RTW Timeline: First Half of the First Millennium BC

After seeing so many interesting sites and learning many facts about places all around the world, we thought it would be interesting to arrange the different places and events on a timeline to provide more of a context for the different highlights.

Our first installment in the timeline series covered events from the beginning of human history up to 1000 BC. This installment will cover from then up to 500 BC. During this time, one of the great civilizations emerge, and a deity is born.

776 BC – First Panhellenic Games in Olympia, Greece

The Greeks established a tradition of Panhellenic games, in which male athletes from all over the country would converge on a location and compete in contests of speed and strength. The most famous and the oldest were the games held in Olympia, which gave rise to the tradition we now know as the Olympics.

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Around 600 BC – Sounion Kourous Carved

As the Greek population grew and the culture began to flourish, what we now call the Archaic Greek culture emerged. The hallmarks of the art of this period were standing figures carved out of stone; the male figure was called a kourous and the female a kore. We saw one of the more well-known Archaic kourous figures at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

A korous (male)

Sounion Kourous (male)

590 BC – Temple of Hera Built at Olympia

The Panhellenic Games held every four years at Olympia were not just an athletic competition. In addition, they functioned as a large religious festival. To support the religious activities, a large number of temples were built in an area called the sanctuary, or Altis. This temple was one of the first structures erected, and one of the first examples of a Doric temple. Today, it is used as the site where the Olympic flame is lit by sunlight reflected from a mirror.

Remains of the Temple of Hera

Remains of the Temple of Hera

586 BC – First Pythian Games Held in Delphi, Greece

The games held at Olympia are the most famous, but the sanctuary to Apollo at Delphi also hosted a Panhellenic Games every four years. These games had the same athletic events as those at Olympia, and also had art and dance competitions.

The remains of the stadium from the Pythian Games (renovated during Roman times)

The remains of the stadium from the Pythian Games (renovated during Roman times)

580 BC – “Argos Twins” Sculpture Created

This pair of kouros statues were sculpted in Argos, but were found in Delphi, where we viewed them at the archaeological museum.

The Twins of Argos

The Twins of Argos

563 BC – Siddhartha Gautama Born

The man who would attain enlightenment and become the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal around the middle of the 6th century BC. We didn’t visit this site, but we did see the influence of this event in the countless stupas, pagodas and wats that we visited all throughout Asia.

560 BC – Sphinx of Naxos Created

This is another famous piece of Archaic Greek art that we viewed at the archaeological museum in Delphi. This massive carving of the mythical creature was sent by the island of Delphi as a offering to the sanctuary in Delphi.

The Sphinx of Naxos

The Sphinx of Naxos

554 BC – Mahamuni Buddha Image Cast

Legend states that this bronze image of Buddha was cast in the kingdom of Arakan when the Buddha visited. It now resides in a special temple outside of Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma). Male pilgrims apply gold leaf to the image which has given it a large gold covering.

Males applying gold leaf

Males applying gold leaf

520 BC – Temple of Apollo Built on Aegina

We visited the island of Aegina as a day trip from Athens with Della’s family. We walked by the ruins of this temple to Apollo on our way to the beach, but couldn’t go in because it was closed for the day. All that remains of this temple is a solitary column that we were able to see from a distance.

The lone column remaining in the Temple of Apollo

The lone column remaining in the Temple of Apollo

 

As the first half of the first millennium BC drew to a close, the Greek culture began to reach its apex. In our next installment, we will travel through many of the relics of the Greek classical period that we were able to view.

Flashback Friday: European Sunsets

Flashback Friday is a picture series where we “flashback” to some of our memories – from either from our prior travel or from home. We hope you’ll enjoy some of our remembrances! 

We’ve been experiencing some nice sunsets here in Asia, so naturally, we remembered some of our other nice sunsets from the road. During our self-drive safari in Africa, we saw some amazing sunsets almost every night. We shared some of those in a flashback Friday post. We were in Africa for only 6 weeks and came up with 11 photos we just needed to share. We were in Europe for much longer and saw much fewer nice sunsets. However, there were 14 pictures we wanted to show you. Enjoy some awesome sunsets!

