Monday, September 22, 2014

Delphi Greece

Karla had a classics professor at Washington University in St. Louis (Dr. Susan Rotroff) who does most of her work in the Ancient Agora in Athens. We asked for a recommendation of archaeological sites to visit in Greece, and besides the obvious sites in Athens, she suggested Delphi and Mycenae as her favorite archaeological sites throughout Greece. As I mentioned before, we spent three months in Greece without a car. We decided to rent a car from the Athens airport for a three day trip to Delphi and Mycenae (and ended up taking a side trip to the town of Napflio).  It was nice for me to rent a car and have the freedom to take a drive. I appreciated getting to see the countryside and exploring a bit more of Greece.  The traffic was heavy around Athens, but I found the drivers to mostly be logical and the driving conditions were not bad compared to other countries that I have traveled in such as Jordan or the Dominican Republic.

Driving through the countryside, we observed many small solar panel installations.  I was surprised to see these disbursed across the landscape as they were not near any particular use of the energy. I wonder if these solar panel sites are set up similar to disbursed agriculture where the land owner decided to install solar panel to produce energy to sell to Athens.

Delphi is a great mountainous site that overlooks an agricultural valley. You can see all the way down to the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea as well. Visiting this site, made me realize how much I appreciate and miss the mountains.

The Archaeological Site of Delphi is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site that was listed on the World Heritage registry in 1987. The description of the site states that this is a PanHellenic sanctuary with international fame. 

Its remnants represent some of the foremost events of art and architecture. The sanctuary, which combines in a unique manner the natural and historical environment, is related to numerous, key events of Greek history that have an impact on the progress of civilization. Quoted from the UNESCO plaque at the site.

This site has been used since the Mycenaean period starting around 1600 BC. The frequency of artifacts increased in the 8th century BC showing an increase in activity on this site and it was considered the navel of Gaia.

The Theater at Delphi is an ancient structure whose first form is not known and thought to have been made of wooden seats.  The first stone built theater at this site was constructed in the 4th century BC which could seat 5,000 people. It went through many periods of abandonment and rebuilding. The Romans restored the theater in 160 BC and the modern theater was restored using stones from Mount Parnassus. On May 1927, this theater was used during the Delphic Festival for a performance of an ancient Greek tragedy.  This was the first time in Modern Greek history that a theater was reused.

The Temple of Apollo was the site where the Oracle of Delphi once stayed. One hypothesis is that ethylene gas was emitted at a vent in this location which caused the oracle to have violent trances.

The Treasury of Athens was a built to hold the offerings to Apollo in recognition of the advice given by the oracle for the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

The Stadium was built in the 5th century BC and could seat 6,500 people. This is the upper most main archaeological site at Delphi. There was an insect outbreak going on in the pine trees when we visited which can be seen by the brown color to the foliage around the stadium.

The Temple of Athena is located downhill (and below the modern road) from the main set of structures associated with Delphi.

I found it interesting that they had plumbed major water sprinklers around the site which I assume was for fire protection in this Mediterranean climate.

In AD 1893 the French Archaeological School located and conducted the first modern excavations of the archaeological site of Delphi.  In the Middle Ages the town of Kastri was built on the archaeological site. After excavation on the site started, the town was relocated to the west.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum is a great modern museum that was remodeled in AD 1999. It houses the Sphinx of the Naxians which used to stand below the Apollo Temple Terrace and was discovered in AD 1861 and dates to about 570 BC – 560 BC.

We stayed at the Pithos Rooms (which was highly ranked on Trip Adviser) in the city of Delphi. The hosts were extremely friendly and helpful.

We could see snow-capped mountains from our third floor balcony. This area is known for its winter sports as well as its archaeological site.

We got a recommendation for a local playground from the owners of the Pithos Rooms that was a short walk outside of town away from the archaeological site. On our walk we found an open field with bee boxes which was nice to see.

The Delphi Archaeological Site was one of the most amazing archeological sites that I have been to and a large part of that was its great natural setting on the mountain slope overlooking the agricultural valley with distant views to the Gulf of Corinth and the surrounding snow-covered mountains. The depth of history that has occurred at this site also leaves one in awe. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sustainability in Italy

Italy has a number of bike sharing programs. I found a lot of useful information about this program at the MetroBike LLC. Blog (

The second largest bike-sharing program in Italy started today. [TO]Bike of Turin began opening the stations to its 1,200-bicycle and 116 station service. It will be completed and fully operational by the end of the summer. [TO]Bike will be second in size to Milan's very successful and expanding 1,400-bicycle BikeMi system. [TO]Bike is part of the Bicincittà, which has bike-sharing programs throughout Italy and Switzerland. In Turin, the annual subscription to the system is very reasonable at €20 ($24 USD). There is a weekly pass at €5 ($6 USD) and a daily at €2 ($2.40 USD). As with most bike-sharing systems, the first 1/2 hour of usage is at no charge and then each 1/2 hour thereafter escalates in price. Posted by Russell Meddin June 6, 2010

Castle Square in Turin has some nice artwork including a bicycle on a street post, with two small playful figures frolicking nearby (can you find them). Interestingly, I have not been able to find the name of the artist that installed this sculpture or the name of the artwork. Also the Royal Theater has an interesting metal sculpture that makes up part of the entrance wall to the theater.


