55 Rows to the Top and I Can Still Hear a Coin Drop
To begin our day, there were a few technical difficulties with renting the car and van, so we did not get as early as start as we would have liked. It was raining and cold for the second day in a row, so everyone was bundled up in their warmest clothing. We each carried one backpack to the car, while each girl also brought a purse with her schoolbooks in it. In our 7-passenger van and 5-person car, we all headed out of the city of Athens. We were now in the chaotic, fast-paced traffic that we usually watched from the sidewalks while walking to our destinations. On these streets it is a necessity to be aggressive behind the wheel. About an hour into our drive we stopped to for a bite to eat. We had juicy, perfectly seasoned souvalkis at a small rest stop. After lunch, we went to look at a canal that was carved in ancient times to allow passing boats to travel through. This canal is called the Isthmos Canal Corinth. The waters were a deep blue and looked refreshing, although the temperature outside was only in the 50s! As we continued our drive through the mountains, we were able to look over the railings and see the brown and red roofed houses through the grey fog that was covering them. On the side of the roads we passed what looked like miniature churches. Each one is about three feet tall with beautiful carvings of crosses, flowers, and other symbols that were probably meaningful to the family members.. These monuments are for family members who have been killed in car accidents- similar to the crosses that we place on the side of our roads. Also along the road, there were thousands of olive trees. The olive trees reminded me of old people, the way their trunks looked wrinkly and the branches hung low to the ground. Ioanna informed us that in December, the season of olives, the harvesters lay nets below all the trees and use a rake to rustle the olives out of the trees. In between the trees, coming down the mountain, I could see both black and white sheep roaming; each one looked like it needed a bath.
When we arrived at the Epidavros Theatre site, Ioanna explained the history of the theatre. The theatre was dedicated to Asklepios, the God of Healing. In the shape of a half moon, the theatre seats about 17,000 people in 55 rows. When we were walking into the theatre, Ioanna told us to make our way to the top of the stands. The class spread out in different sections and Ioanna began to test the sounds that we had all heard such interesting stories about. The first test was to drop a coin; I was standing at the top of the stands and it was as if I had dropped the coin myself. The second test was to rip a piece of paper. From the top it sounded like my teacher was ripping a piece of paper at her desk in the front of the room. The way the sound was traveling was mind baffling to me. When Ioanna was talking to us from center stage, she would talk in her normal, southern accented voice; she did not raise it at all. I felt as though she was sitting beside me and we were having a conversation. Right before we left, Ioanna said there was one more test and she wanted us to hear. She sang a hymn; it came from an old Greek song about a man who kissed a woman and fell in love with her. Because of this, the community cut off his arm and he confessed that he would have his other arm cut off for one more kiss. What a perfect love story for Valentine’s Day, right?!?! The seating in the theatre was made out of limestone, which is what reflects the sounds and allows it to echo. The limestone also absorbs the sounds of anything else occurring in the stands so that the center stage is always the loudest. To this day, experts, specialists, and engineers have not figured out how the ancient Greeks were able to create such an extraordinary acoustical space. Each summer, the theatre holds a weekend of concerts for actors and actresses to come reenact ancient plays that were once performed on the stage.
Afterwards, in the museum, we saw beautifully sculptured designs that were on various buildings located around the site. One sculpture we viewed was a piece from a ceiling that had different types of flowers; each pedal was engraved very specifically. They were very elegant. In the museum we saw some of the first medical instruments that we used for healing of wounds and limbs, other sicknesses that would come about among the people, and they were also the instruments that set the standards for today. These instruments looked fragile as if they would break and crumble into pieces if I were to pick on of them up. They were also very, very tiny.
In addition to the theatre, Epidavros also has ruins of a restaurant, a hotel, an athletic site, and a hospital. At the restaurant, it was believed that when a customer sat down to have dinner, God would be present at the table as well while they were eating dinner. At the athletic site – which is still being excavated! - there were competitions held including the Olympic games. The only event that would take place here was male races. All runners would always run naked.
When we returned to Nafplios, we had dinner at a tavern; the walls were covered with front pages of old Playbills featuring famous plays, actors and actresses that had performed at the Epidavros. Ioanna ordered multiple different Greek appetizers for us all to share. We drank wine, tasted many new, interesting flavors of food such as a spicy cheese dip, eggplant salad, zucchini cheese balls, and many more! We enthusiastically talked with each other for almost three hours about the Epidavros, the castle climbing we would be doing in the next couple of days, and the couples around us celebrating Valentine’s Day. After dinner, we left to get gelato at a famous gelateria named “Antica Gelateria di Roma” and called it a night!