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Greece and England, "The Tale of Ancient and Elegant", 2016

We travelled the southern and the central parts of Greece during the last few days of 2016 with our regular travel companions, the grandmothers, with my husband and my daughter. In the southern peninsula, Peloponnese we spent one night in Nafplio which is a handsome town by the Adriatic sea with marble roads and humble castles. We then drove through Lousios Gorge to the west side of the peninsula to spend the night near Ancient Olympia. There was an abandoned feeling in the villages we passed through with no one to walk around except a few chickens and goats. The third day we crossed the canal to the central part to visit Delphi and Meteora before arriving in Athens. We then flew to London after saying goodbye to the grandmothers who returned back to Istanbul.

For me Greece can be identified by its ancient olive groves as much as its magnificent ancient cities and sculptures.


Stemnitsa
At the center of Peloponnese in the Arcadia region, hill towns with thick walled stone houses are hidden in steep valleys. Stemnitsa is one of them and has one little square with three tavernas, two coffee shops and a bakery. The houses with dark grey stones and red roofs sit comfortably on the town’s sloped stone roads.




Ancient Olympia
Olympia is the athletic and the religious center of the ancient world. In the soft sun of the early morning the ruins seemed content with their 2,500 year old existence.





Ancient Delphi
A morning with a lazy snow fall turned into a sunny afternoon at the ancient city of Delphi. High sheer rocks where my daughter spotted wild goats are the backdrop for the city which itself is built on a hillside. According to a legend, Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world. When their paths crossed in the sky he threw a rock to determine the location for the city. Cedar trees which do not offer much shade adorn the ruins.



I was looking forward to see the Temple of Apollo which was the inspiration for my sculpture Oracle from the series I created on the theme of “Time". The temple was built three times between 7th and 4th c. B.C. and was home to the priestess, Pythia who used to sit on a tripod and respond to questions about future.  In 390 A.D Roman emperor Theodosius quieted the oracle and destroyed most of the statues in the name of Christianity.


Reliefs which depicted mythological stories on the pediments of the temple are displayed at the Delphi Museum together with delightful marble sculptures.  Most of the ruins are from the 6th c. B.C. during when the site was the religious center of the Greek world however excavations have revealed settlements as far back as Neolithic era. Some artifacts from the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 B.C) are also on shown. “Know thyself” one of the aphorisms at the site was inscribed at the entrance of the temple. This was the motivation for my sculpture series on the theme of “Self-Knowledge”.



A pleasant walk on the Sacred Way meanders through the acropolis, ancient theater with a capacity of 5,000 spectators and ends up at the stadium where the sporting events of the Pythian Games were held.

Below the Temple of Apollo is the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia which includes treasuries, the temple of Athena and the Tholos of Delphi. The Tholos was built in the 4th c. B.C. which is a circular structure with exterior doric columns and interior corinthian columns. Its purpose is unknown.


Dappled with shade of
olive trees, ancient ruins 
whisper old stories 
        Haiku,Belisa

Meteora
Monasteries used as religious retreats perched on top of sandstone rocks are mesmerizing in Meteora. Initially, in AD 985 a hermit lived in a cave here. In 1382, a monk from Mount Athos founded the monastery of Megalo Meteora which we visited. How the monasteries were built is still a mystery.  There were 23 monasteries originally and 6 of them had stairs built in later years.

Grandmothers slowly climbed the 300 steps up to the temple. They quite enjoyed the kitchen where blackened copperware was kept with a large cauldron and a wood oven, and the vinery with ancient wine pressing equipment and wooden barrels. The eerie bone room however, was observed from far by both.


We then walked down to the nunnery through a leaf covered pathway where two nuns with pious expressions met us. It had a lovely little church, a balcony, and a small shop selling hand-made honey and soap.

Athens
Athens greeted us covered with a thin layer of evening snow. In the restaurant we had dinner that evening, we accompanied the Turkish musician with his songs after the second round of house wine which was on the house.

In the early hours of a chilly morning, we visited Acropolis (high city) which is the fortified city and sanctuary of ancient Greece. It sits in the center overlooking the concrete sea of Athens, home to about 660,000 people.  



After the previous temples were destroyed by the Persians, the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the temple of Athena Nike were rebuilt during the 5th c B.C.


Erechtheion is supported by a few graceful caryatids and an olive tree which was supposedly the first tree planted by Goddess Athena, was guarding the site.




The Acropolis Museum has displays of artifacts and sculptures from the site.



England

The elegant, charming and delightful England..


London
New Year’s in London was lively. We walked 7 miles through the city’s cold streets with crowds watching street performers and walking in haste before ending up at the Trafalgar Square to spend the last moments of 2016. We saw the tips of fireworks together with thousands of people and the police guarding designated areas. The next morning, before leaving London we walked around the elegant streets of Kelsington. The classy collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum was a delight to see. Artifacts from China, Japan, and Islamic states and beautiful works of Rodin and other sculptures from the 16th to 20th centuries were displayed. A temporary exhibition of the 19th century British costumes revealed the sophistication of the period.

We stayed two nights at the town of Bath to explore the Wessex region with charming villages and pastures.  The area is known for its wool and cheddar cheese.  A lovely drive under the pleasantly low winter sun through the English countryside took us through the towns of Corsham, Lacock, Bradford on Avon, and Shaftesbury on the first day. The next day we walked the streets of Bath before driving to Stonehenge and Salisbury.

Corsham
In the early morning hourse, locals with muddy knee-high rain boots were strolling through the vast green town’s park accompanied by their muddy dogs. The town consisted of a butchery, a post office, a café and a store selling newsagents and confectionary with a sign at the entrance permitting “only 2 children at a time”.




Lacock
Lacock is a small town with stone and tudor style timber houses. A medieval tithe barn with gloomy sun rays falling in from its high windows was where the clergy kept the produce they collected from each farmer’s annual harvest. The Stable Tea House offers heart-warming cream teas and delicious scones that are consumed with clotted cream and jam.


Through age, grand mansion
has accepted to proudly
wear cloak of ivy
                Haiku, Belisa



Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon is larger but still delightful with its Cotswold stone houses that seemed to be at the edge of collapsing. My daughter stopped to take pictures of swans and seagulls at the bridge on Avon river while we enjoyed a Saxon church by the riverside.


Shaftesbury
The well-maintained historical pathways of Shaftesbury offer endless views of the pastures below. In Gold Hill, stone and thatched cob cottages look at the demolished abbey wall across from the steep curved road.


Bath
The morning frost was gently covering the city’s green parks surrounded by Bath’s fine palladium style buildings. After being cured from his leprosy by the spring waters, Bladud became the king of Britons and founded the city of Bath in 860 B.C. In A.D. 76 Romans built the bath complex and a temple dedicated to goddess Sulis Minerva.


With its elegant buildings in Georgian style, bridges and parks Bath is a delightful town to spend a day or two.

Stonehenge
We walked through green pastures among the 5,000 year old burial mounds to arrive at the Stonehenge guarded by crows.  Gracefully the stones set the sun one more time just like they did 1.5 million times. Meticulously designed to illustrate the passing of seasons, the stones possessed a secret beyond our understanding.


Salisbury
Salisbury’s red brick buildings deepened in twilight soon disappeared into the night. We walked the streets and the cloisters of the cathedral in haste to see the Magna Carte kept at the Chapter House to find the iron cast gates locked. The illuminated massive cathedral was looking eerie. Its dominating spire is the highest in England.


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