torrie's travels

WHERE WILL I GO NEXT?

Shopping Day! November 30, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:16 pm
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Pretty laid back day today. Slept in, as much as I could with the roommates getting up and leaving. I headed out and went straight to Holyrood Palace, at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from me. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised to learn that admission was free today because it’s St. Andrews Day. He is the patron saint of Scotland.

Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh, though she’s usually only here one week a year or something like that. It was interesting to learn that as Head of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s highest order), when she makes someone a knight in the order, she does so on St. Andrews Day down the road in St. Giles’ Cathedral. (Side note, I never did make it back inside the church, but I’m glad I could say I’ve been in there!) The last person she made a knight in the order was Wills 2 years ago.

The palace was nice. I wanted to see it more for the history than the fact that it’s still an official residence. I saw Westminster last year, so I’m good on that front! The audio guide tour was also free, not sure if it’s free every day, but I think it is. I’m glad I got it because it really gave a lot of history and explained the palace’s rooms. Mostly I was interested in hearing about Mary, Queen of Scots (oh, that’s something from the tour yesterday I forgot to share: there has never been a King of Scotland because the Scots don’t believe that you can rule a country, i.e. land. The king rules the people, not the land, so it’s always King or Queen of Scots.) She had a really sad story. She became queen before her 1st birthday, but was ferreted away to France to grow up. She married at 15, but he died 2 years later. She came back to Scotland to rule and remarried. But her new husband thought she spent too much time with her Italian secretary, so one night the King and his buddies ripped the secretary away from the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting and murdered him in the Queen’s apartments. The spot is actually marked in the room. Mary was very pregnant at the time and after she gave birth, the King was murdered. Mary, who was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor (yes, it always comes back to the Tudors for me!), eventually sought respite in England from cousin Elizabeth I. You may remember Elizabeth as Anne Boleyn’s daughter. Elizabeth feared that being Margaret’s granddaughter, Mary was the rightful heir to the throne, so Elizabeth had Mary imprisoned for 18 years before she was convicted of treason.

After Holyrood, I walked back up the Royal Mile and was in search of a burgundy and cream cashmere scarf for myself. I want a burgundy coat, but if I can’t find one, then there was a cream coat I’ve had my eye on. I didn’t find one, so I went to the Christmas Market and got a bratwurst for lunch before going to the Princes Mall. I relaxed at Starbucks for a bit, where I went online and found out the cream coat I wanted is nowhere within 100 miles of the Twin Cities. Great.

Then I decided it was time to hit Princes Street again (Chas and I had been there on Thursday) and really shop. I came away empty handed. And the crowds were insane. It felt like Black Friday weekend at home. No bueno. So I looped around Edinbugh Castle and ended up back on the Royal Mile. I ended up getting a cream and light brown scarf. I guess I will put the coat, hat, and gloves together based on the scarf! And I paid 15 extra pounds to have one that says “Made in Scotland.” I think it was worth it!

Then I came back to my room to rest and read a bit before lunch. It had been an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day, but I walked a ton. So after awhile I decided to get food. I had two pints of Magners with dinner and was going to do a bit of a pub crawl, but remembered that I had to shower and pack tonight and get up at like 5am to make my 8am flight. Seriously, what was I thinking??? But it’ll be worth it because the flight is taking me to Ireland! Though I cannot believe that it’s the last country of this journey of mine!

 

Mountains, Massacres, and Monsters November 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:59 pm
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That was the title for today’s tour of the Scottish Highlands. We were on a minibus and I was hoping that due to the time of the year, I would have a seat to myself. No such luck. It’s hard to sleep on one of those buses when you’re sharing a seat with a random stranger. Don’t get me wrong, I did it, but it was uncomfortable!

We made several photo stops along the (very long…12 hours) journey. We stopped at Glen Orchy, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Ben Nevis (the tallest peak in Great Britain), and finally Loch Ness. We learned about so many things that I am sitting here and unable to put together a good blog post with everything in it. I think it has something to do with getting up at 6:30am.

Anyway, we learned that Braveheart was all wrong. Just pretty much entirely wrong. Good thing I’ve only seen half! We got the term “black mail” from the Gaelic words meaning “protection”, but basically extortion. We get the term “botched job” from a Scottish architect, Tom Botch, who built a bridge that collapsed. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based on an Edinburgh man, Deacon Brodie, and we got to hear his story. We learned about lots of massacres in Scottish history: worst was the Macdonald massacre. Finally, as you may have noticed, in case any of you still don’t believe me that the native language of Ireland is Irish and not Gaelic and that when you say Gaelic, they will think you mean Scottish, the Scots have proven it. Though they don’t pronounce it “gaylic” they pronounce it “gallic.” Both my tour guide and the recording on the boat on Loch Ness.