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“The greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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A closer shot of the “greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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Sunset over the Adriatic from the walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Sunset over a mosque in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

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Berat, Albania

Pretty sunset

Tirana, Albania

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Delphi, Greece

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Nafplio, Greece

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Fethiye, Turkey

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This one was so good, we had to show you two! Fethiye, Turkey

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Selcuk, Turkey

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Kas, Turkey

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Pamukkale, Turkey

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Antalya, Turkey

Monthly Recap: Month 5

Month 5 has been our slowest moving month yet, with only 2 countries visited. We finished up with Greece and headed into Turkey, saw friends and family from home, and made some big decisions about our future travel plans.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 2 (Greece and Turkey)

Beds Slept In: 11

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 4 (Sanctuary of Asklepios at EpidaurusAcropolis AthensHistoric Areas of IstanbulHierapolis-Pamukkale) Total on RTW: 34

We traveled by 2 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 7 long distance buses.

We traveled by 3 boats.

We traveled by 1 rental car which took us Izmir to Fethiye.

Top Moments:

~ Our first top moment came at Tlos, an ancient Lycian ruin near Fethiye, Turkey. We had been struggling with generally gloomy weather and experienced a crazy rainstorm just the day before, but the day we visited Tlos was grand. It is low season in Turkey and we were the only people at the entire site. It was a neat hilltop fortress and town that had been inhabited from the 2nd century B.C. by the ancient Lycians, through the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottoman Empire up until the 19th century. The ruins are expansive, well preserved, and nestled in a gorgeous mountain paradise. This was made even sweeter as Della’s entire family (sister and parents) were there to share it with us!

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Enjoying the view from the fortress citadel of Tlos

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Lycian rock tombs, Roman walls, and an Ottoman citadel, set on an amazing backdrop – Tlos

 

~ Our second top moment was in Athens. There is something magical about entering the amazing ancient Acropolis through the impressive Propylea, and seeing the Parthenon standing before you in all its (scaffold-ed) glory. We had been spying on the acropolis from different areas of Athens for a week but had stayed away, waiting for Della’s family to join us, so entering it (finally) was pretty awe-inspiring! It is definitely on the beaten path, and it really is disappointing that the Parthenon is so covered with scaffolding (Della’s parents said it had been when they visited 35 years ago as well), but despite that, it was pretty great to see!

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Entering through the Propylea

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Our first glimpse of the famous Parthenon

 

~ We also really enjoyed seeing the glorious Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. It was our first full day in Istanbul, and the family headed straight to the famous church/mosque/museum. It was such an impressive building that was exquisitely decorated on the inside. It also felt massive, definitely awe-inspiring. It was the type of place where you come back with a huge crick in your neck from having spent hours allowing your eyes to explore the giant domes and impressive ceiling artwork.

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IMG_3125 Inside the Hagia Sophia

 

~ We were so fortunate to have another visit from family! This time Della’s sister joined us and brought their parents along for the ride. It was really special for Della to get to celebrate her 31st birthday in Fethiye, Turkey surrounded by family. What a treat!

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The whole family together!

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One of Della’s bday presents- Peanut Butter!

 

Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We spent several days in Nafplio, Greece before heading back to Athens to meet up with Della’s family. We enjoyed all of our time there, visiting nearby sites such as Mycenae and Epidavros. We also did NOT enjoy being left stranded by the Greek bus system KTEL on two different occasions. But, really, one of our favorite things about Nafplio was climbing the Palamidi Fortress. We got a late start on the climb and ended up having to book it up at top speed because it was closing quite soon. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend as much time IN the fortress as we had hoped. However, even after we were kicked out of the fortress, we were still on the top of this mountain, overlooking the beautiful town of Nafplio, with fortress walls surrounding us, witnessing a gorgeous sunset. We sat and relaxed, read our books, and watched the colors change, feeling on top of the world!

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Feeling on top of the world!

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Beautiful Nafplio

 

~ We both read a book last month called The Greek Treasure which was the story of Sophia Schliemann, a Greek girl married to the famous archaeologist Henry Schliemann, who discovered the ruins of ancient Troy. We actually only semi-enjoyed the book, but it did get our imagination running and give us a good background for some of the archaeological sites we would shortly be visiting. The book described how Henry and Sophia Schliemann built an amazing mansion in Athens where they lived and displayed the gold treasure that they found in Troy. The building was an homage to Homer’s stories and everything related to ancient Greece. We were super excited to discover that their mansion has been preserved as a museum. It has a small exhibition about them and their lives and discoveries, but is really dedicated to Numismatics. We visited! We loved seeing the place in our novel brought to life… and learned a whole lot about ancient coins!

