Rebuilding The Past

It’s Thursday and that can mean only one thing – doors!  However, today’s post is less about ‘doors’ and more about ‘doorways’.

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Athens – Hadrian’s Library

One of the big surprises of our visit to Greece was the discovery that in many places, the ruins of Ancient Greece are being rebuilt … or restored … or however you may want to look at it.

This became apparent on our first day visiting the Acropolis.  Gilles had been to Athens over 20 years ago on a business trip, and was surprised to discover that the Acropolis was much larger than he remembered.  Considerable restoration had been completed in the interim.

Acropolis – Athena Nike. This is one building that had been considerably restored in the past 20 years. (Gilles on the far right taking a photo)

The ‘scars’ from these rebuilds are evidenced by the differences in colour between the original stone and the required repair for a missing piece.

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Delphi – Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

In many areas we had visited, seemingly random stones on the ground were actually numbered, and on one occasion I glimpsed a ‘map’ that showed where the future location of that stone would be placed.  It reminded me of a giant jigsaw puzzle.

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Delphi – Treasury of Athenians

In my opinion, one of the most ambitious of these restorations was the Stoa of Attalos in the heart of Athens.  It was rebuilt in the 1950s and now contains the Ancient Agora Museum.

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Athens – Stoa of Attalos / Ancient Agora Museum

Like all the restorations, the Stoa of Attalos was rebuilt as a replica of the original – at least as close to the original as the archaeologist studies can determine.

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Athens – Ancient Agora Museum

Canada’s history can be measured by only a couple of centuries and I get excited by restorations of our modestly ‘old’ buildings, so my head hurts trying to grasp the scope of restoring an ancient civilization that’s over 2 millennia old.

The word ‘magnificent’ just doesn’t come close.

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Acropolis – Erechtheum

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

 

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Lofty Heights

In an earlier post I briefly introduced the Meteora in Greece.

Located about a 4-hour drive north of Athens, Meteora is a stunningly beautiful area of giant rock pillars.  I read somewhere that the word itself means “lofty” or “elevated”, but I can’t seem to verify that.  It does seem appropriate to me though.

On the top of these rock cliffs are the last 6 remaining Eastern Orthodox monasteries that were built in this area.

The first inhabitants on these cliffs date back to the 9th century, however the building of monasteries began throughout the 11th and 12th centuries.  These 6 remaining monasteries can trace back their origins to between the 1400s and 1600s. They are now a World Heritage Site.

Four of the six facilities are virtually empty now, with only a small handful of monks remaining in residence.

The monasteries are open to the public on various days of the week.  It doesn’t appear that all 6 are ever open at the same time, and there is a strict dress-code for access.

Legs, arms, and shoulders must be covered, however in particular, women must wear a long skirt to completely cover the legs … pants are not acceptable.

At the entrance to the facility, a basket containing long sarong-type garments are available for women to cover the legs.  I’m actually making them sound a lot more attractive than they really are.

My first reaction when I read about their dress code was ‘their house, their rules’, even though it felt rather archaic and discriminatory towards women. However, that initial reaction changed during our visit to the second largest monastery, Varlaam.

The public isn’t really given access to the monastery at all, which left me questioning why women were only considered ‘acceptable’ if dressed in a long skirt.

Access was restricted to a public area that included a large open-area balcony to admire the view, a tiny chapel that was over-crowded with 6 people in it, a small museum, and the obligatory gift shop.

In case you’re wondering, yes that’s a power line cutting through the entire image. Unfortunately power lines were everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid.

In my opinion, a big to-do was being made out of nothing, and the entire experience left me questioning the value of visiting the other monasteries that were open that day.

Ultimately I decided not to, although Gilles did visit one more while I waited outside playing with one of the many feral cats we saw.  I was told the experience was the same.

Don’t get me wrong.  Many others were highly impressed with their visits, I just happened not to be one of them.

I wanted to see beyond the many doors that were private, and it would have been nice if the people working there that day had been even a little bit pleasant.

Do you get the impression I might have been reprimanded while I was there?

Well, you’d be wrong.

I was reprimanded twice – once for my stupid skirt thing, and again for taking a photo in the small museum.  In my defence, there were no signs saying photos weren’t allowed.

Do I recommend visiting Meteora?  Of course I do!  It’s beautiful … just manage your expectations on what you’ll see when you visit a monastery.

This post was inspired by Thursday Doors, a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

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Will You Remember Me?

