Robert Redford would never be pie

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John Mathew Smith; http://www.celebrity-photos.com [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

How I discovered Robert Redford Dessert. Finally.

 

 

Lemon-baked Tilapia with Mango Chutney

Seasoned Wild Rice Garnished with Parsley

Dinner Roll White

Tossed Greens

Ranch Italian Lemon-Poppyseed Choose One

Robert Redford Dessert

 

My eyes lingered over the last line on the menu planned for Tuesday, January 7 at the Presbyterian Village, a retirement community located about a mile from my parents’ house. My daughter and I had picked up the menus to take to my parents who were planning to order a few meals for delivery.

“Robert Redford Dessert,” I said aloud.

“What’s Robert Redford Dessert?” my daughter asked.

“I don’t know, but it sounds delicious,” I said.  “I’m guessing it’s creamy, dreamy, and sweet,” I added.

This would be a good time to issue a disclaimer:

If you were born after, say 1990, you probably don’t know who Robert Redford is. Poor you. Redford is an actor and director with classic good looks, more than seventy movies to his name, and classic good looks. That’s all you need to know for now.

My daughter laughed because she fully appreciates my full appreciation for Robert Redford. I’ve made sure of that.

If there’s one thing we must teach our children it is this: Robert Redford.

True, thanks to her father she also appreciates Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, and The Dead Milkmen, but thanks to me, Robert Redford holds a special place in her heart — and on the menu of the Presbyterian Village.

Still, I wondered, how do I — of all people — not know what Robert Redford Dessert is? I suddenly doubted my self-worth. I swerved into my parents’ driveway. I pictured myself perusing the meal options with my parents before googling “Robert Redford Dessert” once we got inside.

We got inside.

I thrust the menus at my mom and reached for my phone.

I googled Robert Redford Dessert. The first result: Better than Robert Redford Dessert.

I scoffed. Better than Robert Redford Dessert?

Who do these people think they are?  

Don’t they know that Robert Redford cannot be improved upon? Obviously, these lost souls have drifted far and I’ll have nothing to do with them. I scrolled down the page.

The next result: Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert.

I scoffed again, but not as much.  After all, at least these wayward souls acknowledge that their dessert — whatever that is — isn’t as good as the actual Robert Redford Dessert — whatever it is. I continued to scroll.

The next result: Robert Redford Dessert (My Way).

Okay, I can get behind that one, I thought. But I still want to find the original recipe and by original recipe, I’m not talking about this guy:

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Oil painting by: Norman Rockwell (Public Domain)

Nope. I’m talking about this guy:

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Pastel portrait by: Robert Pérez Palou [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D

I kept scrolling. The next result: another ill-fated Next-Best-Thing-to-Robert Redford recipe. But this one was a PIE.  I laughed. Robert Redford and pie? Right. Robert Redford would never be a pie.

I paused… or would he?  Have I totally missed the mark on what Bob is all about?

What if I’ve been thinking he’s whipped topping and creamy French silk when all along he’s been pie?

Naaaahhhh. Keep scrolling, I tell myself.

The next result: another twisted Better than Robert Redford Dessert.

Away from me, Satan! I kept scrolling.

The next result: Robert Redford Dessert Recipe.

I sighed. Finally. The one true Robert Redford Dessert recipe and possible key to the universe.

I read from the Food.com website:

  • ½ c. butter, softened (of course)
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour (you had me at butter)
  • 1 c. pecans (well, this makes me skeptical, but okay)
  • 8 ozs. cream cheese, softened (yes)
  • 1 c. powdered sugar (double yes)
  • (1) 10-oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed (yes yes yes)
  • 2 c. prepared chocolate pudding (even better)
  • 2 c. prepared vanilla pudding (kind of a let-down, but whatever)
  • Chopped pecans and grated chocolate for garnish (as if he needs a garnish!)

The recipe directed to combine the first three ingredients to make a crust that bakes at 350 degrees. The rest are folded together and eventually layered into the cooled crust. The garnishes garnish. And voila! It’s Robert Redford in a pan, I thought.

Another website told me the dessert became popular in the ‘70s when Redford’s career was in full throttle. Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. At potlucks, women could prepare the popular dessert and tell everyone they were bringing Robert Redford.

I skimmed the ingredients again. They were dreamy. Creamy. Silky. Smooth. Suave. Rugged. Weathered. Sophisticated. Creative. Classic. Yep, that’s Robert Redford Dessert.

All these years and I never knew such a decadent dish existed.

I returned to the kitchen table where my parents were making their meal selections. Neither of them mentioned anything about the Robert Redford Dessert.

I found that curious because when I was about eleven, they obviously understood the importance of teaching the next generation about Robert Redford. After all, they took me with them to the theater to see All the President’s Men, starring you-know-who along with Dustin Hoffman.

I sat down with my parents at the kitchen table. I leaned forward where the menus were arranged. One for my dad. One for my mom.

A feeling of gratitude washed over me.

“Thank you for taking me to see All the President’s Men,” I told them.

My mother looked up from the menus. “What are you talking about?”

“Thank you for taking me to see All the President’s Men. Thank you for teaching me about Robert Redford.”

She wrinkled her brow. “Okayyyyy,” she said, dragging out the second syllable.