We had the option of adding the cruise on Loch Ness for 13.50 and I figured if I’m coming all this way, I might as well be able to say that I’ve actually been on it. So I went. I’m glad I did, but it was 2pm and we hadn’t eaten. 7 hours without food does not put me in a good mood. We had less than 15 mins to get food to go at a café before getting on the boat. It was very stressful, so I wasn’t a fan of that. Loch Ness is the UK’s second largest freshwater lake. It is good sized, but coming from MN and Lake Superior, it wasn’t all that! Haha! Unfortunately, try as I might, I did not spot Nessie.

After Loch Ness it was pretty much going to be 4+ hours driving back to Edinburgh. Mostly in the dark, as the sun sets just after 3pm. So I slept and then read a bit. But then at 5:25pm we stopped for dinner. Seriously? I figured the reason lunch wasn’t until 2pm was so that we wouldn’t expect to stop for dinner. So I wasn’t that hungry, but I got some fish and chips take away and ate maybe half.

We got back to Edinburgh and I decided that although I was very tired, it was Saturday night and I wanted to go check out the Christmas Market. It was fun. Very festive. Lots of vendors selling cute things, lots of food and drink stands, an ice skating rink, some rides for kids, and some rides for people of all ages. I was planning on including that in my shopping itinerary for tomorrow, but it seemed like a fun thing to do on a Saturday night. I had some mulled cider and I bought Stollen, which is German Christmas cake. I would’ve loved to have been in Germany or Austria at this time of year and their Christmas markets, but seeing as though I’m not, I had to at least try this. I bought it, but haven’t eaten it yet! I’ll keep you posted! Now to bed and hoping roommates don’t wake at the crack of dawn tomorrow!

 

The Royal Mile November 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:38 pm
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The day started with breakfast at a local café before heading to Edinburgh Castle. Chas and I were setting off for a day of sightseeing along the Royal Mile and our accommodations were by the Castle, which is at one end of the Royal Mile. Good place to start then!

The Castle opened at 9:30 and we got there shortly thereafter. I saw that a guided tour was starting at 10, which was about 30 minutes and gave a history and overview of the Castle before we set off on our own. Our tour guide was quite funny. Not beef-eater funny, but funny nonetheless. My favorite story he told was when he was pointing out the Kingdom of Fife, which is beyond a river. He pointed to a tower and said that he has had people ask if that’s the Eiffel Tower. No, he says. Then he has had people ask if it’s Ireland. He said, they’re getting closer, but that’s the wrong side of the country! Finally, he said he has had people ask if it’s the United States of America. I couldn’t help it, I go, No! really loud! Whoops. He said, no the United States is more than 5 miles away. “I don’t know where these people were from and they don’t know where they’re going!” Too funny!

Edinburgh Castle is quite old, but the original buildings no longer stand (except St. Mary’s Chapel) because in 1314, after a sneak attack led by Robert the Bruce’s nephew, Robert the Bruce ordered it destroyed. See, it had been in the hands of the English until the sneak attack. But Robert the Bruce couldn’t afford to maintain the castle (with an army), so he decided if he couldn’t have it, no one could. It was eventually rebuilt into what we see today.

I think my favorite part of the Castle was the Prisoner of War prison. It actually held prisoners of the American Revolution. There is a door on display that prisoners carved in and one of the American prisoners carved an early American flag into it. That was so cool to see. Kind of chilling and just made me reflect on the people who have gone before me to ensure my freedom. We owe so much!

It was also interesting learning about life in the prison. The rations seemed to be ok, for a prison. And they earned money. Just by being in the prison. But they definitely looked down upon the American prisoners. They got less than other prisoners and when the end of the war was in sight, and the other prisoners were swapped out or released (French, Spanish, etc.), the Americans stayed. They were considered “those rebels.” Ha!

We also got to see a military prison, for members of the Royal armed forces when they misbehaved. Two cells told stories of a deserter and a man drunk on duty at the Castle. He was sentenced to 2 months solitary confinement and 2 months hard labor. Ugh.

After the Castle we just meandered down the Royal Mile (with a brief stop for me to call and yell at my bank again for not removing the fraud hold on my card like they said when I called them last night!). We were going to see St. Giles’ Cathedral, but services were going on. So I’ll hit that on Sunday. We didn’t see the Real Mary King’s Close, so I am going to have to look for that on Sunday as well. It’s supposedly haunted, so I’ll keep you posted!

We hit up some shops along the way and I got some gifts checked off my list, which is good because I had to send a package home today (barring any unforeseen circumstances, it will be the LAST!). Finally, we made our way to Scottish Parliament. They weren’t in session today and we didn’t book a tour in advance, so we had to just look around on our own. And we were very limited by what we could see. Just the downstairs, which had an exhibition in a small nook consisting of gifts from other countries and some information and trivia about the parliament. Then we went upstairs into the Parliament Chamber. It is very modern, as the building is only 10 years old. It’s very bright and airy. It was neat to see it, but it would’ve been cooler to see it in session, obviously.

