Trip 18 - 2013

Trip 18 - 2013
2013 Arete members at Olympic stadium in Athens: Bill Taylor, Jahya Burke, Patrick Dillon, Lily Stander, Maya Normandi, Izzy Doerschlag, Clayton Hutchins, Brody Barkan, not pictured - assistant Max Slaughter


  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Slovenia
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Switzerland


  • Brody Barkin
  • Jahya Burke
  • Patrick Dillon
  • Izzy Doerschlag
  • Clayton Hutchins
  • Maya Normandi
  • Lily Stander

Trip Leader

  • Mr. Taylor, Age 80

Trip Assistent

  • Max Slaughter

Trip Highlights

June 17 --- Istanbul - arrival finds Mr. Taylor knocking over two or three lane pylons below the Sultan’s old palace and tilts a tall plant in front of worried Turk proprietors on the way to our hotel below the Blue Mosque. Veteran leader (blush) pulls van up right in front of familiar door of the “Arete Istanbul.” within confusing streets.

June 18 --- The Turkish student protests were not in vicinity of the heart of the tourist sites (e.g.. Blue Mosque, Ag. Sophia, Sultan palace). Trip assistant, Max Slaughter, a recent Cal graduate with some relevant history courses behind him, gave a strong presentation in the fresh morning air by Ag. Sophia. The place of trade in the history of the Ottoman empire took our eyes toward the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. In the afternoon we discussed Islam and American “values” toward females. From the balcony of our hotel. we could see Asia across the Bosphorus from this magnificent, private vantage point.

June 19 --- We drove toward the Aegean sea, crossed the Hellespont where Xerxes and Alexander the Great had previously paid their ferry tickets, and were greeted by my friend, Envar, at his Tusan motel on the channel of water flowing into the Greek sea. Gallipoli monuments were in view across the Hellespont. The dramatic setting and view once again gave Arete students one of the best dinner table locations on the planet.

Envar visited our evening seminar for a moment, touched the Arete students with his accounting of his son and daughter. He said that before the uprising he had “little hope” for their future. But with the protests he saw a change in attitude in his son and daughter, one of “hope”.

June 20 --- I raced the van onto the agricultural fields where the battles of ancient Troy were contested some three thousand years ago. The vegetation was taller than usual and I suddenly found myself at the end of a tractor path and down in a deep pit. The road did not continue. My quick action with the gear shift and wheel base reversed the position and led to a flawless escape from could have been a serious delay on our loaded Arete schedule.

This time it was just like some of the earliest Arete adventures when the fear of the van tipping over was quite real before locating a better path in use by the Turkish farmers. A better route in front of the ancient walls was located and the students went on their traditional run where Hector lost his life to the vengeful Achilles.

June 21 --- The word sober is too light. Touching, tender, personal better expresses the grief the students felt as they walked in the midst of the graves at Gallipoli. The van music was left on and one could hear the sound track from “A Thin Red Line” and “We would be soldiers”as they felt the deaths of thousands of young men in World Wari I. When Jahya read from “Birds Without Wings” about the battle experiences of young Turkish soldiers, her words broke, then stopped, as emotions closed the reading.

June 22 --- Athens by air. The Arete home city since 1983, the Greek “golden age” city since the 5th century, B.C. I raced them through the flea market below the Acropolis, toward a taste of the “ambrosia” of Arete trips. They know not what is ahead. Suddenly a fantastic taste is in their mouths via a Greek “souvlaki: sandwich. It more than passes the test. I earn their respect and appreciation through food.

Not done. I told them, “do not pass me”as we run through the park by Syntagma Square in downtown Athens”. I pick up the pace. They comply. Stay back. The seventy-nine year old legs respond when I increase the speed. Suddenly I let up, ask that they look ahead. Behold, the 1896 Olympic stadium appears. Their being is stirred as history connects them from the Drake track in San Anselmo to the authentic Olympic stadium in Athens.

