Monday, October 18, 2010

Greece: Poly-Peloponnese

To look at it upon a map we did not cover all that much territory on our third day of touring the Greek mainland. The all day tour of the Peloponnese covered more in history than it did in geographic area but we, of course, didn't care. We drove along the coastal highway west of Athens and about an hour out of town when we first witnessed military paratroopers practicing their skills along the shoreline. We also passed the small bay that served as the site of the Battle of Salamis which pitted the Greek Alliance against the Persian Empire in 480 BC.
Crossing finally in to the Peloponnese at the Corinth Canal this engineering marvel of the late 19th century saved a tiring 650 mile journey around the peninsula to reach Athens. At barely 70 feet wide, however, today only the smallest of commercial shipping bothers with it now. "Snap" went most cameras and we trundled across in to the Roman city of Corinth, the first of four stops that would include three distinct cultures and civilizations.

At the site towered the Roman temple to the sun god Apollo, the only one of the 12 major deities to have the same name in both civilizations. This was one larger and better preserved than the one at Delphi from the day before but lacking in the majesty of the mountain setting. The marketplace was impressive, including an example of a barrel archway to the side of a very well preserved main road through the center of town. The public toilets were interesting because at first we didn't know what they were. A large stone with several seats carved in to them that looked for all the world like commodes without stalls, though, and we finally put it together. The exposed plumbing troughs that led to and lined the main street also put the finishing touches to the function.

A city-state in its own right Corinth had the misfortune of being wedged between Athens to the east and Sparta on the peninsula to the south. In other words, lots of battles and changing of hands going back 3000 years up through the Roman city laid before us. Corinthian column capitals were popularized here along with Paul's writing of the 1st and 2nd Corinthians right in this very town. The history was compelling but the best moment was the pack of schoolchildren out on a field trip at the same time we were there. The picture says it all. They were the perfect age for budding confidence and ten-year old hamminess. Twenty-some years later I can't help, of course, but remember that moment but also wonder how their young adult lives are starting out today. In the age before digital cameras this was one of those photos worth waiting and praying for at the developers back home.

Typical of solidly packed and tightly timed one-day motor tours, we were in Corinth for maybe an hour.

Gotta go.

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