Learning in Greece
This is a project blog communicating with students about my trip.
Janice Friesen
Information Technologist (IT)
Austin, TX

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By Janice Friesen    July 18, 2007 -- 10:47 PM

I thought it would be interesting to visit ancient Sparta because I remembered hearing about it in history class, but I was told that there wasnít much to see there.  However, it is still a beautiful drive and there was supposed to be a very interesting Olive Oil Museum.

Sparta looks mostly like a modern Greek city.  There were lots of cars and shops.  I even saw some recognizable ones like United Colors of Benetton.  There was no evidence of ancient Sparta at first glance.  Then we followed some signs to a museum.  It was small, but had some nice mosaics and a few other ancient items.  It was disappointing because there was very little explanation of anything that was displayed or description of the ancient Spartans.  Museums like that leave me with more questions than answers.

A tourist guidebook (Lonely Planet) reminded me of what I had learned in the past that the Spartans were fierce warriers and their whole society was built on being tough.  They left baby boys out in the cold weather and if they didnít survive they were just left to die because they only wanted the strong to survive.  They also sent boys at age 7 away from their homes to schools where they were tortured and expected to go through all sorts of physical tests to create warriers out of them.  Girls were left at home, but they also had to pass some sorts of strenuous tests to survive to adulthood because they wanted to create a stronger race.  I was hoping to learn more about that, but there was no information at the museum.

So, we gave up and went to find the Olive Oil Museum.  Unfortunately, it is closed on Tuesday, which is the day we tried to go there.  It seems to be a pattern on this trip (remember the Acropolis?). 
People standing outside the closed Olive Oil Museum told us about Mystras so we headed that direction, but had lunch on the way.

A common name for a restaurant in Greece is "Taverna".  This is a picture of a Taverna where we ate lunch.  They almost always have the same food.  There is Greek Salad, which is chunks of tomato, cucumber, green pepper and red onion with a chunk of feta cheese on it, Souvlaki, which is grilled pork or chicken, french fried potatos, calamari, which is squid, and a few other things.  There is not a lot of variety. 

Mystras is a Byzantine town (meaning that it was part of the Byzantine Empire in the 1200s to the 1400s) that has remains of the village and two functioning Orthodox churches that you can visit.  It is all built on a hill and there is a lot of walking, but at the top there is a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and Sparta down below.  One of the monasteries on the hill had lots of cats that were very cute. So, we did get to see something interesting.

So, if you ever come on a trip to Sparta be sure to come on a different day than Tuesday so that you can see the Olive Oil Museum and be sure to visit Mystras.

Maybe someone reading has more information about Sparta and the Spartans to add to the comments that we would all be interested in.

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By small Janice Friesen      July 24, 2007 -- 09:11 AM
The monastery with the cats is a working monastery.  They actually have tie around material so that us tourists can cover up and not show too much flesh.  I saw a nun passing through, but she didn't talk to us at all. 

Strange, but I just found a very good Olive Oil store here in Vienna!  I may learn about Olive Oil after all.


By Sister Susie      July 22, 2007 -- 02:42 PM
Was the monestary with the cats a working monestary? Did you see any of the monks? Do they feed the cats? Too bad about the olive oil museum!

By small Janice Friesen      July 20, 2007 -- 01:23 AM
Thanks Mark! I am glad!


By Mark Ahlness      July 19, 2007 -- 06:41 PM
Janice, just a quick note - your pics are now coming through via rss - cool! - Mark