"The man that hath no music in himself
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It is only our second full day in Greece, and already we have been through Athens, Delfi, and Messolongi, given a concert, seen legendary ruins, been to a museum, a garden, and a couple of nice restaurants, been feted by city officials, blown away by the sea and the mountains, and consumed large quantities of feta cheese. I wasn't sure at first but I'm beginning to like the stuff.
Today we are in Patras, in the northwest corner of the islandlike portion of Greece, known as Peloponnese. Patras isn't widely considered one of the more interesting spots for tourists in Greece, but we have arrived just days before the start of the Lenten season by the Greek Orthodox calendar. It begins Monday, and today is Saturday, which means one thing: Carnival! If this seems reminiscent of New Orleans and Mardi-Gras, Greek style, I am afraid I was expecting that too, and wondering just how prudent it was to be wandering into such a thing with two dozen teenage girls.
Fortunately, the most inebriated hijinx were kept to a minimum. I was told by some that it is because the Greeks are a little more reserved; a more reasonable explanation perhaps is that it was pretty chilly that afternoon so the clothing didn't come off; anyhow, we cleared out before evening, when things usually tend to really get going, no matter where you are from.
Once the parade kicked off, there was little to be done but gaze at the imaginative productions of the participants. The music blared; we were pretty much sandwiched in although we'd managed to get pretty good places near the edge of the sidewalk; apparently the event wasn't as well attended as usual.
It was good to get a taste of modern Greece. A day later, we were back among the ruins of ancient Olympia, the site of those famed athletic contests. The village is now mostly impressive-looking rubble; even that was buried beneath layers of sediment and was dug out by teams of Germans, who seem to have taken quite an interest in ancient Greece during the 19th century, particularly a man named Heinrich Schliemann. The Greeks built things to last; however, their temples were not earthquake-proof, as the Temple of Zeus (top left in the pictures below) shows. The one visible column is a reconstruction, rather than an unusually lucky pillar.
The Olympic village was a self-contained city of sorts--athletes who were to participate in the games went to live in the Olympic village and train with the other athletes--the very ones they were later to compete against. They stayed in the Olympic hotel (bottom right); I told a few people after my return that that was "the hotel" and watched their reaction, before hastily explaining that we stayed at a different one. It was a bad joke. This hotel, too, was apparently a model of elegance, if that adjective applies to stone structures. It certainly seems to, at least to judge from the model of what the hotel looked like when it was open for business.
Past the temples to Zeus and Hera (hers is always a little bit smaller, you know?) is the place where today the Olympic torch is lit before it makes its long journey to wherever the Olympic games are being held (top right). Then there is a tunnel, a small archway, and you are standing in the ancient stadium, surrounded by cheering ghosts! The Greeks didn't countenance cheating at their games, which is why, on the way to the stadium, there once was a hall of shame--statues of all those athletes who had cheated at the games. They didn't fool around with five-game suspensions and other slaps on the wrist back then. Now it is only a memory--the archway is the only stone reminder of past glory. Little remains inside the stadium (bottom left) except the starting line for the races, which was naturally built of marble. The girls lined up on it and ran a race the length of the stadium. I don't recall who won, but we kidded her afterward saying we saw her cheat and her statue would be going up shortly!
It was time to travel to Tolo, a lovely resort town on the eastern coast of Peloponnese. Even judging by the map it was going to take a long bus ride to get there. I quipped, "it may be a long way to Tripoli, (which happens to be in central Greece) but it is even longer to Tolo." Nevertheless, as you can see by the pictures, it was certainly worth it. The back of the hotel provided an excellent view of the sea (below). For some reason now, when I think of our accommodations, I immediately think of Tolo. I will always remember the recalcitrant door handle on the hotel room. Similarly, who can forget our very friendly hotel dog, who followed us leisurely about the grounds. One night I saw Alice eating an orange. I have never seen a human being enjoy a piece of fruit so much. Greek oranges are, believe it or not, the number one export. If you have had one, you are not the same individual you once were. Trust me; after the testimonial I had the experience myself. It would be worth the plane trip just to eat an orange and go home. But while you are there anyway....
....on to the rousing conclusion (part three)