Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekend shopping and loafing

Yeah, so here's my weekend:

Friday I left jbex earlier than usual but nicely beyond the 8 hours one is expected to stay there. The unrelenting boredom of jbex did not allow me to delay my departure any longer, despite our meeting time with K at "the Mall" being at half seven, meaning I would have to walk the over heated passageways and open spaces of this huge building alone for about one and a half hours before K turned up. The plan was for me to exchange a book I had been given for my bidet last month and then watch a film at one of the fifteen screens that the village cinemas have in the complex. If there was time, I would be going to the cosmote shop to upgrade my mobile phone.

Seeing as I arrived a full 90 minutes before our meeting there was plenty of time and I went on an uncharacteristic spending rampage through the high tech shops renting space within the walls of "the mall".

First off was cosmote, where I renewed my contract with them and was awarded 185 euro for a hardware upgrade. I chose to upgrade my 5410 for a 5500, I think, fucking numbers make it very hard to know which model I have which one I used to have, which one I had last year and so on and so forth. The one I got is the so-called sports model, which is splash proof and slightly shock proof and has a 2 MP camera. I had to pay some extra over the top of the 185 freebie, but I was prepared for that since the chances of such a large amount as a freebie next year are minimal at best.

So - with new phone in hand, I went in search of a bigger memory card. Since when have phones had memory cards? I found one at Plaisio a nice 1 GB card... then off I went in search of those connector thingies that allow me to plug my old fat charger into my new nokia's slim charger hole. I picked that up at a Germanos after being told in a Vodafone shop that I would not find it anywhere in "the mall" but only through club nokia themselves.

Somewhere around this point in the evening I realized that I would never be able to work in retail because I would have to spend at least some of the day dealing with arseholes like myself and having to maintain a straight face and a welcoming smile.

Next up I went to change the book I had been given as a present for the bidet a month earlier and had to charm the till lady and explain that I already had the book and had been travelling and for this reason I was unable to bring it in to be exchanged earlier and please please let me change it. Funny place fnac - French bookshop place. Seems to be doing ok though.

So one hardback Jamie Oliver cookbook later, I found myself browsing through Multirama and buying blank DVDs and things, when K comes and finds me not a moment too soon as I was eyeing up a rather fine looking Canon digital camera, the G7 I think, which has manual focus and all sorts of things not found on your run of the mill digital point and shoot, and I really ought to go to the photovision exhibition at the old airport at hellenikon to see what else is happening in the digital world. Apparently - according to missy behind the counter, Nikon have been left behind in the race, and this upsets me because I am Nikon mad and don't want to have to change my brand, even though I'll have to change absolutely everything else and consign all my lenses and stuff to the big camera bag in the sky.

We went to get the tickets when K turned up, two tickets for Blood Diamond with that blond kid who was in Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet. We got a free coupon for cheap pizza which we cashed in on and killed time before the film by walking around the mall a little and sort of trying not to stare as we walked past what is currently the only Hooters in Athens.

The film was good enough, with blondie putting on a good performance and a convincing accent which dropped only once or twice through the whole film. There were moments when one is forced to do a bit of thinking about how our greed taps into other people's greed and ultimately fuels a whole lot of other people's unhappiness. But, like the heroes of the film said (repeatedly too): T.I.A: This Is Africa...

Apparently blondie's been put up for an Oscar tonight and before I get a chance to post this tomorrow morning we'll know what has happened with that.

Saturday started off badly with the usual arguments and raised voices which precede any shopping trip for things which I consider superfluous and unnecessary. In this case new shirts for me to wear when traveling and wearing a tie. I have two or three and some which though old are not so bedraggled as to be unwearable. In my book. What the fuck do I know though. Oh no, I have to have a bunch of new shorts in all sorts of weird colours which are now fashionable rather than buying a whole bunch in the diachronously fashionable blues I usually go for.

On the plus side I bought some gloves for caving. Crazy thing, gloves, only worn them once in the three years I have been doing this and I can't say that I was aware of their benefits at the time. Anyway - I now have some better gloves and we'll just have to wait and see to what extent they'll be useful. The idea is that they are only for things like Propantes when we'll have like 300m of rope going through my right hand in only a few minutes.