I prompted her. “The dessert. Did you see the dessert? Robert Redford Dessert? On Tuesday. The eighth? I appreciate him. And now Katherine appreciates him. You did your part. And now I’ve done mine. Y’know, teaching the next generation?”

Her eyes locked on mine a little too long… and then she turned to my dad, who was checking off their selections for the next week.

“Just circle the pork chop entrée for me,” she said quietly.

I dropped off their menus at the Presbyterian Village later that afternoon.

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Some things improve with age. Photo: Sundance Catalog

It’s true. I had never heard of  Robert Redford Dessert until a few weeks ago. For being his biggest fan, I found that shocking and just had to tell you about it. Have you ever heard of Robert Redford Dessert? Do tell. Or click here to read about another celebrity experience.

 

 

 

Timing is everything: Fort Scott National Historic Site

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The dark buildings straight down this path include retail shops, restaurants, and a senior services center. During the fort’s early years as a frontier outpost, the view down this path would have included only empty open prairie.

Photos and fun facts from Fort Scott National Historic Site

Over the Christmas holidays, my daughter and I visited my hometown, Fort Scott, Kansas (pop. 8,000) in the southeast corner of the state. While there, we decided to visit what locals call “the fort” —  Fort Scott National Historic Site.

During my growing up years, I toured the fort numerous times, and my daughter had taken the tour when she was little. Even so, we were both up for a refresher tour of the fort that, in 1853, was closed by the time it was truly needed about ten years later.

According to American Heritage, “…the fort was a very peaceful place in its first years, sending escorts on occasional excursions West and troops to the Mexican War but seeing no action whatever nearby. In 1853 so little was happening that the fort was abandoned, its buildings sold. More bad luck: This happened just in time for Bleeding Kansas, the civil war that preceded the Civil War, when a fort here was truly needed.”

Yes, timing is everything.

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The hospital building at right contains the visitors’ entrance and gift shop on the lower floor. The upper floor contains medical exhibits, including a sick ward, and a multi-media theater.

We visited the fort on Thursday, January 2, and it was obviously a slow day for tours. We arrived at the entrance at 1 p.m. Park Ranger Laura Abbott was gearing up to conduct a tour that would begin in about five minutes, so we decided to wait a few minutes and then take a tour that she told us would last about one hour.

Since no one else was waiting in the visitors’ center, we enjoyed a private tour with Abbott. It was nice to be able to take our time and experience a more personalized tour than we would have experienced in the busy season. Plus, I was able to ask lots of questions and re-learn lots of forgotten facts, such as…

  • Fort Scott was established in 1842 and was one of a line of nine forts from Minnesota to Louisiana that promised a “permanent Indian frontier.”
  • Fort Scott was named for U.S. Army Gen. Winfield Scott.
  • Infantry and dragoons from Fort Scott left the fort to fight in the Mexican-American War from 1846-48.
  • The fort was abandoned in 1853 as the idea of Manifest Destiny took hold, causing the promise of a “permanent Indian frontier” to die.
  • Fort Scott served as a major supply depot for the Union armies and a hospital 
  • Fort Scott also served as a refuge for people fleeing the war, such as displaced Indians, escaped slaves and white farmers.
  • Kansas entered the Union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861.
  • The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry was sworn in at Fort Scott. “This was one of the first African American regiments to engage Confederates in combat,” according to the National Park Service’s Fort Scott brochure.
  • The fort became a national historic site in 1978 after decades of random use and misuse, and the kind of neglect that just happens with old, always-been-there structures. 

These photos follow the route we took through the seventeen-acre historic site. The last building we toured was the Western Hotel, located just north of the large, square hospital, contains new interactive displays with video interviews with historical characters. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see two of those videos.

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This gift shop and book store is located inside the Visitors Center, which is located on the first floor of the hospital building. The hospital is shown in the top photo. Free tours start here.
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When we began our tour, the skies were bright with clouds and sun. Officers’ Quarters No. 1 and No. 2 are shown in the distance. Dragoon Stables are on the left. The Gunpowder Magazine stands at center left.

 

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After its initial closure in 1853, the fort’s Infantry Barracks became the pro-slavery Western Hotel in 1855. The building in the distance on the right was the anti-slavery Fort Scott “Free State” Hotel. The fort would become caught up in the controversy over whether Kansas would become a free or slave state during the Bleeding Kansas years before the war. 

Let’s start the photo tour…

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The Guardhouse, located right next to the Visitor Entrance, was where soldiers were stationed to receive arriving visitors, who could even sleep overnight on wooden shelving. The stone house was also used to discipline criminals in cells such as this one. 
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Ranger Laura Abbott shows us the Dragoon Stables…

Did you know that the colors of horses were used to identify army regiments?

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…and the Dragoon Barracks’ mess hall…
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…with its kitchen…
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…and the sleeping dorms upstairs. Enlisted men slept in the bunks, while non-commissioned officers slept in the narrow gray cot along the wall near the fireplace.
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Four enlisted soldiers shared each bunk bed. Yes, two men slept on each mattress. The beds were labelled with their names, which I’ve circled on the photo above. 

Did you know four men shared one bunk bed in the sleeping dorm?