By then we were hungry, so we found a pub for lunch. I had a burger, but Chas decided on the Highland Chicken. Sounds innocuous enough, right? Wrong. It’s stuff with haggis. Gross. Chas said it wasn’t too bad. And he ate it all, so it must not have been. I think it wasn’t just haggis, but something else. Some other stuffing or something. But still. Haggis.

As we were walking back up the Royal Mile, we happened upon the High Court of the Justiciary. We decided to go in and see if they would let us in to see any court that was in session. There was one courtroom going, a trial. So we went in and security told us that if the judge is on the bench to nod to him before sitting down. Weird. We soon realized that a crown prosecutor was beginning the examination of an expert witness in psychology. Namely, domestic abuse and sexual assault victims and the reasons for their delay in reporting the assaults and reasons that they don’t leave their partners. It became clear that this was a sexual assault trial. I felt bad for the prosecutor because the witness was kind of terrible. He’s a professor and you know he’s smart, but he can’t testify to save his life. He gave long, run-on, rambling answers and tended to flit from one thing to another, despite not being asked. He rarely looked at the jury members, but rather was almost always looking up. Which reminded me of the body language of liars; they supposedly are always looking up! I don’t think he was lying, but he wasn’t connecting with the jury, either. Chas thinks the lawyers have to be more deferential to witnesses, but I think the prosecutor was too timid. (Shocking, right?)

It was fascinating to see what they can do here. The prosecutor led her witness the entire time. She was doing most of the testifying, which, at the beginning, made me not know if we were on direct or cross! And when the defense attorney was crossing him, she objected at the end and was terribly timid. I would’ve objected a couple times where she didn’t and I wanted to get out of my seat and object when she finally did. Relevance, Speculation, Beyond the Scope. Come up with something. She just said she objected to the line of questioning, “my lord.” I understand the judges are called “Lord Henry” or whatever, but I couldn’t imagine calling any of my judges lords! Anyway, the judge turned to the defense attorney and he said, “well, I don’t really understand the objection, but seeing it’s 4:05, I will withdraw my question.”

He was definitely more personable than the prosecutor, but that tends to be the case at home, too. We are too bound by rules and our role to be happy-go-lucky. Another example of the terrible witness, I don’t remember what the defense attorney asked him, but he said, “well, sometimes juries get it wrong.” I cringed. While I agree, you don’t say that. TO A JURY. So the defense attorney handled it like I think he should’ve, by saying that we work in the system and believe that actually juries get things right. I saw two of the jurors smirking. Not good.

Afterward, we asked the police officer if we could take a photo because court was over, but he said no. The prosecutor had come over by us talking to someone else in the gallery and I started talking to the officer and Chas talked to the prosecutor. The defense attorney stated on cross that the case involves three charges of rape. One from 2002, one from 2006, and one from 2014 (or recent). The officer said that recent one reported it (these were all domestic-related rapes) and then they went back and found the other victims. Apparently the government is focusing on domestic assault-related offenses and pouring money into it. Rightly so, he said, but he also feels like it’s the flavor of the month. But as a result, when these allegations are reported the officers then go back and investigate previous partners to see if there is a pattern. He and I also talked about the reluctant victims and the difficulty they have with them “giving evidence”, aka testifying. Just like at home!

The officer left and Chas was wrapping up his conversation with the prosecutor as the defense attorney was leaving. The prosecutor said we were two American prosecutors and he stopped for a minute, asked where we were from. He knew of both North Dakota and Minnesota and commented that it’s cold there! I told him I wanted one of their wigs and he said they cost $450. And he wasn’t kidding. He was leaving and the prosecutor said, “we will finish the Crown’s case (the prosecution) on Tuesday (they weren’t meeting on Monday).” The defense attorney said, “ok, he’s going to give evidence.” Prosecutor: “He is?” Defense attorney: “he’s crazy.” Yep, just like home! If I had a nickel for how many times I’ve had a similar conversation! Despite differences, so many things were just the same as at home!

Chas and I parted ways after that. He had plans tonight and leaves in the morning. I went to my hostel and gathered my things for mailing. Had a difficult time at the post office; they are all run so differently from country to country! But at least it was all in English. If I had had to do all that in another country? Forget about it. Then I surfed the web before deciding I needed to go get dinner. Just did Subway tonight. Wanted something lighter. Then I paid December bills and am getting ready for another early-ish bedtime. Early alarm clock tomorrow for my day trip to the Scottish Highland and Loch Ness!

 

No Turkey for Us November 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 4:11 pm

Unfortunately, we tried and failed to secure us a turkey dinner. But we both still reflected on what we were thankful for today, which really? Is the point.

