Tag Archives | historical travel

Notes from the mainland…

October 30, 2013

–The weather is still hot during the day but the mornings are cool so I wear a sweatshirt when I leave the hotel.  By 10:00 I am in my t-shirt.  I have driven through hundreds of orange groves in two days.

–The ruins in Ancient Corinth are vast and the typical jumble.  The Temple of the Corinthian Apollo is Doric.  Lots of Roman stone.  St. Paul was here.

–Akro Korinthos, 3 km up the mountain from the site, is massive.  I have walked the walls.  Easily as large as the outer walls of Dubrovnik…5km if I remember correctly.  Walls built on walls…Mycenean, Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian.  Everyone knew a good site for a fort when they conquered it.  Impregnable and all but hewn from the living stone.  Few people there today.  Some workman digging a new drainage ditch.  They are stone-faced when I say “kali mera.”

–I have seen more Golden Dawn graffiti here than anywhere in Greece.  Lots of spray-painted Greek meanders…this is a ubiquitous symbol.  It is on my bathmat in the hotel where I sleep.  It’s on tourist swag.  Now it means something else, something terrible.  They have taken a design everyone knows as good and twisted it with their broken thinking.

–Nafplio is not Paros.  The mainland is not the Kyklades.  There is a roughness here, less open than the Greece I know.  Fewer smiles.  Gruff.

–Epidaurus tomorrow and Schliemann’s second site at Tyrins.  My last full day here and I want to make the most of my little car.  I might brave the winding mountain road to Ermioni for lunch after visiting the theater.

October 31, 2013

–Epidaurus, Tyrins…quiet but there are still buses and tourists.  Mostly older groups and I seem to be shadowing a school group of American kids. They were at my hotel too.  Quiet as mice.  A nice thing to experience.  Corinth yesterday and the theater today.  Also the Nafplio museum…

–The winding road to Epidaurus and grove after grove of olives and oranges.

Epidaurus: ancient script.  Leica M8, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

Epidaurus: ancient script. Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm, f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 320

–A group of Russians at the theater…testing the acoustics with pebbles.  Wonderful.  Tyrins on the way back to Nafplio. Not much to see but an observation:  the technique used to build the large Mycenean walls is the same as the wall building I have seen all over the Kyklades.  No walls here, nothing crisscrossing the landscape. The Mycenean civilization was large.

–Blue domes are now terra-cotta tiles.  I had forgotten that about the Peloponnese.

–When I was a boy, about 5 or 6, my grandmother gave me gifts from her time in Greece: a small model of a Greek house with a windmill, a komboloi, an Evzone figurine.  She planted this seed.  She was here.

–I am still enjoying my short DoF exercises.  The stones, greenery and blue skies are perfect for this.   Shooting at f/1.8 to f/4 only…


A column section from Epidaurus.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360

A column section from Epidaurus. Leica M8, Voigtlander 35mm Nokton, f/2.0 at 1/4000, ISO 360


Nafplio, Ohi Day and some more…

Temple of the Argive Hera, overlooking the Argolis Valley

Temple of the Argive Hera, overlooking the Argolis Valley

It is the autumn mid-term break and I am off-island.  I am feeling a bit of culture shock.  There are so many people here on the mainland.  So many cars…

I arrived here on Sunday, the day before ‘Ohi Day’.  It was also the weekend of Agios Dimitrios, a saint of some popularity here in Greece. Everyone with a connection to the saint for their name day celebrates.  It was a long weekend.   Weekenders from Athens and Corinth mobbed the narrow streets.  I had left the quiet calm of Paros and landed here.  I felt like hiding.  My meal that night was good: Gigantes, fried zucchini, lamb chops and the waiter tried to stiff me 10 Euros until I confronted him.  He was so very apologetic.  Kleftis!

Ohi Day was a grand affair and just before the big parade, I decided to not stick around.  I took a long walk around the massif on which the Palamidi Fortress sits and then on my way back climbed the 900+ stairs to the top of this Venetian citadel.  The view was lovely, but the tourists were there too.  There was an American school group, and I observed how they behaved in a foreign country.  Like bumpkins, I tell you, bumpkins.  The Aegean Center students would never act as they did.  I left the castle and went back to the town, searched out a car rental agency and rented a car for the next day (today).  I ate a wonderful meal at a small taverna off the main drag and had some of the best skordalia (garlic paste) I have ever had.  Superb gavros, too.  No billing issues last night.  I might go back there tonight.