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The laundresses worked and stayed in this room down from the mess hall. These quarters contained a bed on the opposite wall (not shown). 
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Park Ranger Laura Abbott leads the way to Officers Row.
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Inside the residence of Captain Thomas Sword, family and guests were entertained in these second floor rooms. The building contained three floors.
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The parlor at Captain Sword’s residence on Officers Row.
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On the third floor, the Sword’s clothing is laid out.
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The Sword Family enjoyed a large front porch view of the entire fort grounds.
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The Quartermaster’s Storehouse contains food and other basic supplies on three levels, including a totally dry stone basement.
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The Quartermaster Storehouse kept basic food supplies.
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The marks of a diligent craftsmen’s hewing marks still show themselves today in the storehouse.
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Audio narrations are available when you dial the number shown on cards at many points across the grounds. 
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Inside the Bake House, large ovens provided bread on a daily basis.

Did you know the army didn’t issue bread recipes until the late 1800s and that men were not allowed to eat fresh bread? Stale bread was thought to be better for digestion, according to a placard in the Bake House.

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Wooden spatulas needed to be long enough to extend through the entire ovens to pull out the bread.
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A tallgrass prairie trail shows what the area surrounding the fort would have looked like.
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Near the tallgrass prairie trail, you’ll see several tidy stone structures used to house carriages and other vehicles.

 

 

 

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Howitzer and artillery cannons stand quietly in the Post Headquarters.

Did you know that a howitzer was carried in three pieces by donkeys? It could be reassembled and fired within one minute, according to a placard inside the Post Headquarters.

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Artillery notes and inventories decorate the wall in the Post Headquarters.
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The backdoor and transom windows of the Post Headquarters make a nice picture, I think.
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The backside of Officers Row looks nearly identical to the front side.
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A perimeter walking trail borders the northern edge of the grounds. The banks of the Marmaton River are just a short distance further north of this trail. The river formed a protective boundary for the fort, eliminating the need for walls on Fort Scott, Abbott said.
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This structure is not identified on the park’s brochure and I didn’t ask the ranger, but if memory serves me right, it is a replica of the original well house.
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The ammunition magazine, a round brick building isolated in the middle of the fort, stored gunpowder. Notice the lightning rod (circled in red) placed precisely to keep lightning away from the explosives inside the structure…
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…like these.
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The upper floor of the hospital building, shown here, houses a sick ward and medical equipment and supplies. 

Did you know that many soldiers left the hospital in worse shape than when they entered, due to ignorance about sterilization?

According to a placard in the Fort Hospital, “In threading the needle for stitches, it was customary to point the silk by wetting it with saliva and rolling it between the fingers.”

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Abbott invited us to visit in early December to attend an annual candlelight Christmas tour of the fort.

Inside the Infantry Barracks, new displays and exhibits bring tourists back to the past when these areas composed Bleeding Kansas, a region torn between Union and Confederate causes and beliefs.

Interviews with a variety of area residents speak directly to you in these video displays inside the Infantry Barracks. Here are two previews of the video exhibits.

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New displays and interactive exhibits keep visitors involved and learning.
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Believe it or not, these bricks cause controversy in my hometown. Many people don’t like to drive on the rough, loud, and bumpy brick-paved streets.
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Fort Scott National Historic Sites owes its existence to Congressman Joe Skubitz, who served the local constituency from 1963-1969, and saw to it that this area be turned back into a historical tour destination.
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Park Ranger Laura Abbott wraps up our tour near the Bake House. Before moving to Fort Scott, she worked as a Park Ranger on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

 

Stop in at Fort Scott National Historic Site the next time you’re in southeast Kansas. Thousands of people cruise right by Fort Scott on U.S. Highway 69, which bypasses the town, as they make their way north to Kansas City (about an hour and a half away) or to points south. Plan out your itinerary to take a tour or just walk across the grounds; it would make a nice break on your journey. After all, timing is everything.


Thanks for reading! Touring the fort took about an hour and a half and was a great way to spend part of an afternoon. Also, it reminded me how fortunate Fort Scott, Kansas is to have this important historic site preserved and honored here. 

Don’t forget to tour the destinations near your home. Here’s a recent post about another local getaway.

 

A good carry-on for Volotea Airlines’ baggage policy

This bag is sized right and counts as one of your two free carry-ons

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Last spring, I bought this little bag specifically because I knew it would qualify as a carry-on for an upcoming flight I would be taking on Volotea Airlines.

Later in June and July, we traveled on Volotea for one round-trip from (Skiathos, Greece to Venice) and a one-way trip from Athens to Heraklion, Crete.

Volotea requires the following measurements for the two carry-on bags each passenger is allowed. According to this page on their website, carry-on bags must be no larger than 55 cm high (21.65″), 40 cm wide (15.75″), and 20 cm deep (7.9″).  Also, each bag cannot weigh more than ten kg (22 lbs.).

In case you’re unfamiliar with Volotea Airlines (as I was a year ago), it’s a regional carrier based in Barcelona that connects eighty small- and medium-sized cities in Europe from thirteen hubs. For a listing of the cities Volotea serves, click here.

Volotea is a low-cost carrier; your ticket gets you to your destination. Period.

Extras—and there are plenty, wink-wink—add to your ticket price.

For example, make sure you get the right bag. If you attempt to check in with an over-sized bag, it will be placed in the hold and cost you 60€ (approx. $67) PER BAG. Ouch.