Chas and I met up at 11am today (I needed a later start time after not getting to bed until 1:30 last night, which was 3:30 Greece time). We had shopping on the list and Chas made out way better than I did! I can’t find the coat I want (in my size). But I think I found a cardigan I want, I’ll go back and see if I still like it on Sunday. After shopping and walking around checking things out, we had lunch at a pub.

When we came out, it was raining or drizzling, but it was cold and annoying. So we decided to go to Chas’ hotel, the Waldorf Astoria. Go big or go home! I wanted to say that I have been in a Waldorf before, so it was perfect. We sat in their adorably-decorated lounge/bar/café area and used their wifi. But after awhile I decided I wanted to have tea. So we each ordered tea. The kind I wanted wasn’t in, so I had English breakfast tea. It was good. And a shortbread cookie, which was actually quite tasty, even though I don’t usually like them.

Chas had a little more shopping to do and I was tired (didn’t sleep well even though I was exhausted last night). So we split up and I returned to my hostel and watched Love Actually. Even in Scotland my tradition is intact! I had forgotten that I had bought it on Amazon Instant Video before I left, so I own it online. I remembered after I looked to see if it was available on Amazon and it told me I owned it. Then I remembered that I had planned ahead! Good thinking, me!

Chas and I met back at his hotel to go to dinner at a place that his concierge had said would have turkey on the menu. I had looked online and didn’t see it on the menu and googled and didn’t find any other options. Chas had gone in earlier when he was out shopping and didn’t see it on the menu and was assured they had it. Well, apparently it’s just for the Christmas dinners that people can book. I guess over here for the month before Christmas restaurants have Christmas dinner bookings. So despite our server telling the kitchen that we were Americans and it was Thanksgiving, the turkey was all spoken for. Boo!

But it was lobster night. So Chas got lobster and I got a lobster sandwich. I substituted the fries for mashed potatoes, so at least I got those today! My sandwich was not that great. Lots of mayo and not a lot of lobster. Plus some very distinct (and not pleasant) tasting herb. But I had a blush cider. I’ve never had one of those before! It was good. It was from an English brand, Apsall, which I had originally tried in London last year.

I called it an early night because I’m not feeling well and I needed to figure out our sightseeing game plan for tomorrow. Hopefully I will sleep better and longer than last night so I will be raring to go in the morning! It looks to be a nicer weather day tomorrow as well. Fingers crossed! Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Holy Last Minute Change! November 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 12:24 pm

Holy cow. What a day. And it’s only 5:45pm. Though I’m currently in London, so in Greece time, it’s 7:45. I slept in. Well, tried. The darn church bells or whatever was constantly chiming, so I was up by 9. I stayed in bed catching up online and then decided to get going.

I took the stuff I was meant to ship home today and went shopping. I was going to a specific shop to get a gift for someone else from someone else. The two stores I had seen the gift at weren’t open yet, despite it being 11am. So I went to the ATM, needing euros for one-plus more day before switching to pounds for 4 days. I decided to take out the full amount that I usually take out, because I will need euros in Ireland. As I was walking back toward my hotel, realizing I was going to have to come back later and hope the shops were open, a guy who had said hello to me on my first pass said hello again. And asked was I leaving today. No, tomorrow, I said, over my shoulder. He said, alarmingly, tomorrow? But there’s a strike tomorrow. I was thinking of all the European rail strikes and said, but I’m flying out. He caught up to me and said, it’s the air traffic controllers. Apparently his friend was supposed to fly out tomorrow and was not going to be able to.

So I got some breakfast, still not feeling in a huge rush, but got it to go and went back to my hotel to google it. Sure enough. It didn’t take long for the notification to come up when I went to the Athens airport website. No flights in or out tomorrow. Dammit. I didn’t want to stay in Athens an extra day, not least of which because I am meeting Chas in Edinburgh. He got in today and is leaving Saturday morning. The soonest I would get on a flight would probably be Friday afternoon, meaning we would only have a scant few hours to hang out. So I took matters into my own hands and booked a flight. I’m hoping to get money back on my previous flight, but I’m not holding my breath.

It was shortly before noon and I booked a flight for 2:30pm. It was the shortest flight duration, getting into Edinburgh tonight still. So it was basically my only option. My travel Visa that I use would go through for some reason, so I had to use my debit card. Now there will be fees. Grr. I then set about packing. Like a crazy person. Not to mention I had all kinds of things I was meant to ship home, but now had no time. I had unpacked more than usual, too, because I was supposed to be there for 4 nights and it was as cold as it’s been on this trip, so I had to get to the bottom of my bag for my sweaters and cords. But I got it all packed and shortly before I was totally finished, I ran to the stairs and asked the front desk to call me a cab. She had been helping me, trying to call the airport and get my airline on the phone, to no avail. She said, already? Yes, already!

