Saturday, January 24, 2009

Paths and Empty Roads by Archaeological Sites in the Greek Countryside

The Regular Year program involves a lot of walking. In order to get accepted into the program, the School requires a doctor's verification that you are in reasonable health. This isn't to say that we were all fit as a fiddle, as if our first hike up Lykabitos Hill wasn't like hiking through the valley of the shadow of death. Brutal, is how I recall it. But during the fall trips we got into much better form, so that I was on my way to being as healthy as I was when I drove a pedal-cab at OSU football games.

But then the trips ended, and Christmas happened, and nowadays we do far fewer walk-abouts. This was clear to me yesterday, when we went to the ancient sites of Thorikos, Sounion and Zoster. I'd forgotten what physical activity was like, and how, on foot, the empty road appears ahead of you.

Scott Gallimore navigates a dried creek bed, directly next to the classical-era stoa at Thorikos. Up ahead of him you can just make out the collapsed blocks of the building, which at some unknown point slid into the river.

Lindy Dewey-Gallimore treads the abandoned railway line that runs through Thorikos. Over-grown and unused, several of the railroad ties were ripped out within the last day or two. They'll no doubt be more useful where ever they are now. Site formation at work!

Regular and Associate members travel the winding mountain road at Vari. Our bus couldn't make the trip because the road had been blocked by a funeral. Our destination was the shrine of Pan and the Nymphs in the Vari Cave. We made the hike back in total darkness.

The countryside is green and wet in all directions, a far cry from the dry and yellowed landscape of Greece's summer. Usually this a good thing, but some plants are apparently a nuisance.

Margie Miles, Mellon Professor, on her way to the Thorikos Stoa.

One such example is a verdant and clover-looking plant that spreads like a carpet in olive groves. It turns rocky Greece into a British countryside.

We learned about this dark and evil plant on Wednesday from Harriet Blitzer, who spoke to us during the Weiner Lab seminar. Harriet works on, among other things, olive cultivation and the domestication of plants. She is particularly forceful when it comes to this cloveresque greenery, which was imported to Greece and has thrived to everyone's dismay. It apparently acts like a sponge, holding water in, but kills all the local wild flowers; instead of olive groves starred by spring blooms, only this dread plant remains (yes, I've forgotten its name already). Think kudzu in the South, although it hasn't quite reached the point of swallowing whole trees. It sure is pretty to look at, but I imagine in the spring I'll think differently, when all the wild flowers are gone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can u hear anybody singing "The Road goes ever ever on"? The first picture could not have been more powerful in pulling that out of my ancient grey matter. I might have added an extra "ever". Who needs a zillion dollor movie when one snapshot will bring the entire epic to mind with the music filling my ancient head. Thanks for the reminder. sr