News from a Distant Shore

Just got back from Greece (on Sunday night, actually, so it’s been a day and a half). A few random comments:

  • Our travels in Greece took us to Olympia, where the original Olympics were held; to Delphi, the residence of the Oracle; to a Greek Orthodox monastery; to Athens, where we stayed for three days; to Napflion, a modern city near ancient Mycenae; and to Epidarus, where there is an amazingly well preserved ancient theatre. While in Italy driving back to Rome, we stopped at Montecassino, the original Benedictine monastery (rebuild after being bombed in WWII). It was all pretty amazing, but my favorite parts were probably Delphi, Epidarus, and Montecassino, with Montecassino ranked highest, for reasons personal and difficult to explain so I won’t go into them.
  • It’s strange how important a part of my life music has become. I didn’t have any access to my music library while in Greece, which meant ten days spent without music (except the music other people listen to). It was rather irritating at times. I kept wanting to listen to the song “And Then There Was Silence”, by Blind Guardian, about the Trojan War (so it seemed appropriate in Greece), but I couldn’t. Yargh. I’ve probably listened to it at least three times since getting back (and it’s a 14-minute-long song).
  • The landscape in Greece is amazing, particularly the variety in elevation. There are mountains basically right next to the ocean, with enormous valleys between the mountains. The view from up in the ancient theater at Delphi, for example, is simply amazing. I suspect the inspiring landscape had something to do with the more epic nature of ancient Greece. They were much more interested in beauty than practicality; take their literature, for example, which all deals with great heroes and such; they don’t do mundane drama, and their comedies are not nearly as good as their tragedies. Compare this to Italy, which, while on occasion beautiful, is not as universally inspiring as Greece. Notice that the Romans were more practical than creative. It would be interesting to look for correlations between the physical landscape of a writer’s country and that writer’s subject matter… I might write a longer post on this later.
  • Even though the natural beauty of Greece is amazing, and the ancient ruins are cool too, the country doesn’t have much going for it nowadays. Architecture-wise, there are very few buildings from 200 BC to 1900 AD. They haven’t produced much culturally for the last 2000 years either. Basically, Greece has the ancient Greeks, but not much else. So on the whole I prefer Italy, where you have the ancient Romans, but also Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern stuff.

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