I flew in to Milan and at the baggage claim, they had a display board showing the variety of public transportation options including a car share program. I was very impressed with the public transportation options.

Flying out of Venice, I found a bill board at the main entrance that showed the amount of clean energy produced at the Marco Polo Airport. I assume that this is from solar energy, but the billboard does not say how the energy was generated.

Dr. Daniele Castignari took me on a tour of the Dolomite Mountains in the Eastern Italian Alps.  We visited Cortina D’Ampezzo which is the seat of the Regole d’Ampezzo which are the Rules of the Ampezzo people which are a functioning collective land ownership that was established in AD 1225. The heads of the families gather on a regular basis to make decisions about the forests and pastures and individual parcels cannot be sold off. They are passed down from one generation to the next and if there are no heirs, the land goes back to the community. This location is 175 km (which is just over 100 miles) south of Innsbruck.  I was not aware that it was so close and I had only been there a few weeks prior (see a previous post). Because of its proximity to the border, this land was under Venetian rule in AD 1420, came under Austrian rule in AD 1521, Bavarian rule in AD 1806, part of Napolean’s empire in AD 1810, back to Austrian rule in AD 1813, occupied by Italian troops in AD 1915, back to Austria in AD 1917, and becomes a territory of Italy in AD 1918. Through all of this time, the Regole d’Ampezzo worked to maintain collective ownership and use of the land. This is an excellent common land use model that has been sustainable for almost 800 years through much political strife. 

One of the plots in the Ampezzo area had small greenhouses and cold frames in a personal garden to extend the season.

I saw evidence of a couple of different cooperatives including the Cooperativa di San Vito di Cadore which seems to be a health insurance cooperative that was founded in AD 1893 and a workers union “Society of Mutual Aid” and has expanded form there (

Ipercoop is another cooperative hypermarket (as they call it) which would be a supermarket in the US that offers a great variety of items from food to household items. These stores also tend to be much larger than the average Italian grocery store.

I had the opportunity to visit a provincial park outside of Turin. It was nice to see a public nature preserve in Italy. This concept seems to be a normal part of Italian culture as I saw with the common property ownership associated with the Regole d’Ampezzo. Dr. Motta also pointed out a number of older stands of trees above many alpine villages that where preserved for avalanche protection. These areas where not necessarily set up as nature preserves, but they played that role because of the need and awareness of their utility in protecting against avalanches.

I only observed on wind turbine during my travels in northern Italy, but I saw solar panels all over the place.  I imagine that they have more wind turbines along the southern portions of Italy similar to those in Greece along the coast line. Dr. Renzo Motta (of the University of Turin Tree-Ring Lab – see a previous post), told me that the Italian government had passed laws that provided tax breaks to install solar power on individual homes and many people took advantage of this incentive program. Because of these incentives, the use of solar power has greatly increased over the past 5 years.

Much of Italy’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels with natural gas, coal, and oil generating 68% of the fuel that they burn in power plants. Italy closed their three nuclear power plants in 1990 following the Chernobyl melt down. The Italian citizens voted to not build nuclear powerplants within their country, but instead have a purchase agreement for power from nuclear power plants that where installed in France.  About 10% of their energy demands comes from imported nuclear energy.  

In 2012, gross electricity generation in Italy was 296 billion kWh. Of this, 136 billion kWh (46%) was from gas-fired generation; 47 billion kWh (16%) from coal; 19 billion kWh (6%) from oil; 44 billion kWh (15%) hydro, 19 billion kWh (6%) from solar and 13 billion kWh (4%) from wind. Per capita electricity consumption in 2011 was 4970 kWh. From

Interestingly, France produces 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, is the largest net exporter of nuclear energy in the world, and has 58 nuclear power plants (stats for 2012 from the World Nuclear Association).

Along the streets, I saw large self-sort recycling bins that seem to have been around for quite a while (not a new development). I saw similar (although newer) bins in Switzerland as well.

The University of Turin’s agriculture campus has worked on hybridizing poplar trees that grow quickly to produce wood for industry. Throughout the fields around Turin, we saw many poplar stand that are being grown like an agricultural crop for it wood products.

The highways had high barrier walls for sound protection for the neighboring populations and the walls had high windows. Every one of these windows had predatory bird silhouettes to discourage birds from flying into these glass windows.  We observed this in Greece as well as in Italy.