topics: media, antiquities, King Philip II of Macedon, history, alphabet, Thessaloniki; jump to dispatch

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Rider Notes: March 5-6, 1998

Food of the Day: Greek salad

We have discovered two basic kinds of Greek salad. There is the rudimentary form, consisting of thickly cut tomato wedges and cucumber slices, perhaps topped with very finely chopped onion or green pepper, but always doused in olive oil. The heartier kind, also called the Greek "village" salad, definitely comes with green pepper, olives, and a slab of feta cheese.

Person of the Day: Jammin

Thanks to our recently established contact with our Internet partners in Greece, Forthnet, we were given a chance to appear on a Greek daily television program called Jammin. Intended as a show for young people, it airs live Monday through Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and includes interviews click to view a photograph, live rock bands click to view a photograph, videos, pre-taped segments and Internet activities (email read on the air, links encouraged through their home page), etc. They are broadcast throughout Greece and even have a satellite feed for Greek speakers around the world!

We were made to feel welcome by the two friendly and energetic hosts and their Internet expert click to view a photograph who interviewed us in English and then translated into Greek. Ethan, Anthony and Padraic sat on some wooden blocks and were then asked questions in a round-robin fashion. Corinne, all the while, was filming us being filmed by other people! click to view a photograph

Place of the Day: Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is most famous for the displays of the treasure taken from the grave of King Philip II of Macedon. While certainly known for his own great accomplishments in the mid 4th century BC (determined to defeat the Persians, he succeeded, as a first step, in bringing together under his rule all the Greek city-states except for Sparta), Philip II is more often mentioned in association with his much more famous and successful son, Alexander the Great. Needless to say, the contents of his grave, discovered in 1977 in a town just outside of Thessaloniki, constitute a find of enormous importance and were spectacular. We were particularly impressed by some of the metal objects, including copper pots and pans, swords and daggers, and especially this copper and leather suit of fourth century Macedonian armor. click to view a photograph

The museum was also well stocked with statuary click to view a photograph and burial artifacts click to view a photograph click to view a photograph taken from sites in and around Thessaloniki, as well as detailed descriptions and multimedia kiosks providing detailed information about the history, excavated remains, and preservation of what is called the Galerian complex. After the Roman conquest of the area in 168 BC, Thesssaloniki's strategic importance was recognized and the emperor Galerius made it the capital of the eastern half of the Roman Empire and had the Palace of Galerius built there. However, throughout history it has been repeatedly attacked and plundered (by the Goths, Slavs, Muslims, Franks, Epirots, Normans, Byzantines, and Greeks) so very little remains of its resplendent past. Nevertheless, the artifacts and displays at the museum bring to life a city that was once second only to Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire.

Tech Fact of the Day: Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet is not the same as the alphabet we know, although it is the alphabet from which ours, and all other Western alphabets, is derived! (For more on alphabets, see the Dispatch of February 4.)

The Greek alphabet is an adaptation from the Phoenician and resembled it quite closely, although the modern version has changed considerably. One of the great changes though is the direction of the writing which, after some time, became left to write instead of right to left as with modern Hebrew and Arabic. The other, and perhaps even greater, change was the choice to have vowels represented by letters.

It will be a pleasant challenge in the days ahead to learn a new alphabet and experiment with sounding out words. To give you an idea of what we are playing with, the chart below shows the Greek letters and the sounds they represent.

Upper CaseLower CaseEquivalent in English
alpha, in Greekalpha, in Greeka (as in "ah")
beta, in Greekbeta, in Greekv
gamma, in Greek gamma, in Greekg
delta, in Greek delta, in Greekd
epsilon, in Greekepsilon, in Greeke (as in "eh")
zeta, in Greek zeta, in Greekz
eta, in Greek eta, in Greeki (as in "ee")
theta, in Greektheta, in Greek th
iota, in Greekiota, in Greeki (as in "ee")
kappa, in Greekkkappa, in Greek
lambda, in Greeklambda, in Greekl
mu, in Greekmmu, in Greek
nu, in Greeknu, in Greekn
ksi, in Greekksi, in Greekx
omicron, in Greekomicron, in Greeko (as in "ah")
pi, in Greekpi, in Greekp
rho, in Greekrho, in Greekr
sigma, in Greeksigma, in Greek, sigma, in Greeks
tau, in Greekttau, in Greek
ipsilon, in Greekipsilon, in Greeki (as in "ee")
phi, in Greekphi, in Greekf
chi, in Greekchi, in Greekch (as in the ch in "Bach")
psi, in Greekpsi, in Greekps
omega, in Greekomega, in Greeko (as in "ah")

Using this information, you can spell your name. Anthony is Anthony, in Greek, Corinne is Corinne, in Greek, Ethan is Ethan, in Greek, and Padraic is Padraic, in Greek.

Group Dispatch, March 5-6
picture of Ethan

With Padraic and Corinne already having departed for Greece yesterday, Ethan and Anthony were set to follow. They knew from Padraic (who had called) that the train trip just to Alexandroupoli (where Corinne and Padraic had spent the night) had taken almost 12 hours and they were determined not to make the same mistake, even if it was cheaper, easier (for bike transport), and departed right from the downtown Sultanahmet area. So, while Corinne and Padraic continued their progress west to Thessaloniki still by train (another 6½ hours), Anthony and Ethan made the somewhat unpleasant ride out to the bus station that Padraic and Ethan had made three weeks ago. They had reserved their tickets ahead of time so all they had to do was get there early enough to bargain with the bus people about the cost of sending the bikes as baggage. Of course, the bus folk asked an outrageous fee, but settled for a more palatable price (and all of the remaining BikeAbout Turkish lire).