Today I drove my little silver Hyundai north to the Mycenean ruins at Mykine.   This is the spot where Heinrich Schliemann found all of the gold and proclaimed (incorrectly), “I have seen the face of Agamemnon!”  Still, an impressive site and worth the trip.  When I left I headed to Nemea and marveled at the ruins of the Temple of the Nemean Zeus.  This was one of the centers for the Panhellenic games beginning in the 5th century BCE.  Superb.

The clock was edging into the mid afternoon and I decided to call it quits for the day.  I headed back to Nafplio.  15 minutes later found me at the ruins of the Temple of Argive Hera, an enormous jumble of stone and column sections of what must have been an imposing structure overlooking the wide valley.  Like Mykine, the sea was visible and I imagined in its heyday it gleamed atop the hill from which I viewed the olive groves and vineyards stretching out before me.

I arrived back in Nafplio, parked my car and took a well-deserved siesta in my hotel room.  Tomorrow is another big day.  I will head a bit farther north and see the imposing Akro Korinthos fortress and Ancient Corinth.  Thursday I return to Epidaurus after over 7 years.

The town has quieted somewhat, but the cafes still hum.  I am still in Greece, but away from the island, Paroikia and the Aegean Center. This is good.  I need time to let go, reflect and otherwise contemplate my place in the Universe and what that means.  These imposing structures, their tons of crumbled stone and absent civilizations are a humble reminder of my abilities.

RIP Lou.  Your dark candle burned so brightly.


The Temple of Nemean Zeus, Nemea, Argolis, Greece

The Temple of Nemean Zeus, Nemea, Argolis, Greece


Gallery sitting…




It is quiet here on Paros.  The tourists are leaving in a steady flow.  French, English, Italian and Greek…For many of them next week is the beginning of the school year for their children.  Here at the Aegean Center, this is true as well.  The Autumn Term begins next week in Italy.  My show comes down in 11 days.  I am very pleased with the reception I have had.  I am still seeing about 25 people per night visiting the exhibition and have had many interesting conversations with tourists and locals alike.

The summer is winding down and I am about to experience my first September on Paros.  I have heard it is the best time of year, a reward for making it through the high season:  warm, sunny, quiet…

So I will ride my bike, swim in the sea, take care of some maintenance in the school darkroom, sweep the courtyard and water the plants.

Before I know it it will be September 25th and I will be in Athens, meeting up with the school and then returning here on the 28th.  To paraphrase Bukowski, time runs like wild horses over the hills…



Updates from the road…

I am in New York.  It is hot, humid and lush.  It is hard to describe the quantity of water on the land and in the air.  Back on my Parian home the heat is the same but the arid conditions make for a more pleasant experience.  Outside my window the trees and foliage are dense green, impenetrable without the use of a machete or  chainsaw.  I can hear it grow, sucking up moisture from the rich earth.


A view from my mother's front porch, Ancramdale, NY

A view from my mother’s front porch, Ancramdale, NY.


I am back in America to visit my family, and only for a month.  If all goes well I will be back on Paros on August 1st ready for the final push towards my solo exhibit of large format portraiture.  It has been almost two years since the project began and I am looking forward to the event.  I am nervous, yes, but in anticipation, not dread.  I know my work can stand on its own as a complete body.  I also know that whoever views it will bring something unique to the experience.  I am also currently designing a new website specifically for the portraits.  I will launch this site after the show opens on August 18th.

For the time being, I will visit with my elderly parents and my dear sisters.  I hope to drop in on a fellow student and alumna of the Aegean Center, but time and schedules will determine that visit.  I am able to catch up with good friends and compare notes on how our lives are faring.

I am experiencing a good amount of culture shock here.  The cars all all huge and the food seems heavy to my palate.  As I sit here at my computer I sweat.  Just sweat.  I am not even exerting myself.  There are no sounds of ferries docking, motor scooters riding down the narrow streets of my neighborhood.  No smell of the sea.  I cannot walk to my favorite cafe.   It is supposed to rain tonight and perhaps that will ease the heat, but it also promises high, hot and humid conditions for tomorrow.  I am not whinging, just noticing some differences.

