No More Puns

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! Today we left Kalambaka bound for Ioannina! Our first stop along the way was Metsovo, a small mountain village. This reminded me a lot of Eureka Springs and was one of my favorite stops so far. I had my first baklava of the trip here! We then moved on and rolled into Ioannina. Our only stop of the day was the Perama Cave, a limestone cave! Here we shared the cave with some Greek schoolchildren which was a lot of fun because they asked us questions and we were able to answer a few of them! I talked to a kid who didn’t speak any English and was actually able to tell him my name and where I was from! We soon descended into the cave which was discovered in the 1940s by a child poking around with a stick. Now it is preserved for visitors. The most unique features of the cave were a stalagmite that had grown in the shape of a cross and a room that was mostly empty due to earthquakes but had the start of some new formations (called the New City). The cave was beautiful and definitely would be a national park in America. Unfortunately there were no photographs allowed. After the cave we went to the hotel and had the rest of the afternoon free. Alex and I went to get some food. I got two gyros and a coke and filled myself up for the rest of the day. Two meals for 5,90€ isn’t bad! We finished the evening by listening to Arkansas beat Missouri State 18-4 to open the super regional and finish another awesome day in Greece!


My first baklava in Greece! 


Days 4-6

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! After this post my blog will be caught up!


We started the day by visiting the Lysikrates monument. This was a monument for a boys chorus group that won the contest at the Theater of Dionysos. Every time a team won an event at this festival they would erect a statue proclaiming their victory. This monument had a frieze on it that depicted satyrs beating up a group of pirates who had disrespected Dionysos and turning them into Dolphins. We then went to the New Acropolis Museum. This museum was built in 2009 in order to have a place to display the marbles from the Parthenon and Erechtheion – most of which are currently in the British Museum. We saw several interesting things. One thing was a hoard of gold coins from the 7th century that featured Emperor Constans II. After looking at the coins, it’s easy to see why he was known as the bearded one! The British excuse for not returning the marbles for a long time was that the Greeks did not have a proper place to store them, so they wanted to erase that excuse. The Greeks are very passive aggressive with some of the signs and displays in the museum. For one, there were six statues of women on the outside of the Erechtheion. Five of them are in the New Acropolis Museum, but the sixth is currently in the British Museum, so the museum leaves an obvious hole where the sixth should go. On the frieze that was on the Parthenon, some pieces that are in other museums have been recreated, and the signs make it obvious that it’s a recreation and also where you can find it now. It’s pretty obvious that the Greeks want their Acropolis marbles back, and I agree with them that there is no reason that they shouldn’t have their marbles returned. After that we went to lunch at To Kati ALLO, which is a restaurant that’s run by a graduate of the University of Arkansas. In 2005 she went on this study tour and met a Greek man at this restaurant, and after she graduated she moved back to Greece, married the man, and now runs the restaurant herself! The food was delicious. I had moussaka and a Coca-Cola (which tastes generally the same but is slightly less sweet). After this delicious lunch we moved on towards the Acropolis. First on the climb we reached the Theater of Dionysos where many plays and choral competitions were held. Here Natalie gave an excellent site report over the background and history of this theater. Moving on we saw the temple of Asclepius, the god of medicine. His symbol is the snake wrapped around a staff which is still used by doctors today. Madison gave a site report here about the plague of Athens, and she explained that the cult of Asclepius wasn’t present in Athens before they had the plague, but once the plague began killing Athenians they started to worship him. The plague was likely smallpox. We continued on and then finally reached the top of the Acropolis. There we saw the Parthenon which is mind-blowing. That’s the iconic image of Greece, and seeing it was absolutely incredible. We also saw the Erechtheion which was the site of Poseidon and Athena’s battle to see who would be the patron of Athens. Poseidon made a salt spring, but Athena countered with an olive tree and won the contest. There is still an olive tree growing beside the temple that some people claim is the original that Athena planted. Faithe then gave a site report over the Acropolis as a citadel which showed us that the Acropolis had much more real significance than just some super cool buildings. The last thing that we did before descending from the Acropolis was look at a plaque. Dr. Paulson had me read the plaque out loud, even though it was only in Greek. He said I did very well, but I thought I sounded like a kindergartener sounding the words out. It was nice that he was impressed, though. I couldn’t translate it, but it felt good to be able to read it at all and at least understand a few words. In Greek the plaque read “ΤΗ ΝΥΧΤΑ ΤΗΣ 30ΗΧ ΜΑΤΟΥ 1941 ΟΙ ΠΑΤΡΙΩΤΕΣ ΜΑΝΩΛΗΣ ΓΛΕΖΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΣΑΝΤΑΣ ΚΑΤΕΒΑΣΑΝ ΤΗ ΣΗΜΑΙΑ ΤΩΝ ΝΑΖΙ ΚΑΤΑΚΤΗΤΩΝ ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΙΕΡΟ ΒΡΑΧΟ ΤΗΣ ΑΚΡΟΠΟΛΗΣ” which translates to “On the night of the 30th of May, 1941, the patriots Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Sandas tore down the flag of the Nazi occupiers from the Rock of the Acropolis” in English. This was cool because it shows just how much this ancient area still means to the Greeks such that they’re willing to risk their lives to keep its dignity. When we came down we saw the Aerogapus which is where the Apostle Paul delivered a speech to the Athenian people that is documented in Acts 17. I enjoyed knowing that I could have been walking where Paul walked. There was a band up there playing guitar and bazouki (a traditional Greek string instrument similar to a mandolin) and as we were leaving they started singing “Sweet Home Alabama.” I didn’t realize that Greeks were fans of American music! As we were heading back to the hotel we were descending a steep marble street and I slipped and fell and hurt my leg, so I’m lame and might have a slight limp for a little while. I’m pushing through it, though! After resting for a little while, a group of eleven of us went to a restaurant called Paradosiako. I had a glass of white wine and rooster with pasta. Rooster was similar to chicken but gamier. We ended the night by going for gelato again and enjoying another beautiful evening in Athens!


