Blogmas Day 16: Caltagirone, Licata and Selinunta, Sicily July 1969 :)

Blogmas Day 16: Caltagirone, Licata and Selinunta, Sicily July 1969 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Caltagirone

An Arab fortified town built on hills, its streets are actually flights of steps; each row of steps has a different mosaic on its front, following a pattern of 2 rows, of geometrical designs, then a row of either faces, figures, animals, birds, travel scenes, hunting, fighting or some sport, all in beautiful columns. Ceramic works flourishes here and the main buildings have ceramics as exterior decoration. The population is mostly farmers as the land is fertile producing mainly olives and fruit.

Licata

This small, dirty, dusty town has no water supply, the occupants have to lay it from a water cart which gets its water from a nearby fountain. Licata and Agrigento shared a reservoir in the past but the growth of the latter town absorbed all the supply. Money collected to construct a new reservoir is not paid by most people, who can get some official to excuse them paying, so the money which is collected is collected is spent on another project In contrast to Licata, Pibera has a splendid irrigation  system which waters the orchards of cherry, pear, peach and olive trees, these are on the mountain slopes; the water runs through large cement troughs and a water tower to the lower levels of the sloping ground. In May wild strawberries are plentiful; cotton is also produced. At Sciacca, nearby, are thermal springs; it is possibly the worlds oldest spa; 2 large hotels, have been built on a mountain top over the springs. Sardine fishing and canning provide work and Sciacca is famous for its ceramics.

Selinunte

The huge temples of this site are so ruined it is impossible to re-erect them and only a few are partially re-built, the town was raged by Hannibal during the Carthaginian wars, and the temples have been given alphabetical names as their true names are unknown: earthquakes also provided additional havoc. The Temple of Zeus is a mass of fallen drums and blocks, the drums are some of the largest found in any ruin. The columns are plain or fleuted, the style is Doric, but the presence of plain columns proves the temple was not completed before it was destroyed by Hannibal. The stove is limestone, some capitals remain, gigantic but plain, no freize or canning. The temple is also desiguated as Temple D. Temple E was probably the Temple of Dionysius or Hera, it has been partially erected with its tall Doric columns, and houses 3 of the enormous capitols rescued from the ruins. Among the fallen masoney and catacombs and remains of houses. The Acropolis is surrounded by a city wall; it held 4 temples and many small houses, some of the walls of which still have the blue and the white plaster intact, were protected from the elements. Its main street is intersected by parallel roads which are straight and run N.S., E.W. Some of the road stones have channels worn by chariot wheels, and tethering places for the houses. The lower stones of some buildings are not shaped or smooth, thus proving that the acropolis like the Temple of Zeus, was destroyed before it was completed. The main entrance gate and walls are large, the approach to them, long, wide and pointed as in those days the sea came right up to the gate. No arches are in the walls as the art of their construction was then unknown. The drums and pillars of the 4 temples are smaller than those of the temples outside the acropolis on account of the stone being much heavier. The Acropolis was also within the city walls. Outside Selinunte are the hovels of people who fled from earthquakes; as at Sciacca, where the new houses were completed, the seuts were so high, that the people preferred to remain in their houses.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Sicily 🙂

