Tag Archives: Greece

The Most Beautiful Place on the Planet

delphiBy PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

“Lost Among the Gods: A family tempts fate on an ancient footpath near Delphi” – what an intriguing title. This story comes from Marcus Gee, via The Globe and Mail. Gee, who has been with his paper since 1991, has written extensively on foreign affairs and Asian business, and also contributes columns and articles such as this one about a Grecian holiday, which says:

It is quite simply the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The site of the Delphic sanctuary clings to the southern flanks of Parnassus. Limestone cliffs rise above it, glowing gold when the sun goes down. Below, a deep valley filled with olive trees sweeps down to the Gulf of Corinth, sparkling in the sun.

The mom and dad and three kids set out on a lovely hike, and amuse themselves by speculating on which actors should play which roles, if they were making a movie of a Greek myth. Well, we don’t want to give away the whole store, but there does come a time when the mom and dad are wondering if it would be a good idea to email somebody in North America to call the Delphi police.

The most beautiful place, according to Matthew Zaleski, a 19-year-old who has made a feature film, is in Australia, “that portion of the country located on the Gold Coast about 500 miles north of Sydney…” This article, by Cindy Leise, is really about how Zaleski got his movie project underway and accomplished. At a blog called The Line Stepper, Chris Sisson visits Boracay in the Philippines and says it is “the most beautiful place we have been to so far,” followed by an extensive description of exactly why. Mary McKinney names Grand Teton National Park – to the point where all four of her daughters married there. But really, the most beautiful place is SavuSavu in the Fiji Islands, in the eyes of Jacqui at Blooming in Japan.

Easel painter Jim Tait Lerwick, a.k.a. The Artistic Curmudgeon, believes that a place called Brugarth, which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but is in the Shetland Islands, is the one. At GlobeStompers, Jared, formerly a fashion sales executive, now travels without a deadline and thinks perhaps the Amalfi Coast, a part of Southwest Italy, could qualify for the title. And Mrs. B., at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, goes for St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.

Michael Forbes believes the most beautiful place on earth is his property near in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, located in the middle of where Donald Trump wants to build a golf course. This is a real interesting story.

Need we reiterate the opinion of Kevin Dolgin? Yes, we need. And he’s a bit sly about it, stating first only that Corsica is “the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean.” While he admits that “there may be other places that rival Corsica in terms of natural beauty,” we suspect he perhaps doubts it. And sure enough, a little while later, he comes out with the truth: “Corsica is, indeed, the most beautiful place in the world.”

Or not. There is certainly room for other opinions, right here at our handy Comment facility.

Delphi photo courtesy of Mendhak, used under this Creative Commons license

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Acropolis Museum: The House that Grudge Built

acropolis

By PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and this month in its pages, he turns the bright beams of a sharp intellect upon a brand-new museum. In Athens, Greece, there is a hill called the Acropolis, and on that hill resides a temple called the Parthenon, which is pretty much in ruins. You knew that. But – and it’s Hitchens asking this question, so pay attention –

Did you appreciate that each column of the Parthenon makes a very slight inward incline, so that if projected upward into space they would eventually steeple themselves together at a symmetrical point in the empyrean?

In his article “The Lovely Stones,” Hitchens explains how the Parthenon was originally built as a civic stimulus package, possibly with the hands-on help of Socrates himself. He traces the Parthenon’s history as a criminally abused piece of architecture, and explains why, philosophically, its conception was unlike that of any other great building, and why the new museum was, in its conception, unlike any other modern museum.

You’ve heard of the so-called Elgin Marbles. Tons of sculptured stone, more than half of the Parthenon’s original decoration, were stripped from the temple around 1800 by Lord Elgin, and removed to England. And if you thought anybody was going to just let that slide, forget it. Greece wants its national treasures back. The famous poet and juvenile delinquent Lord Byron is involved in this story, as a bitter foe of Lord Elgin. He would have loved Hitchens, who deals summarily with all “frivolous and boring objections” the British Museum puts in the way of returning the art.

The new Acropolis Museum, which incorporates nearly 13,000 square feet of glass panels, was designed by Bernard Tschumi. It is an exercise in positive thinking: copies of the missing works are on exhibit as placeholders, until such time as the originals are restored to Greece. As a public shaming tactic, this just might work.

For more on the archaeological dig that preceded the museum’s construction, we consulted The Wall Street Journal for the article “A New Way to See Ancient Athens” by Christine Pirovolakis. She quotes the head of the excavation team who says, “Almost all of the ancient homes that we found in this area contained specially designed rooms where lectures or symposiums took place.” Dig it (little archaeological joke, there) — it was what the upscale ancient Greek family had for a media room!

And what is Kevin Dolgin’s take on the Acropolis? We thought you’d never ask, but you must be 18 or older to view the answer:

Once in Athens, you shouldn’t go to the Acropolis right away. You should make your way towards it, engage in some historical foreplay before the main event.

One of our favorite pieces in Dolgin’s The Third Tower Up From the Road is “Zvouros, the Clawed Guardian of the Acropolis,” and we’ll give you a hint: Zvouros is a cat.

photo courtesy of jonmcalister , used under this Creative Commons license

In Search of Madame Bovary: Normandy, France

rouen

By PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Wanderingeducators.com is just what it sounds like, a cyberplace for peripatetic pedagogues. Okay, enough of that. The thing is, Wandering Educators founder Jessie Voights has posted an interesting article there: “Book Review: A Journey into Flaubert’s Normandy.” And what a journey it is.

The book that Voights tells us about is a visually opulent and sublimely literate travel guide focusing on Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary. In photos both contemporary and archival, it covers Rouen (pictured here), where the great French novelist was born, and nearby Croisset, where he lived for many years. The book’s author is Susannah Patton, a longtime student of French literature and political science, foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, and writer on business topics for CIO Magazine. Francophile Patton is also a part-time resident of Normandy, the district inhabited by the spirit of Flaubert.

There’s a great interview with Patton in the article, but I’m not going to spoil it for you. Except for this one part where Patton says of Flaubert:

On the one hand he closed himself off from the world to write, yet his close friendships with fellow writers sustained him at times also. His life story is full of unexpected intrigue, passion and pathos.

There’s a reason why clichés become clichés. Because they happen over and over again. The frustrated wife. The unsatisfactory husband. The attractive stranger. As Werner Erhard pointed out, everybody’s life is a soap opera. And there’s a reason why the classics are the classics. Because they’re freakin’ great, that’s why. And Madame Bovary is definitely one of them.

Did you ever notice that the name even works as an English pun, of which Flaubert himself may or may not have been conscious? Bovary. Bovine. Ovary. But isn’t that exactly what Emma, the story’s protagonist, was trying to escape? The dreary fate of a cow-like, fleshly incubator of babies?

Flaubert, incidentally, was an ambitious traveler. He liked to hike around in Corsica, and went on a long journey to Greece and the Middle East. One of his hobbies was the collecting of examples for a proposed Dictionary or Encyclopedia of Human Stupidity. He was a connoisseur of cognitive dissonance, the ability of the human mind to hold two opposite ideas at the same time.

Anyway, I read Madame Bovary not long ago, and it blew me away. In the novel, we find one of the all-time primo quotations. Here it is, from Gustave Flaubert:

Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.

photo courtesy of Rob Lee, used under this Creative Commons license