That night more than one waiter rushed over to greet me warmly at an outdoor restaurant that rests below the Acropolis. We could see a portion of a 5th century B.C. temple above our table. One of our students, Maya, remembers this as her favorite meal location on the trip. Tough competition with Mycenae, Rome and Vienna ahead.

June 23 --- The big trip day begins each time on an Arete trip with the pilgrimage to the Parthenon on the Acropolis. And this year it worked better than ever. We not only arrived first before the beautiful temple, we were alone with the mythological and historical history of ancient Greece for about a half hour delay because the public was held up to allow a large tour group a half hour head start. We somehow made it through the ticket entrance within this special group. From there on it was our pace vs. their speed and Arete always wins these encounters. Again, we were alone on the Acropolis with about a half-an-hour head start.

Izzy said that she could feel the power and presence of Athena as she read our traditional Kazantzakis poetry in front of the Parthenon. Her voice became strong, confident. Then the lads, Patrick, Brody and Clayton, read portions from the funeral speech of Pericles that told of the pride the Greeks had in their City. Lili looked down at the the theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis and read from the “Trojan Women”. Euripides took us back to those ancient walls of Troy in his play. We had stood on the Trojan wall only a couple of days earlier. The tragic death of a child as a consequence of war haunted the moment.

Max read from Aeschylus and his personal accounting of the battle with the Persians in the straits of Salamis. The blue sea was blue. We could see the proximity of where the Greeks triumphed. It was a convincing presentation.

June 24 --- Before we reached Mycenae I took us down to a seldom used country road that ended at the ancient temple of Hera. This was where Herodotus had told of the twin son’s who were given immortality for helping out “mom” by pulling her cart to a ceremony at this very temple. Unfortunately eternal sleep was bestowed on the lads as a reward for helping out their mother. The boys never awakened again. Is this not a penalty some celebrities pay in seeking stardom? Or athletes by taking drugs? By placing immortality above a fulfilling personal life?

This lonely, seldom seen temple has a vast ground floor and the goddess was able to look out over the entire plain of Argos from it. No columns reach for the ever present blue summer sky. No fee or guard greets one at a wire fence. Just simple, memorable, dynamic history and a sense of time.

Our Mycenae family had received Arete again with exciting enthusiasm. The home cooked meal that evening with the view of Argos in the distance was fabulous. A full moon less one night appeared before the evening ended, the Greek grandfather once again offered praise and adoration to “Apollo, oh Apollo”.

Our outstanding California high school miler had run under the olive tree branches late in the afternoon. Clayton told me it was “the best run of his life”. In that he can cover some seventy miles a week in training this was a pronounced statement.

June 25 --- Alone with only a couple of educated tourists on the mighty fortress with us, Arete once again entered the home of Agamemnon under the 3500 year old “lion gate” that has survived time. Then it was back to our hotel for an unbelievable breakfast before “Va-see-LEE-kee”, my favorite Greek maiden, led us by her car out of the area of Mycenae and to the freeway that would assist us in the route to Olympia.

A Greek maiden leading us toward Olympia from the shadow of the Mycenaean fortress? Hello.

We visited the Olympia museum with the handsome Hermes and Apollo in the late afternoon. This gave us a sparse crowd and more time for the Arete “games” in the ancient track stadium the next morning.

The son of my favorite Greek hotel manager, who is now dead, fulfilled once again his dad’s pledge to me that “I will never have to pay for my room again in Olympia”).

June 26 --- The Arete pack went in the wrong direction to the track. I jog alone for obvious reasons. This provided me with the unique opportunity to be the first to enter and breath the morning air in the 4th century B.C. Olympic stadium. I was alone with my sport, myself, with a stillness I will remember.