I got my things together and went downstairs and the cab was there. It was 12:18. I was worried about making an international flight by getting to the airport with less than 2 hours. But I thought with a cab, it will be quick. Well, I went out to get in the cab and the front desk lady came outside and watched me get in, waving goodbye and wishing me luck! So sweet! The cab had wifi, so I was able to check-in to the flight and notify Chas that I was on my way! The cabbie tried to convince me, in his very limited English, that the trip was 35-40 minutes to the airport, but that I will be fine and getting through check-in and security was 30 mins. Let’s hope.

He then pointed to his mini ipad, for the second time, and asked what music I wanted. “YouTube?”, he said. I told him English music (he asked English or Greek) and he chose Guns N Roses, November Rain. Awesome! He then tried to tell me something about the bride in the video, but he couldn’t get the words and I couldn’t help him. I tried. It was sad, he kept saying, “I no speak good English!” But I told him he did very well, I mean, certainly compared to my Greek! When I got out I asked what the fare was and he seemed to make it up on the fly. 40 euro? I had 45 in my pocket, so I pulled it out and handed him the 40 and he then said, 42 or 43? What? You said 40. I don’t know. I probably should have just given him the 5 euro. It was a long drive, but I never know what to do in those situations. He was so nice I am now kicking myself. I feel like I’ve done that a lot on this trip, but I was so concerned with all the extra cost of leaving today, that I held onto it. I guess it’s not worth worrying about now.

I got through check-in fine, no wait. But the immigration line was long-ish. Didn’t take as long as I feared. I thought I was home free, before I remembered I hadn’t been through security yet. The airport was pretty busy, probably people doing what I was. But I knew I needed food for the flight, so I grabbed a sandwich and chips to eat on board. Security was a breeze. I don’t know if they had extra people working, but they handled the volume wonderfully.

I got on the flight and breathed a sigh of relief. I slept a bit, read a bit, and ate as soon as possible. After I finished, they came around with full meals. Of course they did. It’s British Airways. It’s European. They are the cheapskate American airlines. I said to the old Greek man next to me (middle seat…boo), I didn’t know they served food. He commented about how I ate my own and I said, I’m too used to the states. We have to bring our own food. Then he asked where I was from, as his two daughters live in San Fran! And then he offered me food off his tray! So sweet, but I declined.

I got to Heathrow and went through immigration again. She gave me the third degree. (As they did in Greece, because she couldn’t find the stamps for when I entered Greece…I told her I didn’t have to go through immigration and was surprised by that, so she wanted to see the stamp for when I entered Europe. Then I got cleared.) But she passed me. Then I went to someone else who had to see my boarding pass AND get my picture taken. Bizarre. I had to do two because he said I needed not to tilt my head so far to the side!!!! HAAAAAAA!!!! Apparently the “Torrie head tilt” doesn’t care who’s taking the picture. I told him it was automatic for a photo and he said, oh is that a pose thing? Yes, I said, to avoid double chins. He laughed and said, “we both know that’s not true!” He was funny. I was thinking, why did I not have to go through ANY of this when I was here last year? I would remember this. Oh yeah…we came into London on the train. That’s why!

I went to the cash machine to get pounds and tried to get 200. Nope. I suppose after taking out 400 euro, I was reaching my daily limit. So I tried again for 40. Score. Then I got on the internet and got things straightened out. Thankfully I was able to get a bed at the same hostel my other reservation was at. Hopefully I won’t have to change rooms, but we will see. I won’t get there til 11pm or after and I’m just glad I got a bed in the same place. Beggars can’t be choosers. Things definitely happen for a reason. I had been looking at canceling the Edinburgh hostel for a room in a hotel or B&B. Getting to the end of my trip and I really like my own space. But I realized that the room I have is only a 4-bed, so at least there are only 3 others. I decided nothing else looked ok, so I kept my hostel reservation. Good thing. After spending this money on the flight, I’m glad I didn’t splurge more on rooms!

As stressful as today was, and despite spending this extra money and hassle, it’s really the first “serious complication” of the trip. Although I would have preferred a strike to affect me in some other way (not when I’m meeting a friend), if this is the worst of it, I cannot complain. I have had (knock on wood) very good luck and have been very blessed on this trip. No complaining here!

  1. Have you any idea how happy I am to be in English-speaking countries from here on out?? It’s lovely!!
 

All Kinds of Athenian Ruins November 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 3:10 pm
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I feel like I am becoming desensitized to all things ancient and not taking the time to see and appreciate them appropriately. As such, I think I am skipping the National Archaeological Museum tomorrow and will be sleeping in. Hurrah!

Seriously, at times today when I saw something that was from “AD”, I was all, pssshhh. Today started at Starbucks, as I was unable to find another breakfast place. I should’ve just gone back to the other bakery, but I thought I would run into more in the direction I was going. Oh well. Then I went to the Roman Agora, as I had seen it yesterday and knew it to be a lot smaller than the Ancient Agora, so a good place to start!

