Marching to the Severn

So I didn’t make it to Wales yesterday. I came real close, though, and ended up in Shrewsbury.

The train I was taking stopped at a lot of places, one of which was Oxford. I decided now was my best chance to get to the Ashmolean so I stopped there. I didn’t really explore Oxford, I mostly got off the train and went to the museum and then back, but what I did see was really neat.

The Ashmolean, of course, was awesome. The have a bunch of Anglo-Saxon jewelry, highlighted by the Alfred Jewel. It’s beautiful. I have lots of pictures. Of course, they also have a lot of Egyptian, Greek, and Minoan stuff, but unfortunately, they had the Minoan section closed. I had really wanted to see the fruits of Arthur Evans’ work but it’s going to have to be next time. I did see quite a few interesting things in the gift shop, including some books (sorry Mom).

The rest of the day was spent getting on to Shrewsbury. I decided to stop here for a variety of reasons, not least of which were the Cadfael mysteries. I ended up staying at a room in a pub called the Vaults, which was fun, and had dinner at a place called the Traitor’s Gate Brasserie. The food was a little expensive, but the pub had Fuller’s London Pride on sale for a pound a pint. It was a nice relaxing night. I did roam around a little bit, though not much, and got to see the big statue of Darwin outside the library.

This morning I did a lot more. The Vaults is literally in the shade of Shrewsbury Castle so I went there first. It was a lovely morning and the castle grounds are extremely well kept up with flowers and gardens. It was very pretty. Interestingly, there was a wedding there this morning. Hmmm, a wedding in a castle and being marched out not by organ music but a bagpiper. That, I have to say, does not suck.

So from the castle I marched to the Severn. No, I wasn’t with Douglas of Scotland nor did we join with Glendower, but then again I lived. That, by the way, is a reference to a song Calontir often sings called Hotspur which is about the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 when Henry IV defeated Henry Hotspur. Not surprisingly, I sang or thought about this song a lot this morning.

What I marching to the Severn for was to go to the Shrewsbury Abbey church. It is this Abbey which is the setting for the Cadfael mysteries set in the twelfth century. The church is very lovely, and the effigy of Roger de Montgomery, one of William the Conqueror’s leading knights at Hastings, is in great shape. Going back to the Battle of Shrewsbury, Edith Pargeter who as Ellis Peters wrote the Cadfael mysteries, also has a historical fiction of that battle which of course I bought.

After that I marched back up the hill giving great thanks to my Macedonian experience with hills to eat at a place called Cromwell’s. Yes, that Cromwell. The pub happens to be right next to a church originally built in Anglo-Saxon times, and while there’s not much that survives of the church from that time, there’s still something. So my day included an Anglo-Saxon church, a Norman knight, a Crusader monk, one of the greatest knights in history, and one of the greatest rebels in history. Not a bad day.

I am now at Clare and Tom’s in Redditch for a few days. Tonight we’re relaxing and going to see Pirates of the Caribbean. I had hoped to see it in Macedonia, which just would have been so weird to see in English with Macedonian subtitles, but Macedonian movie theatres are a few months behind. They had MI3 instead, and that just wasn’t good enough to take me away from my wanderings.

Speaking of wanderings, tomorrow we’re going westward to some places they like. We’re then going to wander north, maybe as far as Rhuddlan castle, and hopefully back to Shrewsbury so I can see the battlefield itself.

Sunday the plan is to basically go west and south. Either tomorrow or Sunday I’ll be walking on top of Offa’s Dyke. I’m very excited about that. Now, it’s about dinner time.

Windsor

Today has been sort of a light day. I did get laundry done and did get started on the packing of the big suitcase for the trip home. I also went to Windsor for a bit.

Windsor is only about a half hour from where I’m staying and as you’re arriving you get quite a nice view of the Thames which you cross and the castle on the hill. In fact, the castle dominates the town. The train station puts you only a couple of hundred yards from the entrance, so it’s real easy to get to.

