We’ve arrived back from our trip to the Argolid (in the northeastern Peloponnese). Despite the trip only taking three days, I feel like it’s been months. We had long days, long nights, and long lectures.
On Friday we left early hoping to get to our destination quickly. However, since it rained in Athens for the past week, the roads became rivers. Due to the unbelievable amount of water inhibiting our passage, it took us quite a while to get to our site. The site, Lerna is an area occupied all the way back to Neolithic times. In order to reach the main house, called the House of Tiles, we had to climb through an orange grove. Many students picked oranges right off the trees as we made the trek to the house.
We then went to our town called Nauplion which was occupied by Venetians. Tiny streets wrap around the original houses and churches. The biggest cliff which overlooks the town and the sea has a castle on top; 1,000 steps will get you to the summit. We climbed to the castle then rewarded our trek with gelato from a place proclaimed to have the best gelato in Europe. I think they might be right.
|Atop the castle watching the sunset over Nauplion|
At the top of the castle, we watched the sun set over the Aegean. I wanted to capture the moment so I handed my camera to a friend to snap a picture. Not knowing the camera remained attached to her wrist as she handed it back, the camera went crashing to the ground as she recoiled her hand. I was in shock. It was only the first day and my camera was broken? Disaster. Going to bed in a seriously unhappy mood, I hoped that my spirit might improve in the morning.
The next day I silently rode on the bus to our next destination. Our teacher—dedicated to inspiring us—read a poem by Henry Miller on the way. Epidaurus—a sanctuary of healing—lies nestled in the woods (though one can hardly call olive trees and large shrubberies woodland). About Epidaurus Henry Miller wrote, “Here the healer himself was healed… “God abandoned us long ago so that we may find our own God-hood through our own efforts…The cure is to give up, relinquish everything within, so that we may be at peace with the great heart of the world…People may never feel true joy until they have experienced peace.” The words reverberated in my mind. Another epiphany: My journey here is for peace. I want to have peace of mind, body, and existence. Such meditation requires me to let go of my senses. To put down my camera.
What are cameras? They give synthetic representations of reality. As tourists wander from place to place, it seems they don’t really see what they should. Instead, they look for the best angle and the best lighting for the best picture. But what happens when you don’t go somewhere with a camera? Forced to experiment because of my broken camera, I tested out the question.
|Taking in the site of the stunning Aegean.|
At Epidaurus, I closed my eyes. I smelled, I touched, I listened. Every part of the sanctuaries and the temples suddenly ingrained themselves in my mind in an entirely different way. I didn’t see the landscape as a potential picture, I just saw them. Without taking pictures, I was able to look at everything with immense detail. We walked up to the great amphitheater and this is where my epiphany truly hit me. The huge theater is built on a mountainside. It is perfectly proportioned and therefore the acoustics are unmatched by any other theater. If someone stands in the middle of the theater and drops a piece of paper, someone standing at the very top (a half a football field away ) can hear it.
We were virtually alone at the site, so my friends were all taking turns standing in the middle of the stage and shouting something so they could hear the power of sound. I waited quietly while people took pictures and ran through the motions of different poses. I closed my eyes and listened to every sound—the footsteps, the whispers, the sound of a camera’s shutter. I then walked slowly to the middle of the stage and stood on the circular platform. I started humming. People sitting around me looked up. They heard that? I hummed louder. More people looked. Not about to miss this opportunity, I suddenly burst into a song. I don’t know why the song jumped into my mind, but I started to sing “An Old Irish Blessing.” Every note perfectly reverberated around the theater and hit me square in the chest.
|At the palace at Argos|
From there we went to the ancient cities of Argos and Mycenae. Both lie in ruins atop high cliffs. Mycenae, the ancient city of Agamemnon, overlooks a vast plain which leads to the sea. In the distance, the plain is bordered by snow-covered mountains resembling the Alps. Since the cities are no longer heavily populated, I was able to visualize the history so much more. I imagined seeing an army coming from the sea making its advance on the palace.
The weather could not have been more beautiful. Due to the blue skies, we also had the extreme privilege of getting a personal tour through a huge cave called Franchthi Cave with the archaeologist who excavated it. It takes about a 20 minute hike over serious boulders and hills to get back to the cave, but it’s well worth the work-out. The mouth of the cave is about 50 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Inside, the cave is wide open—with the exception of the two million ton piece of rock which collapsed from the ceiling of the cave long ago and now sits crumbled in the back entrance. However, we climbed up the rubble to look over the other side of the large rock. We approached the edge slowly because on the other side of the fallen rock lies a 100 foot deep cliff. The cave was long inhabited by Neolithic, Mesolithic, and archaic inhabitants. It’s a gold-mine for archaeologists.
Despite my lack of a camera, I got an enormous amount of value out of this trip. Also, since I didn’t have a camera, everyone took pictures of me. So, I ended up with more pictures of myself than usual. Overall, though breaking my camera is not the best situation in the world, it helped me open my eyes to see deeper than a camera lens. Now when I travel I will be more aware of my surroundings and instead of focusing on the best angle or lighting for a picture, I will tune all my attention on the reality of the present.