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Syracuse- Sicily July 1969

Syracuse- Sicily July 1969

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Founded 733 B.C. colonists from Corinth, the town owes its wealth to oil deposits; it was the first point where Christianity reached Europe; St Paul passed through here on his way to Rome. It has two ports, the old houses the fishing fleet, the new, the larger – to Turkey and Mareta; the town has 2 parts too, old and new, the old is the Island of Ortygia, linked to the mainland by a bridge. The Fortress of Dionysius or Eurycles castle was a lookout post built by Dionysius, it has a view of 3 seas, the Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian; originally there were 2 castles, surrounded by walls, with underground tunnels stretching for 7 miles, 3 large caves for storing food, wine and oil, a fresh water well, a draw bridge and a aquaduct to channel rain water, thus allowing self-efficiency in times of siege. An earthquake, 1696, partially destroyed the site; the fortress was built well below the top of the guarding walls; with sloping floors and roof; arches allowed the shooting of arrows. The enemy of Carthaginians, on the high wall, could not shoot arrows became of the awkward angle, but the greeks could shoot upwards and the stout pillars supporting the archers gave cover for the defenders. The tunnels had a one way system, so if the enemy gained access, the Greek horsemen and archers could come round and attack from the rear. The tethering rings for the houses still remain; the tunnel floor was sloped to allow rain and marsh water to drain away. Inside the walls was a decoy tunnel; when the enemy rushed it, they found themselves in complete blackness owing to the slope and twist of the tunnel, and coming from brilliant sunlight, they were temporarily blinded, set upon and slain. A secret exit from the tunnel allowed troops to come round to the rear of the attackers, who were then cut off front and rear. The Carthaginians never captured Syracuse, but when the romans attacked the city, they joined forces with the Greeks and became allies. The romans captured the city 220 A.D. by a trick. A spy reported that the Swedains were making merry with wine and women, so the romans attacked at once and the city fell; Dionysius died of malaria, as at that time the city was a swamp. Archimedes helped Dionysius in the construction of the fortress, so the swedians were told not to slay him; he was so intent on a problem that he did not hear the twice repeated question ‘are you Archimedes?’ and he was slain on the Island of Ortygia. The Cave of Dionysius or Eau of Dionysius is an artificial cave, with unusual acoustic properties; it is cut from living rock, is very high and ends in a pointed roof. Dionysius used to eavesdrop on prisoners in the cave, their talk coming up through a slight crack in the roof which let in a slight slit of light. The cave and the Grotto of the Popemakers are both in an old quarry; rope is made today in the grotto, where it is painted with flax. The Quarry, Latonia del Paradiso, has its walls stained with mineral deposits, green, pink and yellow; unusual points of rock hang down, producing an unusual and effective picture which lead to the suggestion that the quarry would make a perfect setting for Wagnenien operas. The Roman amphitheatre, 180 A.D. is local and funnel shaped, in the centre is a large ditch or pool, where a gladiator, in a flimsy boat, would fight crocodile or hippopotami, near to it is the huge altar of Hieron II, two yards long, built to sacrifice 600 bulls at a time, to Zeus, thus showing the wealth of Syracuse. During the time of Archimedes, the bulls were sacrificed to Jupiter, to offer thanksgiving and to propitiate for the former wiched emporer. The Greek theatre was cut from limestone rock, 500 B.C., the Romans turned it into an arena, removing the stage: the Greeks performed plays with actors and chorus, dancing and singiing, and an orchestra, before 16,000 people; at festival times, Greek plays are still performed here. The Temple of Apollo, 600 B.C. is the oldest temple in Sicily; the Fountain of Diana, beautifully carved and large, is in the centre of the town. The fountain of Arethus, producing 250 gallons of clear water per second, is close to the sea and full of fish, it is enclosed by a balustrade, inside it are flowers and greenery and in the centre of the pool is a cluster of papyrus round which swim grey mullet. The legend of arethus was attached to the pool, by Shelley; it is said that Nelson came to take water from the pool for his sailors before the Battle of Aloukik, which he won, and even since, there has always been a naval ship called Arethus. The Cathedral square is elliptical in shape and has some fine buildings in it, the town hall, the archbishops palace and the Cathedral of St Lucia, built on the temple of Athena, 500 B.C. the pillars of the pagan temple still stand intact and it became a Christian church 700 A.d., when windows and walls were added to fill in-between the pagan arches. At the entrance door are 2 massive pillars, 140ft high, 40 tonnes in weight and in 3 sections each; the interior is austere and sombre, as 50 years all the statues, paintings and frescoes were removed; the severity and silence is emphasised by an inscription running round the walls reminding people that this was the first church in the Western hemisphere and Western Christianity. The Church of the Weeping Madonna is in the centre of the new town; it has a big, circular opening in the ceiling which lets in a shaft of light; the pews are in a semi circle round the altar; a balcony looks down on the pews and altar, as well as the side chapels; concrete struts have been built against the sides as protection against earthquakes, while excavating the site, Byzantine ruins were found, it was not known what they were, but they were left intact and stand among the pews. Legend has it that a woman in labour prayed to the statue of the Madonna which wept for her for 5 days; when analysed the tears were found to be authentic, so the church was dedicated to the weeping Madonna.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Sicily 🙂

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The Island of Aegina in July 1968 :)

The Island of Aegina in July 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

The island lies among many lone and desolate ones, it is 1 ½ hours boat journey from Piraeus. The exact trade is fishing, and there is a special kind of fish that lives in the shallows of the bays. The island rises in steep hills to the peak of Mount Oros, 1754ft and forms a splendid centre piece for the Saronic Gulf. 

