Documenting the Past: Reflections from Traveling in Greece
Ciao Pink Pangea! It has been a while since I’ve written. Keeping track of everything I’m doing and filling my journal with all of my experiences has felt nearly impossible. There is either too little time in between traveling and working or there is only so much I can say to describe my experiences. Words don’t seem to do my experiences justice, either because they are so beautiful or because they feel too new and foreign to describe.
A couple of weeks ago I was traveling in Greece with a few friends from school. We spent a few nights in Rome followed by Athens and Santorini. While on the most incredible island of Santorini, we spent a day on the southern end of the island near Cape Akrotiri, an area that is home to one of the oldest settlements preserved in human history. During the Theran volcanic eruption of 1627 BCE this Minoan civilization was buried in ash and remained covered until 1967, when the excavation process began. The town itself was susceptible to many floods because it was so close to the shore and an active volcano. Consequently, the city was constantly building and rebuilding itself, which meant that its people were continuously preserving their home throughout the generations.
Walking through the city was an odd experience. I learned about the Minoan Bronze Age in great depth last summer in my Western Civilization class, but experiencing the area firsthand took what I learned to a new level. For the most part, as a spectator I was walking on roped-off paths on top of what used to be the city’s rooftops. Even though I felt like I was walking through a museum, there was still an obvious presence of the culture and people who used to occupy the space. Though the frescoes and artwork found during the excavation had been moved to other museums, all other aspects of the city are so close to their original states that we could all imagine what the city would have looked like, with its art and culture inscribed on the surfaces of what are now sand-colored roads, walls, storage pots, bedposts, and staircases. This incredible level of ash preservation made it difficult to ignore the fact that people just like us were once alive in the very same space. It was a beautiful site, but this realization gave us a rather eery and unsettling feeling.
My friends and I got to talking about this idea of preservation. Hopefully none of us or our homes will be covered in ash for a future excavation to find, but it does beg the question, what will be around 400 years from now? What will we leave behind for others to find, either intentionally or unintentionally? Unless we write down our experiences, will people in the future understand us to be real people just like them, rather than fragments of history? On a more personal and conceivable level, what will physically be around later in my life that I will want to remember? Should I be documenting my day-to-day experiences so that I can look back on them, especially while traveling?
I have trouble throwing away old objects (a trait that must be genetic and that I probably got from my mom…) and keep most things in my closet at home, boxed on a shelf next to old journals and school notebooks. It’s always fun to look through and read them all, but what is its purpose anyway? While walking through the museum, one of my friends, Anna, mentioned something she learned from a creative writing class she had taken. Oftentimes, she said, writing down a single instance from an experience, whether it be a feeling you had in that instance, a song lyric that you heard playing in the background, or a scent you could smell from the next room over, will bring back a more accurate and detailed memory than if you had written a word-by-word description. This way of writing is a good method to bring anywhere you go, whether traveling or not. Who knows what exciting memories you’ll trigger when you look back years from now?