New beginnings

Where should I begin? These last months have been quite a roller-coaster, with the pandemic brutally changing lives and destroying plans. Needless to say, traveling seemed to be superfluous and a bit dangerous, yet, plans were made and were changed during these months. We had originally planed to travel to Tunisia and revisit the Sahara, but after a while – and as Catherine was worried about traveling amidst a pandemic, I decided to go solo and plan on visiting Romania, while mapping out a B plan on visiting Bulgaria or North Macedonia. Eventually, we decided to remain in Greece and stay at Catherine’s hometown in the Peloponnese, which would once more act as our base in visiting the area. Before that, we enjoyed a great Summer, as I was working for less hours during the pandemic, while I was still getting my salary (even though I had to put a bit of a fight for this to happen)

Nevertheless, the situation at my crappy job was getting lousier and I came close to resigning a day before we left on vacation. I was actually thinking of quitting upon our return home, but a few days before we left Catherine’s hometown in Argos, opportunity knocked. Ever since I graduated from university, I have been applying to work as a teacher of Greek literature. It had been quite some time of frustrating efforts by that time, but this time my phd proved to be a game changer and I secured a contract as a substitute teacher in the Cyclades. So, I left my old job and the toxic people associated with it and I moved to Andros island to start a new career. The downside is that I had to leave Catherine at my hometown where she works and I moved to the island alone keeping in touch through phone and viber. Still, due to the quarantine measures all schools in Greece were shut down and after a couple of months, I returned home where I set up my class teaching from our living room.

As far as the island is concerned, I live in Korthi Bay, which is a very beautiful small place. My colleagues are great and extremely helping people, while my students are remarkably adorable. During these couple of months I visited some of the places in the island including its picturesque main town, Andros or Chora. So, as Greece is slowly becoming a police state (UPDATE: As I was writing these lines I caught sight of footage showing policemen destroying a bouquet of flowers left in honor of a child that was murdered by a policeman ten years ago ) booming with conspiracy theorists, I was trying to adapt to this new island life. What I liked more about Korthi was that some great beaches are near this small village, while I was surprised to find out that the whole island is connected by a network of ancient footpaths that were once the main road network of the island and which is maintained and restored by volunteers (check more on these routes here). The experience was as if walking the via Francigena once more and along with some colleagues I had begun discovering the island’s beauty. I had only stayed there for a couple of months before the schools were shut down, but I had a great time teaching, swimming, walking ancient trails and sightseeing. Although I have visited many places in the island, I am limiting the photos I post to the Korthi area for now and I will discover more of it in a month or so, after the lockdown ends, while of course we will plan a trip to another country along with Catherine. I may also spend some weekends on the nearby islands in springtime and I will try to post about it (after posting on our previous journeys). Have fun and stay healthy!

In need of a break

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It has been a rather busy week so far, but thankfully all this hassle comes to an end today and we’ll have the chance to catch some z’s while planning ahead for our trip this summer. At least summer time already dominates our mood and since I have to work outside I get to use some great scenery as an office. I’m mostly visiting the nearby coastal towns and although they are a familiar sight for my eyes, I can never get too accustomed to the scenery’s beauty. Parga and the nearby Acheron river provide some lovely landscape that will please anyone’s eyes.

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So, after a much needed break this weekend we’ll continue posting the newest updates on our forthcoming trip, while recommencing our narrative of our Baltic adventures. I’ve been also planning a visit to the nearby Nicopolis museum and archaeological site, but so far I’ve only encountered closed doors due to a lack of funds (If you don’t allow visitors to enter how on earth do you expect to get funds anyway?). I can’t do much about the museum (hopefully I’ll visit when it’s international museum day) but I might break into the site of the ancient ruins to get some shots (Just kidding, ha, ha…wink, wink!).

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Bacalhau soup

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Since we are definitely visiting Portugal in August, I think that this is an appropriate dish to post. During the Weekend it was a national holiday as celebrations for the start of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman empire were held, combined with the religious Feast of the Annunciation. What’s cod got to do with it? You might ask. I honestly don’t know. Maybe a cod salesman convinced everyone in a country surrounded by sea that Cod is the proper way to celebrate these Feasts:

“Get your cod here! Come on! don’t push each other! There’s plenty for all! Eat the food of heroes’ and make your own revolution! Eat up or baby Jesus will cry!”