The Roman Agora was built in the 1st century BC by Julius Caesar and Augustus. This was one large building that was in use until the 19th century. But they don’t know when it was destroyed. Which seems super odd, if it was in use as recently as the 19th century. I guess the area was in use that time, not necessarily the original building. But still. The area is pretty demolished, with the exception of some collonades, the entrance (the Athena Gate), a staircase, and a rear entrance. I was able to convince a lady to take a picture of me “being a column”. I was pretty stoked.

Then I went to the Ancient Agora, which started to be built in the 6th century BC along the Panatheniac Way, or the procession from the city of Athens to the Acropolis during the festival. It apparently was in its final form in the 2nd century BC. There were many, many buildings here. Some bigger than others, including temples. There was even an 11th century AD church. Random. Mostly it’s all ruins, but it was very cool to see how it was laid out and what the buildings had been used for. I especially enjoyed seeing the prison and reading about it. The sign said that they found bottles of hemlock (used to execute the prisoners who were sentenced to death) and a statue of Socrates. Archaeologists surmise that the statute was maybe there as a regret that they killed him.

It was pretty fascinating to learn that this area was covered over and had a neighborhood basically built on it until the 19th century. The excavation was pretty dang successful! I also liked in the Stoa of Attalos, which now houses a museum, there was a decree of an arbitrator’s decision. Pretty cool. I couldn’t imagine chiseling into marble an order like that, but it was super cool to see!

At one point in the Agora, I smiled at one of the workers and he, an older Greek gentleman, burst out saying, you must smile, you have beautiful smile! And then he asked me where I was from and just started yammering a million miles a minute! He told me four times to go to the museum, the Hadrian’s Library, and the Roman Agora. And he told me how many minutes away they were! It was cute. At the end he grabbed my hand and kissed it. I expected that kind of over the top behavior in Italy, not Greece!

After checking out as much of the Agora as I could (without a good layout to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I was on my own), I left to find lunch. But I realized I was going to walk by Hadrian’s Library, and my ticket was good for that, so I went in. It was cool, but at this point, a lot of the things were running together. But there was a very neat statute of Nike in there.

After that I found a gyro takeaway stand. Yes, I know, but I got a gyro and a DC for 3 euro. Come on, you can’t pass up cheap lunches like that! I was kind of surprised yesterday when I got a chicken gyro that the sauce wasn’t Tzatziki sauce. But then I remembered reading that a lot of times they use a different sauce for chicken than pork. It was kind of a mustard-y mayo. It was good. But today, I got a pork gyro and the same sauce was on it (different place). No french fries today, though. I ate my lunch in a sunny square and then made my way over the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest temple in Athens and it took a long time to finish. It was started in 515 BC, but stopped during one of the wars, only to be started again in 174 BC. But construction was halted soon because the architect died in 163 BC. Hadrian decided to finish it when he was emperor and it was finished in 131 AD. It was very large, but only part remains standing today. I could imagine how imposing it would’ve looked completely finished! Unfortunately, the area behind the temple was closed for the season. There was the ruins of a court building there that I wanted to see.

From there, I made the trip to the Panathenaic Stadium, aka the site of the first Olympic Games. Well, the modern Olympiad, in 1896. But actually, games have been held at that site for 2500 years. Just not in that stadium. It was very cool to be standing in an Olympic Stadium. It was entirely built of marble…the only one in the world, actually. And to stand on the track. I wanted to run on it and have someone take my picture, but I thought that might be too much. Don’t get me wrong, others were doing it, but they had people to take their photos!

There was an entrance to the inside of the stadium and it was neat. It used to be a cave. But even neater? When you walked up inside the rooms there are Olympic Torches and Posters from all summer games since 1896 and some winter ones, too. That was pretty awesome!!! I took photos of all of them!!

After I climbed up to the top of the stadium, I saw that there was a medalist podium on the track. I so wanted a photo on that! Thankfully, by the time I climbed back down, a guy and his mother were taking photos on it, so I asked them to take mine. And then I took one of the two of them. Fun!

By this point, I was tired, but needed to do some shopping on my way back. With the exception of location-specific gifts (in Scotland and Ireland), I am done gift-buying. Which means, really, I’m done Christmas shopping! I hope. We’ll see.

I tried something new for dinner tonight. Greek salad (which wasn’t a true Greek salad, but that was ok, I do not like feta cheese), a kebap (that’s how it’s spelled here…didn’t really like this, either…but I tried it!), and a really sweet glass of wine. Too sweet. And yet, too bitter, too. Strange combo. Definitely a more laidback day tomorrow after the last two!