Since I got a late start because of laundry and puttering around, I just barely made it into the castle before they closed. Not surprisingly, since the royals stay there periodically, the security is very tight. It’s also extremely well renovated and kept up, so it’s beautiful. I have a bunch of pictures wandering around the open air portions of the castle which will go up when I get home.

However, because I got in late, I barely got to see the chapel and I didn’t get to see the armor and weapons at all. I’m thinking I’ll go back if I get a chance. I did, however, get to the gift shops and there were actually quite a few interesting things there.

After that, I had a very good meal at a very American style restaurant with table service and everything. It was literally right down the road from the lower gate, and sitting at my table on the street the gate was framed by shops down a very medieval street.

So, all in all, a basically lazy day. Tomorrow will be much more. I’m going to head out to Wales. I don’t quite know where yet, but we’ll see. As a guess, probably Caernarvon, but I may go to Cardiff, see the castle there, and then ride the train north through Wales. Should be lots of fun.

For now, though, it’s to the pub to see Eddie and a bunch of Viking mates off to a big event in Denmark.

There’s a bar in Wichita that I (and my parents) have frequented. It’s called Kirby’s and it has had a very eclectic set of clientele of artistic, intelligent, and different people. The interior of the bar is a jumbled up mess of posters, grime, and history that at one time or another has been painted in eclectic tones to match the people.

I bring up Kirby’s because we spent yesterday evening at place that Kirby’s would like to be someday. It was a Turkish coffee bar that was very wonderfully decorated. It had traditional Turkish couches, pillows, and stools in little booths secluded either by hanging clothes or in separate rooms.

We had a fantastic time and the group included many of us from the States but also a bunch of the Macedonians who had worked with us. I had a lot of fun getting my two roomies, Erik and Matt, a little drunker than they had intended. Erik gets drunk after two beers, so we bought him four. Matt can do way better than that, so I kept buying him beer after beer that he insisted he would nurse, but he kept drinking them so fast we had to buy him more. It was a lot of fun.

Today was mostly boring, interspersed with a little terror, and a lot of bleah. We got up at 8:30am, three hours after we had been getting up so it was way late. We ate breakfast, packed, and waited. I was done packing by 10:30am. The bus left at 2:00pm. It was a long boring wait, only moderately helped by the Simpsons Uno game that would not end. I should note that the bus trip was a little interesting, given that to cool it off the driver drove with the sliding door open most of the way.

Anyway, we got on the plane just fine, but here’s where the terror part came in to play. This was probably the most turbulent flight I have ever been on. I was not helped by the fact that the lady sitting next to me was horribly afraid of flying in the first place, and her twitching set my nerves on edge anyway. There were several really big immediate altitude changes and a lot of buffeting. Of course this all happened on the ascent so we had most of the flight to wonder about whether we would make it or not. We did make it, of course (either that or the afterlife has wireless), but it was nerve-wracking. Fortunately, the flight from Vienna to London was great. It was not full at all, the seat next to me was empty, and the flight was smooth and relaxing. The Airbus A321 has a lot more legroom than the 737-700 which helped a lot too.

I’m here in London now and I should apologize for this post becoming temporally muddled. I started this entry at the Skopje airport, added more just after getting to London, and am finishing this on Wednesday morning. I stopped last night because Eddie, Mia, and I went to a pub. After the first flight I really wanted a beer.

By the way, speaking of temporal confusion, it has been pointed out to me that the journal entries are not shown on the journal at a consistent time. Some of them reflect me making the entry in Central time, others in English time, and others in Macedonian time. LiveJournal’s timestamps come from the computer the entry is made on so if I make on the laptop I’m carrying, it is on Central time. If I make it at Eddie’s or an Internet Cafe, that will have local time. Don’t know how many noticed but I thought I should explain it.

So I’ve got some laundry done, and once it’s out on the line I’m headed out to Windsor this afternoon. Tonight there’s a crew going to the pub (surprise) and tomorrow I start roaming. I’m going to go to Wales, I think, and then on Friday afternoon I’m going to head to Birmingham to see Clare and Tom. Then we’ll see.

