returned to the archaeological site to see more and take pictures with the sun coming from a different angle.


The modern city of Olympia is a beautiful little city that is literally about two blocks from the archaeological site. I’ll write a short post about the town tomorrow. Our AirBnb host told us the permanent population is only about 700 people! 

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