Our traditional relay race involved Clayton running two of the legs in order to balance out the teams. The great high school miler really doesn’t need any more oxygen so it was possible his three person team would still win. Brody, the Marin county league 800m winner only two months before, was too fast to allow for a close finish. Maya, who had a frustrating track life at Drake, ran a memorable leg for her relay team. And in Olympia!

We made it to the port with plenty of time to spare and sailed to Ithaca on schedule. The staff at the Nostos Inn greeted us with fondness. We first stayed with them in 1997. Nicki, the owner, loves Arete West. I gave her a copy of our new book --- “The world’s greatest classrooms”. How are we doing with this 2013 trip for “classrooms”?

July 27 ---- Dinner on Itaca was some 200 yards down a familiar waterway that Homer mentions in "The Odyssey". Familiar faces in the petite harbor lit up as I once again frequented their restaurants. This includes a 3 week family trip there in 2004. It is great having friends “in every port”.

June 28th --- The morning of the handicap race from the Nostos Inn, up and over the spine of Ithaca and down to the cove, once again both threatened and challenged the young runners. The cove fits for where Homer places the son of Odysseus, Telemachus, before the son left to find his father.

Would Clayton make up some fifty seconds and catch Brody? The runners must enter the sea and float before their time is completed. The fresh water and view of the cypress up toward the village complete an amazing experience.

Then each student was dropped off separately in a different location near the village of Stavros and given three hours of independent time to make their way back to the Nostos Inn. That night we were back at our table in the harbor, aware of the early morning hour departure of 6:00 a.m.

June 29th --- Due to the ferry schedule, we had a free afternoon and night before we would sail to Italy. So we drove some four hours just to spend the night above Delphi on Mt. Parnassus. The traditional Arete site was filled by a bee hive farm, so we quickly sought out another location. We were lucky. Just up the road we found a camp site without people. The tradition of sleeping on Mt. Parnassus without a “reservation” continued.

June 30th --- In the morning we had to cover those four hours again. On the way down Parnassus I stopped with the temple of Apollo in view for a breakfast snack. Nobody seemed interested in the temple that ancient Greeks claimed was “the center of the world”. A teacher needs to weigh timing before beginning a class session. The students do not know what they missed.

On the night ferry to Italy our unreserved deck space provided us privacy, a reasonable night of sleep. Rome, Florence, Vienna were coming up. And Hitler land. But the classical history was behind us.

July 1 --- The train to Rome arrived on schedule and our luggage packed the aisle. A twenty year art student pointed to a seat next to the window as I attempted to claim the more spacious aisle one. Delightful conversation all the way to Rome. During the train ride she contacted Rome information and secured the phone numbers of the two hotels that might be expecting us. I discovered this error when we reached Bari, Italy. The young lady called the hotels from her aisle seat and verified that our usual hotel near the train station was expecting us. My birthday goddess had arrived some sixteen days early.

The students responded immediately to the noise, activity, rushed pace, as soon as they stepped off the train in Rome. And then I didn't slow down the pace until we had finished the four or five block sprint to the hotel. With our rooms secured, we raced through the exciting city to still another Arete meal in the Campo di Fiori. Bruno stands over the uniformed, the flames still lashing around his courageous soul.

July 2nd--- Big day in Rome. The Moses by Michelangelo captured the early morning. Maya critiqued on the steps of the church where Moses is today displayed --- “the statue was strong and powerful, but the intensions were hesitant”. Brody provided pertinent information. St. Peters, especially for those raised Catholic, was powerful; of awe.We discussed the day at an improvised dinner table in a narrow passageway near the Pantheon that night, holding off the waiters until we had shared our words.

July 3rd --- How about Florence? I made the right turn once again as we drove along the river Arno, reaching the familiar youth villa on the hill overlooking the city. When we entered Dante’s little chapel that evening, where it is said he kept his eyes on a beautiful Beatrice, the music within called for numinous feelings. Then we heard the chords of Bach in a nearby church sanctuary and I remembered that an Andrew on Arete 2001 asked that we attend a concert there because of his attachment to the scheduled music. We did. Both times. Some of the 2013 Arete studentsm like Lili, did not leave the sanctuary until the organist completed the powerful Bach composition.