Greek Coca-Cola  

Five Caryatids missing their sister

We climbed up there    

Theater of Dionysos

Enjoying the Parthenon 

 Athena’s olive tree    

The inscription that I read 

Thankful for these two incredible professors!


This morning’s adventures led us first to the National Numismatic Museum of Greece. This museum was housed in the home of Heinrich Schliemann, a 19th century man who had a fascination with Ancient Greece and excavated many coins. Over time the museum has received other donations from private collections and now houses a very extensive collection. Our task was to team up with a partner and find two coins that were interesting to us and explain them to the group. I partnered up with Alyssa and we went for it. The first coins we found were a hoard of 51 gold coins from Corinth from around 330 B.C. These coins had two different designs. One featured Phillip II on the obverse and a chariot on the reverse. The other featured Alexander III on the obverse and Nike holding a stephanos (victor’s wreath) on the reverse. The two men depicted on these coins were both rulers of Macedonia. Macedonia is nowhere near Corinth, but Macedonia had recently conquered Corinth, so these two coins represented the conquering victory of the Macedonians (which can also be seen on the back since Nike is goddess of victory and she was holding a victor’s wreath). The other coin Alyssa and I found was a silver coin from Argos that depicted a wolf. We determined that the people of Argos must have worshipped Apollo since the wolf is his sacred animal and it was depicted on this coin. Another interesting thing about this museum is that it has a bunch of exhibits that are housed on the second floor, but they are not currently open because the museum had to lay off some guards due to the economic crisis. Greece’s economy would become a theme during the day. On the way to lunch, I talked to Dr. Paulson about why the economy of Greece was so bad right now. Based on what he told me and what I know about economic theory, it seems that the issues began when Greece switched to the Euro from the Drachma. The conversion was handled poorly because the Drachma wasn’t a strong currency, and Greece doesn’t export enough goods to make up for this poor conversion. Because of this, they were forced to raise prices which in turn drove down tourism. Tourism is the largest sector of the Greek economy, and when it drops the economy as a whole drops, so Greece just kept getting deeper and deeper in debt. Now they can’t even borrow money because there is no liquidity in the country. It’s really a sad situation. We arrived at the site where we were going to eat lunch to find it closed and replaced with an upscale wine bar. This was the second time we had experienced the poor economy of Greece as a family-owned restaurant was not able to support itself. We didn’t let this get us down too much though, and we split off for lunch in that area. Several of us went to a crepe place called the Sugar Inn. I ordered the Sugar Inn Special which was filled with bacon, ham, chicken, turkey, tomato, peppers, mushrooms, and milk cream. It was absolutely delicious. From lunch we traveled onward to the National Archeological Museum. Here we saw many cool things. David gave a report over the Antikythera Mechanism – a mechanism found by divers that’s over 2000 years old and seems to give the phases of the moon and location of the planets pretty accurately. Obviously this culture was advanced! We saw many other neat things including some amphora from the Panathenaeic Games, one of which depicted the Pankration. We saw a famous statue that’s easily recognizable. It’s either Zeus or Poseidon and it’s made out of bronze. We also saw an inscription about an Olympic Champion from the 4th Century B.C. as well as a boar’s tusk helmet similar to the one described in The Iliad as being the one that Odysseus wore. I think one of the funniest things to me, though, was a man made of clay from the Neolithic Era. He was called The Thinker, but he appeared to be masturbating. Dr. Levine said he wondered what this guy was thinking about. We had a scary moment at this museum when we heard an explosion and found that there were riots outside. Apparently someone had set a fire to a trolley to protest the economy (third time we’ve seen the economy in action today!) and then ran to the Athens Polytechnic Institute because there is a Greek law that police officers can’t enter a college campus. The explosion we heard was the police setting off tear gas. As we left the museum we could hear yelling. This was a scary moment, and I’m glad that we made it through safely. After we got back to the hotel we rested for a few minutes and then headed to dinner at a restaurant called Athinaikon. This place was slightly more upscale than other places we had eaten at, but they weren’t that much more expensive. I had a Coca-Cola to drink because I didn’t feel like having any alcohol tonight, and I enjoyed the Coca-Cola at lunch yesterday. I had veal meatballs over rice with fried potatoes on the side. The veal was absolutely incredible. After our meal we walked to the Monasteraki to visit some of the stands of the farmers market and try some of the fresh fruit. Their cherries (yes cherries! These were actually good) as well as their strawberries were both incredible. Greek fruits and vegetables are both wonderful. We enjoyed this snack and headed back to the hotel to end a wonderful day 4 in Athens. 

Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon  

The Thinker 


We woke up this morning and immediately drove to Eleusis, the site of the Elucidean Mysteries, a series of religious rites focused on Demeter and Persephone. This site was interesting for many reasons. One was that you could see a clear influence of other cultures besides the Greeks. There was an arch with an inscription that read “ΤΟΙΝ ΘΕΟΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΤΩΙ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΙ ΟΙ ΠΑΝΕΛΛΗΝΕΣ” which translates to “Two goddesses and the emperor of all the Greeks” in English. We also saw an altar that was interesting because usually altars are structured for fire so that people can burn offerings to go to the heavens, but this one was built so that people could put their offerings in the earth since Demeter was an earth goddess. We also saw a couple of Christian influences. First there was a bust of a Roman emperor, but on his chest there was a cross that was obviously added by Christians to get rid of some of the pagan influence on this site. Later on we saw a statue of a torch (the torch is a symbol of Demeter) and on this statue was a cross. We saw the Plutonion – two caves that supposedly lead to the underworld (since Hades took Persephone to the underworld with him) as well as the Hall of Initiation which is where the mysteries themselves took place. Madison gave an excellent site report here. Not much is known about the mysteries because they were a secret ritual. The site is still interesting, though. We made our way to the museum where we saw several interesting things. One of these was one of the Caryatids from the entrance to the Hall of Initiation. This Caryatid had a sister at one time. Her sister was worshipped as St. Demeter of Eleusis by the Christians in this area. They thought that she was the reason that their land was so fertile. In the 1800s a man named Daniel Edward Clark paid off the Turkish government to take it back to England with him. The locals begged him not to because they claimed that they would not have plentiful harvests any longer. He took it back anyway, though. The prediction of the locals came true because now this area is very industrialized and the most polluted part of Greece. While at this site we looked across the Bay of Eleusis to the island of Salamus – site of one of the most important naval battles in history. In this battle the Greeks defeated the Persians. If the Persians had won, they likely would have conquered Greece, and that would have changed the course of history forever. We then went to lunch at a local restaurant. We had lamb, Greek salad, and fried potatoes with yogurt with honey for dessert. Everything was incredibly good. We then saw two forts – Eleutherae and Aigosthena. These were built in strategic locations just outside of Athens and are well-preserved to this day. Alex gave site reports on them, and they were fascinating. I particularly liked Aigosthena because its purpose was basically to prevent enemies from landing and getting into the country because it was built right on the sea. After these two forts, we boarded the ferry for Crete. This thing is huge! We ate at the ferry restaurant and then sat on the deck enjoying the beautiful night and watching the boat sail away. This ended another amazing day in Greece. 


Altar to Demeter that goes into the earth 

Notice the cross on this Roman emperor’s chest    

The Plutonion Caves  

Sister of St. Demeter  


View of the sea from Aigosthena   

The Blue Galaxy

And with that, I am caught up! Thanks for reading, friends! ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ!


Days 1-3

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! I’m catching up on my blog now, so I thought that even though I didn’t have a blog then y’all might still want to hear about the first six days of the trip! So here we go with the first three


I think boarding the flight to Athens was when it finally hit me that this was actually happening. I waited with nervous anticipation (and also dread for the next 10 hours. Ha!) After I boarded the flight, there were a couple of people in my section who wanted to move to be with their groups. In the end, my section was just myself and a girl named Aleta who’s also in the group. She told me early on that she gets flight anxiety. I helped her through that by reassuring her every time we started bumping around. I’d reassure her that it was just turbulence and that nothing was wrong. I watched two movies during this flight, slept a little bit, and read the Book of Acts. The ten hours went by slowly. I was worn out by the end of the flight. However, when we arrived in Athens all that was forgotten. We first went through passport control where I got my first stamp in my book. We then continued on and claimed our bags and got some Euros. I got 300€ out, all 50€ bills. We then continued on to the hotel and got checked in. I took a shower first (which was a new experience – there wasn’t a shower curtain!) and then laid down and napped for four hours. These four nights in Athens I’m rooming with a guy named Alex. After I woke up, it was almost time to go on our orientation walk, so the two of us went downstairs. When the whole group had arrived we took off. Our first stop was the Parliament building. In front of the building was the tomb of the unknown soldier. We got to see the changing of the guard. Inscribed on the tomb of the unknown soldier are all the wars that the Greeks have been involved in. If you look on the fifth row of the first picture on the far right you’ll see Korea (they were our allies in the Korean conflict). And yes – their letter rho is written like a P but pronounced like an r. We then went and walked through the Royal Gardens where we also saw a Roman bath. Outside of the Royal Gardens was a statue of Lord Byron, a hero to the Greeks. Our final major stop on the orientation walk was the ruins of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus as well as the Arch of Hadrian (behind the Arch you can see the Acropolis). We then continued on before reaching our eating establishment for the evening – Spilia Tis Akropoleos which means “Cave of the Acropolis” in English. We ate on an outdoor patio where we could actually see the cave that the restaurant is named for. We started the meal by pouring glasses of water and wine. Then the waiter brought out appetizers. Each appetizer plate was meant to be shared among four people. My favorite was the salad. It was all locally grown vegetables topped with locally made feta cheese and locally made olive oil. Everything was delicious though! We had cheese and spinach pies. We also had things similar to those pies except deep fried. Of   course we also had bread. Our main course was chicken souvlaki with rice and fried potatoes (similar to French fries but lighter). For dessert we had walnut cake with ice cream. At the end of the meal everyone was absolutely stuffed and we declared the meal to be ΝΟΣΤΙΜΟ which means delicious. Overall it was an absolutely incredible first day.