Starting at 10 a.m. and for the next 13½ hours, Ethan and Anthony sat on the bus, watching the landscape go by until it got too dark to see. The only mention-worthy memories they have of the long trip are: hunger until they hit the border (since they had surrendered their last Turkish currency to pay for the bikes); yet another annoying border crossing where the Greeks spent almost 30 minutes inspecting passports and required the unloading of every bag from the bus just to have it reloaded; and their first impressions of Greece from the town of Xanthi where the bus paused for a dinner break and Ethan and Anthony were faced with the bright lights and order of "Europe."

By 11:30 p.m., restless to the point of bursting, they finally unloaded in Thessaloniki. A short pedal to the Hotel Acropol reunited them with Corinne and Padraic who had only arrived a few hours earlier. Anthony and Ethan grabbed a quick bite to eat at the only thing they found open - Goody's, Greece's foremost fastfood restaurant that serves Greek food in addition to the traditional fastfood fare. It was not the best meal they have had, but it did what was required: feed them before bed.

The following day the group split up to cover some ground.

After breakfast, while Ethan stayed in and worked on dispatches and Padraic dragged a pile of dirty laundry to the cleaners, Corinne and Anthony zipped off to Forthnet to iron out the details of an Internet connection through them while BikeAbout is in Greece. We had initially made contact with Forthnet while Corinne and andrEa were in Rhodes, but it had not been possible to follow up as necessary. So, pursuing the matter with the Forthnet office in Thessaloniki brought us in contact with Mr. Yannis Sidiropoulos, Branch Office Manager, who gladly provided us with an account. While Corinne and Anthony were there, they also met with Sakis who was excited about the prospect of BikeAbout appearing on a TV show, called Jammin, for which he is the Internet expert. We set a date for later in the day at the studio.

For the remainder of the day, Corinne stayed in and caught up on dispatches and email as Ethan, Anthony and Padraic toured the city.

Thessaloniki is today the second biggest city in Greece. Once upon a time, it was the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire. Called Thessaloniki after the daughter of King Philip II (see Place of the Day), it was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. Located on the Via Egnetia, the principal route between Rome and Constantinople, Thessaloniki's strategic location - on an excellent harbor and along a principle trade route - lent to its rise in importance. The great palace and other buildings constructed by Roman Emperor Galerius cemented its role as the second city of Byzantium. Thessaloniki changed hands many times and suffered materially with each destructive wave. Finally in 1913, it, along with all of Macedonia, became Greek. After a terrible fire in 1917, the city was carefully rebuilt. Still the surviving Roman and early Christian ruins and buildings make it a city of great importance and are the basis for it having been recognized as a World Heritage site visit the World Heritage Site page.

The guys first tackled the famous Byzantine churches. From the restored 5th-century Church of Agios Dimitrios click to view a photograph (damaged after the fire in 1917 click to view a photograph), Greece's largest, to the 3rd-century Church of Agios Georgios (a round structure originally intended as a mausoleum for Galerius) click to view a photograph, to the Church of Agia Sofia (modeled after its namesake in Istanbul). click to view a photographAlong the way they also admired the 4th-century Roman agora (or marketplace) and Arch of Galerius, the latter with its intricate carvings click to view a photograph currently under restoration. click to view a photograph

By the impressive and windy waterfront promenade click to view a photograph, they paused in front of the White Tower click to view a photograph, which was not at all white. click to view a photograph A 15th-century building now used as a symbol of the city, the tower was used as a prison and the site of a bloody massacre. As a result, it became known as the Red Tower. After Greek Independence in 1829, the tower was painted white to cleanse it of its past reputation. click to view a photograph

With only an hour left before the museum would close, the guys dipped into the famous Archaeological Museum. click to view a photograph Home to the burial treasures taken from the tomb of King Philip II of Macedon click to view a photograph, it was an impressive building. Carefully prepared descriptions of the city during the time of Galerius also helped us piece together what we had seen in various places around the city. For more about the museum, see the Place of the Day.

At 4:30, the guys walked the few blocks to the ET 3 Thessaloniki television station. Right in front, with perfect timing, they met Corinne and together went inside to meet the folk from the television show. Jammin There they were met by the hosts (see our People of the Day) who brought us into their studio. click to view a photograph After about 20 minutes and an unmomentous beginning to the show (it has been airing five days a week for more than three years so everyone was pretty used to everything), Padraic, Anthony and Ethan were brought onto the set. They enjoyed a bilingual conversation and televised dissemination of information about the BikeAbout Web site. They also hung around for a little while and watched another set of interviews click to view a photograph and a Greek rock band click to view a photograph play live from the studio.

It was a balmy evening, and Ethan and Anthony's first real vision of Greece, so we all walked back. Along the way we paused at an Internet café where we were able to download some email, and at a restaurant where we gulped down a very greasy meal. We have not really had an excellent introduction to Greek cuisine but we still have high hopes!

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