I plan to write another post about other ways to keep your Volotea ticket price low, so follow this blog to get that post.

This little bag worked perfectly for me. It’s made by OlympiaUSA, and is called the Nema 18″ Under the Seat Carry-on. It measures 18″ high, 12″ wide, and 8″ deep. Clearly, it has plenty of room to spare. Last summer, this particular bag, which I bought at a local TJMaxx store for $50 (suggested retail $200), easily fit into the overhead bins on Volotea’s aircraft, which includes Boeing 717s and Airbus A319s. This bag gave me the option of placing it in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me.

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A bag like this one worked perfectly for me then and now. I continue to carry it on short weekend trips, for example, when a canvas tote or small duffel would work as well. It’s so easy to pack and roll around.

Its hard sides provide better protection to your belongings, and allows, in my opinion, for better, more efficient packing. Soft-side luggage just doesn’t travel as well.

Yes, you’re able to jam-pack lots of stuff inside, but it becomes just that… a jam-packed, lumped together mass of clothing, toiletries, souvenirs, and whatnot.

Here’s an inside view of the bag below. There’s a plastic bag with zipper for wet articles or things that need to be kept separate. It’s amazing how much stuff I jammed into this little case. I took it, along with my purse, on a five-day excursion to Venice and it held more than I actually needed.

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Other benefits to this bag:

  • It’s light, weighing only 5.7 pounds.
  • It’s sturdy.
  • It is deceptively roomy.
  • The handle is aluminum and always felt sturdy and strong.
  • The wheels roll smoothly.  The only time I didn’t roll this bag was when I needed to carry it over a gap in the walkway or over cobblestones.
  • It contains a TSA-enabled three-dial lock. You can lock it, but TSA personnel can still open it for an inspection. But honestly, I never locked it. I took this bag so I wouldn’t have to check it for storage under the plane; as such, I was present whenever the bag was looked through.

 

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Look for the Olympia label if you want to find this exact suitcase; however, there are many manufacturers that make this size and similar others now.

I plan to use this bag—and only this bag—on my next overseas trip. Yes, that might be a challenge, but based on my experience, I think I can do it. After all, it’s roomy enough, yet small enough, to take on any airline… even other regional carriers similar to Volotea. It will also save so much time and hassle at baggage claim.

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And just think, because I won’t have to check any bags, lost luggage will be an impossibility! Won’t that be great?!


Thanks for reading! Follow  my blog for another post about how to keep your Volotea Airlines ticket prices low. The company is a stickler for printed boarding passes.  Here’s are some links about my trip to Venice and also Heraklion.

 

La Petite Gemme Prairie: like none other in Missouri

A short afternoon outing west of Bolivar, Missouri

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Today after lunch, my husband, daughter, son and I ventured out to La Petite Gemme Prairie just a mile or so west of Bolivar. My son told me recently about this nature preserve, but we hadn’t taken time to go see it until today. We decided to take a short jaunt out to see what we could.

And honestly, this is likely NOT the prime time of year to see this sight.

It takes a keen eye, an ability to notice subtle colors and textures, and an open mind as to what exactly constitutes beauty.

Must a landscape always contain exotic foliage, flaming sunsets, and towering mountains to be considered beautiful? Can the somber, drab colors of deep December reveal their own beauty?

I’ll let you decide as you peruse the shots I took as we walked the 37-acre preserve.

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There’s a gravel parking lot sized for about four vehicles just in front of this sign. We parked here and then took out walking.
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Unspoiled prairie land…

For more background on the preserve, here are some details from the yellow informational sign that appears near the end of this post:

“The 37-acre area was purchased by the non-profit Missouri Prairie Foundation in 1977. It is owned by the MPF, and co-managed by the MPF and the Missouri Department of Conservation. A botanically diverse and scenic upland prairie on soils derived from shale and limestone, La Petite Gemme is a beautiful spot in which to relax and wander. The name is French for “the little gem” and recognizes the French influence on Missouri as well as the gemlike quality of the prairie wildflowers.”

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First, you walk up this mowed path to the top of the hill.
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The curly lines of these silver-hued leaves caught my eye.
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Francie, our Jack Russell-Rat Terrier, burned off some energy this afternoon.
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The dark dots positioned against the golden vertical lines of the grasses is a nice contrast.
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The color of these delicate leaves!

Here’s an impressive list of flowers and creatures that make this preserve their home. All of these are listed on the yellow sign that appears at the bottom of this post.

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Here is the view of the countryside further west of Bolivar.
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Once you’re at the top of the hill, the mowed path takes you back down to the other side.
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These unspoiled prairie grasses grow off to the side of the path.
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I love these roller coaster blades of grass that careen over, under, and around the tufts of native grasses.
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Wild rosehips dot the walking trail.
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This nest appears to have been built in the middle of the path. Either it blew onto the path from a breeze, or this place sees little traffic this time of year. Either explanation sounds reasonable.
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My daughter noticed this deer trail veering off from the walking path.
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At the bottom of the hill, you’ll meet an asphalt path that travels north and south. It’s the Frisco Highline Trail, a “national recreation trail that connects Bolivar and Springfield, Missouri,” according to an informational sign along the trail. The trail is 35 miles long and follows the former Springfield and Northern Railroad tracks. The trail is managed by Ozark Greenways, a non-profit organization working to preserve and enhance the Ozarks’ natural heritage. Open from sunrise to sunset, no motor vehicles are allowed on the trail. 
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Ahhh, siblings!
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Here’s a trail marker along the asphalt trail heading north. 
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These signs can be read as you approach the prairie from the north. Some close-up shots of the signs are below.
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Signs provide information about the flora and fauna… 
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…of the native prairie.
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I took this one final view after taking our walk through Le Petite Gemme Prairie.

