My Solo Trip to Sounion

It might not seem obvious to anyone (I hope), but I am a very anxious person. I overthink everything down to the last detail, take photos of Google maps just in case (even though I can still use the GPS without wifi), show up too early in fear of being late, and generally avoid eye contact with anyone who might accost me on the street in a foreign city that I actually know pretty well (even if I’m still learning the language).

It certainly doesn’t help that I’ve spent a week alone in said foreign city with little knowledge of the language (I know some key phrases, and lots of words for fruits and animals) and zero company save for my Airbnb host. But I’ve made my peace with it all, and have somehow managed to do one thing I was most anxious about doing all week: leaving Athens on my own.

It was really my Airbnb host’s idea – to go to Sounion. I remember when she first suggested it I kind of laughed and thought to myself “that’ll never happen” and “I’ve got a whole month to go, maybe I’ll find someone to go with me” but as the days passed, I felt like this was something I needed to do. The best things happen outside of your comfort zone, no?

So, as I do, I planned it all out. Did the research: What time does the bus leave and where does it leave from? How long will it take on the metro to get to the bus station? How much will it cost? What is there to do at the site? But, of course, no matter how much research you do, there are always bound to be surprises.

The first surprise came when I arrived at the bus station, KTEL Attikis, located on a moderately busy street in Omonia (a 2-ish minute walk from the Victoria metro station, if you don’t get lost like I did). I asked the Greek men at the counter where the bus to Sounion left from, and he directed me to another counter about 50 meters down the road. So I went there and checked the timetables, only to find out that the information about the bus times I got both from my Airbnb host AND the internet were incorrect. I had arrived at 11:45am in the hopes of leaving by noon, but there were no buses leaving at 12:00pm. Only 11:05am and 1:05pm.

Of course, I could have just given up and gone home. That’s what the introvert in me would have done. But I figured I was already there and I’d brought my lunch, so I might as well stick around. So I walked to the National Archaeological Museum and sat outside eating my sandwich until about 12:30pm, then walked back over to the bus station and waited till the bus was about to leave.

The second surprise came when I was already on the bus and we had left the station. As the man who collected the fare came around, I was prepared to pay the 5 or so euros I had seen on the internet as being the fare for the trip, but found out that instead it was 6 euros and 90 cents! One of the reasons I convinced myself to go was that it would only cost me approximately 10 euros roundtrip, but despite my disappointment I was already on the bus and had to make due (good thing I brought a few extra euros just in case).

The trip from Omonia to Cape Sounion in all was about 2 hours long. We took a beautiful coastal road (though it was mostly cloudy all day) and switched buses in Anavyssos. The bus dropped us off right at the site, which consisted of a taverna, a gift shop, and the oh-so-commanding temple of Poseidon. There might have been a small museum as well, but I could be mistaken.

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I also saw some super cool settlement foundations that got the archaeology student gears in my head working, because – if you know anything about me at all – one of the reasons I chose the U of M and why I chose to work at Olynthos (in July) was so that I could learn more about ancient domestic space. However, I will leave my reactions to these particular archaeological ruins to a different post (I have a lot of feelings)!

I spent about an hour at the site, but of course you could spend anywhere from an afternoon to a whole day there if you wanted. I was trying to save money so I didn’t eat at the taverna, and couldn’t figure out how you got down to the beach from the site, but I’m sure I could convince people to visit the site with me again before I leave Attica in July…

tl;drHow do you get to Sounion? Take the metro to the KTEL Attikis station in Omonia, wait at the bus station until the time the bus leaves, pay 6,90 euros, after a two hour ride you’ll reach your destination! Can you do it in less than a day? Sure! I did it in an hour! There’s a nice taverna, a gift shop, and beaches down below the site. Was it worth the trip? As an archaeologist, I am biased, but I definitely think so! There are super cool ruins and a beautiful view! Plus, it’s nice a cool up there thanks to the cross winds from the sea (and some cloudy coverage).

In other news, my friends will be here this weekend and archaeological excavations start on Monday! Thanks for reading!

Dealing With Fieldwork Withdrawal

Don’t be alarmed – I’m not an addict per se; just an archaeology grad student spending her summer in a classroom instead of in the field.

For the past two years, I spent my summers (or at least two months of my summers) picking and sifting my way through tons of dirt in the blistering Athens sun for seven hours a day – and I loved it. My first year working on the Athenian Agora Excavations felt almost overwhelming. I was trying to keep up with the social aspects of the dig AND work on the research I needed for my senior thesis so there wasn’t a lot of time to really let it all sink in. My second year on the dig was a lot different. Without the burden of assignments every day, I could really focus on what digging meant to me and on the progress we were making in the grand scheme of things. I could learn more about the work we were doing, and improve in my excavating methods and my pottery sorting. I could discover more about what I was personally interested in, like domestic space and ceramics.

One of my favorite experiences of the last dig season was getting a tour of the houses of the Agora from Dr. Barbara Tsakirgis, who is one of my domestic archaeology heroes (the other being a professor I am soon going to be working with and learning from here at the U of M, Lisa Nevett). I had forgotten my notebook (another big part of my learning experience on the Agora last year – I took notes at every archaeological site and museum I went to), but managed to take a lot of notes on my phone during our tour on the structure, the history, and the discrepancies involved with the houses she pointed out. It made me start thinking more about domestic space and while I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to look more into it in the past year, I look forward to doing so in the Fall, when I take a course in Theoretical Issues in Archaeology focused on domestic space.

Being in a different country on an excavation is like being on a whole other planet. It’s so freeing in a way because you not only are doing what you love for six to eight weeks, but you are getting a chance to fully immerse yourself in the culture outside of the dig. I feel so trapped here in America, watching from the outside as my friends post updates about their experiences in the field. I regret my choice not to return this season.

But one perk of being a doctoral student in archaeology is that there will always be more chances to dig. It’ll mostly come down to where and when – my biggest contenders are my alma mater, the Athenian Agora, and another Greek site, Olynthos, where they are excavating a house (!!!) and where I would get to learn a lot more about domestic space in archaeology first hand.

Some ways I’m dealing with my fieldwork withdrawal:

-Visiting our archaeological museum

-Listening to podcasts about archaeology/classics

Reading about archaeology

Other archaeological research interests: women in antiquity, ancient architecture, marriage in antiquity, and religious space.