Living


Yesterday was July 4th. But it was also Wednesday, so we stuck to our usual daytime work schedule. Nevertheless we planned to celebrate our unique American holiday in our unique Samothracian fashion.

We invited Professor and Mrs. McCredie over for Ouzo Hour. They arrived in Sylvester, a Thing that was a popular model for VW in the 1970’s. There was deep concern during the first week that Sylvester might have breathed his last. Evidently he broke down somewhere between Kavala and Alexandroupolis as the McCredie’s made their way to the island earlier in the summer. The mechanic evidently had difficulty obtaining parts. Nevertheless, he was ultimately successful and Mr. McCredie was able to fetch Sylvester last Friday.

Between 6 pm when we knocked off work, and 8 pm, the start of Ouzo Hour, a great deal of preparation took place. An appetizer of watermelon cubes, speared with a leaf of arugula and a slice of feta, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar was made, as well as zucchini fritters. Others set the table in a holiday appropriate theme:

(You may not be able to see it so well, but the centerpiece is a vase containing a handful of small American flags.)

In addition to the hot appetizers, we also set out olives, pretzel sticks, bread and tzatziki, peanuts, and the requisite Ouzo. Actually, I should say “they” did all this, because I was in my room, packing up my belongings.

The McCredie’s arrived promptly at 8 pm, with Sylvester sporting both the American and Greek flags:

After the Ouzo Hour, the McCredie’s retired to their house, while we continued to celebrate with another uniquely American tradition: pizza delivery, new to Samothrace. It was wonderful pizza – and, as it turns out, the proprietor ran a pizzaria in Connecticut for a couple of decades before returning to Kamariotissa. We enjoyed peach cobbler for dessert.

I retired early, since I had to catch the 7 am ferry this morning. I am now ensconced in a hotel room in Athens, and have to catch a flight at 6:50 am for Paris in the morning, then on to ATL later in the afternoon.

Although I have loved being here this year, I am excited for my next adventure – I get to see all of my family in a week as we gather for my nephew’s wedding near Dallas, Texas.

So that closes the dig blog for this year. Since my daughter is getting married next summer, I am not planning to return to Greece before 2014. So I will see you then. Thanks to all of you who have been reading! And stay tuned…

There are lots of bugs here, and you can see some of the fine specimens here. They have been particularly problematic this year, since our leader, Bonna, was bitten not once, not twice, but three times by a centipede while she was asleep on Saturday. One bite would be bad enough to cause nausea and vomiting, but she had three. Fortunately she is just about recovered today.

Nevertheless the bugs constitute an important part of the environment here, as does the wind. Moreover they constitute the major part of the aural environment. Major contributors are grasshoppers, like this guy.

One of the criticisms of the animated fly-throughs of the reconstructed model of the Sanctuary is that there is no sound. So I have taken it upon myself to record some of the ambient sounds. Here is a recording I made yesterday afternoon. Nothing much happens except that the chirping volume waxes and wanes, as does the sound of the wind. Anyway, here is your short taste of the Sounds of Samothrace:

Crickets attempt 1 from iphone

Some of you may know that I have started working out with a trainer, Jeremy, aka ETG for Excellent Trainer Guy (although sometime I substitute Evil for those 60-90 minutes every week during our sessions). I have made a lot of progress since we started in April, and I wanted to continue my momentum.

So that raises the question, how does one maintain one’s girlish figure while on an excavation? I can’t pack up the Blomeyer Center in my suitcase. My answer is “Blomeyer in a Bag”.

At least once a week, Jeremy has had me working out with elastic bands. I recalled that several years ago, the Emory EVP of the Health Sciences Center sent a set of elastic bands to all of the faculty as a holiday present. I dug those out of the cupboard, thinking that those would be a relatively light way of bringing along resistance training. I asked Jeremy to write out a workout that I could do with the set of bands, which he obliged. So yesterday morning I arose at 5:15 and got my workout done before the heat of the day made it an impossibility. It remains to be seen if I can manage to repeat that feat tomorrow morning.

So now, for your viewing pleasure, I present, “Blomeyer in a Bag”:

Image

Other than that, I spent yesterday setting up my workspace, and getting myself organized for working the rest of my time here. More later!

Yesterday I wrote about taking a tour of the site with Mr. McCreadie, and that I felt good that I was retaining much from year to year. But this year I heard something new in the tour, and that was that the marble used for the building called the Dedication of Phillip III and Alexander IV was from two different sources. Specifically the marble for the facade is Pentelic, meaning that it was quarried from Mt. Pentelicus, near Athens, and the marble for the other 3 sides is Thasian, meaning it was quarried on Thasos, an island very close to Samothrace in the northern Aegean. In the back of my mind I have been puzzling about this building for weeks, since Bonna is not content with the estimated foot unit that I have derived. So when it hit me that two different marbles were used, I started to think that the estimate is bad because there are two different foot units being used by two different sets of masons quarrying marble at two different geographic sites.