After a fondue at Bartesera off Kolokotroni street we came home and prepared to go to our local cinema - Petit Palais to see the German art-house film "The Lives of Others". Yeah, so we thought blondie and the African were good the night before, this one blew us away and had us in tears at the end. Characters were well rounded and deep, the whole was claustrophobic enough to make you feel you could taste the atmosphere of the mid eighties Eastern Germany. The film was amazing, I think it is proposed for an award tonight as foreign film, though I cannot be sure if it is this one or the one we'll be seeing on Tuesday (did I mention our orgy of cinema going is continuing?). The end was beautiful, the last line of the film being both moving and funny at the same time but natural, too. There was no other way to end the film.

Early to bed as we had our first introduction to rescue techniques this morning and we had to be up early for it.

For ease of access, many of the field meetings of the cave rescue team happen in an abandoned half finished building in Papagou. The building has had anchors put in, in a whole lot of places and it is perfect for teaching. There were not that many of us apart from the new kids, and this was a good thing as it gave us a chance to see things and do them for real rather than see others from a distance doing them too quickly to follow. It weren't half cold though... My only regret is that by going to the rescue training, I miss Komni's dive in the sump in our new sinkhole on Parnitha, but like I said to myself to persuade myself to go, the sinkhole will be there next time, the stuff you will learn at the building site will not be taught again.

Back home for a nap and then back to the cinema... this time to Andorra which was to have been the scene of our first date with K, only she came very late and the film had started so we went to eat something instead, and that gave us an opportunity to talk and one thing led to another and here we are almost four years later.

Anyway - Andorra was still playing Little Miss Sunshine (it has been playing all the Oscar nominees over the weekend) and since we didn't see it when it was out last month, we went. The film was a good road movie with plenty to laugh out loud at and quite a bit of stuff to think about. It gets my thumbs-up on many levels. But I am running out of steam now and so will not be doing it justice... pity.

Next up: got to charge my new phone and see what it is like, no?

So that was my weekend. Back to the grindstone.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A weekend in the Argolid - part 2

So here we go with the description of the second day of the weekend in the Argolid, during which we set off to look for the Triassic fossil beds of Epidaurus on the old route from Mycenae to the coast.

We set off on the road out of Nafplio a little after breakfast ceased being served at the Marianna Rooms under the castle and after a short drive around the fortifications of the "Its Kale", or more altaicly Uç Kale we set off east for the Epidaurus area.

A quick word on the Uç Kale whatsit - the words mean three forts or three castles in Turkish and are a reference to the triple fortifications of the hill above Nafpio on which the Xenia and Nafplia Palace now stand.

The video below opens with a view from the hotel, shows some of the Its Kale fortifications including the winged lions which the venetians saw fit to carve into flat surfaces everywhere. It's a little jerky in places, but you get the idea.

The plan was to go out towards Ligourio, have a look around in the Natural History Museum in the town and then to go fossil hunting for ourselves in the area before the theater. If there was time, we would look for the old medieval church which is covered in classical spolia which is meant to be in Ligourio.

On the way, with K driving, we passed a MiniCult sign, in the standard 1:5 side ratio and the brown cultural sign colour. Mycenaean bridges, it said. This was quite a few km from the Mycenaean bridge I know about on the route, although I have often read about there being more thna one bridge no the way to Epidaurus. Well, we did what every self-respecting bronze-age loving sort of guy does and we stopped the car and set off along the foot path for the bridges marked by the signpost.

After a brief walk of about 300m on a footpath worn away in places by recent strong rains we reached a signpost indicating that there are two bridges, one very close, the other an unknown distance away down a continuation of the good footpath. I would not suggest doing the walk between the two bridges during normal daytime hours in the summer, leave it for late afternoon or early morning. I would love to walk the whole route some day linking Epidaurus on the coast to Mycenae via Midea.

