I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sept. 4 (cont.) Excavations and Eggplant at Dion

Back on the road to Dion it was another journey of a little over an hour. Dion is a big archeaological site. My uneducated assessment is that it is as big and important as Delphi, but the site is currently nowhere near as developed.

The museum was again well done, nicely edited and in a beautiful light and airy building. Downstairs there were stacks and stacks of pottery and statuary fragment awaiting categorization, and outside the museum were more large fragments, as you can see in the pictures.

I love that they arranged the beheaded statues in a conversational grouping; it made me think of the Headless Hunt from Harry Potter.

The museum had the first Turkish toilet (squat toilet) of the trip.

We drove to the ruins. They are huge and gigantic. Wow. The site is so large! This is a sample view.

It is not yet a fully developed tourist site. There are stands for signs but most do not yet have signs in them explaining what it is you're seeing. They are building sidewalks and perhaps when they are done there will be a map (maps are not a big thing in Greece). In the little center where you enter the ruins there was an aerial photograph of the excavation site, which gives some idea of the scale.

We saw an early church, baths and the plumbing system, some amazing mosaic fragments, including the bull seen at left. We walked along the Roman roads (this may not be permitted after the sidewalks are done), traveling as pilgrims might have done 2500 years ago when the site was at its zenith.

There is a sanctuary to Isis that has some standing columns. The Greeks and the Romans adopted the deities of other cultures and added them to their pantheon, and Isis was quite a popular addition. The Greeks and Romans both had much admiration for Egypt. Early Greek art bears a strong resemblance to Egyptian, and only later developed the naturalistic style that is so well known. You can see in the photo that the center aisle was set off by marble channels. It was filled with water (before the entire temple was underwater) and symbolized the Nile to honor Isis' Egyptian origins. There is also a sanctuary to Demeter.

I was saying that what Dion needed was a viewing tower when lo and behold we found it! It's about 10 feet tall at the most and is set off in the woods and you can't see anything from it. I was highly amused. What Dion really needs is a very tall viewing tower, with a 5E or whatever fee to ride the lift.

I forgot to write down how much the combined ticket to the museum and site was, but I'm guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 6E. Entrance fees everywhere were quite cheap.

We went back to the museum area where there were some cafes for food. We chose Isida (IΣIΔA) restaurant, where a friendly yiayia made us horiatiki and a grilled eggplant that was to die for. K longed for this eggplant the rest of the trip, and kept threatening to detour to Dion on her drive back home. It appeared to have been grilled and then flayed, and was served topped with olive oil, feta, and large chunks of raw garlic. I didn't eat the garlic, just put it in my mouth to get the taste. It was so good, almost sweet. Eggplant is really hard to prepare well. This certainly qualified as well-prepared. The proprietor didn't speak much English, and she was the first to have patience with my attempts to pronounce menu items with their Greek names. With water and a coffee for K the total was 11E.

Dion was the closest we came to Mount Olympus (which is really a range of mountains). It was a hazy day and I couldn't get any good pictures of it, but I kind of like that it is mysterious and looks like it might possibly be a mirage or a hallucination. One shouldn't be able to look directly at the dwelling place of the gods, I suppose.

The afternoon drive to Meteora was uneventful but long. We arrived around 7 in Kalambaka. K's guidebook recommended several hotels, including the Meteora Hotel Kastraki (not to be confused with the Meteora Hotel also owned by the same family but more on the Kalambaka side). There was a sign. We drove down a windy road through a clearly residential neighborhood and finally turned around. We asked for directions, one of my Pimsleur phrases, "Where is...?" The woman told us "Ok, Ok," gesturing right and right. Lost. Turn around again at the sign. Ask someone else for directions. She speaks mostly German but says go to the strasse, turn right, turn right, ok ok. Almost make a wrong turn, are beeped at by a taxi to warn us. Finally we go to the end of the clearly residential road, where there is another sign for the hotel. We should have used our mantra, "DON'T TURN ANYWHERE."

The hotel is up on a hill and by the time we arrive we really need to use the restroom. We ask the desk clerk where the bathrooms are and rush down seemingly endless stairs to find them. We go back upstairs. The room rate is 90E/night, which is steep but it is getting dark and we had already used their bathrooms so we took it. Set on a high hill, the hotel has a wonderful view of the rocks (though the monasteries can't be seen from that side). There is a bathtub! Yay!

After enjoying baths for our tired and dusty selves, we headed to Paradeisos, recommended by both guidebooks. It was the worst food so far (and, in the end, the worst food of the trip)! The eggplant salad (basically baba ghanoush) tasted of mayonnaise, the saganaki was overly breaded. The giant beans were well-cooked but too salty. K said the stuffed peppers were fine. The grapes at the home were pretty much wine. It was impossible to catch the server's eye to get the check; we finally had to summon him from the table he was sitting at with the rest of the family so we could pay our 20E and be done with it. Bill finally paid, we went back to the hotel and slept in our room with its funky orange lights (and matching orange ashtrays, natch).

You can see all my photos from Dion (there are several interesting ones I did not include here), and all the photos from this trip to Greece if you'd like.

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