Aegina 

This is the landing stage for the ferry and a hilly drive through Olive, fig and apricot orchards, leads to the Temple of Aphaia, high up among pine trees. This is the best preserved temple in the island, it was built on an olden ruin, dedicated to the goddess Aphaia, who is the local deity. The grey limestone Doric columns are impressive, looking out over the Saronic gulf. The temple is older than the Parthenon by 50 years. On the great defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, the temple was erected to commemorate the great part the island played in the defeat of the enemy in 490 B.C. It is now in ruins, but was partially restored in 1960; 24 of its original 32 columns are now in situ. Part of the temple is 2 storeyed, with short columns, architraves and other short columns standing above these to form the two floors. The Doric limestone columns have a near honey golden colour mixed with grey. The sculptures were of marble, but unfortunately, when excavated, they were taken away by the finders. On the lower slopes and sandy shore, sprawls Agia Marina, a health resort and fishing village; the harbour is free of cayaks which bring fruit and vegetables to the island as it cannot produce enough for its needs. The fisherman dry and mend their nets on the harbour walls. 

Zafina 

This is a small, attractive fishing village with a pleasant, sandy beach, it is perched on a hill overlooking a sheer drop to the sea. The sea front is full of fish shops, some selling fish but most of them are eating places for the freshly caught fish. Fishermens church is very small, it is used only occasionally, but a candle burns in it all the time. The crypt, built of grey stone like the church, is filled with paintings and Ikons, it is said to have been the prison of some former saint. There is a church in the town which is more modern, the paintings on the walls have not yet been completed. There is one beautiful one among them, showing 3 scenes of the Crucifiction, it is most unusual in that it depicts, in one scene, Christ being put up on the cross.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to this island 🙂

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Hosios Loukas, Livadeia and Piraeus July 1968 :)

Hosios Loukas, Livadeia and Piraeus July 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Hosios Loukas

This is the monastery of St Luke, built in the country, in a lived and rugged region, reached by a winding dusty road, miles away from anywhere. It contains the most beautiful mosaics in the whole of Greece, all are found in its church. The Church is Byzantine and its whole structure is supported by three underground catacombs, there is only one exceptionally narrow entrance down to the interior. Practically every conceivable space round the walls are covered by mosaics. Only a handful of monks, 19 in all, now live at the monastery, no now novices come, and in time the monastery will be left without its monks to care for it. St Luke was a holy man, who had the gift of prophecy, and he for-told the outcome of the Battle of Marathon: a century later he was commiserated and the church and the monastery were built and named after him in his memory. 

Livadeia 

This is the, supposedly, place of Lethe, water of forgetfulness; around the town and cotton fields and wheat plantations; the landscape is dotted with a low-growing shrub, in great numbers which give the appearance of stones scattered over the land. Nearby is Mount Parnassus, its lone heights reaching up 8000 ft, it reveals tints of colour in the rocks and is clumped with dwarf myrthe; the valley below is a great floor of shining olive trees. 

Piraeus 

This is the port of Athena, full of fishing kayaks; the harbour contains the large vessels; ferrying between the various and numerous islands. The port is linked to Athens by river after mile of great sprawling buildings; this area holds 2000000 Greeks, a quarter of the entire population of the country.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to either of these places and or if you have been to Greece what your favourite place was you visited 🙂

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Delphi in Greece in 1968 :)