 

Acropolis November 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 1:04 pm
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Today was all about the Acropolis! I got up and went (in the wrong direction of the Acropolis) to a bakery because I knew where it was! I got my pastry and made my (leisurely) way to the Acropolis Museum. Lots of tourist shops along the way.

I decided I would do the Acropolis Museum first, in the morning, to get a better sense of the history. I’ve been reading my Greece triposo app (one of the only things that works offline!), so I know a good bit about it, but I still thought it would be best to start there. It was really cool. Before you even go inside, underneath the entrance walkway is an archaeological site. It was ancient Athenian roads, etc. They have been preserved in situ, but are still being worked on. Apparently someday soon visitors will be able to walk down there as well.

The entrance to the actual museum starts with a slope, as the Acropolis was reached by slopes as well, called the “Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis.” Alongside the slope are glass cases with relics found on the slopes of the Acropolis. It was fascinating. Now, I’m not one to look at each little thing in minute detail, so mostly I looked at what was eye level. (Note to museum curators: the stuff on the bottom shelves would get more attention if the legend wasn’t placed up so high it is hidden by the second shelf. I’m not kneeling down to see what number 33 is. Unless it looks really interesting!) I saw a jug or ewer that was 3500 years old. Seriously. It was dated to 1500 BC. Are. You. Kidding Me?? 3500 years old? It had been in a few pieces, but they glued it together, better than ever! It’s craziness.

The first floor is called the “Archaic Gallery.” It had a lot of statues, busts, adornments, etc. Many of these things had been offerings to Athena that people brought to the Parthenon, hoping for good favor upon them. Again, this stuff is 2500 years old. But I read that a lot of it was so well-preserved because after one of the sacks (Athens was sacked so many times, I lost count), the Athenians came back and saw everything in the Acropolis in ruins. Because these were idols or idol-offerings, they wanted to preserve the religious nature of the objects, so they buried them in the walls (or something) of the rebuilt parts of the Parthenon. So imagine the archaeologists’ surprise in the 1800’s when they came upon the treasure trove of items from the 500’s BC so well-preserved. On some of them you could still see the color that they had been painted because it wasn’t subjected to the light and elements. Pretty amazing!

Then you go up to the third floor, which is called the “Parthenon Gallery” before finishing the first floor. The Parthenon Gallery was slightly confusing to me. My booklet says: “The relief sculptures of the Parthenon frieze depicting the Panathenaic procession are exhibited in continuous sequence along the perimeter.” But many of these looked like plaster casts. Not the real thing. And I thought, but wouldn’t the entire frieze still be up on the Parthenon? This area also has the metopes, or marble slabs with Greek mythology reliefs. Again, some looked authentic, some didn’t. And you would think, “well they redid the ones that were lost or destroyed.” Not so. In that case, it would say, this block is missing. And under some of them, it says “temporary cast”, but in many of those cases, the space was empty. So confusing!

I watched the video that they have on this floor after I had looked at the entire floor (twice, because there are two “rings”) because there were a lot of schoolchildren there and I didn’t want to sit through the video with a bunch of 8 year olds. I learned in the video that Lord Elgin, sneaky Brit, came in the 1800’s when Acropolis was being excavated and he stole everything. I now remember seeing all of this in the British Museum last year. Jaime and I both were commenting that it all belongs back in Greece and why hasn’t that happened yet? Well, good thing Mrs. Clooney’s on the case. Shortly after her wedding, she was back at work trying to help broker a deal between GB and Greece for that very thing. I hope it works, because that stuff belongs here.

Once back down on the first floor, you see things that were added after the Parthenon was built. Namely, the Propylaia (the monumental gateway serving as the entrance to the Acropolis), the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheoin (the temple on the side of the Parthenon, which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon).

After the museum, I got a gyro for lunch and then attacked the Rock itself. I made my way up, stopping at Dionysus’ Theater. You can actually sit on some of the rows of seats. That was pretty cool! Then just other ruins as you make your way up, up, up. The entrance is very cool, as you enter through the Propylaia. There are really cool marbles here, as well, especially on the ground. As you pass through it, the Parthenon dominates to the right. But I couldn’t help getting lost in the views of Athens. I mean, what a 360-degree view of the metropolitan area. Athens is huge! (At least quite spread out!)

I took some photos of the Parthenon, even though from this view it’s under construction. Which right by a sign saying reconstruction finished in 2004. Um, ok. I wonder if that thing will ever be done with reconstruction. Somehow, I doubt it. I saw some people who looked like archaeologists working in one area, actually.

Off to the left is the Erechtheoin, which I went to first. You could get closer to this than you can the Parthenon, but you still can’t touch the marble. And why not? It’s out there in the elements and everything, why can’t I touch it? What’s the harm? But, as the good little rule-follower I am, I didn’t touch. I wanted to say I touched something 2500 years old. Ah, well.