To continue my tale about our travels in Greece, today’s story is about another peculiarity I noticed – the roadside memorial.

I appreciate that roadside memorials are likely a common feature in most parts of the world, however I’m used to memorials comprised of flowers.  They are temporary in nature, and usually die away within a few weeks.

However, in Greece, they are virtually permanent – and therein lies the problem.  They don’t fade away after a couple of weeks.  They remain for years and are accumulating.  The sheer number of them is unnerving.

The structures vary from modest to elaborate, with some that were deeply rusted from age, while others appeared to be recent.

Now, layer onto this the appalling driving behaviour we encountered on the roads.  As if the twisty-turny single lane mountain roads weren’t challenging enough, too many drivers were actually PASSING slower moving vehicles.

INTO A CURVE!

ON A HILL!!

It was terrifying.

On each mountain curve, I keep expecting to see a car approaching us head-on.  I found myself starting to wonder how long it would take for our bodies to be identified, and our next of kin notified.*

Given our experience on the road, the preponderance of roadside memorials was starting to make sense.  It was easy to recognize particularly bad areas because 3 or 4 memorials would be clustered together.

If these memorials are intended, in part, to act as a stark reminder to people to slow down and exercise greater care, they don’t appear to be working.

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*My husband and my sons will tell you that I’m not a bundle of joy to drive with – unless you can overlook the random involuntary gasps of terror.

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Church Doors – Greek Style

All the gates and doors I am featuring in this week’s Thursday Doors were from two churches I found in Athens.

The first one had a charming little outbuilding at the rear of the property.  I have no idea what the purpose might have been for this building, but it was so cute with its little bell and impressive door.

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The main church had several doors – like this one.  It wasn’t until I downloaded the photos from my camera, that I noticed the Alpha and Omega signs on both the door and archway above it.

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According to my limited research, Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, but there is also a reference in the Bible, under Revelations … “I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End”.

Do I have a picture of the church itself?  Only indirectly … I did manage to get its profile when I captured a photo of its beautiful gates.

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The second church was found on the top of Mount Lycabettus –  the ‘hill’ opposite the Acropolis.

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Mount Lycabettus on the left, the Acropolis on the right

Climbing Mount Lycabettus was not a cake walk – in spite of the paved path.  We climbed until I started to despair that the top was just an illusion and we would in fact never reach it.

However, once we did, the view was amazing, and the small church had great doors.

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Inside the small chapel were more doors – although I have no idea what was behind them.  It felt very disrespectful to start exploring around.

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These were the gates to the pathway for the long walk back down. Although descending is much easier from a cardio perspective, it can be – and was – just as challenging for the leg muscles.

I’m so happy to have been in Greece during off-season with no crowds and moderate temperatures. A climb like this would have been out of the question for me in the famous Mediterranean summer heat.

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This has been Part 2 of Thursday Doors from Greece, and I give you fair warning that there will be more to come.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

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Something to Meow About

Greece has been a country full of surprises for me.

Admittedly, we came here with no advance plan, and therefore no preconceived ideas of what we would see and do, but sometimes it’s the small things that capture my attention the most.

On this trip, it’s been all about the cats.

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They are EVERYWHERE … and since I love cats, I’ve been preoccupied with taking photo after photo of their adorable little fur faces.  I’ve earmarked at least a half a dozen cuties that I would love to bring home with me – although I’m sure Theo would be completely unimpressed … as well as Canadian Customs.

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Had I known about the local cat population, I would have travelled with bags of kitty treats for my new friends.  I’ve looked everywhere in the local grocery stores and been unable to find any – not that it matters.   I’ve learned these little scavengers will eat just about anything anyway.

Life on the street isn’t easy.

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It breaks my heart to see how painfully thin some of them are – especially in Athens – and many don’t look healthy.

However, on the island of Hydra, the cats were in much better condition and obviously cared for by the locals.

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This boat had arrived with a load of fresh fish.  As the nets were being cleaned, pieces of fish were tossed to the patiently waiting crowd

With such a large stray cat population, cities like Athens have adopted a trap, neuter, and return program.  Some of the cats we saw in our travels had notches missing from one of their ears.  This is actually a sign that the cat has been neutered as part of this program.

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Not all of the cats we encountered were strays though … this charming little princess had a collar and was extraordinarily comfortable with people.  With her purr volume on maximum, she was more than a little aggressive in her attempts to sample Gilles’ breakfast.

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I will have many fond memories of our time in Greece – and some of them will involve the many 4-legged fur-balls who briefly entered our lives.

