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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Crete trip - Part 9
26/4 - Athens

We woke up very early because someone had a 3:30 flight and we had to send her to the airport. There were many flights departing at 7am for Athens - including one via Larnaca (in Cyprus). Uhh. Maybe it was the scenic route.

The sign at Heraklion airport said all dangerous items found in hand baggage would be taken from passengers and returned to them at their final destinations. How helpful; usually they just throw them away.

The meat market in Athens has plasma TVs. Wth. I also saw one stall with arabic letters; at first I thought it was Halal, then I saw pigs' trotters.

When I was sitting and eating a sesame pretzel with my brother in law this Greek guy came up to us and spoke random phrases in Chinese. Some of the words even had a roughly correct tone, instead of the horribly off monotone which most amateur Western speakers of Chinese have. My brother in law thinks he met the guy last year also.

Kapnikarea church, 11th century. The vaulting is blackened with age.

I hope SARS never comes to Greece, or all the Greeks who kiss the surface of their idols will die.


It was forbidden to wear shorts when entering the church. Maybe if I go one of these joints in summer I should try wearing a sarong - after all, the monasteries which dictate that female visitors must wear skirts violate the spirit of the rule by giving those in pants or shorts long skirts to wear.


All the mannikins in a United Colors of Benetton store window were nude. Uhh.

Penalty for Shoplifting - this beats going to the police. And how are they so sure they can catch shoplifters in the first place?

After lunch with my brother in law, I bid a sad farewell to Blue Bear as my brother in law brought him back to Singapore. I then went to the Byzantine and Christian museum, which I was pleasantly surprised to find was under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture (free admission!) They had 2 temporary exhibitions, one of which was interesting as it was about anthivolons, which were designs for icons and paintings and which I'd never seen before (not even in pictures).

Healing of the paralytic, pricked anthivolon, late 18th-early 19th century

Christ as vine - 2nd half of 18th century

St George, who looks like he's on drugs, 19th century

In the museum proper, the introduction claimed that 'Byzantine Empire' was the name given to the Roman Empire from the 4th century on. Hah!

Copy of the famous Justinian mosaic from 547AD at Ravenna

Marble slab with relief representation of the Nativity. Naxos, late 4th-early 5th century

The museum had a section with a roughly chronological layout showing how Christian art started out borrowing from pagan motifs and traced its development till the fall of Constantinople. It was horrible to find out (and see) that Christians chiseled the sign of the cross on classical statues to 'exorcise' them; their being buried in soil actually helped to preserve them from desecration.

Coptic limestone funerary statuette

Caption for a slave's funerary inscription from 5th-6th century AD Athens: "The many spelling mistakes are characteristic of the period".

The museum's collection was't that spectacular, but the exhibition was well laid out and presented, with much information and importantly, many large photographs of other seminal items in the history of Greek Christian art. For example there were photos of items in the Paris Bibliotheque Nationale (I must visit it one day).

Coins of Basil II the BUlgar Slayer. My favourite story involving from (quoted from Wikipedia): "On 29 July 1014, Basil II cornered the Bulgarian army and forced it to fight at the Battle of Kleidion, with Samuil several miles away from the battlefield. Having crushed the Bulgarians, Basil was said to have captured 15,000 prisoners and blinded 99 of every 100 men, leaving 150 one-eyed men to lead them back to their Tsar, who fainted at the sight and died two days later suffering a stroke... this gave Basil his nickname Bulgaroktonus, "the Bulgar-slayer.""

Icon with Archangel Michael. Constantinople workshop, 14th century

A photo of a mosaic was labelled as being from "The church of Saint Sophia, Constantinople". Hah!

Wall painting with Elijah. 2nd layer of the Church of Episkopi in Evrytania, 11th century

Academy of Arts

Kiosk - this place sells religious icons as well as hardcore pornography. Gotta love these Europeans.

I then went back to the National Archaeological Museum to finish off the last 6 rooms.

Funerary statue of a Siren, 330-320 BC

Funerary stele of a girl, 320 BC

Funerary Naiskos, 350-325 BC. Young Athenian warrior.

Aristotle - Roman copy of 325-300 BC original

Bronze statue of a youth, antikythera shipwreck, 340-330 BC

Statue of Themis, 300 BC

Aphrodite, Pan and Eros, 100 BC

Bronze portrait head, early 1st century BC

Augustus, 12-10 BC

Antinous, lover of Hadrian, AD 130-8

Attic sarcophagus, AD 150-70

Olympic Airlines' logo has 6 rings. Maybe the sixth ring represents them.

No video is allowed in museums run by the Ministry of Culture. Hmm.

This guy I met at the youth hostel was cutting pieces off a sausage with his Swiss army knife. I asked why he didn't just go and buy a Gyro, and he said he was sick of them. The next morning he was eating some cheese.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Facebook has come to Singapore! Great, more ways to while away the hours!

Coincidentally, with this latest influx, Universiteit Utrecht becomes the first college in the Netherlands to be added to the network.

[Ed: Wah lao. Even someone is on Facebook. My brother in law, of course, isn't.]
Crete trip - Part 8
24/4 - Chania, Heraklion, 25/4 - Heraklion

We took a walk around Chania in the morning.