Delphi in Greece in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Situated at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the population is the same as in ancient times, 1000. On June 10th  yearly, blue and white flags hang across streets and on houses, to commemorate the deaths of 210 Greeks shot by the Germans on that day in 1944, church services are also held. The Temple of Athena was the starting point of a pilgrim age in Grecian times; from here to the temple of Apollo and then on to the fountain of Castalia. The original temple was destroyed, but another was built by the ancient Greeks. The Tholos or Notundra, like the temple of the Sanctuary of Athena is at a much lower level than the rest of the ruins; it has 3 columns bonded by an architrace, on a circular base and is framed by olive trees. It was reported to have been the scene of a miracle, hence the pilgrimage. During the war between the Greeks and Persians, the enemy had needed sanctuary, when suddenly, thunder bolts and stones came raining down on them from the skies; the Persians panicked and fled, pursued by 2 giants and were killed by then; these giants were dead heroes, come back to earth to help. The Temple of Apollo stands on a spot, where in pre-Apollo days, was the centre of the worship of Gaea, mother earth, and her son Pylos, a serpent; it was claimed that the miracles were performed here and that the Oracle was already here.  Later Apollo came as a dolphin and gave the peace the name Delphi, from the Greek word for dolphin. He slew Peplos; some historians say the slew Gaea as well, took over and told the people to Crete where he originally came from, to leave their homes on the island of Crete, leaving their lives with them and come to where he was; he said the spot would attract pilgrims and would become rich. At first the people were told to leave their homes, food and means of existence, but eventually they came and Apollos promise came true. The spot which Apollo chose, under the everchanging Mount Parnassus was prone to earth tremors and thunder peals, added to these were eagles and warm springs, which made the people believe it was the abode of the gods; here also grow plenty of flowers and young trees for  garland  making. In the base of the temple is an opening which is said to be the entrance to an underground chamber, where the Sybil sat one her Tripod, next to the stone called Omphalos or mound, as Delphi is called the “marvel of the earth” and uttered the words of the Oracle. The Oracle was female, usually a person of humble birth, and was called Pythia or Pythones; she chewed bay laurel  leaves, drank water and inhaled intoxicating vapours which arose from a crack in the earth, and in a trance-like state answered questions, the answers were ambiguous and often gibberish, the priests would translate them but still in ambiguous terms. Personal questions on health, business, wealth and marriage were asked and answered. The Oracle told the men to travel and spread the cut, ruins of the Oracle have been found in Italy, Russia, Tibet and Sicily, also Malta, when Croesus, king of Lydia, came to enquire “should he make war and invade Persia”, the reply was “if you march into Persia, you will destroy our empire”. He assumed this meant victory but he was defeated and his own empire was destroyed. He was taken prisoner and was about to be burnt when he appealed to Apollo, who remembering how generous Croesus had been in the past when the Oracle answered his question, sent a deluge of rain that put out the fire. The Persians released the king but kept him in their hands, in gratitude to Apollo, he sent the  chains that had bound him to Delphi. The Temple of Apollo, in the past, had 38 columns, now only 5 remain at one corner, 4 of them are but half height stumps and since they are not marble but of regional stone, they are much eroded. Nevertheless this is the most impressive piece in Delphi, owing to the proximity of the mountain wall of Parnassus; there is such rugged grandeur in the towering rock face and so much column with slashes of a fiery apricot hue coming through the grey. The 2 great cliff-sided sections of the cleft mountains are called the Phaedriades, the shining ones, because of the way the sun strikes them, making their colours glow in the crevices, purpling the shadows, and drawing every crag on the mountains head, sharp on the vivid blue sky. Above the temple, in olden times, were many buildings, including a fort and a large cemetery of tombs. The Fountain of Castalia was where the Greeks cleansed themselves before approaching the Temple of Apollo; the romans later claimed it as the fountain of inspiration, for, after drinking the water verse flowed from the lips in a silent stream. Today people drink it to assume eternal youth and beauty. The spring flows out of a cleft in Parnassus, past a wall of apricot-coloured stone with riches for offering and today is chambered under the main road to a great plane tree, so old that Agamemnon is said to have planted it. The Acropolis is surrounded by an outer wall; on it are 6000 inscriptions, every stone is inscribed and the writing is quite discernible today. The wall cuts the site in half, the market was outside it (6 B.C. at Delphi) were the beginning of Christian ideas, so slavery and the maxim an “eye for an eye” were abolished, and there was absolution for crime. A Bronze bull was given to the Temple of Apollo by Corfu fishermen after a miraculous haul of fish, the fisherman had seen a bull by the seashore, and at that place had netted a large catch of tuna fish. They claimed that the bull had shown them the place; there is a stone at the temple ruin inscribed with a bronze bull. There were many treasuries of foreign powers built at Delphi, so important was it in those ages. The Treasury of the Athenians is very grand, it was re-erected by a Frenchman, it is a classically simple building, a lovely box of mellowed stone with 2 Doric columns and a predominant  remains of sculpture on it depicting the feats of Hercules and Theseus. Built in 490 B.C. just after the Battle of Marathon, the sparks of war were dedicated to the gods. Many inscriptions are out on its lined walls, including 2 hymns to Apollo, with musical notations. Near the treasury stands an Ionic capitol, its chiselling has weathered 2000 years; it is on a section of a fluted column, standing by a large cube of fallen stone. The area surrounding it was once crowded with buildings and great monuments, now all that remains are a couple of stone columns and the wall at the base of the temples alter. The Stadium, where the Pythian games were held, seated 4000, to watch chariot racing, foot running and other athletics; all round is a bank on which the spectators sat. Nearby a Theatre has been excavated, the only major relic among the rest of the ruins. A semi-circular amphitheatre has its seats turned around a perfectly circled orchestra, the seats are of Parnassian stone and seated 5000. Today the amphitheatre is used occasionally, during the production of Prometheans unbound, an eagle swooped low over the actor playing the part of Prometheans. There are royal eagles and common  eagles resting in the mountains. In the old days, plays were produced in honour of the gods but later emperors stopped all pagan rites and Delphi died and was forgotten till modern times. The Sacred way, leading to the temples, leads through the pine trees; it is lined with monuments among them a great pedestal with 3 intertwined pythons, also a golden tripod; both these items were removed by later conquerors. Delphi has a giant museum attached to the site, containing the statues, damaged and hole, found at the site, and all other excavation finds: most important of its exhibits is the Bronze charioteer of Delphi.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to either of these places and or if you have been to Greece what your favourite place was you visited 🙂