The most convincing story I’ve heard though is that during the period of Lent, this was one of the few days that people were allowed to eat fish and strengthen up and while everyone living near the sea could enjoy fresh fish, people living far from it could only get cod on their hands. We enjoy cod though – not as much as Portuguese do I guess – and although most Greeks enjoy it fried or roast, I cooked this tasty soup

Ingredients

2 cod fillets

2 potatoes

1 onion

some celery

4 carrots

salt, pepper

olive oil

lemon juice

First of all you need to heat up some olive oil and then through in the chopped onion and after a while the carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes bring the celery, salt and pepper at play and when the vegetables start to get soft, throw in the cod. DO NOT overcook the fish or it will dissolve in the soup. It only needs a few minutes. Add some lemon juice and enjoy.

“Indy” for a day! A short trip to Argolis

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Wouldn’t you love to feel like Indiana Jones for a day? Well, I put on my hat, my leather jacket, my satchel and grabbed my whip and I was ready to begin an adventure on a land of ancient warlords, where many primal fables of western culture were born. As a child I wanted to become an archeologist and I owe this George Lucas’ creation my interest in ancient cultures and history (By the way, there are ONLY three “Indy” movies).

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As stated on our previous post, we spent the Carnival and the beginning of Lent in Catherine’s hometown and, although we’ve obviously been in the place lots of times, we tried to act like visitors while there (I guess I did a little bit better than Catherine on this one, but I had the advantage that this region is not my hometown, so I am technically a visitor). The road was almost empty of traffic as we drove towards Argos and after almost an hour of crappy old track, we reached the newly – almost finished highway linking our residence to Athens. Most of the traffic was directed towards the places we were leaving behind us, so no sweat, we arrived at our destination easily and spent Saturday at home.

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I wanted to get some pics of the area though and come Sunday morning, I left Catherine and rushed towards the archaeological site of Mycenae, a place I hadn’t visited for many years. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a fairly big crowd, but I guess Sunday is a great day to visit a site and I was glad to find out that my student card was valid and I was entitled to a free entry (there was a 6 euro ticket, which you can also use to visit the tomb known as treasure of Atreus). I have to say, I remembered the ancient town as a smaller place, but I climbed on the hill it was built, passing through its famous gateway, the Lion gate.

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On the top of the hill one can find the ruins of the palace, but needs to possess tons of imagination to picture the magnificent four-store building that stood there more than 3000 years ago. Apart from the Lion gate and the cyclopean walls all you can see inside the citadel are the outlines of the buildings and the palace is no exception. Luckily the main hall was on ground level and you can see the location of a couple of columns that supported the construction.

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I brought to my mind the stories that surrounded this place from ancient times till today. These stories lay as the founding material of western literature and art, Homer’s epics are related to them and ancient theater adapted them to recount the fate of Kings, heroes and Gods. Somewhere above my head laid the bath where Agamemnon was murdered by his wife and her lover and the rooms where his son, Orestes avenged his father’s death.

I descended the hill in awe, admiring the view of the valley below the hill, thinking that despite the glorious past of the place, nature had eventually conquered it, as trees and flowers grew on the site. I could imagine the ancient city taking life and the now deserted scenery vibrant with people, laughing and crying, loving and hating, striving towards the future or simply admiring the view as I did.

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I walked towards the museum which regrettably I do not remember visiting on any of my previous visits on the site, after first visiting a tomb whose dome had collapsed, revealing its walls in the daylight. I was delighted to view the artifacts kept inside the modern building, vases, jewelry, weapons, statuettes and a few parts of fresco’s that were influenced by the Aegean islands’ artwork.

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These artwork was retelling the stories sang by Homer, highlighting the achievements as well as the misfortunes of the people living by. It was a real live history lesson, as it is in most museums. Yet, since, we had plans to see friends in Nafplio, where I also wanted to visit the local museum before closing time, I had to return home.

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I had to make one last stop though, the so called treasury of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father. Although not related to the guy (who might as well be just a mythological character) it is a huge bronze age tomb, with a spectacular entrance and an owe inspiring dome.

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I left Mycenae, anxious to prolong my visit to the ancient world by visiting Tiryns and the archaeological museum of Nafplio, but first I had to return home and pick up the girls. We drove straight to Nafplio, but we had a small delay trying to find a parking spot, since the city was overcrowded with weekend tourists, taking advantage of the following Shrove Monday and the short distance from Athens.