Todays post has a new header image.  It is a section of wall behind my mother’s house.  The stones are slate and granite, green with growth.  So different from the Kykladic structures of which I have grown so fond.   Different, yet the same.  It serves the same purpose:  it is a retaining wall preventing the downhill slide of earth after the rains.

The skies have suddenly clouded over.  There is a low rumble of thunder in the air.



Images from the past weeks…

I leave Folegandros in a couple of days and return to Parikia.  I have noticed that wherever I have stopped–Amorgos, Sikinos, Folegandros…I always seem to find a high vantage point, usually the Chora or a high mountain.  I peer north, searching for my lovely home and I see it.  Paros.  It is there, close at hand.  I am thinking like this now.  I am somewhat homesick.

I have rented a small car.  Today I will take it easy and drive around and take pictures.  I saw some areas along the road during the bus ride yesterday that demand attention.  Plus, I want to give my feet a rest.  No hiking today.  Maybe tomorrow and then to a beach.  I want to get home, but I am no hurry to get through the day.  Plus, at 1PM the sun is far too bright to be of any use to me.  I will wait until 3PM or so and head out.


Short DoF image of some wall detail on Amorgos

Short DoF image of some wall detail on Amorgos



The Aspropounda Lighthouse on Folegandros, looking south.

The Aspropounda Lighthouse on Folegandros, looking south

Detail of the door of Episkopi, Sikinos

Detail of the door of Episkopi, Sikinos

Detail of some wall work on Folegandros

Detail of some wall work on Folegandros

A kouros statue found on the island of Naxos



Sikinos, part 1…

I arrived here yesterday, 15 June.  I checked into the Hotel Porto Sikinos (charming and comfortable) and knew that what I needed was a brisk walk and then a leap into the sea.  So I did that. Nothing too strenuous or out of control.  Then I cleaned up, i.e. took a shower, and rode the bus up the chasm that separates Alopronia (the port) from the Chora.  It is a 5 km drive up the winding road.  I was told there was a decent restaurant there.  I ordered saganaki tiri, fried potatoes, fried eggplant and lamb chops (paidakia).  It was pretty good but I know a lamb shoulder chop when I see it.  “Paidakia”, my ass.  OK.  That’s what I give the restaurant–an ‘OK’.  After a long day of travel I slept like a log and woke up around 8:30.  The breakfast at the hotel was quite good, and plentiful.  I skipped the bready things and ate the yogurt, boiled egg, both honeys, coffee and juice.  Today I was going to hike to Episkopi!  Yes, I did eventually get there, but it was adventure I am not eager to repeat.  My fault, by the way.  This is the rundown…

I chose a well-traveled path out of Alopronia up the Chora.  No real worries, but I strayed off at one point and had to bushwhack through the thorny underbrush and eventually backtrack 500m downhill to where I joined the track again.  I arrived in the Chora an hour later sopping with sweat.  I refueled with some orange soda and bought some more water at a café.  Good thing I did.  I would need it.

There are two ways to reach Episkopi. The first is along the paved road that leads directly to the place.  The other is a donkey track just off the paved road that also leads right to the ancient temple.  Of course I chose the donkey track, or so I thought.  What I chose was a different donkey track that mirrored, for a while at least, the one I currently trod.  So I hiked along, enjoying the view of the archipelago (Folegandros, Milos, Kimolos, Sifnos, Andiparos, Paros and Naxos). Beautiful.  Stunning.  Then the path began to narrow. Hmmm…I continued since it was not a problem.  Yet. Then as I was happily sauntering along I came around a corner and there was the fence.  Shit.  The path continued on the other side…I could see it.  Then I realized my mistake.  I should have gone back, it would have been easy enough, but no.  I decided to go up and around the fence, or so I hoped.  Long story short…