Then I approached the big guy. And it is huge! And just such a wonder. I feel like a broken record here, but again, the size, the scope, the antiquity. How did they do it? In 500 BC! The walk up the rock is no picnic in 2014 (I mean, it’s not that hard, and I went “off-roading” a bit, but it’s steep!), what would it have been like back then? I’m just in awe! And having watched the video and learning a bit about its construction and architecture. It wasn’t built perfectly symmetrical. But it was like it needed to be built the way it was in order for it to survive (although I’m quite mad at the Turks for housing gun powder inside, which went up in an explosion, otherwise it would be relatively intact!).

After spending a decent amount of time there, I decided I would move on to other points. I walked down, but didn’t know what direction I needed to go to find the Agoras (Ancient and Roman). Eventually I came across a guy locking a gate, which I saw was the Ancient Agora and it was closing. Boo. So I kept walking and saw the Pied Piper of cats. Seriously, dude was playing a recorder and had close to 20 feral cats around him. I lost count at 20. It was ridiculous. Lots of stray dogs here, too. Big ones. That don’t obey the “authorized personnel only” signs.

I just kept walking down and eventually in the direction I thought I needed to go. Couldn’t come across any English street signs. But I came across the Roman Agora. It was 2:36 and it closed at 3:00. I decided to take a pass, knowing I would be back over there tomorrow. (The ticketing is pretty cool…12 euro and it’s good for entrance into 6 things over 4 days). I eventually came to the bottom of the Ancient Agora and walked parallel to it for a while. Then I pulled off to the side to refer to my map when I saw a man slightly behind me snorting someone off of the sidewalk. Awesome. I moved along.

Shortly I saw that I was on a street I knew, but realized I was going in the wrong direction. So I turned around. It was the fancy street from yesterday, but in the decidedly un-fancy portion. Lots of junk for sale all over sidewalks. It did not have a first-world feel to it. Then I came to a giant toy store, and went in because I saw they had legos. I thought maybe I could get my brother something there, but nothing was clearly European (i.e. unavailable in the States) and still as expensive.

I came out and realized I was in the middle of a square. So I thought I would explore the square a bit, when I saw that it was in the middle of the Athens Flea Market. Cool. So I checked it out. I went down one end, didn’t see much I wanted, so I went down the other end. I saw a cool Olive Wood store, with beautiful handmade goods. I kept walking, knowing I was getting closer to the shopping part of the other street, when a man working at a t-shirt shop said, “I like your shoes, where did you get them?” OK, if I were at home, cool. Totally understand the shoe compliment. I’m wearing Keens. Come on. As I looked down, wondering how to say “REI” to someone in Athens, Greece, he says, “in the States?” Yes, I said. Then he asked, was I from California? No, I said, Minnesota. He lit up. He said, Minneapolis? St. Paul? Come here! And he brought me inside his shop and asked had I ever been to Rochester? Sure, I have. He showed me a business card from a Greek restaurant in Rochester, “across from Mayo Clinic!” He had tons of business cards from Greek restaurants in the States. So fun. He told me he used to live in California (though he is Greek) and still has some family in the States. He gave me a “lucky” penny, told me it will ensure I marry a good man, and gave me the double-cheek kiss. Then he commented about how we need to be nice to people and I am a nice person and that Europeans can be so mean to Americans, but “they talk American, they eat American, they wear American” and I said, but they hate Americans. He agreed and said, but they confuse the politics with the people and, “politics is bullshit wherever you go” (quote of the day right there!), you have to know the people. He was very kind and wished me well “in the Land of 10,000 lakes!” I was shocked and told him he really knows a lot about MN! He then told me he had a long layover there last year and got to see some of the cities and that he knows someone in Duluth (!). As I was leaving, he shook my hand, told me I was beautiful, a Greek Goddess, and to have a good day. Laying it on a bit thick, but it was an awesome interaction!

Then I made my way to the “fancy” shopping street, bought a bread thing that I saw numerous vendors selling, and went in search of a burgundy coat. Unfortunately, I came up empty. And the Hondos Center? I don’t know why my app described it as a department store. It’s a massive drugstore.  Probably record-setting! Tons of make-up, perfumes, beauty products, etc. So I thought this was probably my best bet on getting gel, but they didn’t have my kind. I got something else, which will have to do!

My feet were quite sore by this time, so I came back to my room to rest before dinner. Again, before dinner I was feeling cold, upset tummy, and incredibly tired. But I forced myself to go eat. I picked a place that, once I sat down and looked at the menu, I realized was like the TGI Friday’s of Athens! No matter, give me a big, beautiful salad, please! I ordered something a little different, though, so it was still something new. And I got a scoop of Strawberry sorbet at Chillbox again. (I think I forgot to say I got one last night…) It’s like the gelato in Italy. I could have it every day. Another big day tomorrow, but I’m definitely glad I decided again Delphi and just to take in all of Athens!