Landed in Athens! Jet lag  


  Changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier


  Walls listing all the wars the Greeks have fought in

Ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Arch of Hadrian  


  The restaurant and the cave for which it is named

  My first glass of wine








First meal in Greece!


I woke up early due to jet lag and couldn’t fall back asleep so I started following the Arkansas-Florida baseball game. After eating some breakfast a few of us grabbed our phones and continuously refreshed twitter to see wasn’t happening in the game. You can imagine our excitement when Bobby Wernes homered to win the game for the Hogs. We called the Hogs in the street of Athens. Next we walked to the Metropolitan Church of Athens. This is similar to the National Cathedral in America. I wish we had gotten to go inside. On that same ground we saw a statue of Archbishop Damaskinos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church during the Holocaust and the only European church leader to publicly denounce the Nazis. We also saw the statue of Constantine the Great, the final ruler of Greece before they were conquered by the Turks in the Ottoman Empire. The legend states that he didn’t die in battle and his body is preserved in marble. He will rise again and finish his rule once Constantinople (now Istanbul) is a Christian city again (which still hasn’t happened). Next we went to the Greek Jewish Museum where we went on a guided tour led by a woman named Anastasia. She told us many interesting stories and showed us interesting artifacts, but three stuck out. First, there was a Muslim prayer rug that Greeks in Ioannina had appropriated and made into a cover for their arc of the covenant. Next, there were directions written in Hebrew for the Seder, but they were written as such so that if someone who knew Hebrew tried to read it they’d actually be reading the instructions in Greek. Finally, we saw an exhibit on the Holocaust and saw an example of an act of bravery by two men. On the island of Zakynthos, the Nazis asked for a list of all Jews living on the island. The mayor and archbishop put their own names on the list. The Nazis couldn’t arrest them for fear of public outcry, so this gave over 2000 Jews the chance to free the island and make it to safety. After this museum, we went to the Monasteriki (Little Monastery) where we ate lunch at a restaurant. The food was wonderful! I, along with several others, ordered their special which was a chicken dish. When it came out, though, we discovered that it included a full half of a chicken, fried potatoes, and pita. The food was wonderful, but I had to declare XΟΡΤΑΣΑ (I am full) before I could eat it all. After our bellies were full we made our way to the Agora, an ancient marketplace, where we spent the afternoon. There we saw the Temple of Hephastion which was shared by Hephaestus and the Worker Athena. Essentially this was the temple for craftsmen. We also saw things like the boundary stone for the Agora. We heard a site report from Alyssa over the Athenian Democracy, and from there we saw some of the places that she had mentioned including the pnyx which is where the Ecclesia met – the Ecclesia was a governing body (one of three in Athens) where all citizens of Athens (all free males) were eligible to vote. We then continued on to the Stoa of Athens where we heard a site report from Aleta. The Stoa was very neat. Inside there was a museum. My favorite museum artifact was an oil lamp. It showed a very erotic scene, and Dr. Paulson explained that the erotic scene was because these lamps were lit at night. Our final stop of the day was the Panathenaeic Way which was the route that the Athenians took from the Gate of Dionysos to the Acropolis during the Panathenaeic Festival which occurred every four years. Faiths gave a report over this festival which included the Panathenaeic Games We went back to our hotel where we set up a GroupMe. In the GroupMe we decided to all go eat dinner together. We wandered around aimlessly for a little bit before looking at a list of recommended restaurants we had been given. We chose one that looked good and took off. This restaurant was excellent. I started with a glass of red wine. I guess I got a little buzz because before I knew it some of the other group members had gotten me up and into a group that was dancing to the music of the live band that was playing. I sat back down and enjoyed my calamari. We then decided that we had a little bit of room for gelato, so we found a place and ate our gelato and relaxed, enjoying the beautiful Athenian evening. Thus ends an excellent second day in Athens.


Archbishop Damaskinos

Metropolitan Church of Athens  

Statue of Constantine    

Temple of Hephaestion


Lion’s Head Spout

Route marker for the Panathenaeic Way

I have one more until I’m caught up! ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ!


Catching Up

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! I apologize for the fact that I haven’t blogged in a few days, so I’m going to take the time now to catch up on what’s happened!