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Kyparissia, Pylos and Patras in Greece in 1968 :)

Kyparissia, Pylos and Patras in Greece in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Kyparissia  

This name means Cypress tree, as there are so many of these in and around the town. Kyparissia was destroyed by the Turks and again by the Germans in the east war. A ruined Frankist castle dominates the hill behind the town. There are 4000 inhabitants who tend to the olive groves. The olive oil produced is far farmed. 

Pylos 

This town contains the Palace of Nestor, the talkative king of Pylos, the ruins of the palace are on an eminence looking out to sea, across vineyards and olive groves, although ruined, many of its interesting parts are still visible; it is roofed over to protect it from the elements; it is quite large 100 yards wide and 200 yards long. Nearby were found the remains of 2 beehive towers, which although they had been pewtered, still contained pottery. The wall bases of the palace have been excavated, also many rooms and quarters. The Archives room had nearly 1000 clay tablets written in an early form of Greek, and consisted of inventories, pages from account books, lists of artisans and military dispenseries, taxes paid and one tablet refers to “watches on the cliffs”. These tablets were baked hard by the fire which destroyed much of the palace. The Waiting room had a stone seat round the walls, for taxpayers to sit and wait, while they were served wine; the Pantry still holds heaps of glasses, vitrified in the great fire; in all there were 3000 cups and 6000 vases. The throne room had the kings throne facing a large circular hearth, decorated with frescoes, traces of which still remain. The bathroom contains a delightfully curved bath, the inside of which is covered with painted frescoes, in this the person sat or stood, while water from a nearby amphora was poured over the body. The Oil magazines still hold the amphora in which oil was stored, but they are broken. The workshops were next to the kings room, where the armour and weapons were made; golden ornaments were also manufactured.  The palace itself was 2 storied; 2 stairways lead to the upper part; walls and floors were decorated with frescoes and in the construction of the palace, wooden beams were used in conjunction with stone, so when the fire raged; the wood burned and left holes in the stone which still remains to show where the wooden beams were originally. The Sentry posts for the palace guard are gone, but holes in the ground show where they stood of old. Outside the palace are ruins of outdoor buildings, as only 10 weeks in the year having bad weather, the rest of the year can be spent in the open. 

