Stop 5: Olympia

Olympia, Greece was of course the site for the ancient Olympic games. Now, since I'm only about two weeks away from starting to teach Western Civ again, I don't really feel like expounding to the point of writing a history lesson about it just yet... But I will post some of the more interesting photos with some thoughts on them.

Since Olympia was largely destroyed by what had to have been incredibly violent earthquakes in 522 and 551 A.D. (and you'll see what I mean about how strong it must have been shortly) nothing was left standing on the site. Anything you see arising above ground level is thus a reconstruction of the broken pieces that were found by archeologists. But even the sheer amount of the remains still on the ground is impressive.

So, some highlights... Firstly, we have the only circular temple on the site, started by Philip II of Macedon and completed by his son Alexander the Great, called appropriately the Philippeion. While quite unusual, it nevertheless evinces what I expected to see from the site, I guess... the subtle elegance of the ancients. (Even if it had all been painted up gaudier than Las Vegas at the time!)

And of course we have a distant descendant of the Olympic Games that we celebrate today. When we do, the famous Olympic flame is actually lit here, on the ruins of the former Altar of Hera (pictured at left) using a parabolic mirror. And what visit to Olympia would be complete with a visit to the Stadium (at right)?

But for me these weren't the most impressive sights. No, I'm not talking about seeing Mount Olympus there (because it's actually in a whole different part of the country), but rather what would have been the ginormous Temple of Zeus!

Of course, it's in ruins now, and the colossal statue of the god which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is long gone... but it is an impressive sight nonetheless. Just get a load of the diameter of the fallen pillars alone, with yours truly standing next to them for comparison! (See, that really must have been some earthquake!!)

Stop 3: Athens & Its Subway

Even though I took hundreds of photos in Athens, they were easier to weed through than I thought!

In part, we had far too little time in the city... only about 7 hours. Combining that with the fact that we were with our Athenian friend Vangelis meant that no local taxi driver would pick us up to take us to the Acropolis because he would have to charge us the "normal" fare! Seriously... we were rejected by like a dozen cab drivers - and it just got funnier every time - who were on their way to the golden goose which is the cruise ship. (Pretty quickly, I learned the Greek for "no"... oshi!)

So, in the end, we only had enough time to see the Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum. And there's practically no way to take a photo of the iconic Parthenon without it being totally cliched... So, I'll teach with those photos and won't bother posting them on Flickr or here. But what I will share are some photos from our cool trip through the Athens metro! Yes, you read that right... the lowly subway!!

Needless to say, you can't dig a hole in downtown Athens without hitting something of historical value. As a result, in an unprecedented move, teams of archeologists worked alongside the metro engineers for a total of six years, uncovering a staggering 32,000 artefacts in the process! The end result is not only a greater knowledge of Athens' buried history, but also metro stations which double as museums! Totally cool.

So, here are some glimpses of these clever exhibits at the Acropolis and the Syntagma Square metro stations... As you can see from the Acropolis stop above, a number of the artefacts (or their reproductions if they're simply too valuable) are on display, including the ancient Greek plumbing (!) and ancient toys exhibited at the Syntagma station.

But at Syntagma they've done even more. Since subways by definition provide a great cross-section of the substrata beneath a city, they've displayed this behind a glass wall... so you can see perfectly well the ancient necropolis which originally occupied that site.

Complete, by the way, with an open grave and a skeleton in it! (I am assuming this is a reproduction, but I can't swear to it...)

Now why can't Rome do the same thing???

Stop 4: Mykonos

Again, jumping around out of order, photos from the beautiful whitewashed tourist trap that is the Greek island of Mykonos are now up in my Flickr photostream (and in my sidebar slideshow at right!)

Whew, that's pretty much it for the modern cities... now I have to face fixing up the hundreds of photos from classical Athens, Olympia and Delos!!

Stop 2: Corfu'

A little out of order in presenting my vacation pics, but it was actually easier to start the weeding out process with the ones from the island of Corfu'. A handful of new holiday snaps are thus now available in my Flickr photostream (visible in the slideshow in the sidebar).

More to come...

Dr. V and the Splendour of the Seas in Corfu'

Venice in Vintage Science Mags

It's always a hoot to look through old issues of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, and with Google Books you can now do just that! But what do you get if you mix an eternally medieval city with eternally hopeful futurists? You get these mags' interesting take on Venice! Through their pages, you see the 20th century slowly but surely arrive to the canal city (or not, as sometimes the case may be...)

As you can see from the pictures, the articles ranged from the ridiculous (at left) to the strangely poignant from World War I below.

For more on Vintage Venice, see my post over at Metafilter...

Worst cruise photo idea EVAR!

I wanted to pose for it from behind the fishtank but they wouldn't let me!

(Just kidding...)

Proof that I'm easily amused...

A towel animals mosaic from last week's cruise through the Med!

Remembering Venice: The Fragrance!

I've been living in Venice each and every summer for the last 16 years, and I've NEVER encountered the (in)famous so-called "stinky" canals of Venice. As far as I'm concerned, Venice smells no better or no worse than any other coastal city during the summer.

Nevertheless, I was not particularly broken up about the fact that I couldn't take that fragrance home with me. I couldn't, that is, UNTIL NOW!

That's right... there's now (drumroll please!) "Remembering Venice: The Fragrance"! Yes, you too can now enjoy the bottled smells of Venice long after you've left the lagoon city, all for a mere $113!!

A Palladian Afternoon in Venice

Yesterday, I caught the ferry boat that takes cars to Venice's beach island, the Lido. It passes through the wide Giudecca canal that forms the underbelly of the city, where you can get some unparallelled great Venetian views!

To wit, in one fell swoop, you can get a spectacular gander of not one BUT THREE churches designed by the virtuoso Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio!

As proof, I've uploaded to Flickr these shots of mine taken of the gleamingly gorgeous sixteenth-century white marble churches of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Zitelle, and the Redentore. Enjoy!!

Great photo & good advice: TAKE IT EASY!

Originally uploaded by TIMVANdotCOM


From the photo's notes:

"Taking it easy on the world's largest salt flats. Bolivia.

We couldn't decide on what to 'write', the first thought was "BOLIVIA", but no one could figure out how to do the 'B'... though I must add that 'S' isn't easy either... one guy had a t-shirt with the words TAKE IT EASY written on them... and the rest is history.

I only had a 10 second timer window to push the shutter and sprint to finish the '!'"