#5 Italy/Greece, Oct. 9, 2010

Dear Everybody,

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, about 40 minutes from Thessaloniki by bus. I got let off outside of town so I had a hike to the museum, but I finally found it. It had lovely mosaic floors from the palace where Alexander was born, and also lots of other ‘finds’ from the ruined Pella.

 

 

 

 

It was pointed out in the museum that ‘Pompeian decor’ was not original with the Romans as was thought, but was here in Pella several centuries earlier and so is originally Greek, copied by the Romans. The museums in Greece, even in small towns like this, are outstanding.

 

 

 

 

 

The ruins were another ways away so I asked a German couple with a car for a ride. They graciously obliged and I learned that two Minnesota girls from Macalester College (my alma matter) had lived with them for a month, learning German.

 

 

The ruins were extensive—the highlights, again, were some beautiful floor mosaics still

in place. Alexander the Great had probably walked on them! Another long walk brought me back to the bus stand and my bus back to Thessaloniki—a lovely day!

Sunday I just spent enjoying Thessaloniki, walking down by the water on a long promenade, stopping for coffee with many other locals, and thinking about living here sometime.

Monday was long-haul bus day, a 6 1/2 hour ride to Athens. I was a little anxious about finding my hostel as there are two bus stations, Terminals A and B, and I had poor directions about which bus to take from each terminal and where to get off. When we arrived at the bus station, even English-speakers on the bus knew nothing about A or B terminals and when I said, “Omonia metro?” (my metro station near my hostel), the driver motioned that I should stay on board—some others did also. Off we went and pretty soon he stopped and indicated I should get off. When I asked, “Omonia metro?” again, he pointed up an unfamiliar street. Well, after getting off and asking two more people as I walked up the street, I could suddenly see where I was—just 1/2 block from my hostel. Now why in the world the big cross-country bus made stops within Athens, I don’t know, but all’s well that ends well!

For dinner that night I tried my first ouzo—the clear, anise-flavored strong drink of Greece. I liked it very much—very smooth. I drank it over ice, as the waiter recommended, and enjoyed it!

Unfortunately that night I was attacked by mosquitoes. I barely slept all night and in the morning I had at least 50 ugly welts on my feet, hands, arms and face. One was on my eyelid and caused it to swell and nearly close. When I discussed it with the desk clerk, he said maybe mosquitoes or maybe bed bugs! Whatever it was, it was miserable. He had me moved to a different room and I had my clothes washed and took a thorough shower and shampoo.

In spite of my welts, the Archeological Museum was—well, forget all I’ve said about wonderful museums—if you could only see one museum in the whole world, I think it would need to be Athens’ Archeological Museum. It covered pre-history to about 100 AD in this geographical area. There were beautiful things from 1600 BC and before—pottery, bronze, gold jewelry, statues, frescoes—an unbelievable amount of stellar art. And the fun thing was that photography was permitted!

Dinner on my last day in Athens was pork souvlaki (bits of meat roasted on a stick) followed by yoghurt, honey and nuts for dessert at another little restaurant on the way home—soothing comfort food for my horrid welts!

My next destination was Corinth in the Peloponnese, another Greek and then Roman power. I took a bus to the ancient site, which was extensive. Again I saw the usual Temple of Apollo plus many other old stones. A man that helped me get off the bus at the right place told me that across the road from the site was the United States Classical University which was where he worked as did two Minnesotans. Is that really true or do they all make this up? The University was apparently started in the early 1900s when excavation of this site started in earnest.

 

 

 

The next day I took a bus to the Corinth Canal. How stupendous!! An ancient Corinth ruler, Periander, first tried to cut this six-km canal linking the Ionian and Aegean Seas but gave up as it entailed cutting through solid rock 90 feet down. Instead he built a paved slipway so that sailors could drag their small ships across on rollers. They used this method until the 13th century. In AD 67, Nero (before he fiddled while Rome burned) started digging again using 6000 Jewish prisoners but gave up when Rome was invaded. Finally in 1893, a French engineering company accomplished the cut.

There are bridges across it for roads and railways and for us sightseers to stand on and gawk at the boats passing through the canal 90 feet beneath us. I noticed a sign for bungee jumping too—are you kidding? NO!

I bought 3D postcards of the canal to send to the grandkids (!) and then took the bus back to Corinth in the rain.

Oh what a good dinner at the Restaurant Mediterane’—roast pork in lemon sauce, an excellent rice pilaf and 1/4 l. of nice red house wine, eaten while overlooking the harbor and watching the big cargo ships.

What a complicated affair when, on Friday, I wanted to take the train to Diakofto. I got the city bus to the train station and learned there that I could only get the train to Kiato as the railroad was still in the process of upgrading the tracks and switching to standard gauge from narrow gauge. In Kiato I was put on a RR bus and driven to Diakofto. This is a lovely, small village on the shore with a beautiful beach. I’m staying at a very pleasant hotel and enjoying exploring this village. Tomorrow I shall take a cog and pinion train across a big gorge to Kalavryta.

Stay tuned—

Carol

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