My time at Halmyris has been filled with a lot of hard work, but one thing I love about this dig is that we make sure to play hard too! We put on music while we dig, joke around at mealtimes, go out for drinks, have a homecooked dinner once a week, and take trips together on the weekends! Last weekend I spent resting and reading and trying very hard not to get sick (and was only semi-successful) but the weekend before that a big group of us took a trip to the nearby city of Constanta.
Constanta is a city in southeastern Romania, the largest port on the Black Sea and one of the largest ports in all of Europe. It is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania and is the site of some pretty significant archaeological excavations. The city was originally called Tomis, and legend has it that this is where Jason and the Argonauts landed after finding the Golden Fleece.
The first stop of our trip was, naturally, the National History and Archaeology Museum.
Jon, our site director, took us on a tour of the museum’s Greek and Roman collection and gave us some fascinating information about the artifacts and excavations. The two highlights of the collection were a 3rd century statue of Glykon the Fantastic Snake and a large statue that has been tentatively identified as the goddess Fortuona and an attendant Pontos, god of the Black Sea.
The museum also displayed statues of other Greek and Roman gods, some curse tablets, artifacts from everyday life (pottery, glass, jewelry, etc.), and – my favorite – a stone lion with a really dumb expression on its face.
We also toured the Roman mosaics, which were in the remains of a huge commercial center connecting the port and the ancient city of Tomis. The building was the site of all movements of goods from the harbor into the city and was where the merchants and sailors registered their imports, paid taxes, and sold their items. The building was huge and contained a beautiful and complex floor mosaic. Today only about a third of it remains, but even that is more than 9,000 feet of tiles.
After our tour of the museum and mosaics we all ate lunch together and our supervisors set us free for the weekend. A bunch of us were all staying the night at the same hostel and decided to make plans together. The number one thing we all wanted to do was to visit the beach, so after dropping off our stuff we put on our swimsuits and walked down to the shore of the Black Lake. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday so the beach was full of people swimming, surfing, and lying in the sand. Everyone else jumped into the water right away, but since I didn’t want to swim I rented a beach chair for a few dollars and spent the next few hours happily reading my book.
We headed back into the city as the sun was setting, walking through winding residential streets as the sky turned pink and purple.
After showering and changing we all caught a cab (or three) into downtown to get some food. By sheer coincidence the cab dropped us off right near the Luna Park amusement park. We were immediately intrigued by the flashing lights, rides, and attractions, and ended up wandering around the Park for the rest of the evening.
Unlike theme parks like Six Flags there was no entry fee, only a fee for each individual ride, which meant that we could walk around all we wanted and only have to pay for the rides we wanted to go on. We ended up going on quite a few- some crazy bumper cars, a hilariously non-scary haunted house, one of those elevator rides that bring you way high in the air and then let you ‘fall’ down- but my favorite by far was the Kamikaze Ranger ride.
The Kamikaze Ranger ride is a pendulum amusement ride with two gondola cars at the ends of rotating arms that are attached to a large tower. The arms rotate a full 360 degree, sending you swinging back and forth and even upside-down. It was a crazy ride (made more exciting by the shaking, clattering, semi-dubious Romanian construction) that left me terrified, exhilarated, and completely breathless. There’s nothing quite like finding yourself upside down in a ride that is slowly, slowly creeping downwards and there’s nothing you can do about the ridiculous drop in front of you but at the same time you can feel the blood rushing to your head and with every fiber of your being you want to stop being upside down but the ride is so slow it feels like you’ll be stuck there forever and then suddenly you’re moving, hurtling towards the ground and just when you think you’re going to crash you swing upwards and start all over again. I had a lot of fun but it was the first time that I actually wanted to stop being on a ride while I was in the middle of it.
We spent a few hours at Luna Park wandering around, going on the rides, eating unhealthy fair food, and laughing ourselves silly. It was a great night and I really enjoyed getting to spend time with the other volunteers that wasn’t just digging. It was a great way to spend my first weekend on the dig and I think it made a solid basis for the friendships that I’ve been building with the rest of the people on this dig.
It certainly helped make the next week of digging more fun, especially since we couldn’t stop giggling about our adventures when we were supposed to be working.
Until next time,