The day started off beautifully with Arkansas defeating St. John’s to qualify for the super regionals. Not too long after that win, we docked in Piraeus and immediately found our bus. We stopped at a rest stop for breakfast and then continued on to the Hosios Loukas Monastery. This monastery is famous for its frescoes, and these didn’t disappoint! Rachel gave a report on them as we went through the church. The church is named for St. Luke. He lived in the 8th and 9th centuries and was blessed with the gifts of healing and prophecy. His most famous prophecy was predicting the reconquest of Crete 20 years before it happened. His remains are still in the church (as well as St. Barbara’s). Several of the mosaics have interesting features. One where Jesus is washing the disciples’ feet shows both of everyone’s eyes besides Judas. In a crucifixion scene you see the blood of Jesus washing away Adam’s original sin with John and Mary looking on. In Christ Pantakrator you see Jesus holding the New Testament with one hand and making a sign of teaching with the other. In a resurrection scene, you can see Jesus pulling Adam and Eve out of their graves as well as trampling the gates of hell with David and Solomon looking on. In a baptism scene you see Jesus being baptized by John, but there is a river god looking on which shows the crossover between the Christian and pagan faiths. Finally in a fresco of Joshua, he is depicted dressed like a Byzantine emperor because that’s what they imagine when they think of a conquering military hero. We enjoyed a snack and then I gave my report on the Triumph of Christianity. Christians experienced mass persecution under Diocletian but then once Constantine took the throne things got better. Constantine sympathized with the Christians and did good works in the name of Christ. His most defining moment was seeing the cross in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge – an important battle. He won that battle and from that time on he put the Chi-Rho on his men’s shields and they never lost again. This change wasn’t without controversy, though. Three councils had to be called. The first council was the Council of Nicaea where they determined that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all equal and wrote the Nicaean Creed. The second council was the Council of Ephesus and they determined that Mary was the mother of God, not just the Christ-bearer. The final council was the Council of Chalcedon where they determined that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. I could go into more detail, but those are the high points of my report. Our final stop of the day was at Distomo – the site of a massacre by the Nazis during World War II. On June 10, 1944, the Nazis were fired on in a neighboring town. They went to Distomo and rounded everyone up and started executing them. They killed everyone they could find and then burned the whole town. 218 civilians were killed that day. This was an extremely sobering place. We then went to Delphi and our home for two nights. We walked down the street for dinner. I had a delicious lamb cooked in lemon sauce and served with fried potatoes and rice. The professors ended up paying for our meal which was totally unexpected but still very nice. I went back to my room and crashed because I was exhausted after another great day in Greece. 

The monastic church 

Relics of St. Luke 


The beautiful mosaics of Hosios Loukas 

 Relics of St. Barbara 

 Monument at Distomo


Today we spent the day in Delphi. Of course, everyone knows that Delphi is famous for its oracle, so we went there first. Before we started, I drank some Kastalian Spring water which supposedly purified me. Going up to the temple, you see many interesting ΘΕΣΑΒΡΟΣ (thesaurus – literally translates to treasury). Many different city-states had them, and some had very interesting stories behind them. For example, Corfu’s treasury featured a bronze statue of a bull. As the story goes, the people of Corfu saw a bull bellowing. They went down to see what he was bellowing at and saw a school of tuna swimming by, but when they tried they couldn’t catch them. They consulted the oracle which told them to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon. They did that and caught all the tuna and used a tenth of the proceeds to make this bull statue and another bull statue in Athens. Another interesting story was that of the Spartans and Tageans. The Spartans set up a monument to their victory over the Athenians, and 40 years later the Tageans set one up immediately across from it to commemorate their victory over the Spartans. The Sikyon treasury housed the chariot of Kleisthenes – one of the victors of the first Pythian games. The treasury of Siphnos was the most ornate treasury because the people used a tenth of the proceeds from their gold and silver mines. We continued to work our way up and saw a column base for the Naxian Sphinx which is now housed in the museum. The island of Naxos gave this Sphinx and were granted promanteia (that is, they were allowed to go to the front of the line). We also saw an Omphalos, or a belly button, because people believed Delphi was the center of the world. We came to the Temple of Apollo and the Oracle which was of course fascinating. Kathryn gave an excellent report on it. The oracle spoke cryptically. The one given to the King of Lydia made him think he would win a battle because it just said a great empire would fall. He took that to mean the Persian Empire, but it really meant his. One of my favorite parts was her discussion of the last oracle given to Julian. He was trying to revive paganism, but this oracle basically told him that Christianity had triumphed. My other favorite part was the poem at the end written by Cavafy where he talks about the oracle given to Nero. This poem talked about the oracle that said “beware the age of 73” but Nero wasn’t worried because he was just 30. Little did he know that Galba, a 73-year-old man, was drilling his troops to eventually overthrow Nero (and he was successful later that same year). We eventually made it to the top of the climb and saw the stadium for the Pythian Games, one of four Panhellenic Games (the Olympics were the most famous). These games were dedicated to Apollo rather than Zeus. There was a cool inscription up there that read “It is forbidden to carry wine outside of the stadium. If he carries it out, so that the god for which the mix is made may be appeased, let the malefactor make an offering and let him pay the punishment of five drachmas and of this half to the one that denounced him.” We looked around the museum for a little while, enjoyed a gyro for lunch, and then moved on to our afternoon activity – a hike to the Corycian Cave. This was so beautiful. The cave is on Mount Parnassos, so Dr. Levine started the hike by saying “Let’s get our asses up Parnassos” so of course we cracked up at that. The cave was incredible. We saw an ancient inscription dedicated to ΠΑΝΙ ΝΥΜΦΑΙΣ (Pan and the nymphs) which made sense because this was a sacred cave to Pan. Going down, we came across goats and sheep being led by a shepherd. This was so cool because we could think of Pan and say that he was smiling on us, but I looked at it and saw Psalm 23. I saw how the shepherd treated his flock, and saw how God treats us. It was so cool because I thought back to Emily’s lesson in Wesley on Psalm 23. This was a cool moment. We got back and enjoyed dinner. After dinner I went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful night in Delphi to end another day in Greece. 