Patras 

Outside Patras are huge fields of tomatoes, bought for their tomato ketchup. The town has 100,000 inhabitants, employed in the great Pinelli industry, or in the commiseries for fruit juice and puree, all of which is for export. Its Turkish delight is famous and the jasmine blooms all the year round. An earthquake caused the land to sink at this point and the ionian sea covered it to further the gulf for Corinth; now a ferry goes from Patras to Itea, across the gulf, calling at aegina. There are 2 churches of St Andrew in the port, old and new; the new church has a large cupola and is very ornate; it is built behind the old church, which is on the site of the martyrdom of St Andrew. Round Partas grow special pines, which produce nuts, good for eating and excellent for pastry making, when ground. Oranges and lemons are cultivated all round and are exported in large quantities. Aegina, the port opposite Patras, across the gulf of Corinth, exports currants and tomatoes mainly, but also has large paper mills producing most of the paper needed in Greece. The ferry from Patras to Aegina goes on to Itea, famous for its very large, juicy olives which are so good they are all exported, leaving more for the local folk, Itea also exports oxide, for alummia, which in turn produces aluminium.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to either of these places and or if you have been to Greece what your favourite place was you visited 🙂

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Monemvasia and Olympia in Greece in 1968 :)

Monemvasia and Olympia in Greece in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Monemvasia 

Often called the Greek Gibraltar , it is a rock mountain, nearly 1000ft high, that was manouvered by the earthquake of AD 345 and juts out of the sea; it has been united with the mainland by a causeway and bridge; its name means “one way” and beyond the single cast iron gate, the way is by foot. The town used to be called Malmsey. Malmasia or Malmvisie, after the famous wine made there. No vines could grow on the hills, but the mountains owned vast vineyards near Mount Parnon and in the aegean islands. During the war it was the headquarters of the resistance army and English and American ships and submarines called during the night to pick up and land resistance men. The old metropolis housed 4000 people, but all is now in ruins, a jumble of small ruins overgrown by big thistles, succulents and small rock plants dripping out of the broken walls. Along the skyline is the jagged shape of the ruined guardhouse with its skeletal chimney. Monemvasia is a walled town, out of sight, round the southern part of the monument. A cobbled way leads through the village, at the end of it are several Byzatine churches. The Cathedral of the Crucified Christ lies in a square below the level of the cobbled path, down a flight of steps: the square has low walls, looks out to sea and is filled with coloured plants. Inside the cathedral are fine paintings and Ikons. The village consists of pink tiled roofed houses jumbled along the edge of the sea, white steps, winding and rocky paths. The church of the summit, Hagia Sophia is very old, a good marble carving is round the doorways, and paintings and Ikons within. The old Turkish powder magazine is still there, roofed and with sweid granite and cut into the granite rock; the floor is at level to allow the powder to be loaded to the mules and in past times, when Monemvasia was under siege, the people were reduced to eating cats and rats. 

Olympia 

Here there is no town to break the pastoral spell, the ruins are set in pine tree surroundings and meadows; the ruins are not bare and dusty, but grassy and peaceful. The largest structure is the Temple of Zeus, which together with the whole complex was constructed (4 B.C.) it is very ruined although some parts have been slightly restored; the few remains intact and the alter of which were burnt, as sacrifices, the thighs of white oxen. The Temple of Hera is so old that the original pillars were wooden, it was to this temple, between 2 pillars still standing, that the Olympian torch, lit by rays from the sun, was taken by 4 greek dancers and handed to runners of the Olympian games. The base of the temple remains and many of the wooden columns are still in place; the stone, of which all of the buildings of Olympia were made, is not marble, consequently the columns are well weatherworn and the fluting nearly flat. This stone material was a conglomerate embedded with sea shells and river pebbles, the stone was then intertwined with a stucco made from marble dust; even the ground by these fallen columns is gritty with crushed shell patches. In this Temple to Heram all the columns were of a different shape. The stadium was reached by a walled passage over a vaulted tunnel; there were no seats for spectators, they sat on the turf, which formed an embankment, sweeping up from the track. The track was 230 yards long and 33 yards wide, the toe grip grooves can still be seen, cut into the stone pavement at the starting line. The Temple of Priests is a block of dwellings for the priests, it is very large, rectangular in shape; its pillars nearly all broken, but standing upright for several feet. The Workshop of Phideas is here at Olympia, a fairly small place, but where he made his 40ft high statue of Zeus to be placed in the Temple of Zeus. To reach the workshop, a flight of steps descends, and adjoining the workshop, is a Byzatine church using one of the old buildings as its area; in this now ruined church is a pair of beautifully sculptured marble gates and a sculptured pillar; the gates are partly ruined. The Palaestra (gymnasium) has a sand covered counrtyard, 70ft square; it is surrounded by a building with a Doric colonnade- ; here the boxers and wrestlers practised, with other athletes. The columns are now in ruins, just a few whole ones remain standing, the rest are scattered all around. The Great Gymnasium is practically an open space for the contestants to exercise and practice. Near this are the quarters where they lived and trained, it was compulsory for them to train for 10 months, with free board. There were also baths, hot and cold, and an elaborate residence for distinguished visitors. The Great Council Hall was near the gymnasium; here the Senate used to meet. The Sacred Grove is walled and contains the remains of many statues, of both visitors and gods; at one time there were nearly 1000 here. Near the entrance to the stadium and the remains of the old treasury, reached by climbing up a slope and in good state of preservation especially the arches near the entrances. There is a line of treasuries belonging to distant places, as Syracuse, Bzyantinium or Sybaris, the Greek city in Italy. Opposite the old east treasury is one end of the long Stoa, the Painted Colonnade, and between these 2 is the tunnel entrance to the stadium.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to either of these places and or if you have been to Greece what your favourite place was you visited 🙂