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We walked to the main square, after taking some photos and I left the girls to enter the museum, while they would take up the seemingly impossible task of finding a table on a coffee house.

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The museum is housed inside the old Venetian headquarters

My student’s identity prevented me from paying a fee once more (cheap fare though, a mere 3 euros) and, upon entering I faced the collection’s main attraction. A Mycenaean warrior’s plate mail, the Dendra armour. The person that bore it is long gone and this piece of bronze wouldn’t protect anyone in a modern conflict, but it’s a piece of craftsmanship that stuns the visitor. Its helmet is an exceptional piece of art, decorated with boar tusks, will probably enliven the Trojan war before your eyes.

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After taking that photo, I noticed this strange eerie blue lighting that makes this ancient armor seem like an odd combo of an ancient warrior and a killing robot from the future

The museum houses many artifacts originating from ancient cities nearby. It’s an area inhabited from very old times (The nearby city of Argos is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city) and many cities and small towns thrived on this small place. Other excibits featured a collection of jewelry, some prehistoric ones, made from sea-shells, vases and parts of murals, statuettes and even an ancient tomb. I was mostly impressed by glass and faience made jewelry and I left the first floor happy with what I had seen.

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The second floor guided me towards a later age, as artifacts from geometrical and classical times were displayed. I admired a three horse necked vase, with geometrical shapes drawn on it and I liked the depiction of horses on various other vases. This great animal featured constantly on the items displayed and I thought that this was typical of those warlike early cultures.

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I also saw some decorations of war scenes, but on one of them I could clearly discern a bird in the background, thus I could picture the artist thinking

“This war stuff is so boring. I ‘ll draw a birdie here to highlight the contradiction”

I also witnessed sights of the early worship of Athena, the Goddess of wisdom, expressed by an inscription and small statuettes. Some ceremonial masks seemed to be in accordance with the festive carnival party outside and I spotted a classical age helmet.

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I was mostly impressed by an elegant bronze mirror depicting a woman on its handle holding on her head – accompanied by a cute puppy the round mirror. I could imagine a girl holding it, beautifying herself, getting ready for a night out (sadly not, since most ancient women were limited to their house).

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The small collection of coins was good and I thought that a statuette of a dancing girl looked cool and found a funny resemblance to Shakespeare’s Hamlet on one of the small statuettes.

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To be or not to be, that is the question dear Agamemnon

On my way out I noticed the pics from the excavation sites hung on the wall, presenting views of another side of Greece, an old and simpler one as well as the struggle of those people digging relentlessly in the dirt, during summer heat, in order to uncover the ancient land of heroes.

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Don’t mind me, just adjusting my bra

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I left the museum and found out that the girls had successfully completed their mission, so I joined them for a cup of coffee and we decided to walk back to our car through the old fortifications, which have been turned into a wonderful park, with a great view to the bay. The paved road embraces the hill that tops the town and prickly pear cacti create a marvelous sight as they exist literary everywhere above and below the passage. We also got some great views of Bourtzi, the Venetian water castle.

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That was a great walk and a surprise awaited us upon getting back to Nafplio. We saw a statue depicting a hero of the Greek revolution, which was identical to another one back home. A long time ago, I was told that such a statue existed, but having not seen it, I dismissed these claims as nonsense. I guess the sculptor was a great con artist! The first thing everyone notice about our statue is his third leg, or as a girl I met noticed, the stick up his ass. It was the same case in Nafplio. A man in a mustache, wearing a traditional costume and a stick going under his traditional skirt.

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There’s a Simpsons episode where they find out that their city’s anthem is not unique. This is how we felt.

After meeting Captain Stickupmyass, we got to our car and headed to Argos, in order to catch the Carnival parade. We missed the first chariots, yet we enjoyed ourselves and the festive vibe. Afterwards, we headed towards the main square where we had another cup of coffee, though it was still seemingly impossible to get a table.

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I always knew there was something going on between the white Queen and the black King

After a long but fun day we returned home to grab a bite and rest. It had been a pleasant break and a chance to make this tiny road trip-like route.

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A gently reminder that this once was Venetian turf

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This is the place where Catherine had some great childhood memories

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A small town we encountered on our way back home