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Exhibit sign about Henry and Sophia Schliemann with us reflected

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The mansion, dedicated to everything related to Ancient Greece. Those are quotes from Homer on the walls

 

~ We had a great experience this month when we semi-randomly ran into a friend from back home in Selcuk, Turkey! It was so much fun to stay at the same location and catch up with her! One evening, the entire group headed up to a small “Greek” town called Sirince in the mountains above Selcuk. The town is know for its sweet berry wines. As we explored the semi-dead town that evening, we ran into a local sitting on a bench drinking a bottle of wine. After striking up a conversation, he brought us back to a wine tasting bar where we enjoyed yummy wine and the great company of family and another familiar face from home!

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Chatting with our new friend

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Family and friends together drinking wine!

 

Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added:

Discarded/Broken:

1. Swiss Army Knife (we’re not entirely sure where we lost this knife…)

Added:

1. New sandals for Della (a birthday present)

2. New pair of smartwool socks for Eric, brought from the US by Della’s family

Packing Update:

Eric was excited to receive a new protective bag for his backpack. Della’s parents brought this bag from home so that Eric could use it to wrap his backpack in while flying. It helps keep all the straps safe! We have continued to use our cold weather gear so are so pleased we brought it all. We still have not used much of our warm weather gear and are tempted to strip it out of the bags… Though we think we will need it in Asia.

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler, The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire  by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (OK, so these last three are rereads of stuff she has already read, but she was getting ready for the new Mockingjay movie AND Kindle Unlimited is good…), and City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare.

Eric has read The Bookseller of Kabul by Asme Seierstad, Snuff by Terry Pratchett, White Death by Clive Cussler, Animal Farm by George Orwell, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, and I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

Eric and Della have BOTH read nothing this month.

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3, Monthly Recap 4

Athens, Greece (With Family)

Della’s family – her parents and her sister – joined us for two weeks in November as we traveled through Greece and Turkey. The first stop on our joint trip was Athens. We had already been in town on our own for a few days, but held off on the major sites until they arrived.

Getting There

We were already in town, but the others had a much longer journey to get to Athens. Della’s sister flew from California to Denver, and then the three of them flew from Denver to Houston, Houston to Paris and finally Paris to Athens. They arrived in the late afternoon. We were very happy to see them! But, after such a long travel day they were pretty exhausted!

Meeting each other in the metro station

Meeting each other in the metro station

Where We Stayed

With a group of five, we decided that a rental apartment was the best bet. It was a little tough finding a nice place for five on Airbnb, but we eventually found a good deal on HomeAway for a two bedroom apartment in the fancy Kolonaki neighborhood. The apartment we rented turned out to be quite fancy – it was clear that it was the primary residence of the older woman who owned the place. It was very nicely decorated so we were very careful not to mess anything up. There was some confusion about the large security deposit we paid, which made us wish for the simplicity of Airbnb.

What We Did

The Acropolis – We were itching to see this star attraction, so on our first full day we headed straight here. We decided to visit using the Rick Steves audio guide – the first time we attempted to listen to the narration instead of read it ourselves. Walking up through the columns of the Propylaea and onto the top of the hill was awe-inspiring. Even with the large amount of scaffolding covering the Parthenon, it was still very exciting to see the large temple in all its glory. The other highlight of the top was the back porch of the Erectheion with its six caryatid sculptures.

The Ancient Agora – After the Acropolis, we headed down the hill to the ruins of what was the main part of town during the heyday of ancient Athens. The most impressive ruin left is the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved Doric temples. The rest of the agora was a mix of Greek and Roman stoas (covered markets) and statues. The site closed at 3 since it was the low season, so we didn’t get to spend as much time in the on-site museum as we would have liked.

The Acropolis Museum – The Acropolis Museum is housed in a fancy new modern structure just south of the acropolis. It is built over the ruins of an ancient neighborhood, so various places in the floor have clear panels so you can see what is beneath. The museum has a large amount of space devoted to different items from the acropolis throughout ancient history, laid out in roughly chronological order. The ramp to the first level has ancient pottery. Then, during the Archaic Era, the predominant artifacts were the kore and korous statues. They did a good job of showing how colorful they must have once been.

