July 2010


When I left you last, we were in Alexandroupolis, ready to embark on the next to last leg of our trip with two days on vacation in Athens. Here are some of the exciting parts of our stay there.

1. A high point. We landed in Athens, took a taxi to our hotel, and checked in. God bless the Marriott – I sure do love American hotels, especially after our 3 week sojourn in rather modest circumstances. We chilled for an hour or so, then made our way to Syntagma square, the center of the city.

2. Another hight point. We got there a few minutes before 3 pm, enough time to cross the street and watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier which sits in front of the Greek Parliament building. You can see videos of this online at YouTube (notably here and here). But if you can stand the still photos, here are a few pictures that we took.

First, a set of new troops marches in from the street side of the square. I don’t know where they came from, all of a sudden they were just there.

A new set of troops ready to stand guard.

There is another little house and another guard facing to the left which are not in the picture, but they are to the right of the camera. The soldier in the blue hat is going to inspect the new troops.

Standing for inspection

In the meantime the two guys on the platform are beginning to swing their legs in an elaborate march toward the center.

Old guard on his march toward the center.

More high stepping and arm swinging from the old guard

The two old guards meet in the center, then they will separate.

Now the new guards start their march.

The new guards are on their way in...

One of the old guards meets one of the new guards

The old guards have assembled at the bottom of the steps with the 3rd cohort who had marched in with the new, now they start their march out.

Farewell for now

3. After watching this we walked down Ermou, the main shopping drag, toward Monasteraki, where we enjoyed lunch. After this we headed toward the Monasteraki subway station to take the green line to the Victoria station, from which we could walk to the National Archaeological Museum.

4. The (only, but nonetheless significant) low point: While getting on the subway, two men working together created enough of a diversion (by separating us and pushing me into the gap between the platform and the train that, as the British say, I should have been minding) that Rick took his hands out of his pockets. After a moment we were reunited, but the two men were gone and so was Rick’s wallet, and train was moving. However, once we disembarked two stops later we were able to call all of the card services involved, but not before a charge for over $1000 had been made on the Visa card. Ouch. We don’t have to pay it, but still, ouch. Fortunately his passport was not in his wallet. Although Rick beat himself up a bit for this, in the end he decided that this was not going to ruin his vacation and he set out to enjoy himself.

5. Another high point: After an hour of dealing with the necessary phone calls, we went to the National Archaeological Museum. I really like that museum – I love seeing the Mycenean death masks, ie the Mask of Agamemnon etc. Also the sculpture is exquisite.¬†At 6:30 we left to walk – we still weren’t in the mood to get back on a crowded subway train – back to Syntagma, where we could catch a shuttle back to the Marriott. We then grabbed a quick bite of supper in the hotel bar, and called it a night.

6. The next morning we got up early to walk up the Acropolis. I made it – I had failed to climb it when I was in Athens in 2008, and it was a personal goal. Here is the official picture of me in front of the Parthenon.

Vicki in front of the eastern side of the Parthenon.

Rick in front of the famous Caryatid porch on the south side of the Erechtheion.

Here is another shot of the girls, without the beefcake:

A closer look at the Caryatids

7. The last major high point: After 90 minutes or so, we had seen as much as there was to see, and so we climbed down the Acropolis and wandered over to the New Acropolis Museum. On the way there, the sign below caught our eye. It was hanging on the door to a house that was on the street that skirts south of the Acropolis, and the museum sits just behind it.

The Greece Ministry of Culture or the Druid Hills Civic Association - its a toss up.

The sign was also posted in German and Greek.

The New Acropolis Museum, opened in July 2009, was lovely. The displays were well placed and very educational. Although most of the buildings on the Acropolis are devoted to either scenes of ¬†battle or to events in the lives of the gods, I did find a couple of friezes that evoked some of the same imagery that is used on buildings in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. I wonder if there is any connection. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. Since I had already been warned by one of the numerous guards not to touch (I really didn’t touch it, although my fingers did get closer than a foot away, honest), I didn’t want to flagrantly take pictures. I hope I can find images online somewhere.

That about sums up our stay in Athens. It is a dry, dusty town, but even in that large metropolis we managed to run in to Kyle, who was having lunch in the same cafe into which we wandered after the museum visit. Small world.

More posting later when I get GigaPans processed and uploaded…

Today after a packed day of analysis (now that I have a dataset that Bonna is satisfied with), taking Gigapans (I got several good ones and will post links after I upload them next week), and finally packing, the Great Gods took offense and decided to throw a thunderstorm in our honor at 5:30 when I was beginning to get nervous about leaving for the ferry. However, it was quickly over, and we managed to squeeze our 8 bags and 3 people into the Micra to get to the ferry dock. We arrived just as the last vehicles were getting off the ferry, so we were able to get our luggage well situated.

Six of the eight bags with which we are traveling, nicely shelved on the ferry

Fortunately we were early enough so that we could get good seats. So I camped out while Rick roamed the top deck to take pictures. I think this one, looking out from the harbor in Kamariotissa, is pretty nice.

A view from Kamariotissa harbor

Although the boat’s arrival had been delayed by the storm, we left more or less on time. Rick took this last picture of the island.

One last view of Samothrace

We arrived in Samothrace after dark, and managed to get a cab to take us the few blocks to the hotel. Erika was just as irrascible as ever, clearly clueless as to how two people named Hertzberg can’t speak German.

It has been a long day, and we have to get up early and go to the airport tomorrow, so I’ll post again on Friday. Until then…

Yesterday was our last full day on the island. I worked my fingers to the veritable bone getting to analytic results. And today I need to do more. But I am also going to take some gigapans if it kills me. So this is a quick post, summarizing the high points and low points.

