Thursday, June 21, 2001

06/21/01: Phew. I have just arrived in Rome. Yay me! The train arrived at Termini (in Rome) about an hour ago. I have a hostel for four nights, all paid up, so that's a great thing to get done right away. After this, I am thinking about exploring a little. Maybe not too much, so as not to get lost too much immediately. :) So, what's happened between then and now? Let's see if I can remember...

Saturday was the biggest day, actually, and I skipped that. We drove over the isthmus of Corinth and saw the canal, then drove down the Pelopponese and first visited the Ancient Mycenae site. The ruins were smaller than I thought they'd be, but fascinating nonetheless. That's where the famous Lion's Gate is, and the whole thing dates from before the '12th century BC. Can you believe that? I have a hard time getting that through my head--several thousand years ago! The so-called Mask of Agamemnon was found here by that phony Heinrich Schliemann, but it's too early to be really Agamemnon. His brother was Menelaus, away from whom the infamous Helen ran away with prince Paris. The two Mycenaens then began the Trojan War, after, of course, the wind didn't blow for two years and the daugher Iphigenia was sacrificed to the gods. (Actually, I have heard conflicthing accounts as to whether she was actually sacrificed or saved at the last moment by the warrior Achilles.) Plus, the view from the acropolis that the ruins are on is amazing-a large valley and mountains all around. Greece is second only to Norway in most mountainous European nation--25% of the country is covered with mountains. We drove up and around some of them on the two-story tour bus, which was an adventure in itself!

So Mycenae was really interesting. Plus, to get to the top of the ruins, one must clamber up a rather slippery marble slope. But I made it, even though my sandals don't have much traction to speak of.

After Mycenae, we drove through Nafplion to the ruins of the sanctuary at Epidavros. It was a hospital founded by Asclepius thousands of years ago, I don't remember when. The theatre is the best preserved part of the site, because it had been buried under mounds of earth. The acoustics are astounding. The middle of the circular orchestra has an altar to Bacchus, and when you stand on it, your voice sounds as if you have a microphone in front of you. It's amazing. The theatre seats between 14 and 17,000, so you can imagine what it must have been like. I wish I could see a production at an ancient theatre like that, I'd probably hear it better than anything else! I have to go, my time is almost up. I will keep going very soon.

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