The Beauty of Greece Shines Through
This is our longest day at sea, so there are several lectures taking place, including mine on "Quick Tips for Great Portraits". I think it will be informative and entertaining, with a short exercise afterwards where people can photograph each other. I had a nice morning watching the gentle waters ebb and flow around the boat, making a few long exposures to emphasize its motion.
Since this is an educational trip, I've had the wonderful opportunity to hear some excellent lectures from the other speakers. Some memorable topics included "Neolithic Life" and "Caravaggio in Malta" with Liz Bartman. Today in Jim Higginbotham's lecture, I learned about how some ancient artifacts were created, such as the way "corinthian clay" was put in a kiln with very little oxygen to make it turn black. It's called "Black Figure pottery". This was largely due to the level of iron in the clay. Fired with more oxygen however, it would become tan, and even a little orange. Using these techniques they were able to control the end result accordingly. The Corinthians also specialized in small bottles and vases, combining sculpture and pottery. It appears the Corinthians were at the forefront of many of these processes, only to be copied by other cultures in the years to follow, specifically the Athenians. Athenian clay while similar to Corinthian clay, actually responds differently to adding and reducing oxygen with different colors possible, and more iron making it possible to create even larger pieces. They signed their work unlike the Corinthians, and began to branch out, including more dialogue and then red figure vases.
Jim talked about how the earliest evidence of coins appeared in Lydia. For example, take a look at Electrum Trite. It's a simple design, almost nugget like with no words yet. Another example is Electrum Stater from Ephesus (Phanes). Eventually, in the 6th century BC, the Greeks started to mint coins in silver which became the preferred method as it was more affordable than electrum or gold. The Athenians were one of the first to think of coins as two sided. A remarkable example is Silver Tetradrachma of Athens with a really beautiful Owl on the back. Meanwhile in Rome, they were minting very unsophisticated coins in bronze. Eventually they start making them round, but they were still very large in comparison to the much more refined output of the Athenians. These were called Rostrum, or Prow. Finally, they caught up and begin minting in silver.
I had a quick chance to look at the Captain's maps and see the direct line we have sailed from Malta towards Greece. They actually draw it out with pencil and mark the times that we reach certain coordinates to make sure we are on the right course. It's interesting that in the Mediterranean Sea, there are many sections with different names like the Ionian Sea for example. The reason for this is that sailors actually found that different parts of the Mediterranean have their own unique characteristics. By identifying them with a unique name, they are better able to avoid certain rough waters, or take advantage of sections known for being fast and calm.
In the evening we arrived at Argostoli, Greece and we docked around 8:30pm and didn't have to be back on the ship until just before midnight. Most passengers headed into town, and I planned to as well. First though, I stayed on board to take some dusk photos of the hills of Cephalonia with the houses all lit up. The light was beautiful and it was really the only time I've had a chance to photograph dusk on this journey.
Afterwards I set off for my first Greek adventure on a pleasantly warm evening, strolling through the promenade. Shop windows had hand painted black figure vases which were copies of the pieces created in ancient times which I learned about earlier. I thought these were quite clever. I also found some unique silver jewelry. The port was not incredibly busy though a fair number of people were enjoying the area, milling around at cafes, bars, and restaurants. I took note of the Greek writing and symbols on the signs and how different they were from the previous places we stopped.
This was the fifth country visited thus far, and the plan is to stay in Greece for another full day with tomorrow in Igoumenitsa (pronounced ego-men-eeetsa). The highlight expects to be a drive to the mountainous area of Dodoni, where we'll visit the oldest oracular site in Greece, dating back to around 1000 B.C. There, we'll see a large theatre built in the third century B.C. which seats a capacity of 20,000. I looked at a photo in one of the guide books, and I'm eager to see it in person and make my own image of this place. The weather is supposed to be hot, at 93 degrees.
Day 2: Greece is a contradiction in many ways. While they are known for their sunny beaches, the country is 70% mountainous with the largest around 10,000 feet. Their economy is in horrific shape and their political system is worse yet. All around this peaceful land, you can see signs of unrest. Broken windows, graffiti, and other signs of an uprising that is angry but struggling to organize into a movement. The government appears to be corrupt, nearly a dictatorship, and they tax their citizens quite heavily. This theme of contradiction was felt in other ways too.
Today for instance, we visited Dodoni, and the orcale sight was largely original, but also being restored by workers under umbrellas to shield them from the sun. The moment I spotted this I was let down, as I feel as if these sights should be left largely untouched. Nevertheless, I found some ways to photograph it in a way that made sense to me.
Turning around I noticed a massive mountain range and I got down very low to photograph it with yellow wildflowers in the foreground. A couple of unleashed dogs trotted around with no collar, stopping to lay down in the shade every so often.
This site visit was about one hour and it was followed by a long drive to the lakeside town of Ioannina. We stopped for an authentic Greek lunch at a place called "Seirios". The meal was splendid and started with spanikopita, and then the filo dough balls dipped in honey and sesame seeds after being filled with Haloumi cheese. I could have just eaten this and been satisfied, but they brought out a huge leg of lamb and potatoes. Normally I don't eat lamb, but this was superb and someone commented that it had likely been cooking for around 6 hours as it was super tender and delicious. Just when I thought there was no way I could eat anymore they brought out a wonderful ice cream with a unique flavor. We took guesses and couldn't place it before finally asking the waiter who revealed it was rose hip ice cream. Another first for me, and it was fragrant, almost perfume like, but still quite tasty.
I could have had a Siesta and just taken a long nap, but we were not headed back to the ship just yet. Instead, there was about a 90 minute window of free time. I wasn't in the mood for shopping or even walking around as it was really hot. I looked for a bench in the shade and found one right in front of the lake. Meganzers periodically disappeared under water, and fish sometimes lept out of the water before splashing back in. An occasional boat would come through making for a pleasant way to pass the time. We boarded the bus where I slept with my head pressed against my Tilley hat against the window.
After an early dinner, we all decided to take the provided shuttle into town, just ten minutes away from Igoumenitsa. I thought about staying back in my room and just writing, but I figured if I came all this way, I should take advantage of the opportunity and head into town. This proved to be a great decision from the moment I stepped off the ship. The sun was setting and I had my 6D with me with the wide angle lens attached. I caught one of my favorite shots of the whole trip as the magic light bathed the sea with the Greek mountains in the distance, and the front of our ship silhouetted perfectly. I placed the sun in just the right position so it created a wonderful burst of beams, really enhancing an already perfect scene.
We noticed this splendid phenomenon in the sky as the sun was casting shadows from building onto the clouds that were high in the sky. I had never seen anything like it and captured it with my camera.
I crossed the street and found my way to the edge of the water where the sun was just about to set. I made my last photo of the day, a fitting way to say goodbye to Greece. The group stopped at a place called "Cafe Noel" and I had my first Ouzo which is the Greek version of Zambuca. It was very good with a delicate licorice taste. We said "Opa" and drank it down while lingering in the balmy evening air. There was a bus to catch and we returned to the ship on time for our departure. Tonight, we sail to Saranda, Albania, which promises to be an exciting adventure. I also have my last lecture at three in the afternoon. Before bed I had to set my watch back an hour.