Temple of Apollo and the Oracle

Stadium for the Pythian Games


Naxian Sphinx 

The Corycian Cave


Inside the cave


 Sheep and goat crossing


Today was a fairly short day. We left the hotel bound for Thermopylae – site of one of the most famous battles of the Persian War. This battle was immortalized in the movie 300. We started our visit by going and seeing the hot springs for which Thermopylae gets its name – Thermopylae means “hot gates” so the hot comes from the springs and gates comes from the fact that it was a very narrow mountain pass (now the sea has receded some so it’s not as narrow). We moved on to the museum where we learned about the battle. We learned that the Greeks were doing well even though they were outnumbered, but then Ephialtes committed treason and showed King Xerxes and the Persians another mountain pass that they used to surround the Greeks. The word “Ephialtes” now means nightmare in Greek. King Leonidas of the Spartans sent everyone away, but his 300 men plus 700 Thespians stayed with him. They were surrounded but refused to surrender, instead taking Persian lives until all of them were killed. Even though the Greeks lost this battle, it helped them eventually win the war because it took a lot of Persian lives and also boosted Greek morale. There are now statues for the Spartans and the Thespians. The one for the Spartans reads “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ” which means “Come and take” showing the Spartan refusal to surrender. The Thespian statue reads “ΕΠΤΑΚΟΣΙΩΝ ΘΕΣΠΙΕΩΝ ΜΝΗΜΗ” which means “To the memory of the 700 people of Thespia.” We then climbed the short hill where the Spartans made their last stand. Dr. Levine told us that the Spartans refused to surrender because the oracle of Delphi had said that either they would lose their king or Sparta would fall, so Leonidas sacrificed himself for his homeland. Up here we saw one final inscription that read “Oh strangers, announce to the Spartans that here we lie, obedient to their commands” showing that the Spartans never quit until they were all dead. After we were finished at Thermopylae, we went to lunch where I had some excellent fried fish. We then went on to our hotel and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. I went for a swim, and then we met downstairs for a complimentary buffet dinner. I then sat outside and enjoyed the evening to finish another magnificent day in Greece. 


Hot springs

Statue of Leonidas    

Statue for the Thespians 

Inscription commemorating the battle at the top of the hill reminding everyone that the Spartans fulfilled their orders 


Today we saw the floating monasteries of Kalambaka. The group is called the Meteora which means “things in the air,” and this description fits them perfectly. They are absolutely incredible and are built on top of giant rocks. Our first stop of the day was the Grand Meteoron which is the biggest in the collection and therefore gave its name to all the others. It was founded in 1344 by St. Athanasios. One of the most striking things that you immediately notice is the wooden overlook tower that was used to bring people up. They would drop a net and haul the people up. We know many of the stories through Lord Curzon, who came to the monasteries to try to take some of the hand-copied manuscripts which are priceless treasures. The church in this monastery was called Church of the Transfiguration, and one of the most intriguing things about this particular church was their Greek Orthodox-style cross that included the letters INBI which stand for “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” and are likely what would have been written on the cross itself. We also saw the ossuary which is where the skulls of former monks who have passed away are kept. Dr. Levine referred to this as the alumni association. We then took a path down to the monastery of St. Varlaam. There wasn’t as much to see at this one other than All Saint’s Church which didn’t have any striking features. After a quick lunch and rest, we headed out to the final place in the group – this time a convent called St. Stephen’s. Their church is named after St. Charalambos who protects people from plagues and pestilence. The church houses his skull, and I really wanted to get a picture of it, but the sign in the church says no photography. When the guard looked away, though, I snapped a quick picture because I’m a rebel. Since this convent is only women, they don’t have anyone to perform the sacraments since only men can be ordained in the Orthodox Church. A nun told us that a priest comes in from Kalambaka to perform the sacraments. We moved on to a museum where we found an Australian nun. This was so cool because she spoke English so we had a captive audience to ask questions about the convent. It all started when I didn’t see a Bible so I asked Dr. Paulson why they didn’t sell them in any of the monasteries, and she heard me speaking in English. She said that she just dropped her whole life and came up here because she was searching for God, and she’s only been back to Australia once, and that’s because someone in Greece didn’t file her papers properly. From there we went to the gift shop where I purchased a New Testament written in Greek that I’ll hopefully be able to read someday. We went back to the hotel and had dinner, and I turned in early to finish another great day in Greece!


Grand Meteoron

Fresco in Grand Meteoron depicting the Council of Nicaea  

Monastery of St. Varlaam  

Imagine going up there in a net    

St. Stephen’s convent  

My illegal photograph 

The rocks that the monasteries sit on

And with that I am caught up! ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ!


