Even an archeologist deserve a three day weekend! We have officially been in Greece and working at the Agora Excavations for a full month now and to celebrate this milestone the entire staff was given a three day weekend. Although both Margaret and I have enjoyed our time in our respective trenches these past two weeks we were definitely excited about spending the long weekend on the island of Santorini.
Santorini is one of the most well-known of all the Greek Islands and truly lived up to all the stories we heard. We flew into the capital, but stayed at a hotel right on the black beach in Kamari on the more southern end of the island. Alina and George, the owners of Aqua Vatros where we stayed, were very eager to help us make the most of our three days and offered wonderful suggestions. We spent one day exploring the island from tip to tip on a four-wheeler, which was a fun and exciting experience. We learned very fast that they do not reverse and you have to do it manually, which was an adventure in and of itself! We started the day at the famous Red Beach and although we were expecting red sand the huge, red, volcanic rocks/cliffs that surrounded the beach were enough to take your breath away and made us forget completely about our dream of a red sandy beach! We drove north and had lunch in the capital city of Fira which was so crazy and crowded with tourist it made for great people watching as we sat and had lunch over-looking the huge cliff down to the old port! We poked around in the town's stores and even tried our bargaining skills with the locals! We drove up to the town of Oia, which is at the most northern part of the island and is known for its sunsets! Its also the town you see on all the postcards and calendars of Greece, with its white houses that are in stark contrast to the absolutely majestic blue of the sea! We ate fabulous chocolate baklava and enjoyed probably one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen in our lives!
Day two of our Santorini vacation started out early because we took a boat tour out to the volcano and were able to climb to the top! It was crazy to think that we were walking on an active volcano. At the top there was even a spot were you could stick your hand in this space and feel the steam still coming out of the volcano....it was soooo cool! After we hiked the volcano we loaded back up onto the boat and we headed onto the hot springs. Not knowing really what to expect, the hot springs were a great adventure. They were tucked away in a cove around the base of the volcano and heated by water coming out of the volcano at very, very hot temperatures! The water was brown and the stark contrast between the sea and the hot springs was really neat to see! After giving us a brief introduction to the springs they told us we had 45 minutes: jump ship and enjoy!
We spent most of the afternoon on the black beach (which is not sandy like our beaches but rather covered in black pebbles...shoes were a MUST on this beach)! When we finally left the beach we caught the bus back into Fira and did the most touristy thing possible: the donkey ride up from the Old Port! When we got ready to climb the cliff; they literally put us on the donkeys, slapped them on the butt and sent us on our way, no instructions and no directions! The donkeys were definitely on their own schedule and took their time climbing the hill and we almost felt badly for the tourists climbing down the path we were headed up because control over the donkeys was something we definitely did not have! We laughed the entire way up and the pictures and memories are hilarious!
Needless to say on Monday it was very hard to board the ferry back to Athens! The week has flown by though because both of us have moved into new trenches and are enjoying exploring the new terrain. Margaret has attacked the Roman Road with vigor and the rocks in the area she is digging are so hard she actually broke a pick, but it was okay because she found a coin! Meg has moved into the Strategon and was lucky enough to be the one to uncover the large storage container called an amphora! Its hard to believe that week five is almost over!
When you imagine a summer in Greece, you do
know to expect hot temperatures; however, according to the guidebooks the average
temperature for June and July ranges from 30-32 degrees C. This past
week, though, Athens broke all of its past records and was over 40 degrees for almost a
solid week, (which translates into about 112 degrees back home). We were
certainly not prepared for these kind of extremes anymore than the Greeks
themselves. The weather was so hot that work had to be cut short several days
That said, we have completed the first trench rotation
and our time here continues to pass quickly. Margaret will spend the next two
weeks digging in the Strategon, under the supervision of a 1998 RMC graduate,
Laura Gawlinski. It is believed that this area was once the army general's home;
already this week we have uncovered both a marble and amphora, (large, ceramic
holding containers) pits. These early finds lead archeologist to question the
use of this building, so we are excited to see what else can be unearthed to
help better determine the exact use of this area. While the other three trenches
are located across the street from the Ancient Agora site, the Strategon is
located within the Agora and opened to the public. Digging under the watchful
eyes of interested tourists adds a new twist to archeology, especially for a
beginner! Meg will spend the next two weeks digging in the trench named Beta
Zeta South, digging in areas ranging from parts of a Roman Road to a Turkish
Toilet! Our finds so far have included both a large pottery pit and coins
scattered through the layers of soil in the road.
Although digging occupies much of our time
during the week we have been taking advantage of our weekends and traveling both
on the mainland and to some of the islands. For the past two weekends we have
opted for short day trips around the mainland. We spent one Saturday at the Cape
of Sounion, which is where the Temple of Poseidon is located. The grand temple
is still largely intact and like most tourists we searched high and low for the
inscription made many years ago by Lord Byron when he came to visit the temple!
This past Saturday we traveled by bus to Nafplion, the first capital of Greece.
We climbed all 999 steps, (yes we counted) to the top of the mountain where the
Palamidi Fortress is still located today! The views of the ancient town and the
surrounding water and countryside were simply breathtaking from the fortress
walls. During our exploration of the town we found the shop of a man carrying on
the tradition of creating shadow puppets, for which this town was known! We
shopped, sampled the gelato, went swimming at the pebble beach and even had time
for a late dinner and some people watching along the dock before heading back to
Athens! We are beginning to feel like locals, as
we did like so many Athenians and took a ferry on Sunday to the nearby island of
Aegina for a relaxing day on the beach!
Although it will be weird not celebrating
the fourth of July on American soil, we are looking forward to a fourth that we
will certainly always remember as we spend it here in Athens with our fellow
"diggers" from all over the US!
Greece is absolutely amazing! Meg and I are so fortunate
to have the opportunity to come and actually be able to dig up history in the
Agora. We are both learning so much and meeting amazing people! It has been fun
being on our own and having to learn everything about a foregin city. The first
day we decided to wonder the city without a map so we could just get our
bearings straight and see what the city we are living in for the next seven
weeks has to offer. Within a few short hours we found everything from Hadrian's
Arch, The Acropolis, The Temple of Zeus, The Agora, The Stadium, to the
Starbuck's Cafes on every corner!