Friday, December 27, 2019

Return to the Village in the City: Anafiotika (Pláka), Athens (Greece 2019-02)

Dear Readers, this is Part 2 of my summer series. Even if you are surrounded by snowdrifts, you can take a mental journey to the sun and the Mediterranean.

Every time I visit Athens, I like to check out the Anafiotika district, the cluster of tiny village-like houses percheded below the east slope of the Acropolis. It can be considered part of the Pláka (Πλάκα), but the Pláka is larger, encompassing more commercial and archaeological parts of the city. Anafiotika retains its 1800s Cycladic architecture in the form of little whitewashed houses in a tumble of narrow lanes and alleys. It is an oasis of peace in the bustling and noisy urban mess that comprises modern Athens.
This is a telephoto picture taken from Lykavittos Hill (also known as Mount Lycabettus) showing the Acropolis and Faleron Bay in the distance. The Anafiotika is the cluster of small houses just under the Parthenon.
In the Anafiotica (Moto G5 digital file)
The narrow alleys are fun to negotiate. They are popular with tourists working their way from the new Acropolis Museum towards the Pláka, often on their way to find a good lunch.
Doors are a popular but now a cliche photographic topic. Somewhere in the house, we have a book titled Greek Doors.
Graffiti and old windows are also pretty interesting.

The next time you visit Athens, make time to visit Anafiotika and the Pláka in general. In my opinion, Athens in August of 2019 looked cleaner and more cheerful than in 2016 and 2018. After ten years of economic austerity, political turmoil, and inundation by refugees from Middle East war zones, Greece may have turned a corner and be on the path to recovery. Tourism has increased, the locals are welcoming, and prices are low compared to northern European countries. The police seem to have controlled the refugees in the Monasteraki area, but I can't comment on crime.

I photographed the Pláka area in 2012 and 2013, and my dad photographed Athens and the Pláka in 1953 (click the links).

The 2019 photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 film taken with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera with a fixed 35mm ƒ/1.8 Color-Yashinon lens. I scanned the negatives on a Plustek 7600i film scanner. This roll was disappointing, and some frames displayed odd colors. Low-contrast settings looked best.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea* (Greece 2019-01)

Stomio, Greece, with Gulf of Corinth in background. Kodak Ektar 100 film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera 
Dear Readers, winter has descended on much of North America. Ice storms covered the eastern states with perfect timing for the Thanksgiving Holiday. People are thinking of Christmas (and another storm). While the snow is swirling and wind is howling, thoughts wander to summer. What could be more summer-like than a vacation by the sea? What could be better than the sea in Greece? This will be the first of a series of posts about my August 2019 sojourn to the 'Med.

Beware: "pretty" pictures follow (I warned you all some time ago that I might start posting more pretty snapshots. But do not despair, grunge and urban decay will be following).
Vouliagmanis west of Loutraki, Greece. Kodak Ektar 100 film, Yashica Electro 35CC camera
Fresh octopus and lemon juice - what could be better (maybe a Greek coffee?)
The Limni Vouliagmani (Λίμνη Βουλιαγμένη Λουτρακίου (Κορινθίας) is called a lake but is really a sea-water bay west of the city of Loutraki on the Perachora peninsula. The bay is almost completely enclosed by limestone cliffs and has a narrow opening facing the Gulf of Corinth. The bay has become a popular destination for Athenians, who come here to swim, water-ski, and eat at seaside tavernas.
If you drive around the head of the Gulf of Corinth and continue along the south shore, you reach the little town of Nerantza. Here the beach is mostly cobble, but there is sand offshore. Time to sit and have a Greek coffee - and read a law book(?).
Lunch at Kogia Restaurant, right at the beach. Yes, the ingredients are locally-sourced. Yes, the chef prepares and grills or roasts everything to order. Yes, it is delicious. No, there is no vile corn syrup or other crap in the food. Why do so many American restaurants serve such offal while the most modest Greek restaurant will prepare a delicious and healthy meal from scratch for you?
Stomio, Greece
Mixed salad (not refrigerated, made fresh), Stomio, Greece
A few kilometers further west along the south shore of the Gulf of Corinth is Stomio. Purely by chance, I stopped at a small taverna after a few hours of exploring and had another superb meal.
This is the Gulf of Corinth from the Monastery of Panagias Korifis, situated on a spectacular cliff overlooking the coastal plain and the town of Xilokastro. The light color water contains silt from stream runoff. So much rain fell during the winter of 2018-2019, streams overflowed and farmers experienced local flooding. The sea inshore was more turbid this summer than usual.

This ends our short overview of summer at the sea. More Greek articles will follow.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Partial Reuse: Cotton Mills of Tupelo, Mississippi (B&W film)

Former Knitting Mill, S. Green St., Tupelo, Mississippi
Knitting Mill from S. Spring St., Tupelo
Dear Readers, I am continuing my ongoing exploration of towns in Mississippi with this short visit to Tupelo.

