Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Road to Memory Lane

So, it is Saturday afternoon, and my husband and I are out for a drive. Our destination: Memory Lane. Oh, not really Memory Lane, as in an address--but Memory Lane of our relationship. This summer marks 43 years that we have been together. We met about this time of the year 43 years ago. More about that in the next post.

Now, we are driving toward Mt. Gretna. Not far off the PA Turnpike, this destination instantly transports us back to the place we had our second official date.

We are going to the Jigger Shop. This trip is a once a year event. The Jigger Shop is a local treasure, having operated for more than 100 years. We don't go more than once a year (ok, maybe some years twice) for reasons which will become clear.

Mt. Gretna was originally intended to be a place for the PA National Guard to hold summer exercises, but it became so much a favored vacation site, that the Guard relocated. A local creek was dammed, and the resulting lake still provides a place for summer swimming. Cabins sprouted up, and in 1899 a camp meeting was established there, built on the Chautauqua model.

Mt. Gretna oozes charm. And the crowning destination is the Jigger Shop--rustic in appearance, it is a draw all summer long.

While there are tables indoors, and under the awning, the preferred place to sit is under the trees. Tables have red plastic table cloths, and the seating deck has been built around mature trees. Sunlight filters through, providing all the decor one could wish for.

The cuisine (the reason for limiting our trips) is not cardiac approved: bar-b-q pork sandwiches, fries, root beer and birch beer (with complimentary refills), rootbeer floats, and JIGGERS--butterscotch or chocolate. What's in a jigger? Well, ice-cream, butterscotch or chocolate syrup, lots of goopy whipped marshmallow topping, and the secret ingredient-- jigger nuts. Got me--I have NO idea how they make them.

Listen--you can just hear the soft sound of ANTICIPATION!

Decor--by Mother Nature.

When we finish eating, we stroll over to the next-door whimsey shop. In past years, this place has been crammed with charming knick-knacks. I was most disappointed to see this year that cheap trinkets have replaced the whimsey. Maybe trinkets sell faster!

A last look-around. All over Mt. Gretna are lovely plants. I have NO idea what this flowering bush is.

Are any of you taking trips down memory lane this summer?

Do tell.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In Living Color

I had not intended to write anymore about our vacation to Greece, but a serendipitous arrival of the Smithsonian magazine changed all that. Have you ever noticed how when you are thinking about something, you become hyper-aware of that topic?

Well, the Smithsonian magazine (one of my favorite mags) arrived yesterday featuring an article entitled "True Colors" about Vinzenz Brinkmann, an archeologist who has studied the wonderful Greek statuary so prominently displayed (now) in the British Museum, originally on the Parthenon. His conclusion: these statues which we see in lovely alabaster white were once in living color.

Who knew? Well, I am sure some of you did--those who are art experts. While I was vaguely aware that art historians had posited that the marble statues were once painted, I did not realize that someone like Brinkmann had done extensive work and could now suggest what the statues would have looked like. Using the tools of modern technology--UV light, cameras, high-intensity lamps--Brinkmann has recreated these jewels of antiquity. The results are shocking.

A marvelous article from the Washington Post helps explain my verdict of shocking. I laughed outright at the one quote from this article: "Can you imagine the family-values, back-to-basics, republican emperor Augustus . . . represented by something that looks like a cross-dresser trying to hail a taxi?" So says Fabio Barry, an art historian at the University of St. Andrews. He begs to differ with Brinkmann. The controversy in the art world demonstrates the tug of war between two opposing views. One side presumes that statues were in pristine sparkling white; the other side premises that statues, while carved of white marble, were overlayed with brilliant colors.

Here's the recreated statue to which Barry refers--the "cross-dresser trying to hail a taxi":

Photo Credit: Vatican Museums Photo

At the heart of this controversy--were Greek (and Roman) statues originally colorized--is, in part, our present concept of what ancient sculpture looks like and SHOULD look like. We are all so schooled in a mental image imprinted since we first looked at ancient statues. They're white marble--right? And anything that alters that pre-conceived notions runs head-long into our mental template. NO NO NO--our brains scream, when presented with a colorized statue.

But I find the prospect intriguing. Frankly I find Brinkmann's arguments, and his research, persuasive.

Several years ago, we visited our daughter who was doing a semester abroad at University of Glasgow. We then traveled to London, and visited the British Museum, where we viewed the "Elgin Marbles"--the statuary that originally graced the Parthenon.

Now, I find the above work perfectly lovely, but how I see this statue is not the way the ancient Greeks would have seen it. They would have seen these larger than life statues in living color, high on a hill that could be seen from anywhere in ancient Athens. Imagine!