Thanks for reading! It was a mild 65 degrees F when we started out for the prairie, but as we walked, the temperature cooled, the wind picked up, and as we loaded into the car, a misty rain settled in. Back home now, I can still hear the rain gently falling outside. 

 

 

 

 

It’s lonely at the top: Lady Justice in Bolivar, Missouri

From a distance, she looks pretty good.  But there’s more to her story.

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I took this photo last fall of the Polk County Courthouse in downtown Bolivar, Missouri. I’ve always thought the statue of Lady justice on top appeared unusually large. In fact, she is about thirteen feet tall (six feet shorter than the Statue of Freedom that tops the U.S. Capitol) and was placed on the building when it opened in 1907, according to the Bolivar Herald Free-Press. The statue is hollow and is supported by an 8-inch by 8-inch oak beam.

From a distance, she looks pretty good.  But there’s more to her story.

In her earlier years, Lady Justice held a sword that was 5-1/2 feet long in her right hand. In her left hand were the scales of justice. Unfortunately, time and the elements have removed both.

In 2001, someone found the sword  on the courthouse lawn; strong storms and winds had pulled it down. It had likely been weakened by a crack in one seam on the handle, according to this article. There are no plans to replace either the sword or the scales, since they are difficult to attach and maintain.

There are also no plans to fix other damages—such as bullet holes— to the statue. Long ago, pigeons perched on and around the statue and some locals decided to keep the birds in check. As a result, Lady Justice is riddled with holes, including one on a big toe that’s since been repaired, and another hole right between her eyes, a commissioner said.

So there Lady Justice stands… empty-handed, full of holes, and obscured by her great height. Yes, it’s lonely at the top.


Thanks for reading! You can travel around the world or you can travel in your own backyard. It’s how you look at what’s around you. Click “like” and become a follower for more travel stories. 

Your Acropolis Ticket is A Ticket to History

Athens’ Acropolis attracts a global audience hungry for history

When you visit The Acropolis during the summer months, expect crowds. In fact, The Acropolis hosts more than 2.5 million visitors from January through October. However, despite those crowds, expect to enjoy quiet moments for gazing at and studying the historic wonders that exist there.

Yes, you will observe the construction work site that is the Acropolis,…

That’s me striding off to the right. Notice the crane and scaffolding around the Parthenon. This is a giant construction zone.

…but you will also observe a global audience entranced by ancient history. Whether they arrive alone, with a spouse or friend, their family, or an entire tour group, nearly everyone here is a history fan. Yes, perhaps the itinerary stop is one they can’t opt out of; however, once on the hallowed site, I would dare to say their reticence evaporates.

Even if you don’t know much about Greek history and ancient architecture, there are many detailed signs at The Acropolis with illustrations and diagrams to inform you about what you’re seeing.

For your €20 ticket, you can walk the grounds considered holy by the ancient Athenians.

My husband and I were enthralled with the Erechtheion and it’s caryatids, the columns in the forms of female figures.

When my husband and I visited The Acropolis in late May, it was crowded, but I supposed it could have been busier. We approached The Acropolis from the Plaka neighborhood to the south, taking some back streets that slowly ascended as we neared the hilltop.

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The Plaka

Small restaurants, tavernas, and boutiques lined the terraced, tree-covered lanes and stone and marble-paved thoroughfares of the Plaka neighborhood.

 

Once we reached the Acropolis entrance gates, we blended into the line that was forming and seemed to be made up mostly of tour groups. The tour group line eventually veered from our path, since their ticketing arrangements had already been prepared. We, however, remained in the line and inched our way toward the ticket booth.

I looked around at the international variety of people. A party of four ahead of us in line consisted of a husband and wife, their small child, plus one other man.

The husband asked whether a student discount was available off the 20 Euro ticket price. The ticket clerk indicated that yes, he would receive a discount if he provided a college identification card.

“Mine is from a college in England and my friend goes to school in Chile,” the husband said.

“That’s fine,” the clerk replied in his Greek-inflected English. The two men showed their student cards, received tickets for the entire group and sped along.

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 The sounds of clinking tableware on china and the low rumble of conversation fill the streets of The Plaka on a warm June evening in Athens.

We quickly purchased our two adult tickets and entered the gate.

Those who entered with us included families, empty-nesters, retirees, young solo travelers, teenagers. The mix of languages babbled across the grounds: Greek, German, English, French, Chinese, Italian, and others I couldn’t identify.

In the roaming clusters of people navigating their steps over the marble walkways and ledges, I spotted a young man wearing a Texas Christian University t-shirt, a woman in a billowy sundress covered in a pattern of crimson roses and greenery.

I noticed a child in a black tank with a metallic gold Nike logo. I smiled at the irony: here we were, at the palace where Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, once held Nike in her hand.

