Sunday, May 29, 2011
If you know very little about the ancient city caught in a disastrous moment of history, the one thing you are probably going to be familiar with in Pompeii are some of the references to sex found there. The guide knew this and made it the highlight of the tour saving it for the end. The brothel is one of the most interesting attractions.
This was a port city bringing people from all over the known world to buy whatever she was selling. One of the things the city was offering up was sex. Lest you get lost in your search for the pleasure house there were clever markers in the street pointing the way.
A couple of days later in Delphi, Greece ( a sleepy little town without even ONE stoplight) Madame Owner and her daughter were shopping in a little mom and pop store that looked like The Oracle was probably a regular customer. A foreign mustiness hung in the air. Many items on the shelves were covered with dust and the woman behind the counter was the epitome of the frumpy 1950s European grandmother. Her grandchildren were running around the store and when MO was checking out she noticed a rack of playing cards next to the counter depicting different sex acts. In the states it would have been classified as porn. MO and her daughter looked first at each other, then at the grandmother, then at the children. As soon as they got out of the store they erupted in astounded chit chat about how in America that grandmother would have been mortified by those cards in the presence of her grandchildren. In the other shops up and down the street they saw similar items, pictures and statues, that looked extremely out of place in a public setting to Americans, except perhaps in the French Quarter.
After describing a couple of household items depicting sex acts he writes: " ...but neither belonged in a public space where only ideal dignity should reign."
Huh. To this suitcase it sounds kind of like what we could say about bachelorette party decor and risque gag gifts on birthdays.
So the Greeks are misrepresenting things a tad by pandering to the tourist in a way that coaxes embarrassed giggles, but they are proving an enduring truth; the more things change the more they stay the same.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
While I recovered, MO headed to the restaurant with some fellow travelers for her first ouzo.
If you like licorice, you'll love it. MO thought it was tolerable but wouldn't be looking for it when she returned home. Still...when in Rome or Athens or someplace in between...
|Dr. Fashion and the ladies, waiting for the disco to open|
So MO and her friends hit the dance floor and stayed there...for 3 and a half hours. The DJ had one batch of American music that he played repeatedly. Some European teenagers took up the rest of the floor. The boys took their shirts off. No one knew why.
Eventually the European teens left the dance floor and on the way out the door bowed down to MO and her companions.
MO laughed and danced on. Finally, she and one female student and a group of male students and their professor were the last people on the floor when the DJ motioned MO over to his booth.
"Could you and your friends please stop dancing. I have to go to bed."
MO burst out laughing.
"What time is it?"
She informed her friends
She and the girl left the floor, at which point the men claimed "Last Men Standing" status and had a comical little celebration. Had MO realized it was a competition, she'd have thought of some trick to get the men off the floor first, like telling them it was a Greek tradition or something.
The DJ turned off the music. The lights came on.
MO spotted her daughter who had sat down ages before.
"You could have left."
"Mom, I wasn't going to leave you here alone."
They headed to their stateroom and got ready for bed. Now MO realized for the first time how tired she was. She collapsed into bed and tried to turn off the light. She couldn't find the switch for the reading light over her bed. MO's spawn showed her where hers was. MO still couldn't find the one for her light. After wasting 20 minutes or so, she pulled down the top bunk, propped me up in front of the light to block it out and climbed up to go to bed.
The next morning Greece was within sight and after a breakfast that included 5 different kinds of bread, MO and MS went up on the deck to check out the view.
Beautiful Greece, land of gods and heroes.
What a welcoming sight!
Sunday, May 15, 2011
|View from the hotel lobby|
Now the drive to the tiny coastal town, while lovely is fraught with tight squeezes for a large motor coach and the driver, Gulio, must have had nerves of steel. After the hair raising drive up Vesuvius, and the winding coastal road to Sorrento, the real test of his abilities came upon entering the little town and trying to maneuver the massive vehicle through the antiquated streets in an effort to get his passengers as close to the hotel, which sat at the bottom of a cliff, as possible. Of course what would happen on the narrowest of streets when the goal of parking and unloading his passengers was just within reach? Of course he would meet another driver of an equally over sized transport. They stopped...inched forward, backed up, as if dancing. Gulio was determined to lead. After several tense moments (and opening his window so as to share some fiery words with the other driver) the buses scraped past each other. Cheers and applause erupted! As the other bus eased past the driver and passengers on it looked dejected. They'd lost the motor coach showdown and they were taking it pretty hard.
There was a knock at the door. The mystery fourth roomie arrived and it was a student from another group. They opened the door and introduced themselves (it was still early in the trip). When the young woman said her name MO remembered that they'd seen the same name in some graffiti inside the tunnel they walked through.
|The bus is at the top, you can see why he couldn't navigate this section.|
"I saw your name inside the tunnel. We'll be taking you up there later on to take your picture in front of it." MO said.
The new arrival got a worried look on her face, "I'll be right back."
|View from their balcony.|
There was a knock at the door. They opened it to find one of the female professors standing there with a bottle of wine. "Hi, I'm your new room mate, my student thought she'd rather be with her classmates so I'm taking her place."
MO scared that poor girl off, at least that's the story I got from her suitcase the next day in the cargo hold.
After some small talk and bed selection, they headed to dinner. MO ended up between the new room mate, and her own group leader, both professors of art history. She leaned forward and then back so they could talk around her. She offered to move, but they wouldn't hear of it, then one of them asked a question that MO could tell was going to get a lengthy passionate answer. Without a word MO and her group leader picked up their plates and switched places. The rest of the table erupted in laughter but the teachers were far too engrossed in their lively discussion to notice.
Now four women and one bathroom is nothing too amusing. Four women and four towels is just downright sad, especially when there is no bathmat to be found. Clearly the appropriate number of towels for this room would have been at least a dozen! The good doctor brought a bottle of wine with her when she showed up--did I mention that?
They needed it.
What they did not need was an early morning wake up call. Travel plans had been changed however and due to trouble in Egypt the ferry to take them from Italy to Greece was now one leaving from Ancona instead of Brindisi, which meant a very long bus ride, north across the Appenines and a ferry crossing that would take twice as long. So after a lovely breakfast overlooking the sea it was time to trek back up the hill through the tunnel (where MO did indeed take a picture of that student) and onto the bus. To read MO's account of that trip and the story behind this picture click here.
And that hotel room for just two people would have been quite comfortable!
Sunday, May 8, 2011
This archeological site is very large, one could easily spend hours and hours walking the ruins, imagining lives of the ancient residents and their sudden violent deaths. This site is another place where you will do a bit of walking over fairly rugged and uneven terrain, though the only really steep part is right at the entrance.
|Have you seen my sunglasses?|
Digging frantically in her purse and checking all her pockets. Her daughter gave her an annoyed look.
"What are you looking for?"
"My sunglasses, I think I must've left them at the restaurant."
Her daughter stared at her in stunned silence. "Mom, are you being serious right now?"
My brilliant owner put her hand on top of her head to see if they were there. Nope...then she realized.
She was WEARING them.
"Mom, try and pay attention."
It's easy to let your imagination carry you back in time as you stand on the ancient stones and look through archways and columns, especially if you are there in late afternoon as MO's group was. The early spring sun and history cast long shadows.