Mosque Janissaries, Chania

Jewish altar at the Etz Hayyim synagogue
This is the first time I've been in one

Etz Hayyim entrance

"Pucca - funny lovestory. Pucca is a daughter of a chinese restaurant. She is a mania of zzazzangmyun. Her boyfriend is Garu, who is always being chased by Pucca. U will enjoy their funny lovestory."
It was funny for an unintended reason, I think. I think the guy fell asleep on the keyboard. The Koreans learn fast from the Japs.

It was very hot so I was walking around with an umbrella. It was very shiok. I was the only one doing so, though, and so I think all the Greeks were laughing at me.

Morosini Fountain

Industrial size Nutella - 3kg

The next day, my brother in law and someone wanted to see some more churches, so they headed out in the car while I stayed in Heraklion.

Venetian Fortress in Heraklion

Inside the fortress

View of the Harbour from the fortress

Top of the fortress

Tunnel to the roof

Side of the fortress. A boy and a man were fishing behind me.

Venetian Arsenal, where they repaired their galleys

I then went to the Cretan historical museum. I found that Heraklion had been subjected to the longest siege ever in the world - 21 years. Wow. Rather than paying tribute to Venetian tenacity, the museum found a way to blame them (bah): "The laxity of the Most Serene Democracy in failing to strengthen the city"

Damn Turks; More ranting against the Evil Turks (TM).
"The unbearable oppression of the occupiers led many Greeks to denounce Christianity and espouse the Muslim religion... The infamous Turko-cretans emerged at this time: Cretans by origin, customs and language, but Muslim by faith. They often proved themselves to be more savage and cruel than the Turkish Muslims... Unorganised fighters known as hayins (hayin = treacherous) took it upon themselves to revenge injustices perpetrated by the Turks. The administration tried its best to suppress the hayins by organizing special search bands of fanatical Muslims"
I wonder what they'd say about the expulsion of Muslims/Turks (then again the two are probably the same to them) from Crete - cleansing?

Lion of St Mark, 17th c. from Chandax city walls

Venetian coats of arms

Armour, swords - probably Venetian

They had excerpts from Triumph of the Will playing in one room (on the invasion and occupation). Hah!

Frescoes from 1240, from the Church of St George in Rethymnon

After that I went to the museum of St Catherine where there was a large collection of icons, mostly post-Byzantine. Though they were more fluid and natural than earlier Byzantine works, I still prefer Western religious art. Unfortunately photography was not allowed.

19th Century Cathedral in Agias Ekaterinis square
I was disgusted by how cheapskate the attendant was - after people who'd lit candles had departed, she gathered and extinguished them, then throwing them into a bin. I strongly suspect they reuse the candles. Seeing this cheapskate behavior, this woman got scared and instead of planting her candle in the stand walked out of the cathedral with hers.

Bembos fountain

More cheap cigarettes

Kainouria Porta - the Venetian walls are 40m thick at this point

Shrink wrapped whole fish and loose frozen prawns - this is the first time I've seen this sort of thing

For dinner, we went back to this place my brother in law and I dined at the first night - the one with the "submarine". Unfortunately, the "submarine" was not available once again (along with many other things). We also spotted new errors on the menu, like "fresh friesh" (pommes frites) and "fire-cured" (smoked) eel. Unlike at almost all other Greek restaurants, the fella didn't give us small cups of raki with our bill, and unlike all the rest he didn't thank us for our patronage. He was also quite blase in other ways - he had a real attitude problem.

Greeks like to sit facing the street when they sit at kafenions (cafes) and tavernas (restaurants).

Despite being leery of pictures with her in them when she was younger, someone was very keen to take such shots ("CMM shots" as she calls them) on this trip. I attribute it to old age.

Quite a few old Greek women have moustaches. I wonder why.

Almost all Greek graffiti creators (they don't qualify as "graffiti artists" since their graffiti sucks) only know one English word - "fuck".

We were told to leave €27 (for extending the car rental by one day) "under the car". Uhh.

I saw a Jap placemat with a picture of a pig and the caption "pork chop and friends". Uhh. ("Pork chop" is the pig's name).

Heraklion has a lot of €1 shops.

I saw "Hard Rock Cafe Crete" T-shirts. Far *and* no cigar.

There was a place selling "air or bus tickets to Europe". Uhh. (Not only is Crete already in Europe, how can one take a bus to anywhere from there?!)

In a shop I saw a TV ad for a Playboy "Playmate 2006" competition. Other than the name, it seemed like a normal beauty contest. Are Greek girls really so eager to pose for Playboy?!

In Greece, as in the rest of Europe, when cashiers give you your change they count back towards the original amount you gave them. For example, if I pay for a €1,50 Gyro €5 bill, I will get €0,50 back ("2"), then €1 ("3") and finally €2 ("5"). It must be a cultural thing.

What's wrong with Europe? Beer/wine can be cheaper than Coke, even ml by ml. Gah.

Greek restaurants only give you your cutlery and glasses after you order.
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