Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big Blocks


This was our last day in Greece and we had plans to drive to Mycenae and on to Athens to return our car before our flight to Istanbul in the evening. We had a leisurely breakfast and set out. The drive to Mycenae was a familiar one by now, having made it several times already. Mycenae is the site of a fortified palace, one of the earliest examples of citadel architecture. Mycenean refers to the late Bronze Age, 1700-1100BC. The cyclopean walls were made of enormous blocks of rock—how in the world did they manage to cut, move, and stack them? The front gate, called Lion’s Gate has a sculpture of 2 lions facing each other. At the end of the palace is a secret staircase leading to a tunnel system of water pipes that ran through the walls. This provided water to the palace in the event of attack.

We then walked to the Treasury of Atteus, a magnificent tholos, one of the few 2 chambered tombs. It has 33 rows of stones ending in a domed top. The doorway has a 30 ft. long stone rests at the top of the door, weighing 264,000 lbs. It is unknown how they managed to hoist the rock up so high. Above the door was a triangular opening----the sides of the triangle diverted pressure to the ends of the long piece of rock, versus having rock sitting directly on the cross beam. Their engineering and architectural prowess was admirable to say the least.

It did not take us long to reach Athens and to return our car. We flew Turkish Air to Istanbul, arriving early in the evening. The Ada Istanbul is s a small hotel in the Sultanahmet district, owned by an older couple whose son lives in SF. We were given a basement room but the lack of windows was a bit claustrophobic and we requested a room on the upper level.

Ah, Turkey has no church bells but at 5am, you can hear the call to prayer broadcast by megaphones across the city. It is followed by the voices of people praying. Muslims pray 5 times a day, but the early morning one definitely wakes you up. During the day, it is a memorable sound to hear this call amid the sounds of the city.

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