Photo credit and quote from magazine: "The painted replica of a c. 490 B.C. archer (at the Parthenon in Athens) testifies to German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann’s painstaking research into the ancient sculpture’s colors. The original statue came from the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aegina."
Stiftung Archäologie, Munich

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From Athena to Zorba

I have concentrated, for the most part, on recounting tales of our vacation in Greece by focusing on the ancient aspects of this lovely land. But, of course, today, you do not see Greece as an ancient civilization. It is obviously a modern European country.

Here are some quick bits of information we gleaned about Greece. We learned that the top industry in Greece is shipping, followed by tourism. The number 3 industry--minerals. One day on our travels, we passed a bauxite mining facility (bauxite is the primary mineral in aluminum production).

Greece is made up of the mainland, and many islands--some 2,000 of them. There is little rain fall throughout much of Greece--about 12 inches a year on average. So the vegetation is not lush, more scrub-like. Of the some 10 million citizens in Greece, about half live in and around Athens.

One of the most ubiquitous identities we found touted in Greece was the fictional Zorba the Greek. Bouzouki music played many places, and you almost expected to see Anthony Quinn step around the corner. When I asked one of our guides what a typical Greek is like (I know, it is a dreadfully unfair question), she readily said--Zorba the Greek. I was frankly surprised. In fact, I asked--doesn't it bother you that Americans and other visitors automatically assume that Zorba is an apt surrogate for national character. Oh, no, she replied--we are a carefree people; we live fully today because that is what we have.

Well, I mulled over the implications--going from the tales of Homer--the heroic battles of the Iliad, the incredible bravery exhibited there, the manly camaraderie; the wanderings and longing of Odysseus who seeks to return home--to the carefree Zorba. I considered the Greek tragedies, epitomized by heroes such as Oedipus who simply must KNOW even if it means his downfall, and heroines such as Antigone who STUBBORNLY struggles to have her brother receive a decent burial. And then considered Zorba or Ilya, the prostitute in Never on a Sunday. Both of these characters are earthy, living in the moment.

It is fraught with folly to assume that in the space of a short visit, you can capture all you need to know about a country. And I won't try. I will say--we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The Greeks that we met were welcoming. There was no undercurrent of resentment at Americans. (Remember note above--tourism is the # 2 industry.) Resentment against Americans is something that we have encountered occasionally on other trips (e.g. France and one mean woman in Rome).

Is Greece on your list of places to see? Do go!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Shadow of a Magnitude*

* the closing line of John Keats' poem "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles"

Our trip included one stop on the Aegean Sea in the country of Turkey. The country Turkey "straddles the continents of Europe and Asia" which is the description BBC uses in its country profile of Turkey (

We stopped at the town of Kuşadası. What was once a sleepy fishing town has now become a tourist destination as well as a holiday destination for Europeans who are buying vacation places there. Our reason for being there is that nearby are the ruins of ancient Ephesus. During the Roman era, Ephesus was the largest Roman city in Asia, with nearly half a million residents.

Our local guide was most anxious to impress on us how welcoming Turkey is to visitors. She spoke directly to the impact of Ataturk on his country, dragging it into the modern era during the 1920s. Serving as Turkey's first president immediately after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk moved the country into the 20th century by establishing a modern secular nation. That reality is greatly under attack today by Muslim radical elements who are seeking to set aside the strong secularism. Our guide became quite agitated decrying these efforts.

She was also fiercely proud of the magnificent ruins of Ephesus. She referred to it as one of the best kept secrets in antiquity. She kept asking if we had any idea how extensive these ruins would be.

The short answer was NO. While I certainly knew the name of Ephesus--mostly in a New Testament construct, as it was a city where the apostle Paul conducted a significant portion of his missionary work--I did not know that there were so many beautiful remnants of a once proud civilization.

Ephesus was a sea-port, but when the river nearby kept depositing silt, eventually the seacoast became more and more distant, and Ephesus lost its importance. Earthquakes destroyed the town, and it was overrun and sacked. It reverted to village status, and was ultimately abandoned and forgotten.

Then, in the early 1900s, the British came and began excavations on behalf of the British Museum, and during the 1920s, the Austrian Archaeological Institute began work. Today, ongoing excavations are under the Austrians. While much has been uncovered, it is estimated that only 15% of the ruins have been found. Money is the primary reason why more has not been uncovered.

Enjoy your visit to Ephesus.

The Temple of Hadrian

Isn't the sky breath-taking, and the wispy clouds just perfect?

The Roman Celsus library

The public men's toilets--men would gather, (ahem) do their business, and catch up on the day's news!

The only mosaic floor uncovered for public view. There are other mosaics, but they are housed under roofs to protect them.

Another view of the library.