Yes, we did run the youth hostel hill. Great memories. Willie, Jack, in 2009 and 2005, others from prior Arete trips doing repeats up to the yellow villa in Florence. Nobody messed with Clayton who added another 8 or 9 miles to his daily routine.

Clayton seemed to float through the cities, by the lakes, through the countryside. I have observed runners since 1947 and I have never seen one move as gracefully as Clayton. When the schedule would have Clayton walking with the group most of the day, he would rise early and run for eight or so miles around the streets of a city.

July 4th --- "Where is this farm house in a Slovenia"? Arete was in a new country with only the name of a farm to go by. After crossing the border between Italy and Slovenia, we drove awhile on the freeway to the north of this new country, then stopped for orientation at a gas/grocery store. The turnoff to the "farm house" was the "second" turn-off ahead according to a friendly and helpful cashier. Then we were to take a road some 6 kilometers to this "farm house". Sure!

It did.

The countryside was beautiful, the villages spark clean, permanent looking. The students chose spontaneously to run around our village on a hot afternoon. They soaked in Slovenia before we received a wonderful family meal and all was well. We left the next morning to more beauty. Ironically, our seminar the prior afternoon was on “beauty”, on whether beauty is absolute. The music from “The Last Valley” drove with us through the magnificent colors of the Slovenian countryside.

July 5th --- A “side trip” of many miles took us to one of the most spectacular views experienced on prior Arete trips (e.g., Wadi Rum, Petra, sunset on the Sahara, etc., were not bad). As we descended from high above the Pag Islands off the Croatia coast, we could have been landing on the moon. The swimming was enjoyed, but it was a one night stop.

July 6th --- The driving is taking its toll now. Heavy hours for me behind the wheel. Skip the scheduled camp site. . Let’s see if the hotel next up can take us a night early? I need a bed.

The excellent running trails around lakes in Ljubljana pleased the students. All of them took on the longer distance runs without my encouragement. And a meal in a garden like forest of heavy foliage saved what could have been an empty, thankless day of roads leading to unknown destinations. A “Barbara” found rooms for all of us in what then became a full hotel. We were lucky to have her on duty when we arrived that afternoon.

July 5th --- Still in Ljubljana, more trails, running miles. But no driving “miles”. A very clean city provided outdoor food and drinks along the river that ran through the heart of the town.

We were losing our intellectual focus. But I knew that Freud, Beethoven, Mozart and Hitler Land were ahead.

July 6th --- The next morning it was up to Lake Bled, scene of the notorious 1987 “lost keys”panic with Dr. Ethan Ford featured. The camp ground is packed now, unlike in 1987, but it is a first class site with a view of one fantastic lake. The kids swam and enjoyed themselves, were obnoxious at a dinner table, a certain respect threatened.

The intellectual content ahead would spark the focus.

July 7th --- We reached Vienna in time for those fantastic dinners at the international booths in front of the Rathhaus on the famous “Ring” of the city. The hotel was a number of metro stops away, but Max was sharp in leading the way.

July 8th --- The day belonged to Freud, then Beethoven, then Mozart. We entered Freud’s former home and offices with quotes from the psychoanalyst challenging the students. And from my old Freudian psychoanalyst (e.g., “it is an insult to have some people like you”). Arete once again had an hour or so to take in the life of Freud through pictures, captions, even where the famous “couch” once rested. Beethoven died up the street. Few realize this when they visit Vienna. We went to where 15,000 or more citizens gathered upon his death and walked behind the casket to a nearby church. We sat down in a shady area of a quiet little park just one hundred or so yards from where Beethoven died, thanks to Patrick were able to hear the sound track from “Immortal Beloved” with little disturbance. It was the highlight of the trip for one of the students.