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Blogmas Day 17: Mistras in Greese in 1968 :)

Blogmas Day 17: Mistras in Greese in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Mistras (Mystras) 

Built on the slopes of the Taygetos range, after a series of long occupations by various conquerors, when beauty and paintings were hidden under limewash, Mistras was rediscovered and saved from utter ruin. The churches were restored and their beauty brought out again. In its heyday it was inhabited by 40,000 people who lived in the metropolis on the slope of the mountain, now stony tracks wind through rubble-filled hill sides, from one monastery church to another, to the ruined Palace of the Despot, to the Frankish fortress, on the top of the hill. The only people who live in Mistra are the nuns at their convent. They are all aged and no new ones come to join the olden, so in time it will die out. The church of the convent is filled with beautiful paintings; the nuns get money from the sale of lace and handmade garments; to visitors they offer a drink of chocolate and a cake. To reach the convent, there is a stiff climb up the rugged hillside, with rocks and strong tracks, as the building is high up; it is called the Pantanassa and is the best of the churches. It is of Italian influence, and this has garland decorations and a loggia on the exterior, with age old bright stone and fancy brickwork in strawberry red. The roof is a cluster of cupolas, each little dome is wearing a  rosy turret of curvaceous tiles, Cypresses, laurels even hydrangeas surround it, the loggia has a glorious view across the Eurotas valley many of the wall paintings were too far gone to be completely restored, but there still remains a population of painted saints looking down from the domes or walls, some owing to damp and decay, have whole areas missing. Among the ruins of Mistra is a group of churches, all tiled with the same rosy tiles, topped by domes. The frescoes are many, also the paintings, some of which are attenuated to El  Greco .The eyes of some of these paintings were destroyed by the Turks when they overran the town. They whitewashed the frescoes and turned the churches into mosques. The group of churches consist of the churches of St Demetrius, St Theodores, the church of the lord and, to the nearest translation, the church of the lady who sees Everything The Palace of the Despot was occupied by the Despot of Morea, when he made Mistra his Byzantine capitol in 1350, it soon became a great seat of learning, as art and literature found shelter in the Despots court and artists came to seek aid and asylum when darkness covered the rest of Greece. Mistra alone shone in the darkness, frescoes and paintings appeared in the churches, really beautiful and wonderful. The palace is of stone, and has a large piece of sculptural white marble in the court  and, which is small and compact, and leads to the garden and to the palace interior, it is of stone, with stone arches and seats. The entrance to the palace is through a low, stone gateway, bearing the emblem of the Despot above the lintel, carved in stone. 

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Greece or to Mistras 🙂

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Blogmas Day 6: Tripolis and Sparta in Greece in 1968 :)

Blogmas Day 6: Tripolis and Sparta in Greece in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Tripolis 