Let’s start with the low points: Our accomodations here are a little spartan (for those of you who know Montreat, think of Chestnut Lodge), so the Athens Marriott is getting to look mighty fine. We aren’t in our 20’s any more, and it is tougher to leave our luxuries as we age.

But enough about low points, let’s hear it for the high points: Perhaps because of the accomodations, we have developed better friendships here. In addition, Bonna and I have developed a better working relationship in that I am much more familiar with the architecture meaning and archaeological context of the work, while she is much more familiar with what I need in terms of data. And perhaps next summer I can get her to understand the concept of confidence interval.

So keep those cards and letters coming in, folks. And cheer me on when I hike up the Acropolis on Friday, approximately 2 am EDT (9 am here).

More later….

… I am NOT posting a technical blog today. I thought I would talk more about food.

For the most part we cook for ourselves here at the Xenia. Although we sometimes give in to a American favorites (ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, and Coca-Cola), we cook more or less in a Greek style. Cooking is rather elemental here. We cannot scoot through the produce department at Publix and find a plastic container of chopped onions. The chickens are whole, the fish are so fresh that they have hardly stopped wriggling, and when you go to the butcher to get ground meat, he steps inside the meat locker, takes out a hunk of beef, cleaves off a section, then sends it through the grinder.

Jim owns a house here, and every spring he sends over seed for sweet corn for his man here to plant. So we have been enjoying corn on the cob during our stay, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers, from his largesse. (A note to Dr. Crews, my orthodontist, if she is reading: I am cutting the corn off the cob before eating.)

Last night we enjoyed hamburgers a la Grecque – ground beef mixed with chopped onion, egg, parsley, coriander; shaped into patties, broiled, then served on pita bread – and corn on the cob. We did have ketchup for the burgers, although they taste just as good without it.

A few nights ago we had fish – we think it is sea bass. Michael deboned it, then we cooked it on the barbecue.

Michael's sea bass a la Grecque

In addition Michael and Rebecca fried up some calamari, all of which was accompanied by green beans cooked up with an onion, a tomato – dill salsa, and corn on the cob. Here are (left to right) Kyra and Kyle waiting for the rest of us.

Our feast awaits!

By the way, this Kyle is the much less hirsute version of the Kyle who got his hair cut the first week we were here. Quite a difference, yes?

For dessert, Kyle had mixed up a Morfat cake. Morfat is evidently a Danish company, although it seems that the Greeks love these mixes. No baking is involved in the preparation of these cakes, just add water to the various components, stir, layer them all together in the ring mold that comes in the box, and refrigerate. We had a chocolate cake, and I think that in one small slice I overdosed on chocolate. Here’s a picture:

Morfat chocolate cake

Well, I am off to make some sense of these data. More later…

Saturday I slaved away over a hot laptop, programming, checking data, etc, and was at it until 7:45 pm, when Rick had our daughter on Skype. Being the good mother that I am, I opted to stop work and chat with her. All of the team slowly dragged back to the Xenia, and around 9 pm we drove up to Chora for an evening out.

We ate at 1900, a very nice restaurant. Tzatziki, melanzanasalata (eggplant salad), horiatiki (Greek salad), patates, chicken souvlaki, and goat – nummers!

The view from our table at 1900 in Chora.

Sunday morning I woke up when the cicadas started chirping, around 8 am. WIdrove in to Kamariostissa with Bonna where we picked up some hot buzecki, a pastry specialty to northeastern Greece. It is layers of filo dough pastry, each generously slathered with butter, then a layer of custard, then more filo and butter. This whole concoction is then baked until golden brown. when you order, you point to a length. The woman then cuts of that length then slices and dices into little square bits, which she then heaps onto some butcher paper and sprinkles with powdered sugar and cinnamon. After weighing – it’s sold by the kilo – she wraps it up and bags it. It is best enjoyed while still warm.

After breakfast we went to the sandy beach at Pacchia Ammos. I took several gigapans there, which I am processing now. I’ll upload and post links at a later time, after I am back in the world of fater internet.

After lunch, we went to Fonias to hike to the waterfalls. Although there is only the slightest of slopes, the hike is challenging in that one must pick one’s way carefully through rocks, at times crossing over the river then crossing back again. But I am proud to say that I made it all the way, although by the time I arrived I was too exhausted to swim. I had to save my energy to get back to the car, although the return trip was slightly easier since it was downhill – the incline was slight, but enough to make a difference that way.

Michael along the way.

I'm getting there, slowly but surely!

Now I am back with nose to grindstone, or rather, fingers to computer keyboard. I hope the great god of SAS continues to smile upon me.

More later…

A few days ago we promised you gigapans. We have been so busy here in Hall E, slaving away over a hot computer writing SAS programs and analyzing data, that we have hardly had time to take any. The three gigapans that we have taken are of (you guessed it) Hall E. Here is a link to one of them.

Michael, the wonder-geo-spatial guy, has been so busy taking a survey of the site that he has hardly had time to take any, likewise. However, he has managed to sneak off for a few shots. Unfortunately for all of us, the internet connection here is so slow that he has not uploaded any of them yet.

If you are interested in more gigapans of Samothrace, you can find all of the work by Michael and yours truly on the island by going to this link.

Now we had best be getting back to work – more data to analyze. More tomorrow!

[We have been plagued by problems with our internet connection over the last 24 hours, so we are only offering an abbreviated post today.]

The students have been blogging. Catch them here. The seventh (7th) picture in is of a goat on top of a tree – they certainly are aggressive when it comes to getting their food, although not of danger to us.

One of the big activities during this season has been to finalize this phase of our web site, especially regarding finds from the site as well as the interactive map. Check them out here!

More tomorrow…

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