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Friday, July 30, 2010

TOURISTS OF THE SARONIC ISLANDS - PART II

Yes, I know this two-part blog post about a one-day cruise to three Saronic islands has lost momentum after sandwiching a bit of scandal in between. So back from the sardonic to the Saronic...

Where did we leave off? YES, HERE...CLICK FOR PART I

Aegina
Aegina - here she is personified in an artwork, entitled "Aegina Visited by Jupiter", by French artist Jean Baptiste Greuze hanging at the Metropolitan.

The story goes that nymph Aegina was ravished by Zeus, king of the gods, who visited her in the guise of fire before transforming himself into an eagle and carrying her off to this island where she gave birth to his son.

So - to answer the question I left you with (in Part I of my one-day cruise) - how could I possibly pass up on the CLASSICAL tour of a place that has such a quintessential tradition based on depravity and debauchery? And of course, those of you who regularly read this blog (I think that's just you Robin, and maybe George and an occasional look-in by Ro Magnolia) will know that the girl who grew up in a house by the beach couldn't handle paradise so she now drinks morning coffee on a balcony overlooking the Parthenon while struggling with Plato....(CLICK HERE IF YOU'RE INTERESTED)
Does this look familiar?
Built 50 years before the Acropolis (c. 500 BC), the design of Aegina's Temple of Aphaia inspired architect Phidias when creating the Parthenon. This one, the original, was by another architect...forgotten in history.

It was built in honour of Aphaia (the "Invisible")...named after a diety who became the object of Cretan King Minos' lewd affections. Wishing to get away from him she leaped into the sea and so began another carnal tale...(if you didn't think antiquity was sexy you should think again) Finally, after being desired by one man and then another she leapt into the sea (again! I guess some nymphs never learn) and sought cover in the pine forest of Aegina where she miraculously disappeared. A temple was built in her honour at that spot.

But there's more...

On a clear day (we were neither so lucky nor long-sighted) you can see Poseidon's Temple in Sounio and the Acropolis of Athens. Apparently the three create an equilateral triangle - an energy pillar of sorts. The ancients were particularly fond of those. Infact, I think thousands of years later we don't have anywhere near their knowledge.

Anyway, as I marvelled this exquisite structure I wondered how it might have been in its heyday. The pedimental sculptures depicted scenes from the Trojan War that were stolen when Greece was still under Turkish occupation in 1811 and later auctioned off. They are now at Munich's Glyptothek and stand amongst the most famous and important artistic remains of ancient Greece. (They even achieved notoriety when used as Nazi symbols).

It was hard to digest how the most beautiful Greek works have been smuggled out of the country and are now scattered at museums around the world. So sad.

This, of course, was easier to digest...

And we also stole some of these...
Pistachios are found in abundance on Aegina. The ideal climate of the island and the unique soil composition lend exceptional flavour and aroma to the world-famous pistachios of Aegina.

The aroma of baked pistachios can be smelt from the port where they are sold as pistachio ice-cream, sweets, brittle bars and any other way imagineable! Or just eat them plain...

From the delicious to the divine...The island is filled with churches. The largest one is in honour of St. Nektarios, the island's patron saint. Here are a couple of snaps for my more devout friends, the ones who keep reminding me that God is with me regardless of my evil ways.
These frescoes are definitely the work of divine inspiration!
Oh, and if anyone knows how I can turn photos around so that the one with the frescos isn't sitting sideways...please let me know.

Back on the boat...we danced syrtaki (or at least a Sino-Balkan-Bollywood hybrid version of it).

And then, back to Athens, back to reality, back to being Greeks. It's really not that bad when you see it from a tourist's perspective.

PS. Yes, George, these are some of the photos I took with my camera... Not swiped from the internet with the exception of the first one from the Metropolitan.

5 comments:

Ro Magnolia said...

Pistachio ice-cream!!!!!!!!!

Okay, yeah - all the cultural stuff is awesome too. Especially since I studied quite a bit of this at university so it's cool to think of you actually walking there amongst all those incredible historical sites. And yes, it is absolutely tragic that so many of your countries great treasures are spread around the world instead of being right there in Greece where they belong. Oh and yes, it is pretty funny that we think of all ancient beliefs as so "sacred" and "holy" when really, people were just as sex-crazed back then as they are today. And also I'm very curious to know if anyone of your fellow "tourists" figured out that you were actually a mole in their midsts.

But let me just go back again to the most compelling aspect of your post - PISTACHIO ICE-CREAM!!!!!!!!!


Yum. :)

Purple Cow said...

There is something about that word - PISTACHIO - isn't there?

Robin said...

First of all, I am fascinated by ruins. It was the best part of my trip to Europe. I spent so much time trying to imagine what they looked like in their splendor, and how much effort it took to place all of those stones w/o the equipment we have today. And then I wonder about myth. The fact from the fiction. And then there is the stuff like placing things in triangles. You can see the method in the madness. Throw all of the stories out the window and ask yourself, "Who was really masterminding this? And what were they trying to do? More importantly, did it work? Could it work again? Is it still working?" These are the questions that can make me just a tinge whacko. Did I say a tinge? I think I underestimate myself sometimes.

Purple Cow said...

I agree with you Robin. They knew so much that unfortunately was destroyed when Christians later tried to burn their works. But there are so many mysteries. Take for instance Epidaurus theatre with its perfect acoustics despite the fact that there was no electricity. Or their knowledge of herbs. Or take for instance Pythagoras...did you know that it is said that he had discovered the secrets of time travel. I think that there are many secrets buried in antiquity. Mind-boggling isn't it. If you're a "tinge" mad then I'm there with you!

Okie said...

So gorgeous. Sounds like a great trip. One of these days I hope to go to Greece...and a tour of the Saronic islands sounds like a nice addition to the trip. :)