The capitol of arcadia, built on a hill, as the name implies it took the place of 3 old cities, on the hillside again appear the letters OXI meaning “no”, the sign of the underground resistance, in 1940 Greece refused Hitler and musseoini permission to march across their country to fight the allies in the middle east, a refusal which bought on the invasion of the country. Tripolis is an attractive town with its square lined with mulberry trees. Arcadia of which the town is the capitol, is a valley fertile in tobacco, cotton, olives, citrus fruits, peaches, cherries and apples. It also has many herds of goats and is the home of the god Pan (Greek god of shepards and flocks). In the valley is a spot where 100 resistance fighters were shot by the Germans. At the hilltop village of Vytina, the local craft is wood carving and the making of yogurt, for which it is justly famous. The houses are 2 storied with balconies and shutters on white stuccoed walls, and chimneys in odd shapes protruding from their red tiles roofs. Grapevines climb up to the balconies and the unpaved streets are shaded by mulberry trees; the men; cloth capped, plod quietly beside the donkeys at a slow pace. Beyond Vytina there are pinewoods, then the earth lightens to a yellowy colour as there is sulphur in it, so nothing grows. Further along the road is the village of Lagadia, where the houses hang right down the sides of the mountains, it is the nearest a village came to being vertical. The inhabitants are mostly shepards, the wives weave pretty woven bags. It was the centre of the resistance movement in the war, and during the war of Greek independence, it was one of the few not destroyed by the Turks.

Sparta

The town was a blot on the history of Greece and the people gradually moved away from it, until finally, it fell into ruins after being ravaged by the enemy and left to rot, it disappeared for 600 years, until 1834, it was re-founded by Ludwig of Bavaria and a town with wide and well planned streets was erected. The streets are tree lived and pleasant, the buildings were not allowed to obscure the view of the Taygetus mountains, so the architecture was low. Here is practised, as at other towns, on a certain day, The Feast Of The Dead. Special cake is made from a recipe of old, consisting mostly of fruit and nuts, very moist and sweet, to commemorate the dead, and people who have lost someone and wish to remember them carry the cake round the streets and give some to passerby. The cathedral of Sparta is very fine with its paintings and altar. The people who colonised Sparta after it was rebuilt in 1834 were those turned out of  Mistras acropolis. 

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Greece or either of these places 🙂

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Epidaurus and Nafplio in Greece in 1968 :)

Epidaurus and Nafplio in Greece in 1968 :)

My mum found her Great-Grandmas travel diaries a while ago and I have been typing them up for her to read and thought I would put them on here as well- If you want a little bit more background read part one  here 🙂

Epidaurus 

Here is a famous healing resort, equivalent to Lourdes, it is the Sanctuary of Asclepius, god of healing, it is in ruins and ringed round by a grove of trees; these ruins are fragmentary and down to foundation level, but here in 4 B.C. stood temples, altars, hospitals, baths, sanatoria and gymnasia; there was also a games stadium, a beautiful fountain, a supposed library and a great statue of Asclepius, in ivory and gold, flanked by a dog and holding a snake, the latter was much used in therapy at that time, probably as shock treatment. There are accounts of many miracles having been performed here. The Greek theatre is the best preserved arena in Europe; there are 55 rows of crescent seats, out into ascending aisles that look from above, like the nibs of a gigantic fern. For 2000 years the theatre was buried and was not excavated till the end of the last century. The acoustics are fantastic. In the centre of the base was the circular orchestra or dancing area where the chorus performed; the stage was at the back of this but only a few stones of it remains. In the centre of the circle was a sacrificial stone where offerings were made to Dionysius before the festival began. The front stalls are of red limestone , and are seats of honour; they are lower than the others, which suggests they were cushioned. The theatre held 14,000 spectators; nowadays, summer festivals of Greek drama are held. The beautiful mountains form the backdrop of the stage. 

Nafplio 

A favourite seaside resort of the Greek people, Nafplio is on a wide blue bay in which lives The Isle of Boudigo, a favourite expensive holiday resort in olden times, criminals were taken here to be executed, to avoid the executions being carried out in the town. As many of the towns walls are natural, the stone lions of St Mark are on there, but the town is above all, Greek. Dominating Nafplio is the Castle Palamidi on the rocky heights of Palamidi. From the sea, the mount rises 400 ft,  lone and straight the fortress is Venetian Turkish. A staggering stairway ascends the mount, roofed over in a series of steepy, slanted, tunnels part of the way, then zigzags to the summit, there are 999 steps and a further 280ft climb to view the acropolis. The acropolis is large, with many walls and doors still standing; looking down from the top, it is obvious that many of the buildings at the foot of the mountain were part of the ancient acropolis. In one of the small rooms of the castle there are oxi mounted on the wall, showing it was the headquarters of the Greek resistance movement in the last war. There is a very delightful chapen with candles and holy pictures of the mount quite small but beautifully cared for.

Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Greece or either of these places 🙂

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