Dr. SkySkull in Greece: The National Archaeological Museum

The last in my series of blog posts about my recent trips to Finland and Greece. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 can be read at the links.

My flight out of Athens on my day of departure was not until 7 pm, thanks to my budget-conscious travel planning.  This meant that I had pretty much a whole morning and afternoon to further explore the city, and there was one obvious place to go: the National Archaeological Museum, which contains some of the most famous and magnificent artifacts of Greek history.

Panorama of the National Archaeological Museum.

The museum itself has a pretty significant history.  The first national archaeological museum was opened in 1829, though apparently the collection traveled between exhibition locations until the current building was planned in 1858 and constructed in 1889.  During World War II, the museum was closed and the collection was boxed and buried to prevent it from being looted; it reopened in 1945.  The museum was closed for a complete refurbishment around 2002 and remained so for 1.5 years; it opened in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

I took soooooooo many photos while at the museum.  For all of our sakes, I’ll try and restrict this post to some of the coolest and most interesting things that I saw, though that will be hard!

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Dr. SkySkull in Greece: Walking around Athens

In my last travel post, I talked about my first evening in Athens, in which I walked around with a new friend and explored the Acropolis and a number of other ancient sites.  The next day I had all to myself, and I vowed to see as much of the city’s history as I could.

My first stop in the morning was the magnificent Acropolis Museum, holding archaeological artifacts from the famed site.

The Acropolis Museum.

This is actually the second Acropolis Museum; the original one was built on the Acropolis itself in 1874 and was renovated in the 1950s. However, the size of the collection increased as the Acropolis area was further excavated, and it was decided in the 1970s that a new museum was needed.  The decision was also motivated by the fact that many of the friezes of the Parthenon were acquired by the British Museum under shady circumstances, and British Museum officials argued that they couldn’t return them because Athens did not have a suitable location to house them.

In the image above, you can see a glass walkway.  When the new museum started construction in the 1990s, based on the winning design of the third competition to design the museum, it was discovered that the site held ancient ruins of archaeological significance. A fourth competition to design a museum that could protect the ruins, and the final museum design — opened in 2009 — is built raised above the site!  Both outside and inside the museum, one can look down to see the excavations, which are still in progress.

Excavations beneath the entrance to the museum.

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Dr. SkySkull in Greece: The Acropolis

In my last travel post, I described a little bit of the island of Spetses in Greece, where my second optics workshop took place. As the workshop schedule didn’t include any crucial talks on the last day I was originally planning to be there, I opted to head back a day early to Athens.  I was also, admittedly, a little anxious about the logistics of getting back, since it required another lengthy boat trip.

I need not have worried, though. The boat back was a high-speed catamaran with a blessed name, and the trip passed quickly and in comfort.


A final view of Spetses from the kitty-maran.

I arrived at my Athens hotel in the early afternoon but had to wait until around 3:00 to check in. Once I did, and took a bit of a rest, I took the complimentary hotel shuttle to Athens’ most famous and historical landmark: the Acropolis.

First view of the Acropolis.

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The Searching Dead and Born to the Dark, by Ramsey Campbell

Though Ramsey Campbell is my favorite horror author, I somehow manage to always be “late to the party” when it comes to his newest releases.  In the most recent case, however, it was entirely my fault: I ordered a signed, limited edition copy of his novel The Searching Dead (2016), and it took me over a year to get around to reading it! The book was so pretty that I think I was afraid to touch it, at first.

But I’m glad I did, because it is the first in a trilogy of cosmic horror called The Three Births of Daoloth! After I finished The Searching Dead, I immediately ordered the second volume, Born to the Dark (2017).  The third volume isn’t due to be released until later this year, I believe, so this post is about 2/3rds of the trilogy!

What initially struck me when I started diving into the novels?  How unusual it is to see a structured trilogy in the horror genre.  There are, certainly, many horror series, such as Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series (18 books) and Brian Keene’s The Rising series (5 books) but it is relatively rare to see trilogies planned from the beginning as such.

Campbell’s  Three Births of Daoloth is a return to some of his earliest work in cosmic horror, his Lovecraft-inspired The Inhabitant of the Lake (1964).   Campbell’s contribution to cosmic horror is referred to as the Brichester Mythos, after the fictional town of Brichester that he invented as a setting for many of the tales.  As Campbell himself described, he first returned to Brichester at the prompting of a friend at his publishing house, resulting in the 2013 novella The Last Revelation of Gla’aki.

The same friend encouraged him to pursue a trilogy next.  Somewhere — and I am infuriated that I cannot find the link again — I read that Campbell opted to pursue a trilogy of cosmic horror because he felt that he could use the format to do better justice to the ideas that he had explored decades earlier.

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Dr. SkySkull in Greece: The cats of Spetses

In my last post, I summarized quickly the first week of my recent two week work trip, which took place in Joensuu, Finland. The second week took place in Greece, and there was so much history and beauty packed into that trip that I will have to spend a few posts to describe it all.

But before I get to some specifics about the island of Spetses where the workshop took place, I have to describe the effort it took to get there!  My flight left Joensuu for Helsinki at 2:00 pm; landing in Helsinki at 3:05 pm, I then waited for a 5:10 pm flight to London. I arrived in London at 6:15 pm (though in a time-zone two hours earlier), and waited for an 8:50 pm flight to Athens. The flight to Athens did not land until 2:25 am the next day.

From there, I had a bit of a wait. No trains were running, so I had to wait around the airport, sitting on a bench for about 3 hours, until I could get a ticket for the 6:09 am suburban train to the port of Piraeus.

My train. At this point I felt like I needed to document the various stages of the journey.

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Dr. SkySkull in Finland: Koli National Park

Whew! I just got back from a long two-week trip to Europe, in order to attend a pair of optics meetings. The first of these was in Joensuu, Finland, and the second was on the island of Spetses in Greece.  The trips were both amazingly productive, and I am hopeful that I’ll get a lot of beneficial outcomes from them.

I also took a lot of photographs!  Over the next few posts, while I finish my cat physics book draft which is due soon, I’ll share some of those photos.

My first meeting was a workshop on optical coherence theory in Joensuu, Finland.  Joensuu, the capital of the North Karelia region of the country, is a charming city with a population of about 76,000 people.

Joensuu City Hall.

The city is relatively close to the Arctic Circle, which means that it never really gets completely dark during the summer, and doesn’t get really very light during the winter. Fortunately, I was visiting during the former.

Joensuu at midnight, pretty much as dark as it gets. It feels like daytime well past 10 pm, too.

This was my third trip to Joensuu, and the city has been growing on me more and more with every trip. It has a lot of character, a beautiful location situated on the Pielisjoki River, and a really nice cafe and restaurant scene along the river.

A restaurant on a boat!

A view of the river.

But I really wanted to share my photos of Koli National Park!

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Dead Reckonings #23 is available!

Interested in reading literary critiques of the latest horror fiction, and analyses of the same? Well, you’re in luck, because issue #23 of the Hippocampus Press literary magazine Dead Reckonings is now available!

As in a number of earlier volumes, I contributed to this one, with a review of the excellent collection She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin.  It also contains great essays by a variety of talented writers and scholars, including Ramsey Campbell, June Pulliam, S.T. Joshi and Darrel Schweitzer.

If you’re interested in learning about the latest in literary horror, the magazine is worth checking out!

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