Tupelo is a city in northeast Mississippi just off the Natchez Trace Parkway. In the early 20th century, the city was a major cotton processing center, as demonstrated by huge brick mills. They are now mostly unused but may have future life as apartments, stores, or wedding/party venues. (I am specifically not using the term "repurposing," which is trendy today.)
These postcards from the Cooper Postcard Collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History give you an idea of the industrial power of cotton processing early in the 20th century.

I stayed in Tupelo in May of 2018 and spent a morning exploring.
The Tupelo Cotton Mill (300 Elliott Street) formerly housed a wholesale supplier but now is being used as an event venue. I could not go in but walked around the hulking building.
A shed across the parking lot housed a serious coffee roaster.
The Gravlee Lumber Company on Spring Street has closed. I can't tell if this part of town is being revitalized or not.
Some interesting old industrial equipment was on the lot next to Gravlee Lumber.
Oh oh, Elvis is back. Maybe he never left. After all, he was born here in Tupelo.
The BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) and KCS (Kansas City Southern) cross lines at an interesting X-crossing just east of Spring Street.

For now, that is all. Tupelo warrants a return for some more exploring. The rectangle black and white photographs are from 35mm Fuji Acros 100 film in my wife's 1971 Pentax Spotmatic camera with various Pentax Takumar lenses. The two square frames are from Ilford Delta 100 film exposed with my Rolleiflex 3.5E medium format camera with its fabulous 75mm ƒ/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Small Towns in Mississippi: Holly Springs

Holly Springs is the county seat of Marshall County, Mississippi. It is near the border with southern Tennessee and is southeast of Memphis. It is in the hill country east of the Mississippi Delta, but its early history was intertwined with cotton cultivation and processing.
Holly Springs Depot, from Cooper Postcard Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The post card from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History shows cotton bales stacked near the railroad depot.
The depot, with its distinctive towers is still standing and in good condition. I was there late in the day and the building was empty; I am not sure who uses it. The 1800s brick shed still has railroad equipment in and around it.
Mississippi Industrial College, from Cooper Postcard Collection, Mississippi department of Archives and History
For years, I had wanted to visit Holly Springs to see the remains of the Mississippi Industrial College. According to Hill Country History:
Mississippi Industrial College was an historically black college founded in 1905 by the Mississippi Conference of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church under the leadership of Bishop Elias Cottrell (1855-1937).  Bishop Cottrell’s goal was to create a college for African Americans and provide them with liberal arts education and industrial training. Mississippi Industrial College’s campus was located on a 120 acre lot, across the street from Rust College, a competing historically black liberal arts school.

Classes began at the College in January of 1906, and in May the school already had over 200 students.  By 1908 Mississippi Industrial College had 450 students.  Mississippi Industrial College was one of the most important black colleges in Mississippi for many decades, until the end of segregation resulted in increasingly low student populations. The college closed in 1982 and remained empty.  During the 1990s, the Holly Springs Police Department and other businesses moved into the newer of the buildings, but they eventually abandoned the property as well.
The once-handsome buildings at the College have been deteriorating for three decades. One of the more modern structures housed the police department and some other city offices for a few years, but I think all campus buildings are empty now.
Preservation Mississippi wrote about the deterioration of the Carnegie Auditorium in 2010. Consider, at one time, the auditorium could seat 1000 people. In a small college in a rural area! The builders had lofty ambitions that they could bring the arts and culture to their students and members of the surrounding community. As of 2018, the building is structurally unsound and dangerous. (The color image above is a digital file.)
Sadly, there is not much left to explore at the site. The historic buildings are unsafe. Notice the stone slab steps.
On Rte 7, we came across an old-fashioned Texaco station, complete with its horizontal stripes on the roof above the pumps. Someone is using the property as a repair shop and storage depot for old trucks.

That is all for Holly Springs. The town was not too inspiring photographically. It suffers from serious poverty and decay. And the historic college is is very poor condition. The black and white photographs are from Kodak TMax 100 film, exposed at EI=80 and developed in Xtol developer. I used my wife's 1971 Pentax Spotmatic camera and scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 6b, Seligman, Arizona (2019)

Dear Readers, on my recent trip to the US southwest, my friends and I stopped in Seligman, Arizona. It is a small town in Yavapai County at 1600 m elevation on the historic Route 66. During my 2016 Route 66 trip, I drove by and totally skipped the town. Poor choice; it is full of Route 66 kitsch. It is hard to tell how much is authentic, but the current residents are certainly capitalizing on nostalgia. Mid-day on October 21, 2019, the town was bustling with tourists from many countries.
At least 2 or 3 stores feature ice cream. A hot day in the desert under the blazing sun: why not indulge in an ice-cream-cold cone or cup of sugary and calorific goodness?
Eddie and Spencer checked out the old Chevrolet police car.
OK, it is not authentic Route 66, but who cares? J&R's Minimart sells Haagen Daz ice cream.
You can stay in Seligman, if you want. The motel (or motor court) may be authentic Route 66.
After rafting on the Colorado River for 16 days and using a groover, the device in the last photograph looked quite luxurious.

Stay tuned for more Route 66 updates soon. For older Route 66 articles, type "Route 66" in the search box.

All digital images were from my Fuji X-E1 digital camera.