This led to a three-hour uphill, across ancient terraces, through thorns that would pierce leather (and my skin) trudge.  I was able to find short stretches of paths, more goat tracks than anything else.  Then they would disappear into a thorny mass.  At this point I was aware of two things:  I had not seen any goat droppings in a while and the foliage was becoming more and more wild.  The fig trees were small and dried out, crackling under my grip.  The olive groves were overgrown and unkempt, the trees stunted from the wind and unpruned.  My reading of Homer told me that I was far from civilization.  Oh yes…water…I had 1 full liter left.  I was becoming disheartened, but what choice did I have but to keep pushing up and, I hoped, reach the road which I knew was there, yet I could not see?   My excellent topo map gave me a pretty good idea where I was.  So I scrambled and clawed my way through the thorns as they tore my skin.  I climbed ancient terrace walls, carefully planting my feet and hands.  Should one collapse, I was finished.  No joke.  I was getting worried.  I began to remember what I had packed:  Water, two cameras, my Swiss Army knife, two sarong for padding for the cameras.   They were brightly colored.  I could wave them to get someone’s attention in the case of an emergency, but there was no one around.  I also had both my mobile phones.  I ran several conversations through my head…I prayed a lot.  Asked for all kinds of help:  just 20 more meters; just over this terrace; just a little more.  I was loath to drink my water.  Only a half liter remained.

At one point the underbrush thinned slightly and I saw a real path.  Stony, uneven, but going up and without  many thorn bushes.  Thank you, thank you…whoever.  I moved up.  I clambered over a small pile of stones and then I saw it:  the guard rail.  The road.  The blessed road.  Only 50 meters now…30…20…10 and I was up and out standing on glorious tarmac.  I have never been so happy to see pavement.  I looked to my left and there was Episkopi.  I made it.  The breeze was blowing.  I began to feel chills, a sign of many things, almost all bad.  I walked the 100 meters to the glorious and historical building, seeking shade.  I walked along the side and plopped down on a small bench out of the sun.  I dropped my pack, took off my shoes and socks, hung my soaked t-shirt on a wall to dry and took some deep breaths.  Grateful, I leaned against the cool stone of the former-temple-of-Apollo-turned-Byzantine-church and blissfully felt my core temperature drop.  I took out my watch.  It was 2:20.  Now to get back to the Chora and the port.  There is a large cistern at the site and I refilled my water bottles but I needed potassium, salt and more water.  Juices. Cold juices.  And bananas.  That’s what wanted.  But first some pictures.

I made it back, dear readers, yes, I made it back.  I have just counted the distance and I probably hiked a little over 12 km, the hard way.  Tomorrow I go to the beach and relax.  I will read my book, swim and let the antiseptic quality of the Aegean cure my lacerated limbs.  Then I will nap.  Tuesday I head to Folegandros.  I will be there for 5 days.  I am a lucky boy, in many ways.


Thorns that tore my flesh





With a little help from my friends….

Ancramdale, New York  December 22, 2012 07:45hrs

Ancramdale, New York December 22, 2012 07:45hrs

I have found through trial (many trials) and error (many errors) that I can accomplish very little in life without the assistance of those around me.  Whether it is the gentle and loving care for my mother, my continuing work at the Aegean Center or any spiritual journey I may undertake, I cannot do it alone, nor do I really want to anymore.  Yes, there are times when we all need a little solitude for reflection and meditation, but overall I long to embrace the company of my fellows, whomever they may be.

I return to Greece in just over a month.  Christmas will come and go and the New Year will ring its bells and I will, I hope, have some work to show for the time I have spent here.  I am opening up my darkroom and am about shooting film (both 35mm and MF) as well as recording some digital images.  Besides my Leica M8 I have resuscitated my old Canon Digital Rebel, the first decent digital SLR I used.  It needed a new battery so I picked one up from Adorama.  I hope to use it as a point-and-shoot while I am here, reserving the Leica for more contemplative images.  The MF film work is up in the air.  Maybe I’ll work on some more short depth-of-field images and bring the negatives back to Paros.  The 35mm film is being used in a really old Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens.  In both cases I am shooting Kodak Tri-X 400.  If I am industrious I hope to begin developing by the end of this week and printing by 2013.  2013!  Imagine that…A lot of water has flowed under the bridge, over the dam and out to sea since I started this blog.  It seems like a lifetime ago that I switched gears and turned onto this road, a journey that fills me with endless gratitude and wonder.

