I traveled across the world for the first time to Athens, Greece with my study abroad class. The day we arrived my eyes were opened as if I have been blind to the world my whole life. As I got off the metro, the initial element that caught my eye was the curbs that were paved with marble. Then, I saw more and more floors, buildings, and everyday uses composed out of marble. I couldn’t believe it.
As time went on, I learned that the common building material was marble and limestone, and without analyzing too well, I automatically assumed that everything was made of these two materials. I was proved wrong and enlightened when I visited the acropolis museum and I saw many structeres made out of other mediums.
Most statues and buildings were made with marble.
Yet some were composed out of other materials, such as bronze. Interesting enough, the ancient Greeks were actually known for their statuary in bronze. Bronze, which is 90% copper and 10% tin, has a lower melting point than pure copper and will stay liquid longer, allowing the artists to mold it at more ease. Copper came from Greece but tin had to be imported from other places, such as Turkey. Most bronze statues were melted down to reuse for other functions but marble copies were made in their place. This is why we have more marble statues than bronze statues.
Another interesting material used for statuary was this sandstone with chunks of seashells all throughout the material. It was eroded down harshly.
The museum had artifacts from other countries that the encient Greeks associiated themselves with. Here is a sphinx from ancient egypt sculpted out of granite. Through research I found many different sphinx that were carved out of granite as well, although limestone was most common.
As I walked throughout the museum I noticed that most vases and cups were made from clay.
I also found a clay bowl filled with shards of obsidian, a volcanic glass from rapid-cooling mafic magma.
To my amazement, I found a vase shaped from diorite, an intrusive ingneous rock from intermediate-categorized magma.
I found many cups, bowls, and vases molded from silver and gold. This added to widen the variety of materiald used to make every-day-objects.
I then found jewelry that was fabricated from gold as well. But how was this crafted with such detail?
Many gold jewelry was imprinted with stamps made from a gemstone called a “sealstone” (pictured) and other forms of molds.
Other necklaces and jewelry was created with agate. Agate was discovered by a Greek philosopher named Theophratus.
Lots of other decrotave materials were made from glass.
Imagining the past when walking through the present can be a challenging but inspiring learning experience. Being in a city that has a history that goes back thousands of years will have a lot to tell.
Learning from the past is the best way to have a better present and future. You don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.
Three main eras through the Athenian time period will be visited and interpreted.
Starting this journey off in 5th century BC: This marble path leads right to the Acropolis which was also known as the road to democracy. (Figure 1)
Construction started for the Acropolis in 5th century BC. Besides a fort and a place of royal residence, the Acropolis functioned as a place of worship for the Goddess of fertility and nature, and for her companion male god Erechtheus. (Figure 2)
This is an old road in Athens located below the high plateau of the Acropolis. In Mycenaean times small towns started to develop around the base of the Acropolis. (Figure 3)
Now traveling forward about 600 years to 11th century BC.: This is the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea which is a Greek Orthodox Church. Built in 11th century BC it is one of the oldest churches in Athens. This church is dedicated to Panagia which is the Virgin Mary. Notice how this church is intertwined between the newer and taller buildings around it. Not exactly something you would see back in the U.S. (Figure 4)
This is an interior image of the church for a different view and feel for it. The interior has certain preserved illustrations all over the ceilings and walls, which tells a story of its history within itself. (Figure 5)
Now fast forwarding to present day, 2017 A.D.: Here is a statue of Zeus in the archeological museum in Athens. This museum informs its visitors on events that have happened during the Athenian time period. (Figure 6)
Ending this journey at the Acropolis museum in Athens. This image shows ruins under the glass floors at the museum that date back to the Acropolis era. Museums like this one, and the archeological one that was talked about previously, are here for us to learn about the past and that helps shape how events will happen now and in the future. (Figure 7)
Figure 1: The Vasilissis Amalias Avenue (Hellenic Parliament Building) in Athens, Greece (11), pictured above, has been the focus of a number of riots and protests in response to the Greek Debt Crisis that plagued the country following the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In the late months of 2009 the Great Recession was triggered with the accumulation of structural weaknesses in the Greek economy, and the Greek government undercutting its government debt and deficit level (11).
Figure 2: The European currency, the euro (pictured above) was implemented in 2002 replacing the Greek currency, drachma. The introduction of the euro into peripheral countries like Greece was done with the purpose of reducing trade costs and increasing overall trade volume across Europe (9). However, as labor costs rose in peripheral (less developed) countries like Greece, core (more developed) countries like Germany took away from these peripheral countries (12. As a result, Greece’s trade deficit rose significantly (1).
Figure 3: The streets of Plaka (pictured above) in Athens, Greece are filled with tourists. In 2009, following the global financial crisis Greece fell further into debt as its two main income sources, tourism and shipping, fell by 15% (1).
Figure 4: Overlooking Athens, Greece. With the country facing a great decline in private investment and high currency debt, Greek wages fell nearly 20% from 2010 to 2014 through deflation. As a result of falling wages, reduced income, and a rise in debt-to-GDP ratio, a severe recession fell over the country. Unemployment rose to nearly 25% from a quoted 10% in 2003 (1).