So then, how could you construct a building with two different foot units? I would argue that width (the depth of the block) would not matter. If the corner blocks were custom-fit on the facade, if the last course of blocks on the facade were custom fit, then it might work. BUT I am not very intuitive when it comes to geometry, so maybe this conjecture is all wet. What do you think?

In the meantime I wanted to talk about our kitchen situation, which I have described previously (see the end of the post). We work with extreme conditions in our kitchen. We have a range with solid state cooking elements, and there are no markings on the control knobs to clue us to the strength of the heat. The oven has one wire rack, and the barely legible temperatures are, of course, in Centigrade, always necessitating quick mental arithmetic to translate 350 or 400 into the proper temperature. In addition we have dull knives, no serving platters nor bowls, pots and pans with bottoms that are so warped that only one point on the bottom makes contact with the burner.

Add to that the fact that we eating slower foods here. By that I mean that if you go to town to buy fish at 1 in the afternoon, you are likely to find one of the fish stores closed and the other one with only sardines left, as we found out yesterday. The only fruits and vegetables are seasonal, although they are brought over by ferry from the mainland. It’s a good thing that I really like fresh tomatoes, since that is a staple of the diet here. Last night I ended up making keftedes, Greek meatballs, in which the only sure measurement was that I had 1 kilo of ground beef and one onion chopped. Lisa made tzatzkiki with local sheep yogurt, 8% for tzatzkiki, as well as a garbanzo bean salad and patates. We had hoped to grill fish, a plan that we had to abort because we did our shopping after lunch.

To leave you with a visual, here is a picture of the stove:

Kitchen at Hotel Xenia, Paleopolis, Samothraki

The blue bag hanging to the left of the stove contains our bread and cereals. It is hanging since ants are less likely to get into it that way. The collection of pans for using in the oven is to the right of the stove, stacked atop a non-working propane grill. We do have a nice big freezer chest, which you can see just through the door.

We have been joking that the Food Network should shoot a series called “Extreme Cooking” – put chefs into kitchens like this and see how they fare, what they can create.

I won’t have internet access tomorrow, but I’ll be back on Monday, so stay tuned!

Each year when a new group of students comes to the site, they receive a guided tour of the Sanctuary. For years, Jim McCreadie, who  had been site director since 1962 until recently, gave the tour. However, Bonna gave my tour the first year I was here, as she did in subsequent years up until this year. Unfortunately, she is suffering from a broken leg (another story) and has not yet been able to walk out into the site. So this year she called Mr. McCreadie back into service.

He starts the tour by leading everyone back to the southern corner of the Eastern Hill, in the block field for the Propylon of Ptolemy II, which was the building through which initiates entered the Sanctuary. Below are a couple of shots taken in the “school room”:

Sanctuary tour "school room"

Jim McCreadie

He gave a great tour. I am glad to say that I didn’t learn much that was new, which means that this stuff is sinking into my brain, finally! I was able to ask some good questions. Moreover, when Lisa and I went into the site yesterday to shoot some gigapans, I was able to point out some things that he had omitted (inner apsoidal wall of Hieron, Sacred Rock, rock in shape of the island that is set in the stone wall of one of the dining rooms).

I mentioned above that Bonna had broken her leg. She was descending from the Acropolis at Lindos on Rhodes last week, turned to say something to her friend, and fell. The rocks at these sites can be very slippery, and I have been watching myself to be sure that I remain intact, treating steps and rocky terrain very carefully. She went over to Alexandroupolis yesterday to see a doctor who will be replacing the half cast that she has been wearing, and she will return this afternoon.

Last night we went into Kamariotissa for pizza. Here is the pizzaria.

Samothraki Pizzaria

We sat across the street, enjoying a particularly beautiful sunset. In the background of this photo you can see Mt. Assos, the holiest mountain in modern Greece.

View of Mt. Assos from Samothraki at Sunset

And in this photo you can see the outline of the Greek island Thasos to the left of the setting sun.

View of Thassos from Samothraki at Sunset

More tomorrow!

… 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…

There are most interesting street signs on Samothrace. For example, the sign below is ubiquitous here. What do you think it means?

One would think that there is a cow crossing ahead if one saw this sign. However, one would be wrong, since there are no cows on Samothrace.

Yet, there are a lot of goats and sheep on Samothrace, yet only one sign to warn of their crossing ahead. We are bringing it to you right here, you lucky readers!

There are a lot of signs that are just exclamation points (!). This one, however, is intended to warn one of an upcoming series of bumps. It might also remind gentle readers of something else, but this is a family blog, and we would really like to keep our G rating.

One might think that this next sign is warning of dangerous driving conditions. We think, however, that there should be signs warning of the crazy drivers here on the island.

This sign reminds us of one of those pictures where if one stares at the light one sees one image and if one stares at the dark one sees a completely different image. We suppose that Samothracian traffic authorities think that one will only be warned of the potential for falling rock regardless of whether one concentrates on the light or the dark.

Finally this is our favorite sign. Be careful of those that might push your car into the water!

More tomorrow…

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