After turning the students loose for 3 hours, we met up to remember one Mozart. As with Beethoven, the place where Mozart died is unknown to virtually all visitors. Arete discovered the location in the 1980’s. A small plaque on a department store remembers. Patrick came through again, this time with Mozart’s, “Requiem”. Then it was off to the international food booths for the rest of a full day and night in the city of Vienna. We never returned to the hotel during the entire or early evening hours.. It was a monumental Arete way to feel the history of Vienna. I know. I have been on all 18 trips.

July 9th --- The ominous concentration camp was ahead. Some 120,000 Jews were worked to death at Mauthausen in World War II. We had viewed the balcony in Vienna where Hitler had excited some 80,000 Austrians upon his triumphant return to the city in 1938. Brody, a Jew, told me that he felt horror in walking under the Hapsburg palace entrance exactly where Hitler had been. Now we were going to view a gas chamber, ovens, the quarry where the Nazi sadism was repeated by the thousands until death.

July 10th --- A very special camp site awaited us in Germany. Or was it Austria? But the site by the river was taken. However the view from the outdoor dinner table was of dreams. Absolute beauty!

July 11th --- The next morning, without breakfast, we started our hike down the trail that Hitler took over 300 times to his “tea house”. Hitler said it was there that he thought most clearly, that he formed emotional commitments to what he saw as his destiny. Jahya helped us to take a not so obvious trail from a golf course “tee”. Golf course? Hitler? The “tea house”. Such irony.

We were told by my son, Cory, to stay close to the golf course. Suddenly we were within the Tea House. What did the students feel? I heard one sarcastic compliment for Hitler for his taste in views.

How did they handle where they were standing and the past presence of a person responsible for the death of millions?

Ask them?

We next needed to cross over a pass filled with motorcycle bikes, an accident waiting for you at virtually every turn. We made it. A night sleeping by a river was ahead. Good bathrooms and showers were available in a lightly filled camp rounds. An outdoor table brought pizza. The world was good.

July 12th --- Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful drive to St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Nietzsche trail would be coming up the next morning. The perplexing sayings were handed out for each of the students to ponder. Tomorrow would be filled with intellectual peaks and a gorgeous run or hike in a spectacular valley below a glacier.

July 13th --- The crisp morning air and the sharp thought of Nietzsche found us on a trail above his boarding house. We would pause for each student to read their challenging quotation, then provide us with their interpretation. It was hard to concentrate on the meaning sometimes because each view was so spectacular, even distracting. The rushing river below us was angry. The deep forest was where Zarathustra had appeared to me with challenging words in 1973 on a family trip. It was a wonderland of classrooms.

July 14th --- It was time to take another long drive to reach a destination. The Matterhorn was next up. How can the famous mountain be only, “next up”?
July 15th --- We were in the camp ground below the Matterhorn. The mountain isn’t in view. We will reach it the next morning. It was birthday eve.

July 16th --- I awoke to being age 80. We took the short train ride to the village below the famous mountain. Then the young people chose to hike along the side of the Matterhorn, Max challenged the trail to the 10,200 foot “hutte”, but ice and snow prevented a repeat of his 2007 cherished memory.

I spent the day remembering my time in the 1970’s with my wife Patricia, and our two boys, Jess and Cory, in the town and on the mountain. We reached the “hutte” as a family, spent many days in Zermat.

On the night of my birthday day we camped on a bare strip of ground on our way toward Zurich. We had decided to negotiate a difficult pass before dark and not face it in the morning. The outdoor "birthday" dinner at a restaurant up the road was tremendous. It rained heavily during the night, but this just provided another Arete experience.

July 17th --- We returned to the Zurich youth hostel, where the first Arete team in 1979 stayed on their initial night in Europe. The final 2013 reflections by the students toward me and the trip were deep and caring. And they didn’t want to let go.

I told them that they were “winners”.