Figure 5: Even with significant cuts in government spending, and the country returning to a budget surplus in 2014, the country would be hit hard in 2015 as banks closed for weeks to prevent a complete financial meltdown (1). As a result, citizens lost their jobs and homes, and businesses and homes like the one above fell into ruins.
Figure 6: Protest signs outside the Athens University in Plaka. Following the 2015 election of Prime Minister Tsipras (11), Greece was facing its third government bailout. By the end of June, following multiple negotiations on the bailout an agreement had yet to be made and the Greek stock market closed in addition to the banks that had closed weeks before. On July 5th a majority voted to reject the bailout terms. As a result, stocks dropped with the prospect of Greece falling out of the EU. By the middle of July an agreement had been made by Eurozone leaders. However, many large debt holders and citizens who had voted on the decision were in disagreement with the negotiation terms and results (1).
Figure 7: Now in the middle of 2017, the Greek finance ministry has reported Greek government bonds approaching pre-2010 levels. While this provides evidence that Greece could be returning to some sort of economic normalcy, many people are homeless and without work (1). 71% of the homeless population in Athens became homeless in the last five years and 21.7% in the last year alone (5,6,7). Whether it’s selling flowers or playing music in the streets, many people are left finding other ways to make extra money since there are few programs that offer aid.
Figure 8: The projected tourist view of Greece is often of the ancient ruins in Athens or the white buildings and blue roofs of Santorini. However, lack of proper housing, a high homeless rate, and declined job opportunities are still the reality of many Greek citizens.
Continue reading Turmoil in the Streets- The Greek Government Debt Crisis Plagues the Country for more than a Decade
At around 1613 BCE, the island of Santorini had a cataclysmic event, the Minoan eruption. The caldera reached a VEI of 6 and the eruption column reached heights of up to 38 kilometers. This caldera forming eruption produced a 60 meter thick layer of pumice that blanketed the island.
One specific piece of pumice named Petros was born on this day. After experiencing a terrifying journey of being launched in the air and free falling for what must have felt like a lifetime, Petros came to rest. He resides on the Island of Thera, in the now town of Fira. It is at this place that his story begins…
At this outcrop of pumice, down in Fira Quarry, I patiently waited. I waited 3,630 years for someone to remove me from my prison of cement and silence so I could live a normal life. That day came when a study abroad class from America rescued me from my cage.
It is a this point that I, Petros, say goodbye to the trail that leads to where I was stuck living a life of solace. I realize at this moment, I am a free pumice. As I stare at this trail that leads to I lived for so long, I am stricken with sadness for I am leaving what I call home. Then a wave of excitement rushes through me as I remember the world that I’m about to experience.
This is it! The first look at this jaw-dropping place that I have always yearned to see. I am here because I was born into existence from a volcano, and these people came here to see what was the result of the same thing that created me. Something that is so destructive that can take life so easily can also give life and attract it from far and wide.
I study the currency known as Euro, it is what is used on this island and so much more. I quickly figure out how to use the money and make my first stop on the town.
At last, I purchase the legendary, mouthwatering greek food. My first choice is a gyro. The smell alone makes my stomach lurch out from me to try to get some. I gobble it down so fast I am not sure if I even chewed it. If I was ever offered a last meal, this would be it.
I decide to go for a walk up to the rim of the caldera. This caldera flung me into the air and gave me life. I am frozen in place when I gaze out into the distance. The deep blue shimmer of the water, the way the islands catch your gaze and call out to you, and the way the sun lights the sky for miles to see is almost to much to handle. I realize then the violent act that created me also created this unreal place that I look upon.
After being out in the scorching sun for most of the day, I need to cool off so I go for a swim. I have an uncommon advantage for a rock in that pumice is the only rock that floats. By being very porous and extremely light in density, I can float in the pool for hours to come.
After dousing myself with pool water from the fiery heat, I lounge in the shade with the pool by my side. The happiness I feel matches that of a child on Christmas morning.
Here I rest, on the wall that holds a dozen rocks by my side. Rocks that had to the same experience I did until someone rescued them. If this is where I shall sit for another 4,000 years, at least I shall not sit alone.
Out of all things to notice when first arriving in Greece, it was the marble curbs that initially caught my eye.
In the United States, people pay large amounts of money to have marble countertops or marble floors. There, it is a luxury to be able to afford marble products. Yet, in Greece, the streets in downtown Plaka are made out of slabs of marble. The floors in Athenian buildings regardless of wealth are marble. And many staircases in Santorini are also marble.
Here, most locals probably don’t think twice about it because marble is a commodity that is so widely used in day to day art and building techniques. But, a site like this is truly spectacular for the visiting American.
αʹ-1. This is a portion of the curb that started it all! I found it fascinating that the curbing was all marble, whether the area was wealthier in fashion or an area that portrayed a lower economic status.
