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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…

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Now it’s time to say goodbye to Samothraki…

I am writing about 9:30 am and our ferry is at 4 this afternoon. We would stay for one more day, but there is no ferry on Wednesday’s before the summer season gets underway on Friday, July 1.

Since last night was our last evening, we went out for dinner, returning to the “bean restaurant”. I realized that sometime between my first visit to the restaurant in 2008 and now, the parachute that had created a sheltered space had been replaced by an open-sided roof structure. I was not able to get a great picture, but here it is.

outdoor dining at the bean restaurant

Of course the roof is barely visible for all of the vegetation.

I will update sometime soon – I have to run and finish some analyses now! Ciao…

We live pretty close to nature here, and so there are, of course, bugs. Spiders, grasshoppers, and flies, primarily, but this year the bug is the moth. There are an incredible number of moths flitting about in broad daylight. Everyone is remarking on it, that they (who have been coming here for years) have never seen anything like it.

I can’t capture the effect fully (actually, I can’t capture it at all) with still photography, so here is a video:

Saturday night we go out to dinner, so this Saturday I was allowed to choose, given that Lisa and I are leaving this week. I would have chosen Sotiros, but it does not open until July 1, so we went to καρυδιας (which translates to walnuts), also familiarly known as “The Bean Restaurant”. Although I was disappointed that they did not have gigantes, they did have another bean dish that was simply delicious.

Sunday is our free day. The NYU team and Steve Koob, the visiting conservator, went to Fonias to hike to the waterfall. Since Lisa had twisted her ankle before the trip and it was sore, we felt it best that she not make that hike. However, we did drive down along the northern coast of the island, and stopped at the trailhead. We walked just a little way up the trail (increments of meters). It had rained Saturday night, and the first obstacle on the path is a teeny tiny waterfall:

Teeny tiny waterfall

In this view we are looking straight through at the path, which continues to the left of the tree in the background. Here is a long shot:

on the trail to the Fonias waterfalls

We turned around and went back to the car, continuing on our journey along the northern coast road, which ends at Kipos (i=ee) Beach. Since the tourist season does not start here until July 1, there is hardly anyone in town, and almost no one was at the beach.

You can see Turkey from the beach:

view of Imbros from Kipos Beach

In the far distance is the island of Imbros, which is part of Turkey. I like the view of the end of the road:

land's end at Kipos Beach

Well, folks, there are still a lot of data here yearning to be analyzed, so I had best attend to that. More tomorrow!

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!

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…

… 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…

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