My “Phaistos” This When I See the Palace

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! Today was our last day on the island of Crete. The day started well with Arkansas defeating Oklahoma State around 5:30 this morning. We left the hotel today and first drove to Gorthyna. On the way there we passed through a place called Agia Barbara which is in the exact center of the island. This place has a unique weather phenomenon (supposedly) where it rains there and nowhere else on the island. There’s a phrase that there it rains and God doesn’t know about it. We arrived at Gorthyna and first stopped at an Eastern Plain Tree which is an evergreen tree. Here was the site of one of the myths – the one about Zeus and Europa. In this myth Zeus takes the form of a bull and carries Europa to the island and specifically to Gorthyna. Here they made love under an Eastern Plain Tree and that’s where King Minos was conceived. As the legend goes, the Eastern Plain Tree became an evergreen because of the great love making of Zeus. Ethan then gave the Gorthyna Law Code which is the largest Ancient Greek inscription still in existence. It’s interesting because it’s read from left to right and then right to left. It mostly covers civil law and less criminal. The myth behind it is that Zeus created the law to be executed by his sons Minos and Rhadamanthus who were also the judges of Hades. We capped off our visit to Gorthyna by seeing the Basilica of St. Titus. Titus was the bishop of the island of Crete, commissioned by the Apostle Paul. He was the recipient of the epistle that’s now in the Bible. The basilica was built by Justinian, and it’s on the site of Titus’ martyrdom. We then moved on to Phaistos Palace. The mythology behind this palace is very interesting. Allegedly Phaistos was home to Talos, or the bronze man. He was a gift to Minos from Hephaestus, and his duty was to run around the island of Crete three times per day and throw rocks at foreign ships to protect the island. His other job was a connection to Gorthyna because three times per year he walked through all the towns displaying the law for all to see. He had one vein in his body that ran from his neck to his heel and was filled with golden ichor. It was plugged in his heel by a bronze nail. As the story goes, Jason was blown off course and tried to land on Crete. Talos kept him away but Jason had Madea with him who told him how to remove the nail. Jason did so and all the ichor drained out of Talos and he collapsed. After a quick snack we began to explore. We saw more lustral basins including one illegally where Dr. Levine took down a rope when the guards weren’t looking and we snuck in and looked really quickly. Alex gave a great report on the site. Supposedly this palace was home to Rhadamanthus. The central court was aligned with Mount Ida (like the central court of Knossos was aligned with Mount Juktas). Mount Ida is important because it’s the tallest mountain on the island of Crete and is where Zeus (supposedly) was born. The palace itself was similar to Knossos except that it wasn’t reconstructed. I tend to like Knossos better because it gives a context. I don’t think we would have gotten as much out of Phaistos if we hadn’t already seen several things at Knossos. The most important discovery at this palace was the Phaistos disc which I covered in a previous entry. After the palace we went to Malata and spent the afternoon on the beach. I spent some time exploring some caves that were used as tombs for Christians. These were very interesting. I then laid on the beach for a while and also waded in the Aegean. We then drove back to Iraklio where we boarded the Festos Palace bound for Piraeus. We enjoyed dinner and then watched the boat sail away to end another day in Greece.

Eastern Plain Tree – site of the “encounter” between Zeus and Europa 

 Gorthyna Law Code 

 Basilica of St. Titus 

Mount Ida as seen from Phaistos Palace 

 The ruins of Phaistos Palace  

 Christian chamber tombs at Matala 



I “Knossos” Much About the Palace

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! Today was a wonderful day! Our first stop of the day was the Cretan Museum of History. This was a wonderful place with many interesting objects about the history of Crete. Under the influence of the Venetians, many Cretans had a chance to escape the island and get a western education. Two of the most famous Cretans who got off the island for a western education were Pope Alexander V and El Greco. We added to El Greco by seeing two original paintings there! I loved seeing The Baptism of Christ. Other interesting artifacts included a Greek revolt flag with the words “Union or death” on it. We also saw a Turkish tombstone with a cross on the bottom, but you couldn’t tell which was original and which part was reappropriated. We then walked to the main square of the city where we were treated to bougatsa, a traditional dessert of Crete, courtesy of our travel agents. After that wonderful morning, we went to the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, the most famous Greek author. His most famous book is Zorba the Greek (which I have purchased) but his most controversial is The Last Temptation of Christ which talks about what would have happened if Christ chose to get down from the cross. Kazantzakis claimed that it showed the human element of Christ (since Christ was fully God and also fully human). I’d love to read this book and make my own judgement. On his tombstone is the phrase that translates to