Korinna at the Mycenaean Bridge
Here is K with the bridge's corbelled arch framing her. Corbelling is a vaulting technique whereby a space can be vaulted not by making use of the arch (first discovered and widely implemented in the Hellenistic times) but by positioning each successive block in such a way that although it overhangs the previous, the forces produced do not cause instability as they are sent downwards to the base of the structure. Something like the cantilever effect, I am told. The system was used extensively for the so-called galleries at Tiryns and, of course, in the construtcion of tholos / beehive tombs.

Three waypoints - three bridgesThe Three yellow squares represent the three bridges visited.

The photo in the trailer post was taken in front of the well known and very photographed mycenaean bridge at Kazarma. I have photos of myself with this bridge from maybe even ten years ago, maybe more. We found the other end of the nice new footpath here, confirming that the second bridge referred to at the first was the one at Kazarma.

I hope some day to be able to get organised enough to put up a photo from every one of my visits to the bridge.

Next up, and really rather happy with our successes in seeing new things in an old neighbourhood, we took a left turning to go find the third of the three bridges which are currently signposted. The signposts lead you up a narrow road which stops abruptly next to a local resident's house. Fortunately this local resident keeps her yard gate open, otherwise there would be no space to do the 3 point turn required if one is to avoid reversing back to the main road. The bridge is close enough to the main road to walk easily rather than to go through the whole three point turn and reversing thing.

Third bridge messyThe rubbish around the third bridge we visited.

We were rather disappointed with K to finally reach the final bridge. The recent heavy rains had brought a whole lot of crap down the hill and what we ended up seeing was less an archaeological site than a tip - complete with what seems to be the mandatory child's bicycle. I am not sure whether this is visible in the photo, but it should be clear in the video.

The video opens with the walk from the car to the first bridge, some looks at the first bridge, the road on the way to the Kazarma bridge, some walking around and into the bridge of Kazarma, complete with some close-up views of the masonry and some little numbered dots that the archaeologists have put on the bridge. From there, we have a drive-by shot of the Kazarma Tholos Tomb - pretty much contemporary with the bridges, or possibly slightly earlier (to judge by the size of the blocks in the masonry). We then have the drive up to the local lady's house and the walk to the third bridge. I know I could have made the editing tighter, but when one is rushed, and has no real natural flair, one sacrifices quality for time - that's what I say to myself to allow me to sleep at night.

Putting the bridges firmly behind us and a little disappointed by the third bridge, we continued on to Ligourio. I had mixed feelings about the Natural History of Ligourio ever since I heard about its opening and especially given the quality of other road-side private museums I have visited.

Natural History Museum of Ligourio
Collection of shells spelling out the museum's name

Entering, I was pleased to see the number of posters on geologic or ecologic themes, many of which were obviously brought from abroad and translated specifically for the museum. The museum is laid out on one floor, in a number of rooms with most emphasis being placed on marine fossils from the Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods, although some more recent finds from the Pikermi bone beds and from the Rafina area were also present. There was obvious emphasis placed not only on the local fossils (from the Epidaurus area) but also on Moroccan fossils which had been purchased specially for the museum.

The lady told me that photography was allowed and here is a selection of my favourite shots from in the museum:

Crinoids - these frond shaped critters are animals which anchor themselves to the sea floor and filter nutrients and plankton and stuff out of the seawater in order to eat.

An Epidaurian ammonite sawn in half and polished to display the internal structures preserved.

Death assemblages of ammonites, again from the Epidaurus region

A trident-faced trilobite of the Walliserops Trifurcatus species.

The video shows a walk-around of the main parts of the museum. One take, a little rushed.

I bought my very first trilobite from the museum shop for the sum of 10 Euro - not a bad deal I think although I have no idea how much trilobites cost elsewhere.

We had managed to gather no information about the whereabouts of the Epidaurus fossil beds, but we had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for - essentially black round things sticking out of the pinky-red matrix.

We set off from the museum and following a lead found on the net, we circled the nearby hill which we supposed must be the location of the fossil beds. We found nothing. I am not used to not finding what I am looking for, so we went round and round this hill, and we walked into it off the dirt track, but generally had no joy.

I need to have a look at a geological map of the area, slap it onto the computer, then onto the GPS and go back.

The hill we circled may not be the right place to look - but it had a dirt-road so we looked there.

From there we went to Epidaurus on the coast and back to Athens.