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Over the course of the day, thousands of sight-seers inched up the ancient ramp of The Propylaea, the renowned entry to the very top of The Acropolis and its Parthenon, Erectheion and the Temple Athena Nike.

Once they reached the top, it was gratifying to see that all those travelers were not expecting to see a performance, ride a roller coaster or experience any other type of attraction. Those travelers had journeyed from across the globe to simply experience history.


Thanks for reading! It’s nice to know people appreciate history enough to take the time to see this incredible site. Follow my blog for more travel stories from Greece, including Skopelos and Crete, as well as Italy, including Venice and other locales.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa: The travel is in the details

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Photo: Falco on Pixabay

A haircut, Iron Brew, and biltong in Port Elizabeth

It was raining still. Watery pellets pounded the windshield of our rental Volkswagen minivan as Pieter, our tour guide and professional hunter, searched the streets of Port Elizabeth for a barber shop.

“I need a haircut,” he had told us that morning when we left our lodge in Storms River. He rubbed his stubby fingers across his already short crew. “Yes, I need a haircut.”

After driving for an hour and a half, we had arrived in Port Elizabeth, a city of 312, 000 smack in the center of the South African coast. Back then in 2012, using GPS on a cellphone wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, and driving up and down the streets of Port Elizabeth’s central business district was the more efficient way, apparently, of locating a barber.

Pieter peered left then right from the driver’s seat, pivoting his huge hunched shoulders back and forth. “I know there’s one here somewhere,” he muttered, careening around another corner. With each turn, my right knee pressed painfully again a white-and-blue striped plastic cooler wedged between the driver’s and front passenger seats. An empty can of Iron Brew soda rolled behind my ankle and into the well alongside the van’s sliding door.

“There she is,” Pieter purred seductively. “At last.” He pulled up to a dimly lit blonde-brick salon. A simple white sign hung squarely above the front door. A black curvy font in capital letters read: The Hairline. “At last we meet,” he shouted. The sudden burst of energy shocked my mother- and father-in-law, husband, daughter, son, and me to attention. It had been a long morning of driving in the mists of a typical South African winter, and we needed to get out.

An establishment called The Hairline was sure to offer a basic haircut, Pieter assured us, as he tossed my father-in-law the keys to the van. “Back in thirty minutes,” he called.

Through the foggy windows of the van, my husband noticed a drugstore five doors down.

“They’ll have a Sudafed equivalent, don’t ya’ think?” my daughter asked. There was only one way to find out, so we left my in-laws behind and ventured into the icy, blowing mist.

After purchasing our “Sudafed,” we lingered in the drugstore to peruse the variety of non-drug products: sunglasses, Cadbury chocolate, umbrellas, magazines, souvenir key chains, magnets. We analyzed a minuscule selection of locally-made biltong, a jerky-like snack, arranged in a red wicker basket on the cashier’s counter. The biltong seemed as out of place in a pharmacy as I felt on the side streets of a South African industrial port city, I thought.

I checked my watch. “It’s been thirty minutes,” I said, motioning that it was time to head for the van. Sure enough, Pieter and about three thousand very short hairs were waiting on us.

That was the last time I would see Port Elizabeth, perched along the very southern edge of the African continent. It was not an eventful visit, but it was memorable. After all, we should not underestimate the power of details, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

I’m sure many will scoff at our scant, all-too-brief encounter with the city now known as Nelson Mandela City. To be sure, there are many deserving and fascinating sights to see there.

As we left the city in the dim, rainy morning of middle June, I watched the ships, barges, and freighters skim over the whitecaps of the distant bay. The vessels resembled tiny dashes and dots. A bright white Morse Code against the waves, the vessels sailed steadily to their next destination.


This post was originally published last spring on Medium.com. Somehow, I never cross-posted it to this blog. Our trip to South Africa happened in 2012; it’s just now that I’m documenting some of our memories—both the memorable and the more forgettable ones—on my blog. Check out my South Africa category for more stories from this trip.

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice: A Walking Tour

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It was a warm, sunny day when we visited the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, the square that anchors  the Jewish Ghetto in Venice’s Cannaregio in the northwest part of the city.

Five facts and photos from our brief visit to this less traveled Venetian sight

In June, my daughter and I took an afternoon in Venice to see the Jewish Ghetto located in the Cannaregio sestiere, in the north of the city. Two years earlier, on a previous week-long trip to Venice, I had wanted to see the ghetto, but ran out of time. Therefore, in June, it was still on my return trip bucket list.

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My daughter and I on our way to Cannaregio to take a walk through the Jewish Ghetto.

Honestly, we didn’t plan this little jaunt well. We just took off for Cannaregio shortly after lunch on the last day of my visit. (She had the day off from her two-month internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the Biennale del Arte and wouldn’t be leaving for another month.)

So while I wish I had taken a guided tour offered by the Jewish Museum of Venice and was able to tell you more about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto—the first of its kind in the world—I’m still grateful that we spent the hour or so there.

Even so, with the recent flooding in Venice, the ghetto has suffered. Fortunately, the synagogues are located on top or upper floors. According to this article in The Jerusalem Post, a storage facility and kosher restaurant were damaged. 