I hope for nothing

I fear nothing

I am free

A few of us then watched little kids play soccer from above and went crazy when one of them scored. That was a lot of fun. We grabbed a quick lunch before going to Knossos Palace. We learned several interesting things about the palace itself. The most interesting had to do with the horns of consecration. In the distance you can see two peaks on Mount Juktas that seem to be perfectly aligned with the central court of Knossos and seem to look like horns of consecration. This doesn’t seem to be an accident. After we made our way through and saw several great things, we sat down and listened to David give a site report where he told us interesting things about the palace but also about the mythology behind it. This place is known as the home of the Minotaur and the labyrinth (the labyrinth wasn’t real but the halls were very windy – almost mazelike). He first told us that labyrinth means house of the double ax, and I’ve explained previously that the double ax was important to Minoan religion. David then told us the myth of the Minotaur. King Minos was a son of Zeus who had to compete with his brothers for the throne. He asked Poseidon for help. Poseidon gave him a white bull that he was supposed to sacrifice, but Minos thought it was too beautiful to sacrifice which upset Poseidon. As his punishment he made Minos’ wife fall in love with the bull and their offspring was the Minotaur. After several years and several sacrifices, Theseus set out to kill the Minotaur with the promise to his father, King Aegeus, to return with white sails if he was successful and black if he was not. He befriended Ariadne who gave him yarn to help him get out of the labyrinth. He killed the Minotaur and set sail for home but forgot to change the sails. When his father saw black sails he flung himself off the cliff into the sea, and that’s where we get the Aegean Sea. The final part of his report was taking a vote on the controversial practice of Sir Arthur Evans’ restoration of the building and whether he was right to restore part of it or whether he should have just left the ruins alone. I agreed with everyone else in that he was right to try to restore it because that provided context. We went back to the hotel and then went to dinner. My group went to a restaurant on the third floor of a building overlooking the main square. Appropriately this restaurant was named Veranda. I enjoyed pork concetta, and it was incredible. It provided a nice change of pace. After that we got gelato and enjoyed the end of another beautiful night in Greece!

The Baptism of Christ by El Greco 

 Turkish tombstone with the cross 

 Greek revolt flags. The one in the middle translates to “union or death” 

 Bougatsa – a traditional Cretan dessert 

 The grave of Nikos Kazantzakis 

 West entrance to Knossos Palace 

 Horns of consecration 

 Mount Juktas – you can see that the peaks look like horns of consecration 

 Throne room! 

 East façade of the palace  

 Giant pithoi- jars for oil 

 Room of the dolphins! 



Iraklio My Brain for a Lame Pun

ΓΕΙΑ ΣΑΣ, ΦΙΛΟΙ! Another great day to be on the island of Crete! May 29 is considered to be the unluckiest day of the year in Greece, but today was pretty wonderful. We started the day with some excitement because our bus was about fifteen minutes away, but it was pouring rain outside, so we took taxis to the bus; however, one taxi went to the wrong harbor. That added a little excitement to today’s adventures. Our first stop of the day was the Arkadi Monastery, a monastic compound in the White Mountains. The church is nice – it is dedicated to both the Transfiguration as well as St. Constantine and St. Helen, but the real important thing that happened here happened during the Cretan rebellion against the Turks. The Cretans wanted their freedom and wanted to be reunited with Greece, so they began to fight back against the Turkish occupiers. Many fled for refuge in this monastery. The Turks came up and were about to capture and enslave the Cretans, so the people in the compound blew up a gunpowder magazine with them in it but also took some Turks with them. Even though Crete really lost here, in a way this was the turning point in the Cretan rebellion because it drew attention to their cause. People like Giuseppe Garibaldi, Victor Hugo, and Jules Verne all wrote about the Cretan fight for independence, and soon the tides had turned. This is similar to the Alamo of Crete. Even though they lost that battle, they fired people up enough to win the war. This monastery was important enough to be featured on the 100 Drachma note for its role in the history of Greece. I also got to pose with a painting of my favorite Bible story – Jesus with the Samaritan woman – so that was pretty cool. We then went to lunch in Iraklio where I enjoyed a gyro before continuing on to the Iraklio Archeological Museum. This museum is unique because it houses almost every artifact from Minoan culture and most are well-preserved. We saw many objects important to Minoan religion such as larnakes (burial trunks), double axes, horns of consecration, and rhytons (used for libations). Most of the particular uses are unknown, but all of these are believed to be important to Minoan religion. We heard a fascinating site report from Kate about the frescoes found in the area Minoan palaces and similar buildings. These frescoes are very interesting; however, there is some controversy because the frescoes are so incomplete, so some archeologists believe that Sir Arthur Evans, the man who excavated Knossos and put these back together, let his imagination take over. I believe what he did was awesome, though, because he gave us an idea of a picture. Even if it wasn’t 100% accurate, it was more than anyone else did. My favorite fresco was the bull-leaping fresco. It is believed that the Minoans had some sort of bull-leaping games where people had to leap over a bull’s horns onto its back, and this fresco depicted that. Overall, this was my favorite museum of the trip so far. We went and checked into our hotel for the night and went out to dinner which was excellent, but the highlight was the homemade crepes that the restaurant served on the house. After dinner I went back to my room and listened to Arkansas beat Oral Roberts in the NCAA Baseball Regional to close out another great day on the island of Crete!

Church at the Arkadi Monastery

  Powder magazine at the Arkadi monastery. Notice how the roof is blown off 

 Me in front of the depiction of the woman at the well 

 Phaistos Disc 

 Bull-leaping fresco! 

 Double axes found in storage below the palace 

 Limestone horns of consecration found in storage below the palace 

 Bull’s head rhyton made of soapstone 

 Larnake that depicts religious scenes. If you look closely you can see double axes and horns of consecration 

 Dolphin fresco (my favorite fresco of the day)