βʹ-2. This road is the pathway to the iconic marble Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens. Since Greece has been a place with a “glowing” reputation dating back to the Golden Age in the 5th century B.C, marble has been a favorite construction rock because of its beauty and rigidity against the elements.
γʹ-3. The Pentelic marble steps are the focal point to the main entrance of the Acropolis in Athens. Since the marble was mined locally at two main quarries in northeast Athens, the choice to use this specific rock was ideal. Although it was a process getting marble to top of the hill, it has been documented that the ancient Greeks had better building and stronger sculpting tools than what we have today. Unfortunately, the “recipe” for the creation of those tools has been lost over time, but these tools did allow the Greeks to build the Parthenon in under 15 years.
δʹ-4. The Parthenon has stood the test of time, mostly surviving several wars and centuries of governmental use. Due to a canonball hitting the structure and exploding stored gunpowder within, most of the interior walls and some of the marble doric columns were destroyed. Today, there is a renovation process underway to bring the Parthenon and its marble back to their former glory.
εʹ-5. Just west of the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum, which has an entrance and interior mainly consisting of grey and white marble. Marble has homogeneity (or visual uniformity) throughout, making it a popular rock for construction. It is also very resistant to extreme conditions because marble is simply metamorphosed limestone that crystallized under high heat and pressure.
ϛʹ-6. Since marble is equigranular (having equal grain sizes), the metamorphozing process creates a denser rock that voids empty spaces and results in a strong building rock. Marble, although fairly resistant, is also soft enough to be carved and does not easily shatter. This is why columns as shown above have the ability to be carved in intricate detail near the captial, or top of the column.
ζʹ-7. The word “marble” comes from the Greek root word “mármaros” which means crystalline rock or shining stone. Marble is very common in sculpting due to the low amount of refraction, meaning that when light enters the rock, it sinks down a few layers before refracting light back to the eye of the observer. This gives sculptures a dense waxy glow and makes the illusion of the sculptures very life-like.
ηʹ-8. Although less popular in Santorini than in Athens, marble is a very popular accent rock. As seen in this picture, thin sheets of marble line the stair case near the hotel lobby.
θʹ-9. Here is another example of marble being used as an asthetically pleasing accent against the polished sandstone. Notice that the marble is strategically placed at the edges of each step where the most daily wear occurs. Marble is a very versatile and physically beautiful rock, hence its artistic and architectural popularity in Greece.
ιʹ-10. Another view of those same marble steps at the Loizos Hotel with a beautiful backdrop of an iconic white and blue Greek church to remind me of where I get to call home for a short while. For the next three weeks, I’ll be walking up and down these stairs, admiring them a little more than most would.
Doors lead to new adventures and the choice in door determines the outcome of the opportunity presented. This is my journey through doors discovering new, exciting, and sometimes scary experiences.
When given the opportunity to travel to a different land this wood painted door appeared. I choose to go through the door choosing to come on this trip and travel across the world to a new and exciting place, allowing myself to embrace new and different experiences.
I love to try new foods so when the chance came up to eat amazing Greek food I took it. This light blue door arose and I opened it which lead to a kitchen and was given the opportunity to fill my stomach with decadent sustenance. I got to try authentic gyros with life changing pita bread and refreshing frappes with an intense caffeine buzz.
Traveling to a different country brings the exciting moment of paying in a foreign currency. Walking through the elaborate gates of a bank that appeared to me, I choose to spend money on this trip indulging in a few splurges like clothes or food and not think about money constantly.
When traveling to a different place everyone is presented with a choice, blend in with the locals or stand out like a tourist. This door that showed up has an Asian influence and does not blend in with the rest of the Athenian architecture, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I choose not to open this door because I wish to blend in with the locals embracing their culture.
I’ve grown up my whole life drinking water that came from a mountain but when visiting another country I was presented with the chance to drink water from a different source. I stumbled upon this gateway built into the rocks which lead to a cave with a fountain spring in it. I choose to go through this door and drink water that didn’t come from the San Gabriel mountains, experiencing something new.
Everyone practices religion differently and one of the amazing opportunities that comes along with traveling is getting to observe how local people pay homage to their religion. Choosing to go through the Parthenon doors (a temple for the goddess Athena) I am allowing myself to watch and possibly experience how Greek people worship past and present.
This wood door painted in Santorini blue attached to a white plastered house right on Cale Plaka Beach appeared to me representing the chance to discover a completely different view from anything I’ve seen before. I choose to go through the door and witness the pure beauty of Santorini and the Aegean Sea instead of staying indoors all summer on my computer.
Santorini is an island with beaches so there is the opportunity to swim in a different ocean but also feel exposed in a bathing suit. I wanted to swim in water that wasn’t the Pacific Ocean so I choose to open the blue door surrounded by a red frame overlooking the Aegean Sea not caring about having a perfect “summer body” and allowing myself to feel vulnerable so I can eventually feel confident.
Staying in a foreign country for so long brings an abundance of opportunities. This door which leads to my room will be my entrance to Santorini and I’ll be walking through it everyday I’m here. Each entrance and exit will bring a new encounter on this incredible Greek adventure.