For the main architectural elements of the classical era, they split the big items into rooms based on the structure they came from. This meant there was an area for the Temple of Athena Nike, an area for the Erectheion (showcasing the original caryatid statues) and then on the top floor all by itself, a large area for the Parthenon. There was also a video describing the decorations and layout of the Parthenon. The pediment, frieze and metopes are all laid out in the same order they would have been on the Parthenon, utilizing the entire floor which is of the same size. The museum is quite clear in multiple places that they would like the works of art that the British Museum “stole” back at this museum. The missing pieces are currently shown as ugly plaster casts.

The National Archaeological Museum

At the museum, we again all plugged into the Rick Steves audio tour. The museum went in chronological order and was quite extensive. The first major area was the Cycladic figurines and other art, from the 3rd century BC. Then, they covered the findings from Mycenae. We were pretty excited to see the artifacts from Mycenae that we had heard about when at the site and from reading Greek Treasure.

The next stop was the Archaic era, where we again learned more about the kore and kourous statues. The next major era was the Severe Style. The sculptures started to get more realistic, but the expressions were stern. The most classic piece from this era was a large bronze sculpture of either Zeus or Poseidon (we don’t know which because we can’t see if he is throwing a lightning bolt or trident).

For the classical era, many of the finds were split into different rooms. There was a large collection of rooms focused on the art found on tombstones in the ancient cemeteries. There were many elaborate marble carvings to be found. The sculpture of Paris was one of the highlights of this era.

The next period is the Hellenistic era, which was characterized by sculptures which more realistic faces (instead of idealized) and more active movements. Some of the highlights in the collection were the Jockey of Atemision and Aphrodite fighting off Pan with her shoe. The final period covered was the Roman era. Here they tried to copy the Greek styles and were somewhat successful, although the art was less impressive.

This concluded the main part of the tour. There was still a little bit to be seen of the museum, so we split up and saw the parts we were interested in. There was an ancient “computer” which calculated various celestial phenomenon. We also looked through the bronze collection, Egyptian collection and ceramics collection.

The ancient computer

The ancient computer

Rick Steves City Walk – We followed the Rick Steves walk of the main downtown area to get a feel for the more modern parts of Athens. The tour started at Syntagma Square, and we lucked out in our timing to see the hourly changing of the guard in front of the Parliament building. We then walked down Ermou, the main pedestrian shopping street. The second part of the tour focused on the Greek Orthodox church, so we passed by the main cathedral and a few other churches, plus some stores that sold Greek Orthodox icons. The highlight of the last part of the walk through the Plaka area was a trip through the small neighborhood of Anafiotika. It was built by residents of the island of Anafi, so it has that Greek island “feel” to it.

The Island of Aegina – One of Della’s dad’s priorities for the Greece portion of the trip was to make a trip to an island. We had read that Hydra was very nice, so we decided to make a day trip there on one of our days. We didn’t think we needed to stress about the ferry ticket, so we just showed up the morning of and went to buy our ticket… big mistake. They were sold out! We weren’t quite sure what to do, bu the ticket agent suggested the nearby island of Aegina. We decided to just head there and ended up having a pleasant day. We wondered around the back streets, sampled some of the local pistachios and found a beach that we ended up having mostly to ourselves. The archaeological site was closed for renovations, which was a bummer, but we could still see the lone remaining column from the Temple of Apollo from our beach. We rounded out the day with a seafood meal sitting next to the ocean, then caught the ferry back into Athens.

Where We Ate

The best restaurant we ate at by far was a little restaurant hidden away north of Omonia Square called Bread and Roses. The simple menu allowed you to choose a meat dish, a salad and a side (all homemade). Your choices were then prepared in the small kitchen just next to the seating area. The food was the best we had and the variety quite impressive as well (not your standard Greek taverna options). Highly recommended!

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Final Thoughts

We finished up our four weeks in Greece with a whirlwind of activity once Della’s family arrived. The limited amount of time made us feel a little rushed, but we are definitely glad we made sure to see everything that we got to see.