To find the ghetto, we used Google Maps, rode a vaporetto to the train station (the Ferrovia stop), and then wound our way through Cannaregio. We crossed a bridge, made a left alongside a row of shops bordering the canal, and walked right past an easy-to-overlook brick tunnel.

Following Google Maps, we turned around eventually, and wandered through that brick doorway. We followed the maze. Within a minute or two, we walked by a shop full of art prints and originals, a jewelry store, a book seller, a bakery.

It was quiet in the darkened corridors.

We heard the rumbles of the vaporetti (water buses) in the distance, layered behind the sounds of our own footsteps.

 

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This sign was posted within the front windows of an art shop down a corridor just off the the main campo of the ghetto.

After browsing through some lithographs and snapping a picture of the detailed sign above summarizing the history of the ghetto, we entered the Campiello de le Scuole, the “little square of the synagogues.” A seven-story building stood plainly before us. I have read since that this building demonstrates the tight quarters the Jewish people were contained in. Judging by the windows, these units couldn’t have contained standard 8-foot ceilings. In fact, these buildings were “the tallest buildings with the lowest-ceilinged apartments” in Venice, wrote David Laskin in this New York Times article.

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This building in the Campiello de le Scuole shows how concentrated the floors were.

We continued past this small square. Not more than one minute further into the labyrinth, we found ourselves in the main campo of the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo de Ghetto Nuovo.  In the square, a dozen people mingled and conversed quietly. A small tour group gathered at the base of the Jewish Museum of Venice.

A boy wearing a yarmulke, who looked to be about twelve years old, kicked a ball in the cool shade under a covered overhang on one of the many multi-story buildings that lined the campo. 

The afternoon was clear and sunny. And hot. It was the perfect day to tour cool and darkened museums and synagogues. But alas, we hadn’t planned well enough to do that. Perhaps on my next visit to Venice (I can’t imagine there’s not another one in my future!), I’ll plan better. In the meantime…

Here are five facts I have learned since about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto:

  1. It was established by the Doge Leonardo Loredan in 1516, according to this website. The ghetto in Venice was one of the world’s first places where people were forcibly segregated because of their religion. An observance of the 500-year anniversary of the establishment of the ghetto was held in 2016. A major art exhibition at the Doge’s Palace, special performances at the Fenice Opera House, and other events around the city were held to mark the milestone.

2. The English word “ghetto” is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, originating from the Venetian word ghèto and the Italian word ghetto, according to Chabad.org. The word “geto” in the Venetian dialect referred to a foundry, which was located nearby. Eventually, the word was used to refer to the area that contained the Jewish people.

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This is a nursing home that forms one side of the campo.

3. At its height, around 1650, the Ghetto housed 4,000 to 5,000 people in a space roughly equivalent to 2-1/2 city blocks. Later, in the years prior to World War II, about 1,300 Jews lived in the Ghetto.  During the war, 289 were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and Trieste; only seven returned.

Today, about 450-500 Jews live in Venice. A small number still live in the ghetto.

4. During the ghetto’s early years, its residents were limited as to where they could travel and work. They also had to pay for their own watchmen and security. In addition, their clothing was used to mark them: men wore yellow circles sewn to their left shoulders of their clothing; women wore yellow scarves.

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Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Venice

5.  There are five active synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto today. To see the synagogues, one must sign up for public guided tours conducted by the Jewish Museum of Venice. Tours are scheduled every half hour starting at 10:30 and ending at 17:30. Tickets are 12 Euro each. Visit this website for more information.

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The plaque below describes the above sculpture, titled The Last Train, created by sculptor and Lithuanian-Jew Arbit Blatas. The sculpture shows Jews being loaded onto cattle cars. I believe the top line on the plaque is a dedication of the sculpture by the Jewish community of Venice to those deported to concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

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A composition of seven bronze sculptures depicts the atrocities inflicted upon the Jewish people during World War II. Close-up photos of three of these sculptures and the inscription plaques at far right are below.

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The top plaque reads: “Men, women, children, masses for the gas chambers advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the executioner. Your sad Holocaust is engraved in history, And nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories, For our memories are your only grave.”  The bottom plaque reads: “The City of Venice remembers the Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps on December 5, 1943 and August 17, 1944.”
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This is the door to the Scola Levantina, a synagogue just off the main campo of the ghetto.  It was built between 1538-1561. The distinctive cupola above the door makes it stand out from others in the area.
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This is another shot of the campo taken as we left the Jewish Ghetto.

Thanks for reading! This stop during my stay in Venice last summer was followed by a warm walk back through Cannaregio. On our way back to Santa Elena, we stopped along the Zattere at a Conad Supermarket for groceries we would need later that night for dinner. Follow my blog for more stories from my trip last summer to Skopelos, the Peloponnese, Crete, and, of course, Venice.

 

Breaking into Dave’s Travel Corner

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This article was published on Dave’s Travel Corner. 

This huge travel blogging site published one of my recent articles

It’s nice to know that Dave’s Travel Corner, a leading and independent travel and lifestyle blogging platform with 500,000 followers across the major social media services, published one of the articles I wrote while in Greece in June. Actually, the post ran on Dave’s Travel Corner in July. I remember uploading it to the site’s “journals” page, a place for visitor-submitted travel stories.