It snowed early this morning before I awoke.  The weather outside is grey and leaden, a wintry wind is reminding me that all things must pass and, as they do, new opportunities for knowledge and growth appear on the horizon.  In some cases it is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all and I have to believe that there is something better for me down the road.  As a friend and I were remarking this morning…one door closes, another door opens.  Life is a series of hallways and corridors.  Take a risk and turn the knob.

 My never-ending thanks to Kit Latham for all of his wonderful support in the much needed update of this blog space.  You will notice that the old images of the Bosnian Roma are gone, replaced with more current and relevant images from my portfolios.  To have them off the site is a great relief to me.  They represent a time of my life that has passed.  I have also cleaned out much of my gallery site, letting go of a tired and used vision for something a little more current.  In a few days there will be an even larger shift.  Siga-siga, as we say on Paros.



American return…

My flight from Vienna to NY/JFK was uneventful.  I actually slept little which is not normal for me, so maybe that’s an event.  When I returned to Ancramdale I was able to stay awake until about 11PM and then crawled into bed and slept soundly until around 5:15AM.  That will change in a week or so but right now I am awake in this quiet early-morning house, my mother and a caregiver downstairs asleep.  The eastern sky is just beginning to grow pale…almost 7AM.

It has been just over 4 months since I last saw my mother, and vice-a-versa.  This is, I think,  compounded her everyday confusion by making her suddenly aware that I have been gone and that I have returned.  There were also moments of “who is your mother?” last night while we watched Jeopardy, questions which are unnerving for me, to say the least.  Like so many people in her life who have dropped off of her social map, I am walking on the fringes of her memory.   I put a positive face on it though and we changed the subject a little, easing her discomfort.  I hope that within the next few days she will have forgotten I went anywhere and have been here all the time.  That would be a relief for both of us.

My time in Vienna was lovely, although the weather was a bit gloomy at times.  Still, it makes for good museum weather and I took advantage of that.  As I stated earlier the Albertina Museum and Durer exhibit were stunning, some of the works not having been displayed for over 50 years.  I saw the ‘Triumphal Procession’ (among many other pieces) in all of its 54 meter glory, the other 50 meters being lost to history.  I was planning on going to see ‘The Third Man’ that night at the Burg Kino Theater, but by 9:30PM I still had over an hour to wait and I suddenly felt the need to just relax and not push the plan.  So I called it an early night and hit the rack.  I have had the Vienna/Third Man experience twice already.  I could skip it this time.  

The next day was drizzly and cold and I trudged over to the Kunst Historiches Museum for a day of Great Masters and palatial Hapsburg splendor.  I was not disappointed.  I made a wise decision and rented one of the audio guides.  Even though I already knew much of what the guide told me, it slowed down my journey through the building thus providing a more enjoyable experience.  It is safe to assume that there were whole rooms devoted to Rubens, Breugal, Velasquez and others.  Truly the booty from one of the most powerful and wide-reaching empires in world history.  From Vienna, the Hapsburgs directly controlled all of Europe, except for England, Russia and parts of the southern Balkans.  Massive power and wealth.  The French Louis’ were common landowners compared to what became the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  In any case, they could afford to either buy it all since everyone worked for them.  Here is a list of just some of their employees, all of whom I was able to view last Saturday:  Titian, Tintoretto, Velasquez, Durer, Holbein, Rubens (2 rooms!), Altdorfer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Bruegel.  That is the Top Ten.  There were whole salons of painters with whom I was not familiar.  

The next day I had a great time with my friend Mathias and his family.  I walked in the park and had lunch with them and photographed the three of them with their young son, Anton.  It was such a nice time.  Then I went to the Schloss Belvedere to see the very large Klimt show. Hmmm…After the previous day, Klimt fell flat for me.  What was gently impressive, however, was the exhibit upstairs of the late 19th c. painter Erik Jakob Schindler.  I loved the work and I ended up purchasing a small book.  

So Vienna was a success:  good food, good friends, good art and once again, worth the trip–more than just a stop-over on my way back to the US from Greece.  I think I will try to make it back there this spring for a few days.  


