Thursday, July 29, 2010


We spent the morning of March 16, our last morning in The Peloponnese, in the port city of Patras.

Patras is one of Greece’s main ports. Indeed, almost all trade with Italy, Greece’s primary trading partner, originates in and out of Patras.

Patras has been settled since The Mycenaean Period. The city has been occupied over the centuries by many different civilizations, foreign and Greek, and the centuries of foreign influence have graced Patras with a cosmopolitan air. Modern Patras is part Byzantine, part European (Italian and French are the leading influences), part Ottoman and part Greek.

The Patras of today has a population of approximately 200,000 persons.

Patras was a pleasant surprise for us. We were expecting nothing from Patras, as Patras is off the standard tourist route, but we found the city to be a delightful place for a morning’s exploration.

Perhaps the most important building in Patras is the city’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Agios Andreas, a 20th-Century structure in the Greek Byzantine style that is the largest house of worship in Greece. The Agios Andreas houses numerous relics of The Apostle Andrew.

We very much enjoyed exploring Patras’s seaport and strolling the streets of the city center. In fact, we enjoyed Patras more than our visit to ancient Olympia the previous afternoon.

We left Patras via the new Rio-Antirio Bridge, which connects The Peloponnese with Greece’s mainland.

Our crossing of Rio-Antirio marked the end of our three days in The Peloponnese.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

With Its Usual Severity

Summer, as my friend Coleridge waggishly writes, has set in with its usual severity.

Charles Lamb


My thoughts, precisely.

Current humidity levels in Boston are an energy-draining 73%, creating a day designed to be spent indoors.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vienna's Burgtheater

Vienna’s Burgtheater, which we visited on August 5 of last year.

The Burgtheater is one of Europe’s most esteemed German-language theaters. Its resident theater company is one of the most important theater companies in the world.

The present Burgtheater, sited on the Ring, was designed by Gottfried Semper (designer of Dresden’s glorious Semperoper, to which the Burgtheater bears a distinct resemblance) and Karl Von Hasenauer. The building opened to the public in 1888.

The Burgtheater was destroyed in the final months of World War II, and rebuilt between 1953 and 1955.

The postcard below shows the Burgtheater only months after the theater’s completion.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ah, The French

In a defeated nation suffering foreign occupation and moral collapse, Frenchwomen don the latest eyewear for the camera in Jardin Du Luxembourg in May 1942, exactly twenty-three months after The Fall Of France.

Can there be a more grotesque representation of the ease with which the French adapted to German rule?


There’s something Vichy about the French.

Ivor Novello

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Munich's Propylaen

The Propylaen in Munich is a 19th-Century structure representing a pure recreation of Greek Doric architecture.

One of countless Leo Von Klenze buildings in central Munich, the Propylaen in Munich was inspired by the Propylaen of ancient Athens. The Propylaen in Munich was completed in 1862.

We visited Munich’s Propylaen on July 31 of last year.


On the afternoon of March 15, we toured the ancient site of Olympia.

Olympia was the site of the original Olympic Games, which may have been initiated as early as 776 B.C. Games continued to be held at Olympia, at four-year intervals, until the Fourth Century A.D., when Theodosius, a devout Christian, discontinued the Games. Theodosius banned the games on several grounds: the Games were deemed to be pagan rituals, no longer in keeping with standards of an advanced civilization; the games had become unduly violent; and the games were accompanied by rampant licentiousness.

Modern-day excavations of the ancient site were undertaken in 1875 and continue to the present day. One of the first archeologists to participate in the excavations at Olympia was Adolf Furtwangler, father of the great conductor.

We took a guided tour of the site, which included a visit to all the principal ruins: the Hippodrome, the Olympic Stadium, the Gymnasium, the Palestra, The Temple Of Hera, The Temple Of Zeus and various other important historic remnants. Olympia’s structures were erected over ten centuries, beginning in The Archaic Period and proceeding through The Classical and Hellenistic Periods onto The Roman Period, in the later stages of which Olympia lost its mythic status and fell into decay and ruin.

The Temple Of Hera (Hera was the wife of Zeus) is the oldest of the ruins at Olympia—and one of the oldest Doric temples in Greece. Erected circa 590 B.C., The Temple Of Hera was destroyed by earthquake in the Fourth Century A.D.

The Temple Of Hera serves a modern-day function: it is the site where the Olympic flame is lighted every four years and sent by runners bearing torches to the appointed venue.

The Temple Of Zeus was completed circa 456 B.C. and, like The Temple Of Hera, was built in the Doric style. Placed in the very center of the site, The Temple of Zeus was the largest and most elaborate temple of Olympia.

Very little evidence of the temple remains today.

Very little of anything remains at Olympia. The ancient site has been victimized by so many natural and man-made disasters over the centuries—earthquakes, fires, invasions, acts of deliberate destruction—that the Olympia of today is little more than a pile of unearthed ancient rocks.

Even the remnants of the Olympic Stadium are little more than a few unremarkable grass-covered slopes.

Our guide escorted us through the many pathways lined with stones, telling us what each pile of stones formerly represented.

Devoted Olympics fans may find a visit to Olympia to be essential, but we were not among that number. As we maintain scant interest in Olympic Games, ancient or modern, we did not find Olympia to be especially rewarding or even particularly interesting. We were happiest when our walk through the endless piles of stones had concluded.

From the ancient site, we proceeded to the nearby Archeological Museum Of Olympia, where we spent two happy hours viewing artifacts that had been unearthed during the many excavations of Olympia.

The Archeological Museum is not large—there are only twelve exhibition rooms—and we were able to visit the entire permanent collection. We found our visit to the museum to be more worthwhile than our visit to the ancient site itself.

We spent the night in the modern town of Olympia, situated down the hill from the ancient site. The town of Olympia is not large and did not appear to possess interesting features. We did not even bother to stroll the town’s streets. Instead, Josh and my brother and I swam in the hotel pool for an hour, after which we joined my parents for dinner in the hotel dining room.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Where Freedom Dwells

Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1725-1802)
Benjamin Franklin
National Portrait Gallery, Washington

Oil On Canvas
28 Inches By 22 1/2 Inches


Where liberty dwells, there is my country.

Benjamin Franklin


Tomorrow morning, Joshua and I will be off to Oklahoma, where we will spend a long Independence Day Weekend with Josh’s family.

Happy Fourth!