Our first day in Syracuse was met with initial disappointment. The Euryalus Fortress was closed! Fortunately, there are no shortage of sights to see on our trip, and with a quick pivot we were off to the magnificent theater of Syracuse. As we entered the park and wound our way down several flights of stairs and ramps, some of our students noticed that we were going the wrong direction! “Wait, aren’t temples and theaters at the top of a hill?” After all the temples and theaters that we have seen, they are beginning to see the similarities. It is great to have some concrete evidence that the student are getting more out of our trip than gelato, pasta, and a cardio workout! While the student was correct and the temple we have come to see is located at the top of the hill, there is another sight to see first. We arrived at the bottom, turned the corner and saw a massive towering structure of natural stone stretching nearly 100ft into the air. This colossus marks the depth of an ancient quarry. It is difficult to describe the sheer extent of the excavated space. As we gazed toward the sky with bent necks, I was in awe not only of the massive volume of material removed from the earth, but also of the impressive feat of engineering. In the Ear or Dionysus, a vast cave mined by enslaved local population that bends and curves along the contours of a stream above the surface, we enjoyed the cool temperatures and a break from the sun. I could not help but notice that the shape of the entrance resembled the ear of another figure of myth. As I watched our students take advantage of the umbrageous cavern, I echoed his sage catch-phrase, “Live long, and prosper.”
Did I mention that theaters and temples are typically at the top of large hills, and we are currently at the bottom of a 100 foot gorge? “Wait, why did we go down to the bottom just to have to walk back up to the top?!” The answer is simple, and the students have become familiar with my reply…. “Everyday is a leg day in Italy!” Up, up, and up we climb to the remarkable theater. Many of the theaters we have seen are still in use today, and this one was being staged for some performance of a Greek tragedy. It is amazing to think that 2000 years ago, the very same seats were filled to the brim with spectators sharing in the same cathartic experience of the stage performance that is about to be on display later that day. Clearly, the show must always go on!
With time on our hands, we head back to Syracuse to enjoy a break from our regular schedule of events. The students were given free time to explore the world famous market in Ortygia followed by a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. I have had the pleasure of enjoying breakfast with our next young scholar almost every day. She consistently is up early and eager for the next adventure. Antonia, a delightful conversationalist and exceptional traveling companion, has been kind enough to share her experience in the market and the swim….
After breakfast we hopped on the bus to go to the Euryalus Fortress but sadly it was closed. So instead we went to a theater. In our teams; Alpha, Beta, and Gamma we had to take pictures of the theatron, the orchestra, and the paradox. Lastly, we had to find Greek inscriptions on the theaters walls. After exploring the theater we left to go walk around the market and buy stuff. The market was beautiful and full of many things from pretty beaded necklaces to yummy and delicious peaches. Once everyone had finished looking around the market it was lunchtime, followed by some swimming.
Walking up to the beach I was intimidated. Looking down from the street the first thing I saw was pretty light blue water, but then something else caught my eye. Gray and very sharp looking, I saw rocks all around the water, in the water, and blocking the way to get into the water. Wading into the water, it was ice cold and everyone fell at least twice on the slippery rocks. However, once we had been in the water a bit and got used to the temperature, we realized how beautiful the view was, and even though it was tricky to get there, it was worth the journey.
Tune in tomorrow on Odyssey 2019 for an exciting tale of volcanic eruptions, perilous heights, and the never ending showdown between the sun and bare shoulders!