Our fifth day in Greece was dedicated to the Peninsula of Halkidiki. Setting off after breakfast on what was to prove yet another very hot day, we were bound for the coast. On the way, we stopped at Aristotle’s Park, near the town of Stageira (or Stagira). Stageira is the birthplace of the great philosopher, Aristotle, a giant statue of whom dominates the park.
Aristotle, besides being one of the Fathers of Western Philosophy, is also famous for having been the teacher of Macedonia’s Favourite Son – Alexander the Great.
Nowadays, the park is a kind of scientific theme park, which, in many ways, reminded me of the Children’s Gallery in London’s Science Museum. Dotted around the lawns are exhibits and interactive instruments recalling physical phenomena described by Aristotle in his works, such as a water turbine, a sun clock, a prism, optical discs and parabolic reflectors (or, as we jokingly called them, ancient Greek mobile phones). The latter consist of two enormous concave discs placed facing each other, a great distance apart. If two people stand in front of each one, they can have a conversation even if they whisper (just like in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London) . This happens because the sound waves are reflected and transferred through the air, their energy concentrated in the centre so that the sound is amplified in the ears of those participating in the experiment.
Here, you can see some of the exhibits:
Also strategically placed all around the park, are stone plaques, inscribed with quotations from the works of the great philosopher-scientist, such as this one:
…Περί δε της αληθείας, ως ου παν το φαινόμενον αληθές…
(Translation: …concerning the truth, not every phenomenon is real…)
I wonder what Aristotle would have made of a phenomenon that is widespread today – Fake News.
Besides the interactive exhibits, the park itself, though small, is very beautiful and set in enchanting surroundings.
From Stageira, we drove along a winding road to Ouranopolis on the coast, at the start of the Athos peninsula. It is from here that the cruise boats leave for the three hour trip to Mount Athos, known as the Holy Mountain, for the many monasteries situated there. Mount Athos is an autonomous state within Greece, from which females are barred – not just women, but also female domestic animals. Since the closest women are allowed to approach the “Holy Mountain” is 500 metres, the cruise ships encircle the peninsula at exactly that distance.
I love the sea. I love being on ships. I love the salty tang of the sea breezes.
Seagulls accompanied us all the way:
And then, from the azure waters beneath us, came the dolphins. Playful, elusive, but not at all shy, they erupted from the depths every time I put down my camera, only to disappear the moment I picked it up again. But eventually, my patience paid off:
At last we reached the Holy Mountain and the various monasteries came into sight. There were large contingents of Romanian and Russian tourists on the boat – mostly middle-aged and elderly women uniformly clad in black, whom I envisaged as having saved up for years to pay for this trip. They were very excited when we passed the Russian and Romanian monasteries and sketes.
And then, it was time to head back.
For some reason, the whole round trip took at least an hour longer than it was supposed to, and when we finally returned to shore, Spartacus the driver was fuming. His anger was compounded by the fact that some of the group brought ice creams onto the bus. In truth, he had reason to be annoyed. Working hours of bus drivers are strictly regulated in the EU and his working day was extended by at least an hour and a half. He threatened to call the head office of the bus company and have them send another driver the following day. Someone remarked (sotto voce) that they hoped they would also send another bus, one with proper, working air conditioning.
However, he must have cooled off, because the following morning, he was there, outside the hotel, as if nothing had happened.
TO BE CONTINUED…..