Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 33: Delphi and Dora Stratou

The day started early with a 3 hour bus ride to Delphi.  Delphi is the home of Apollo, the Delphic Oracle and the Pythian Games.  As we got closer, the drive up to the actual site was really beautiful.  The roads we had to take were on the edge of huge mountains and some of the views were pretty awesome.  En route, we passed through a neat little ski town.  I didn't get a chance to write down the name but it was one of those quaint little mountain towns that would be really fun to visit.  Modern science has shown that there is quite a bit of geologic activity around the Temple of Apollo where the Greek oracles used to prophesy.  There is a good deal of evidence showing the release of methane, ethylene, and other wonderful gasses from ground during ancient times.  An interesting side effect of some of these gasses would be a hallucinogenic effect providing some very interesting and entertaining insight how some of the oracles functioned.

In it's time, Delphi was known as the "navel" of the world.  After arriving in the umbilicus we had a short guided tour through the archaeological site.  There are some good ruins and reconstructions but it was really neat to see a lot of the original inscriptions on stone that were used as a means of communication.  After visiting the Temple we had free time to explore a little more.  There is a fairly intense hike further up the mountain where you can see an older theatre and eventually the stadium used for the Pythian Games (similar to the Olympic Games).  True to my nature as a Crane, I of course made this journey and it was well worth it.   The tour reconvened later for a short tour of the Delphi Museum.  As far as museums go, it was a good one.  There were lots of original sculptures from the site including the first classical bronze statue ever discovered.  After finish up with the museum we hit lunch at a restaurant overlooking one of the mountains.

I've gotten a fair amount of comments about my rather detailed food descriptions but this truly deserves some words as it was probably the best meal I've had on this voyage so far.  It was fun knowing what some of the food was after yesterday's little cooking adventure.  We started off with an awesome array of tapas including a spinach pie, fried zucchini ball, fried cheese stick, veal in a cabbage wrap, and  some great Tzatziki with bread.  I could have made a meal out of just those.  The later portion included a greek salad, a really good meat dish, rice, and potatoes.  The highlight: amazing baclava for dessert.  I don't think I've eaten that much food in a long time (if ever).  After lunch we stopped by the Hosios Loukas monastery.  There are some elaborate Byzantine mosaics in the church which is nestled on a beautifully picturesque mountainside.  If I ever decide to be a Greek Orthodox monk, this is where it would be.  Overall we had a really great trip.  In a recent email my dad mentioned how the description sounded like it would make the entire time in Greece worthwhile by itself.  Having now actually done the trip, I must agree.

I didn't really have anything to do this evening so I decided to see if there was any possibility for me to tag along with the World Music class FDP (faculty directed practicum) to the Dora Stratou Dance and Music Theatre.  It's designed as a unique and super authentic show to demonstrate traditional rural Greek music and dance.  I was able to get on and the show was really incredible.  The venue is an outdoor theater nestled next to the Acropolis.  It was a performance showcasing over two hours of music and dance.  FDPs like this are what makes Semester at Sea unique.  It's so cool to be on a first name basis with a published ethnomusicologist and music professor and, following a great lecture, casually have a conversation about some of the history and technicalities of the performance.  I enjoyed the music quite a bit; it was fun to try and pick out some of the modes (musical jargon) and compare the very loose Alberti clarinet playing to what we typically consider western style.  Those attending were invited to go out to a Tavern with the professor after the show and, while I would liked to have gone, I was so exhausted from the long day at Delphi I figured it would be a good idea to head back for the ship and call it an night.

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