Middle School Trip to Nymfaio
Monday, May 15
Friday, with the tireless help of our Guest Lecturer Dr. Eurydice Georganteli from Harvard University, we explored cities and archaeological sites on “Via Egnatia.” Our first stop was ancient Pella. The new Archaeological Museum in Pella, built in 2006-2009, is situated at the southeast foot of the hill where the palace of the Macedonian dynasty was, and the building has a rectangular atrium, as a reference to the central peristyle courtyard of ancient houses in Pella. The Pella Museum, rich in a wide variety of exquisite archaeological finds, welcomed us with a late 4th century BC marble head of a man, identified as a portrait of Alexander the Great.
Our next stop was the city of Edessa. According to the celebrated Greek novelist Menelaos Lountemis, Edessa, was “a stepping stone for God to the heavens.” Best known for its waterfalls, including Greece’s highest at 70 meters, Edessa might be dubbed a “water city,” as it is crisscrossed by canals and aqueducts.
We visited the archaeological site of Ancient Edessa, where part of Via Egnatia still survives, and the old Bridge Kioupri. Experts believe that the Bridge was the ancient passage of Via Egnatia, in the heart of Edessa city, over the river Edesseos-Vodas. A well-preserved example of Byzantine era (reconstructed during the Ottoman period) has one-lane structure once built to accommodate horse-and-buggy and foot traffic. The bridge is a historic landmark of Edessa. The feeling over the river is unique according to the book “A Child Counting the Stars” by Menelaos Lountemis.
We arrived at Nymfaio late in the afternoon and we ended our day with a wonderful dinner and a well-documented presentation of Nymfaio History by Mr Nikolaos Mertzos, famous Greek Journalist and former Mayor of the village.
Tuesday, May 16
Tuesday was dedicated to the Arcturos Brown Bear Sanctuary. Brown bears once ranged all across Europe, but human intrusion on their forest habitats have made them an endangered species. Through the efforts of Arcturos, the size of the Greek brown bear population appears to have doubled in recent years. The organization also undertakes the rescue of bears kept captive in inhumane conditions—such as the notorious "dancing bears", which are taken as cubs to be trained following the killing of their mother, as well as orphan bears and those improperly kept in zoos. It comprises a Veterinary Centre located in the village of Aetos, and a sanctuary near the picturesque village of Nymfaio, where the bears are transferred to be cared for and studied until they can be released back into the wild. The Sanctuary also serves as an educational and study field for scientists and the public alike.
Students guided by local experts were enthusiastic with everything they experienced. Our day in Nymfaio ended visiting a historic Nymfaio “Archontiko.” Mr. Vragkos, and his daughter Mrs. Efi Vlahou, a Pinewood mother, invited us to see an old traditional Nymfaio mansion and treat us to a memorable experience of Greek hospitality.
Amalia Spiliakou, Host Country Studies Coordinator