The submission guidelines warn that publication may take up to a few weeks. It also warned that notification of publishing might not be sent.  Oh, well, I thought. I’ll just submit it and forget it.

Which I did. And then I “googled” myself over the weekend. About ten listings down, there it was: Dave’s Travel Corner.

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As a neophyte travel blogger, it’s nice to get more exposure for my writing. I spent quite a bit of time (three to four hours, I would guess) on this particular article.  Even though there isn’t any any compensation for pieces like this, I still appreciate seeing my writing qualifying for publication on a reputable, well-known travel site like Dave’s Travel Corner.

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This is the lead photo for the article published on Dave’s Travel Corner.

Thanks for reading! I’ve been really busy lately (I’m also a FT teacher) and it’s been especially hard to find extra time to publish posts to this blog. Hopefully, the upcoming holiday weekend will allow me a few hours to add a post about my visit to the Jewish Ghetto in Venice this past June.

The Zeus of Greek museums: Our visit to The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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Bronze sculpture of Zeus (or Poseidon) in the Severe style, 460 BC.

From golden goblets to frying pans to perfume

On our next to last day in Greece last summer, we capped off our Greek museum tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was the last museum we would see, having already visited other museums in Athens (The Acropolis Museum), Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Heraklion. You would think that we would have been “museumed out,” but actually each museum is so unique to its location that each one feels quite different from the others.

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So what sets the National Archaeological Museum in Athens apart from the others? In a word, I would say “breadth.” In fact, you will find the widest gamut of Greek artifacts and art. This museum has pieces from all those other areas we had visited across the country, in addition to hundreds (possibly thousands) more.

By the way, here’s a list with links to posts I’ve written about the other museums we visited in Greece:

For example, when we visited the Museum of Mycenae, the golden Mask of Agamemnon that was discovered in a grave circle there, was not held in that museum.

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The original Mask of Agamemnon is in Athens; a replica is in Mycenae. Photo: Wikipedia

The mask on exhibit in Mycenae is a replica,  a guard told me. The original could be found in the National Museum in Athens, he added. Upon hearing this, we made a mental note to seek out the mask when we would eventually tour the National.

Watch this video from Khan Academy for more about this mask.

When one visits a museum in Greece, you truly feel that you are in the hub of antiquity. Each museum is an art historian’s dream;  art history students will also be amazed at seeing in person so many famous works commonly found in textbooks.

This description of the National Museum can be found on the museum’s website:

“The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. The rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.”

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We saw Cycladic non-stick frying pans that date from 2800-2300 BC.
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These Cycladic frying pans really captured my interest since they resemble modern day frying pans.

Here’s a listing of the various collections within the museum:

  • prehistoric antiquities
  • sculpture
  • metalwork
  • vases and minor arts
  • Egyptian antiquities
  • Cypriot antiquities (those from the island of Cyprus).
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Ancient Greek Cauldrons
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Fragments of a fresco from Knossos Palace in Heraklion on the island of Crete. This is an image of a “figure 8 shield” covered in animal hide.
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Part of the museum’s collection of gold artifacts. These are from Mycenae’s Grave Circle A, where many tombs of the wealthy were found. The pieces are found in the shapes of cocoons (a symbol of rebirth), pomegranates (a symbol bounty), and butterflies.
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These golden goblets, known as the Vaphio Cups, are finely detailed and depict bulls.
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Egyptian artifacts proves trade between the early Greeks and Egyptians. The Greeks learn some of their quarrying techniques from the Egyptians. In addition, archaic kouros poses were borrowed from the ancient Egyptians.
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Part of a temporary exhibit, “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.”
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Vials of perfumes to sniff in the “Countless Aspects of Beauty” exhibit.
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These amphoras (pedestal vases) were awarded at Panathenaia, an important festival held in honor of Athena in Athens.
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Close-up of an amphora.
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Members of the Roman Julio Claudian Dynasty (31 BC-68AD). During this period, Greece was a Roman province.

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Renowned bronze of Zeus or Poseidon found on the Cape of Artemision, in northern Euboea near Athens.
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This Zeus, in the Severe style, also known as the Early Classical style, “marks the breakdown of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century,” according to this Wikipedia article. Works in the Severe style show a change in drapery of clothing.

 

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The Severe Style more accurately represents the human body. Also, Severe style works have an “interest in emotion and motion.” As for emotion, figures reveal a more serious character and expression.  As for motion, figures are under strain or in action, but always in motion.
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Here’s an example from the museum of an early Cycladic figure that shows the contrast of earlier artwork to later pieces of the Severe style.
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Close-up of the youth Perseus or Paris. Also of the Severe style, this is a good example of how artists commonly used bronze to produce their sculptures.

Visiting the National Museum in Athens was our final stop of our five-week Greek odyssey. We left Athens at 6 a.m. the next morning, for a short layover in Amsterdam, and then Atlanta, and then finally to our home airport in Springfield, Mo.


Thanks for reading again about our travels in Greece this past summer! Now that we’ve both started new jobs and are in the full swing of new school years, this trip seems like a lifetime ago. However, there are still posts to be written, and I’ll get to those eventually. My next one will likely be about the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which I was able to see briefly during my week-long stay there in June. 

Now that the year is beginning to wind down, I also hope to write soon about “2019… My Year of Living Changerously” and how I managed to stay buckled up and on the tracks.