 

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Greek Doors

It’s been a while since I featured a door post, so today I’m trying to squeeze in some Athenian doors I’ve been stockpiling.

I was finding just so many interesting doors that after a while I stopped taking photos unless it REALLY captured my attention.  In other words, with so much abundance, I’ve become picky.

Not far from the apartment we’ve rented, is this crumbling building that looks so sad and yet beautiful at the same time.  Dilapidated buildings like this are not unusual. In a city where there seem to be ancient ruins everywhere you turn, perhaps   deteriorating structures don’t seem out of place.

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At the other end of the scale, is the entrance to the British Embassy.  Behind the great iron gate are 2 metal detectors before you even reach the front door.

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… and if that doesn’t feel intimidating enough, there is razor wire blanketing the top of the fencing.

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These pretty green louvre doors to the subway were interesting enough, but it was the gathering of police that piqued my curiosity.  I managed to snap this photo, but then I piqued their curiosity, so I beat a hasty retreat.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly photo challenge hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

 

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I Love November

For the first time in two years, Gilles and I are on vacation, and this month’s Changing Seasons post is being sent to you while I’m on the road.

Greetings from Greece!

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I could fill this entire post with the iconic sights of this amazing country, however I thought I would go in a different direction.

Everyone is familiar with the clear blue skies of Greece in summer, but what about the moody storm clouds of November?

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Storm brewing over the Acropolis

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From the Parthenon overlooking the city

Then there is the unexpected discovery of autumnal colours at Meteora / Kalabaka, where there is a World Heritage Site of monasteries perched on the top of the rock cliffs.Greece - Meteora

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However, Greece isn’t isn’t the full story of my month.

The first half of November also included plenty of time on the Trans-Canada Trail with Helen – in spite of the chilly temperatures.

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Mill Race Ruins – Cambridge (Ontario)

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RiverBluff Park – Cambridge (Ontario)

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The Kissing Bridge Trail – Elmira (Ontario)

In fact, this has been a month full of exploring the natural beauty of the outdoors.  I hope your month has also been full of doing things you love.

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Changing Seasons is a monthly photo challenge hosted by Max at Cardinal Guzman.

Since the Changing Seasons photo challenge is coming to an end this year, I’ve been including a photo from each of the prior years of this challenge.  These are snapshots from 2016 and 2015.

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November 2016 – Cabbagetown (Toronto)

Nov 2015 - remembrance day

November 2015 – Remembrance Day at Old City Hall (Toronto)

I apologize that I’ve been largely MIA for the past month.  I hope to start catching up again when I return home later next week.

 

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Welcome To The Tropics

When you think of Canada (which hopefully you do at least once in a while), do images of white sandy beaches, tropical temperatures, and palm trees come to mind?  In October?

Apparently for the producers of the TV series, Designated Survivor, it does.

Now, Canada has developed a strong, stable film industry.  It has long been favoured by American production companies because of the advantageous gap between the US and Canadian dollar.

It is common for Toronto to double as New York or Chicago in movies and TV shows … but Cuba?

Recently I was down at Scarborough Bluffs enjoying the balmy autumn weather with a hike along the top of the Bluffs, when I decided to drive down to the beach for a walk along the shore.

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I was fascinated by how the sky and water disappeared into one another

You notice I said “drive”.  It is seriously frowned upon to climb or descend the Bluffs, and there is a hefty $5,000 fine if caught.  By “caught” I mean that you end up getting stranded on the cliff and need Emergency Services to rescue you.  That’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that you plunge to your death.  It happens to some would-be adventurers – every year.

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… but I digress.

Towards the far end of Bluffers Beach was a construction crew tearing down a wooden structure I’ve never seen before in this area.  After watching them for a while, my curiosity got the best of me, and I finally approached a security guy to ask what they were doing.

After all, this is not normal activity on the beach.

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It turns out they were tearing down a set used for the recent filming of an episode of Designated Survivor.  I was supposedly standing on a beach in Cuba.

As I turned around to survey the beach with this new perspective in mind (which incredibly it never occurred to me to photograph), I guess I could see their point.

Last time I had been down there, the beach had been ravaged by flood waters, but on this day, it was a beautifully pristine beach with gentle blue water as far as I could see.

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May 2017 – a flooded beach in need of a cleanup

But what about the Bluffs dressed in their autumn finery?  How could they be passed off as Cuba?