Sunday we went to the city of Ohrid which is, surprisingly enough, on the shores of Lake Ohrid. The lake is beautiful, surrounded by mountains and small villas, and towns, and churches.

After arriving in Ohrid, we started the day by going to the National Museum of Ohrid. The museum was amazing. Not so much the artifacts, though they were cool and plentiful, but we’ve seen a bunch of similar artifacts either in museums or pulled out of the ground ourselves in the past two weeks. The museum was in a very old and very beautiful house in Ohrid, however, and I spent most of my time staring at the woodwork that decorated it. The ceilings were all carved wood or intricately painted plaster. There were many cabinets, icon shrines, and other storage places arranged in the walls. Stunning. I could easily live there.

After that we were released. I had a few things on my to do list. One I wanted to get a boat ride. After lunch, a few of us got a boat ride to where there was supposed to be a cave church. It turns out, however, that these cave churches were likely made during times when Christians couldn’t worship openly, so they really don’t exist as tourist spots. We did, however, get taken to a place that had a shrine in the rock and right above it was the Church of St. Jovan’s. This is right next to the lake and was a beautiful view.

We then decided to go to the castle. This turned out to be a bit of an odyssey. There are two ways to walk to the castle. One goes through the forest and is fairly short, though fairly steep. We didn’t realize we could go that way. We went the other way which went through the town, generally up fairly steep, but it was up and down and took us about 45 minutes to get there.

It was, however, worth it. The castle wall has been greatly restored, and we got to walk up on the gate tower and the battlements. I didn’t realize that the Macedonian tradition included bagpipes, but there was bagpiper on the gate tower and he played for us (after, of course, we tipped him). He even handed me the bagpipes and tried to show me how to play them. Between his ability to speak English and my musical ability, it will not go down as one of the world’s musical highlights. After this, we walked around the walls some more, getting great pictures of the town and the lake.

We then strolled amidst the tight streets and lanes of a medieval city toward the lake. We got another boat ride, from the famous Captain Mile (pronounced me-lay). He said he’d take us around some and show us some neat stuff around the lake.

The lake is very old, very deep, very clear, and very beautiful. I tried the water as we were sailing around, but Mile said to wait as we were going to the best spot for that. He led us into a little inlet past a Macedonian navy base with a moored patrol boat (i.e., their whole navy).

He showed us first the fish hatchery. They’re trying to breed more of the endangered Ohrid Trout, which is a huge delicacy in Macedonia. The trout doesn’t seem to want to grow anywhere but in the lake though, so they’ve had some problems there.

The special part though, was he led us to one of the springs that fill the lake. It comes out in this old fountain and the water was delicious and cold. After drinking some, we cooled off from a long hot day by dangling our feet in the spring water. It was wonderful.

Mile then took us back out on the lake to see the President’s House. Tito apparently wanted a lakeside villa so he had one built. Following all of the changes here, it’s ended up as the retreat for the President of Macedonia.

We then hustled back just in time to make the bus back for the long drive home. I wouldn’t have minded staying the night in Ohrid, it’s a great place to hang out in.

Today, we went back out on the mountain for one last day. We profiled some of the pits, including mine, which basically means we draw the side walls pretty thoroughly. After that we backfilled. I’ve dreaded this, and it turns out with good reason. It was hot, there was lots of dirt, and it’s frustrating to think you dug out all of this dirt simply to put it back in so that someone can come next year to dig it all out again. I also went too fast and my back started arguing with me. GRRRR. But it all got done, thanks mostly to the other people.

We worked on some of the final paperwork and packing of stuff so we should be pretty good to go tomorrow. I’ve gone and picked up a new suitcase that is sitting next to me in the Ramshorn Food Court. Tonight we pack a bit but we’re planning on sitting by the river and having beer with our Macedonian friends.

Then tomorrow, to Vienna and hopefully to London if I make the connections.

