Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Travel Project: Greece Day 5

The Gortyn Code

Gortyn was a ways off the beaten track, practically in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, we were one of the first groups there and we able to wander around and take pictures without worrying about tourist's obscuring the architecture with various body parts and tacky hats.

I don't know if you can see the writing on the wall but that's the law code of Gortyn. It's both the oldest and most complete known example of a code of ancient Greek law. It's also written left to right and then right to left, also known as boustrophedon (ox-turning). This is because it follows the way an ox ploughs a field.

Gortyn Theatre

The code is just behind this theatre. It was very small and you can only imagine the people crammed in together, faces staring out at the orchestra (the semi-circular area in front of the seats). The seats looked so inviting but as you can see they were roped off. It's crazy to think that they look very much as they originally did.

Holey Tree

I found many of these most awesome trees dotting the hard packed earth close to the ruins. I love the play of light and shadow here. It makes the trees seem as spooky as they looked though I imagine they might be even more so by moonlight.

Church of St. Titus

This gorgeous beast of a ruin is all that remains of the Church of St. Titus, first bishop to Crete in the 6th century. I found massive capitals (the tops of columns) on the ground as well as a stone block covered in greek that looked brand new. Pigeons had taken up residence in various nooks, cooing and flapping about.

It's crazy to think that fourteen centuries later this building is still standing. Part of me still believes everything is a replica, the originals stored in some secret government warehouse.

The Temple of Apollo

Our crazy prof decided to take us on a hike to this temple. It was on the other side of the road from Gortyn but a good deal distant. He said he was taking a "short cut" and I knew how well that had turned out last time. We hiked through furrowed fields, stumbling on rocks, wading through weeds, the sun beating down. I kept thinking we must be lost because every 100 yards or so we would change direction.

We did eventually find these ruins but they were completely fenced off with barbed wire. We decided to circle the whole of the ruin.

Funerary Caskets

From there we drove to a cute seaside town called Agios Nikolaos. We walked to the museum but weren't told it was six blocks straight up hill. When I say uphill I mean San Francisco uphill. My calves burned like a thousand hot needles by the time we reached the front doors but it was well worth it.

I thought these were storage jars or bathtubs but it turned out they were burial caskets for people. Creepy.

Metal Goddess Figure

This piece is a good example of trade relations in the Mediterranean. Her clothing looks Greek but the headpiece is definitely Egyptian-influenced. Egypt actually had a lot of influence over Greek art, especially during the Archaic period. If you look at Greek archaic statues, they look Egyptian in terms of stance and facial expression.

Pirate skull?

When I first saw this I thought "Pirate!" It turns out that this is the skull of an athlete. This makes sense because he's wearing a wreath of gold laurel leaves. But he still looks piratey, don't you think?

Ancient Pomeranians?

I just had to get a picture of this. It looks exactly like a pomeranian and I can't imagine there were any of those in Ancient Crete.


After lunch we drove to Gournia, named after the many grind/mill stones here. We found an alter where a bull was sacrificed every once in a while as well as many rooms, a tiny staircase and lots of weeds and crickets. I sat down in the shade of a low wall because it was so hot. Others sat in the shade of the lone tree close to the sight.

View of Bay

This is where I started to get thirsty. The view from Gournia was gorgeous but I could feel the sweat rolling down my neck. There were no clouds in the sky and no evidence of a breeze. There was that white noise in the air that I think only occurs when it hits 40 in BC's interior.

From there we took a vote to continue on to Vasiliki. I voted against the move but the consensus was to doom us to another few hours of heat. I don't have any good pictures of Vasiliki. The ruins look much like Gournia.

Fortunately after that we drove to Sitea, our night stop and were able to get some relief in our hotel rooms.

Pink Pelican

We were out walking in the harbour after grabbing some delicious chocolate when we spotted this gorgeous fella swimming with a bunch of ducks and geese. He was pink from eating so much shrimp. On a bench next to the water someone had left several pieces of stale bread and we ended up throwing them to the birds.

After this we wandered along the breakwater and saw sea urchins and tiny fish. A group of local fisherman were tying up their colourful boat after a long day.

Dinner in Sitea

This is my favourite shot from Sitea. It's from our restaurant. When we were looking for dinner the best prices happened to be at our hotel's restuarant. Dinner was delicious and as the sun set, street lights began to go on around us as well as along the breakwater. The light was amazing and I couldn't resist getting a picture of it. It was a great end to a scorching day.

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