Well, according to Security Guy, it had something to do with camera positioning, angles, blah, blah, blah.  Not to mention the fact that they had brought in potted tropical greenery to “plant” along the set.

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I don’t know much about the TV show, except that the entire US government is wiped out in a terrorist attack during a State of the Union address, and it stars Kiefer “Mumbly-Mouth” Sutherland.

I now know however, that the TV show is shot entirely in Toronto in a former military facility in the north end of the city.  Inside this studio, a replica of the West Wing has been built, including the Oval Office.

If you watch this show, and especially if you’ve seen the Cuban episode, I’d love to hear from you.  Did the shores of Lake Ontario make a convincing beach in Cuba?

So the next time you are planning a tropical getaway, do like a big Hollywood producer, and think Canada.

… although if you are planning to come anytime soon, I suggest a good fleece-lined coat might be needed to accompany that swim suit.

 

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Home Is Where We Make It

As Helen and I zip up and down country roads looking for our latest trail head, we admire the many beautiful old houses we pass along the way.  We fantasize about winning the lottery, and what type of home would appeal to us if price was no object.

Recently, we noticed the spire of an old church on the horizon and as we got closer,  we found that it was under renovation.  The heavy equipment in the front yard was a dead giveaway.

That wonderful old building deserved a closer look, and so on our return trip home, I pulled off to the side.

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Flying is Canada’s 1st official flag* – the Canadian Red Ensign from 1924.  The crest on the flag was to represent the four founding nations of our country … the lions of England, the Royal Scottish Lion, the harp of Ireland, and the Lys of France.  At the bottom of the crest is a sprig of green maple leafs – later changed to red in the 1950s.  The red maple leaf would become the enduring Canadian symbol on our flag, redesigned in 1965.  I love the stripped tree trunk used as a flag post, adding to the heritage look of this building.

Upon closer inspection, the small dog on the front step should have been our clue that this was in fact a residence and once again, we found ourselves trespassing on private property.

The dog’s barking attracted the attention of the owner who was working in the backyard, but after we explained why we had stopped, he was so gracious in talking to us about his unique home and its history.

Formerly St Andrew’s Presbyterian, the church was built in 1845.  Over 120 years later, the congregation was merged with one in a nearby town, and the building was subsequently sold in 1986.

The interior of the old church was eventually renovated as a residence in what we were told is an open concept home.

Although Helen and I both had our fingers crossed that he would offer a tour of the inside, it didn’t happen … in spite of our many questions and broad hints.  Quite frankly, I think he was torn between wanting to get back to work before the rains started, and continuing to talk about the building, which was obviously his pride and joy.

Doors - Sonya former church

The current owner is in the process of restoring the exterior of the building using old photographs he obtained of the church.  The windows are original, as is the front door.

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A replica of these doors is being built and will eventually replace these badly weathered originals, which will then will be moved to the inside front foyer.

Although I was itching to see the interior of the former bell tower, the best I could get was a peek at some photos he had on his phone.  It is completely unfinished bare wood beams on the inside.

To round out my attraction to this former church, is a freestone wall built on the corner of the property.  It turns out that the current owner had it built, but it looks like it’s been there forever.

I half expected to find a small ancient graveyard on the other side.  There wasn’t.

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As we continued on our journey home, Helen reminded me of its fatal flaw as a fantasy dream home …. it lacks the requisite wraparound verandah to spend idle summer days.

I guess I will just need to keep looking.

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This post was inspired by Thursday Doors – a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

* Thanks to Helen for immediately identifying the flag that was flying.  It made it significantly easier for me to trace some of its history.

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October Life

What a whirlwind of a month!  I give October top marks for a month of great weather allowing plenty of outdoor adventure.

Overall, the unseasonably warm fall has meant that we are about 3 weeks behind changing leaf colour and trees shedding their foliage.  We are in the final days of the month and the trees surrounding our backyard are still mostly green.

These are the sights of October in my corner of the world.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Penetanguishene – on the Trans-Canada Trail

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Durham Region on the Trans-Canada Trail

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In Port Hope to catch the salmon fighting upstream to spawn

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Port Hope

Along Scarborough Bluffs

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Toronto – Lower Don River

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Changing Seasons is a monthly photo feature hosted by Max at Cardinal Guzman.

After a 3 year run, Max has decided that Changing Seasons will come to an end this December.

As I mentioned in my September post, for the remainder of the year, I will also be including a photo from each of the prior years of this challenge.

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October 2016 – Wyevale

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October 2015

 

 

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