Another Brick In The Wall

Yesterday I finished digging my square. There was a ton of paperwork because of what I found. Archaeological pits, at least the way the Fullers do thing, are organized around the locus. Each different layer of dirt type is a locus and each interesting area/major object/delimited area is a locus. Plus, you can just start a new locus if the pit is level and you haven’t changed loci in a while. I never saw a different layer of dirt and until I saw the wall I never had a reason to change loci, though I did change twice just because during my dig to make my paperwork a little easier.

However, yesterday, I added Locus 4, Locus 5, Locus 6, and Locus 7 to my notes. Locus 4 is bounded by the wall I uncovered, three big stones, and the pit walls in the southwest corner. Locus 5 is northwest corner bounded by the wall and the line extended of the three big rocks. Locus 6 is east side of the pit bounded by the line of the three rocks. Finally, Locus 7 is the wall itself.

Dr. Fuller was very pleased with how my pit looked. I dug another 10cm down throughout the square, giving the wall more definition. I didn’t find a ton of stuff but I did find some. It doesn’t really matter, though, because they’re definitely going to redig my square plus put another square to the west to follow the wall. I’m hoping I can get updates from Dr. Fuller next year on what they found.

After finishing the archaeological stuff, we headed off to see a medieval church near the castle. The painting inside was amazing. I wish I could provide some pictures but they would not let me take any. Suffice it to say it tooks several Constantinople artisans several years to paint the walls of a smallish church. Incredible stuff.

We didn’t have to get up until the luxuriously late hour of 7:45 so last night most of us went out roaming. This was actually the first time we were down in the city during the night. Several of us sat in a cafe relaxing by the river. It was really nice.

Today we went and saw several more things. We went to the Skopje City Museum, which is essentially our employer on this dig. They had a good variety of stuff there. The most interesting things were a gold ring with what looked like pearl that had a bireme or a trireme carved into it. Also, there was a great icon of St. Dmitri armed and accoutered for war.

After that we went to the National Museum of Macedonia. This place has artifacts starting from the Stone Age to the present. There were some very interesting swords there that were surprising for their large size. I hadn’t realized the Greeks used such longswords, and one of them might have even been a curved sabre-like cavalry weapon. It was hard to tell whether the curve was part of the sword or if the weapon had warped before being excavated. Nevertheless, these were very interesting.

We then went to another Orthodox Church. This one was much younger, being completed in the early part of the nineteenth century. It was very beautiful as well. It apparently took three woodworkers seven years to carve the wood which makes up the main center wall of the church. The big tragedy of the day though is that this was the first church I could take pictures in but my batteries died on me and the replacements I had held virtually no charge. GRRR.

Then came one of the highlights of the trip. We ended up a restaurant in a building built in 1470. It had a beautiful courtyard with lovely shade from a large tree which was very cool. The last part is important because it’s been getting increasingly hot the past few days, though not quite to the level that I hear it’s been in Missouri and Kansas. Anyway, we had a very lovely lunch. Mine consisted of a Macedonian salad and then Sarma, the Macedonian version of stuffed grape leaves.

We had originally planned to stay in the city and roam around, but was just too hot. We did wander some but not much. We ended up for a bit at the same riverside cafe we went to last night with the same waitress who remembered us (well mostly me, she remembered I drink Laszko Dark). We had some ice cream which is ubiquitous here and also slightly different than in the States. More creamy tasting. It might be made of goat’s milk, but I’m not sure. It’s tasty though, whatever it is.

It was still very hot, so we just decided to call it a day, which is how I ended up checking email and posting. I’m going to buy a new suitcase after finishing up here and then head back to the hotel to relax this afternoon.

Tomorrow we go to Lake Ohrid to see the sites. There’s a castle, some museums, and some churches to see. I’m also looking forward to the lake cruise, which I’m told is very beautiful. Should be lots of fun.

Good News, Bad News

OK, so my wish for more paperwork looks like it’s going to come true. That’s part of the good news. Another part of the good news are some of the neat things I’ve found in the last couple of days: a coin, some glazed pottery, a very intact roof tile, some amphorae rims, and other interesting potsherds. The last part of the good news is that I’ve either found a grave or a wall.