The theater, that could seat 44,000 people. The general rule was a theater was to be able to seat 1/10 of the population of an area.
Ephesus--the best kept secret in Asia Minor (in the country presently known as Turkey). Our guide in Greece kept using the immediately preceding description. She said--you are going to visit Asia Minor (the country presently known as Turkey). My husband and I were very amused at that, but it did seem to speak to the simmering tension between Greece and Turkey--after all, these countries have fought from time to time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ancient Islands

Sorry about the delay in getting back to the island hopping account. I hit the "publish" button too soon on the poems (Emphemerality) last time, so I am being cautious here.

Plus, some of the humdrum of daily life has intervened: such as spreading mulch, cutting back chrysanthemums.

I have also spent time fighting V*riz*n on my father's account. That is his ISP for Internet access, and his computer has been unable to find its IP address. So, he and I have spent hour (make that HOURS) on the phone with customer service reps somewhere in the world. I have typed more DOS commands in the last several days than in all my prior years using a computer. And, guess what, he's still NOT back online, despite V*riz*n's assurance to the contrary!


When last we left our heroine, she was on her way to the island of Rhodes. This ancient island has figured prominently in history. Probably best known as the site of the Colossus of Rhodes (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world), Rhodes has been occupied variously by the Minoans, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Knights Hospitaller (during the Crusades), the Turks during the Ottoman Empire, the Italians, and finally the Greeks when they were united as part of Greece in 1948.

We went to see two sites on Rhodes--Lindos, where the Acropolis (which just means "high city") features the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, built in 300 BC; and the town of Rhodes.

The Acropolis of Lindos

You can see where the steps are leading up to the top--just on the left of the photo.

And the crowds of people climbing, climbing, climbing. . .

If you wanted to, you could take a donkey ride. Up the steps? I don't think so!

And once you reach the top, you can see the beginnings of a wonderful view.

And some of the reinforcements.

More walls to repel or protect.

And the view of the harbor of Lindos below.

And the Doric Temple of Athena--the reason we climbed.

The next site, the town of Rhodes, is in fact a walled city. Built by the Knights Hospitaller, it is touted as the largest extant walled city in Europe. It was built in the 1300s, and withstood many attempted invasions. Portions of the palace there were destroyed in 1856, then rebuilt by the Italians, during their occupation. The town has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, a much appreciated development, as that brings money in for restoration.

We left Rhodes, and then traveled overnight to the island of Patmos. When we arrived in Patmos, our local guide solemnly informed us that we were going to see the second most holy site in all of Christendom. Her assessment--after Jerusalem, the cave where St. John received the Revelation of the Apocalypse is the second most holy site.

Well, I can't dispute someone's individual belief, but it seems to me that this pronouncement is a bit of a stretch.

We boarded a bus to ride up the hills on this small island to reach Chora which is nearby the Cave of the Apocalypse. Below we could see Agriolivadi Bay. Just as our bus was climbing, we stopped for a brief photo opportunity--and then the bus engine refused to start. So there we stood. Lovely views all around.

The bay below--note the house on the right.

Isn't this a wonderful house? Could you see living here with the view below?

With these horses in the field next to the house?

And this goat herder and his goats on the hill above the house? Not a bad place for the bus to break down. Well, our local guide commandeered a passing bus (another tourist bus) and off we went.

Far above us was the Monastery of St. John the Divine--we had opted not to go there, but it was an imposing site nevertheless.

Then into the town of Chora, with its lovely little town square. Since we were there on Sunday morning, we watched the elderly ladies getting ready to go to church in Skala, the main town below. They went there so they could visit with their friends and gossip.

The next stop was the Cave of the Apocalypse. On the off chance you are not up on New Testament literature, the last book in the NT canon is the Book of Revelation. Written by an author named John who tells the reader he was on the island of Patmos when he received his revelation, we know the book was written during a time of Roman persecution of Christians. The author was basically a political (or religious) prisoner who had been exiled to Patmos. The Romans did that--exiled people to islands like Patmos.

That much I have no trouble accepting. Where the skeptic in me comes out is in descriptions of the cave itself. So, how--I ask--do we know it was THIS cave that John was in? And how do we know he was IN a cave when he received his revelation? And how do we know he put his hand on the cave wall, in a niche (now rimmed in silver), as his hand-hold to help him get up? Or how do we know that rock was his "pillow"? My skepticism was pushed right over the top when the guide told us we would see a place in the cave where the rock split into three--proof of the Trinity. Huh? Maybe the rock just split. You see--I am the skeptic.

We went down many steps into the cave--where we were NOT allowed to take photographs--and where a Greek Orthodox service was underway. Here is where the men attended Sunday service. I felt somewhat disrespectful walking through the cave, but our guide urged us that it was quite acceptable with the priest. So we all trooped through to the chanting of the Gospel in the three plus hour service.

This photo comes from another website featuring tourist attractions on Patmos.

So the next and final stop on this journey will be mainland Turkey--the ancient town of Ephesus.