Note:  for some reason I cannot add links with the text.  You’ll have to investigate stuff on your own…


Seasonal turns in the Cyclades…

In his collection “A Year With Emerson” Richard Grossman envisions the poet and essayist discussing the merits of the simplicity of life with his close friend Henry David Thoreau.  Emerson wrote, “To find the unity in diversity is the role of the seeker of laws.  When we find the unity behind the complex array of nature, we find the inherent simplicity of nature and are at home in it.  We can never be at peace while we exist in a myriad of facts.”

I wrote this entry a few days ago and saved it in ‘drafts’.  I am glad I did.  I had little else to say on that day and surprisingly, not much else to say today.  My energy is stable, not over-the-top.  Tomorrow most of the students are heading out to a week off from the Aegean Center.  Exotic locales, travel plans, etc…Turkey, Copenhagen, islands in Greece, islands of thought and distance.   I think we all need a break.  I am off to the quiet island of Andiparos, adjacent to my current locale and only a 10 minute ferry ride from Paros.  I will have 5 or 6 days there.  I hope to do some reading, take some pictures of stone walls, maybe a little swimming (weather permitting) and generally just hang about.  I’ll be back well before the break ends.

It is very quiet here on Paros.  Tourists are few, visitors to the school are fewer and this weekend we set our clocks back for daylight savings time.  We are a week ahead of America, I think.  Clouds have rolled in and the welcoming rains have been washing the streets clean, rinsing dust from the trees and filling the sky with richly contoured thunderheads.  The rains have been mostly at night, with mixed sunshine during the day. The lightning and thunder has been dramatic, waking me at 3AM,  reminding me to check the open windows in my small flat.  So far no floods.  Tonight I will develop some film and be available for the other students should they need any advice.  It seems a simple, quiet life I have stumbled upon, a veneer for a complex interior.  Too complex to actually comment upon.  I wouldn’t know what to say.  I will take David Byrne’s advice, “When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.”



Some Emerson from an autumnal island…

The weather here on Paros has been a blessing.  It has felt like summer in early October and although the students at the Aegean Center are working hard and discovering the rhythms of the school, they have also enjoyed the sun, swimming and island life.  The heat, however, has forced those of us in the darkroom to take measures for chilling our chemistry.  This is not a problem, but it does require an extra step or two if one wishes to develop film properly.  We will begin printing next week and by that time the ambient temperature should have cooled and our lives will be less complex.  The breeze moving down the streets and alleys this evening is more crisp and there was a heavy dew this morning.  We are supposed to have some rain next week which will slowly turn the amber and silver-grey hills around the bay light green.  I enjoy the change of seasons and this time of year I am reminded that Paros, and all of Greece, has distinct times of year beyond the sun-drenched blue and white stereotype of tourist advertising.

red tomatoes in a blue bowl

I realized the other day that I left my collected Emerson paperback in Italy, perhaps in some hotel.  I imagine it slipped from my backpack and under the bed, forgotten in my eagerness to return to Greece.  I hope it ends up on some shelf to be read by a passing traveler.  I do have my  ‘A Year with Emerson”, which will quote for today, October 10.  He wrote about his ideal scenario regarding readers and how he would like to be perceived: “I would have my book read as I have read my favorite books, not with explosion & amazement, a marvel and a rocket, but a friendly & agreeable influence stealing like the scent of a flower or the sight of a new landscape on a traveler.  I neither wish to be hated & defied by such as I startled, nor to be kissed and hugged by the young whose thoughts I stimulate.”

He also wrote,

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide
upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There
are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are
right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some
of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it
takes brave men and women to win them.”

Both of these concepts–the idea of the more quiet path, modesty being the philosophy and the understanding that one must always be true to oneself and not falter regardless of outside influences–inspire me to be a better person.  The given fact is, of course, that I am human and will sometimes stumble, sometimes reach for glory or even react in a self-deprecating manner.  Imperfection makes the best and most lofty ideals attainable.

(Tomatoes have nothing to do with this post.  I just liked the picture. Think of it as an interlude.  It is also 4 years old and from New York.  Nothing to do with Greece, Emerson or anything at all, really.)