Awesome, right? Well, the bad news is that it would have been more awesome if it hadn’t happened on the second to last day of the dig. I’m likely not going to get to excavate what I’ve dug 4 cubic meters of dirt and rock to get to. GRRRR.

Again, I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’m finding lots of neat stuff and I have found a wall that will be excavated more fully in the future so I can take pride in having contributed to the archaeology of Macedonia. Plus, rather than having to backfill my entire pit, I only will have to put down a tarp and then a few inches of dirt. That’s a huge difference.

One more day to go plus Monday to backfill and finish up. I’m not going to miss the walk up and down the mountain. I will, however, miss the dig itself. It’s been very enjoyable and instructive. I’m looking forward to doing other digs at some point in the future.

Yesterday after the dig we did paperwork and evaluation of artifacts all afternoon. We enhanced the process by adding gin & tonics. It was a good afternoon.

Today I’m at an internet cafe and will be roaming the big mall looking for a new suitcase (mine broke) and perhaps new sandals (mine now have a hole in them from too much walking). Here’s hoping I have good hunting.

Ramblings

The good news is that I’m finding stuff, the bad news is what I’m finding is fairly boring. I’m finding mostly roof tile fragments, bone fragments, and a few pottery pieces. Except for the bone, basically my stuff gets counted, weighed, and discarded. Nevertheless, I’m still finding stuff and I don’t think I’ve hit bedrock yet, though I might have.

Dr. Fuller has put up a temporary webpage with some pictures and notes about the dig. It’s at:
http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/marko2006.html

Last night they brought me a birthday cake (Black Forest) and sang me the song. Like everyone, I hate it when that song is sung to me. I even had it happen twice, as they sang it to me when the bus broke down. It was, however, a great birthday and one I will remember and appreciate for some time.

We even got to hear about artifacts they have discovered in a dig in Novgorod while eating my cake. That rocked. I’m very excited about the boots they found there as they look exactly like my fighting boots and if I recall correctly are dated to the 10th century. My boots might not be so wrong after all. I’m going to check on that some more when I get back.

Tomorrow it’s back to moving dirt. I’m about to start my third and likely final Locus. A Locus is a level of a dig so that the artifacts and the paperwork can be kept organized and the context preserved. It won’t be final if I find something really cool, so wish me extra paperwork. Just this one time, though.

It was a very fun weekend. On Saturday after digging we went and roamed around the older part of town. We started by checking out the Swan English Pub. It was even more disappointing than the Irish Pub. We therefore went and had pizza at a really good and cheap place in this little walking mall area.

After that we walked up to the castle and walked around its battlements. The castle was originally started by Justinian I and was in use for basically a millenium finally occupied by the Ottomans. It’s a fascinating ruin because you can see bits and pieces of a variety of building techniques. It’s also got a good view of the mountain which the hotel and the dig are on. I’ll have pictures of that soon.

After that we went and roamed around the Bit Bazaar, which is a fascinating place to shop. It’s what we would envision of a bazaar: vibrant, cramped, loud, and really interesting.

After that we went to the National Art Museum which is in the old Turkish baths. I’m not much of an art guy, but the architecture was awesome. There was also a room filled with a variety of beautiful icons. Finally, we roamed around a bit until we decided to go back to the hotel. Since we’d started early because we only had a half day of digging I even had time to relax for a bit.

Sunday was really neat, though it started on a very worrisome note. I was concerned when the bus drove up and it was painted a horrible salmon color. I thought the bus might be fishy at that point. OK, so they didn’t like the pun either, but I was right. First, the bus driver forgot to go to where we were to pick up the Macedonian students. Then, about 20 miles out of Skopje, the bus broke down.

Fortunately, the bus company sent a new (and newer) bus. This one was white so it didn’t have the same sense of impending doom the other one had. Anyway, Macedonia is a beautiful country with a lot of mountains which we drove through. It was great.

Our goal was the ancient town of Heraclea. It was originally founded by Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s dad. It was also extensively used by the Romans and the Byzantines. It has some beautiful mosaics and a lovely amphitheatre. Unfortunately we couldn’t see it, but they apparently were doing a Greek tragedy last night in that theatre.

