Wednesday, March 28, 2012

October 2011: A DC Wedding

October was a wonderful month for my family. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving in the usual way, we traveled south to DC for the wedding of Jonathan and Maggie. We also used the wedding as an excuse to spend some time in DC and then go on a cruise. Just as I love visiting my own nation's capital for all it represents, there is so much to see and do in DC that is informative yet enjoyable. On this visit Don and I spent the day with David and Evie at the capital and Library of Congress. I adore the architecture and the history of the city and its buildings. I was hoping to go to the Holocaust museum but ran out of time. I guess I will just have to go for another visit!
The reason for the visit was the wedding. I had a wonderful time. It was a relatively smaller wedding, but it was elegant and a good time was had by all. It is during these times that I reflect on life and how it moves along at a fast pace. I start sounding like my grandparents and parents by saying I remember when... or it seems like just yesterday when.... It is also wonderful to see that my nieces and nephews have grown into caring, principled adults. I am so proud of them. Jonathan and Maggie look wonderful together and I enjoyed watching how they are with each other. It was a very relaxing wedding with dancing and a lot of talking. Just being around family is comforting, especially since it does not happen enough.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Favourite Greece Moments: Athens

Athens was interesting to tour. Its history is evident everywhere, yet there are modern elements. Our hotel was done in the art deco style. The elevator could only fit two people at a time (squished) and had the iron screen that went across it. When we got up in the morning we thought we would walk to a bus stop to go to the Acropolis. We saw soldiers with machine guns at the ready and, on second thought, we took a taxi instead. As it turns out, the area we were staying in use to be a very posh, upscale area until the illegal gun trade moved in. Despite this, we were still comfortable walking around the downtown core around the acropolis and other ruins. We watched the changing of the guards at the parliament building - the same spot where the riots have been over the past year.

A guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier. I loved our walk around the acropolis. We were given a private tour and the guide reminded me of the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" since she dissected English words and related everything back to Greek. When we walked through the Plaka (the market area) we were told by a local which area to avoid due to pic-pocket gangs. Despite this, the Plaka was charming. I wonder if the people who live and work there ever contemplate how they walk in a place where people have walked for thousands of years - some of whom are famous. This thought is awe inspiring to me. For instance, I walked on a rock on which St.Paul preached from. Too cool!

St. Paul's rock
I also thought it was interesting seeing an archaeological dig in the middle of the city. They were digging to expand the metro when they came across some ruins, so they had to reroute the metro and the spot is now a dig site. Even at the Acropolis Museum there is a dig. They built on top of the dig and rather than cover it over with a concrete path, the area out front of the museum in covered in glass so you can look down and see the ruins.

My Favourite Greece Moments

On Mykonos we stayed in a very quaint and small hotel called Pelican Bay. It was named after the island mascot, Petros the pelican, who walks through the town every day under the watchful eye of its caretaker. Our neighbours were donkeys, goats and chickens and we awoke to a rooster. It is said that Mykonos is the place where Zeus battled with Gigantes and that it was named after Apollo's grandson, Mykons. The Ionians built the first cities in the 11th centruy BCE.
I love the Hora (the town of Mykonos), with its white washed stones and streets that were purposefully made in a maze to discourage invasions. There are many chapels on the island. During storms sailors and pirates would promise to build a chapel if God returned them safely home. This part of the Hora is called Little Venice. In the past it flooded every year and, as a result, balconies were built from one house to another house to give a means of escape.

This is the Paraportiani, a church. Part of the church dates back to 1425. It has a door in the roof to allow an escape route if invaded.

On an island off Mykonos we visited Delos, an ancient city on an island. It was a centre of commerce and religion where people from around the Mediterannean traded goods and worshipped their gods in their own temples. We sure could learn from them today about religious tolerance! Today the island is one large archaeological dig.

The second island we visited was Santorini. Thousands of years ago, around 1450 BCE, Santorini was one island, then there was a catastrophic volcanic eruption that altered the island forever. The dome was blown off and water flooded the caldera resulting in three islands. The people who lived on the island, the Minoans, escaped although it is thought that their civilization sudenly disappeared, possibly from the tsunami that resulted from the earthquakes. Today the towns are built on the side of the cliff and the volcano continues to be active. To get to the old port you can either take a cable car down or walk down on the road that goes back and forth along the cliff. Donkeys frequent this road. On Santorini we stayed in a resort-like hotel called the El Greco in Fira. Santorini has a black beach and a red beach - the result of volcanic eruptions. We spent time in the morning on the black beach in Kamari enjoying the waves and the sun. The sand is gritty and hurts the feet to walk on.

We weaved back and forth as the taxi took us up the hill of Mesa Vuono to the ancient city of Thira. I would think that the people who lived here once upon a time would probably seldom come down since it is quite the climb up. When you look down one side of the hill you see the town of Perissa and looking down the other side of the hill you see Kamari.

Lastly, we visited Oia to see the sunset. I could live here with its troglodite looking buildings.