After that we went around the town of Bitola, which basically surrounds ancient Heraclea. We went to their museum, which is in a very interesting building. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the building as we walked up to it, as it was simply a big, fairly unattractive nineteenth century style building, but as I walked up I noticed a sign which said that Kemal Ataturk had attented high school there.

The museum itself has a lot of stuff, but the most interesting thing is a Byzantine cataphract spangenhelm. It separated into a bunch of pieces, but they were found together and they showed how the pieces went together. It was beautifully decorated, with coinlike images in the metal piece around the head.

We then went to lunch in a nice outdoor cafe with a little roof between two trees. Lunches here often take a long long time, and Dr. Fuller was a little concerned it would take too long, and he wanted to give us time to explore more of downtown Bitola. I chose something that I had no idea what it said in Macedonian, and what I got was something like a Macedonian haggis. The filling was regular meat, however, and was very tasty.

Despite our desire for a quick lunch, it took quite some time, but it turned out not to be much of a problem as most of Bitola was closed. The bazaar was empty. What was open was the Orthodox Church which was extremely beautiful. That was well worth the trip in and of itself.

After that we lounged around until heading back to Skopje. On the way back the driver put on a radio station that played a bunch of 80s songs. At one point I mentioned Cruel Summer by Bananarama, and we all laughed when it came on. I then said that what was needed to finish the 80s day off was Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. So, of course, the next song was indeed the Safety Dance. I then predicted Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant, but my prognostication abilities had failed by then.

We finally made it back for a late supper at the hotel around 8ish. After having Macedonian salsa and soup, we crashed.

Today we got up and headed by to the grindstone. I dug quite a bit today, and found a lot of roof tile and bone, but nothing particularly spectacular. There are hints that something nice might be there though, so I’m going to continue digging away there.

A Find

Today I found something very interesting. I found a bodkin arrowhead in very nice shape. Though I doubt they’re related, I found the arrowhead next to some bone fragments. Interesting indeed.

Tomorrow we have a little shorter of a day and we’re going to roam around the Old Town area which is generally occupied by Albanians. The main castle, which we went to on Tuesday is there and I want to see it again. There’s a bazaar and there’s supposed to be some awesome kebab vendors. Oh, and there’s an English Pub, which we have to check out just because.

Sunday, I get to spend my birthday touring Bittola and Heraclea. Heraclea, at least, is in Thrace, the homeland of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and his general Belisarius. I’m wondering if we’ll see anything related to them.

I am posting some pictures, by the way, of Skopje, the site, and my little plot of land. As I said, we’re some 1000 feet over Skopje, both in where the hotel and the dig are located.

King of the Mountain

Today I did it, I walked up and back without stopping, with a few minor quibbles. On the way back, I started from a different pit, but it’s about 10ft up and about 15ft away. I also stopped twice to get out of the way of a truck and once to pick up stuff to go up the mountain. I’m gonna call that good.

The castle, by the way, is called Markovi Kuli, which basically means Marco’s Castle. Marco was sort of a Macedonian Arthur, though I’m reminded more of Alexander Nevsky. I say Nevsky because Marco also helped fight to defend a homeland which was under the control of an outside ruler, Turks is the case of Marco, Mongols in the case of Nevsky. Anyway, as their last king, he’s an important figure in Macedonian history.

I’ve not been finding much of late, mostly because I’m not really at a level that will give much stuff. I did find a piece of medieval glass yesterday, and we’re convinced that a sizable piece of metal lies under one corner of my test pit. Today, I finished clearing off 15 centimeters of dirt in preparation for chasing that metal bit.

I took a day off from walking around yesterday, and the schedule got switched around a bit so we could go to bed early so I’m pretty refreshed right now. Tonight I’m guest lecturing on the differences between history/historiography and archaeology, which is mainly just viewpoint.

Now I’m headed off to buy some food for lunch tomorrow and maybe baklava, which is very tasty, inexpensive, and comes in many varieties here.

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.