Peregrinatio ad Helladem
by: Gn. Dionysius Draco Invictus
Chapter 1: Introductio et Athenae
In the year 2753 (2000 CE), Atticus, Lupus and I (and of course many others) made a trip to Hellas (organised by our school). I thought it would be worthwhile to share a small travel report here of our voyage, and briefly discuss each place we visited. I hope that this will be published at the ColGra, and spiced up with some pictures. The first few parts will go to both our main list and the ColGra, but - borrowing a tactic from Locatus noster here - you'll have to read the rest at the mailing list of the ColGra, if you are interested.
Finally, this was it! After months of mouth-watering, working in cellars or toiling away in restaurants, our dream would become a tangible reality. Finally, we'd have the chance to test our well-rehearsed Greek anthem on native hearers, and to see if the country would live up to the expectations our filhellenism had boosted up to incredible proportions. Special clothing - the type you only realise its bad style of once you actually have to wear it - had been bought, and local Greek restaurants been visited to give us a taste of things to come. The plane brought us to Athens quickly. When we arrived there, it was about 22h, and a pleasant temperature that promised infernal temperatures the following day. It immediately became appearent how dirty the city actually was: no slums or anything, but very dusty, a fact that was even known back in the ancients' time. Some things never change. When we reached the hotel, more tired than anything from carrying our suitcases and luggage all the way down the narrow streets of Athens, we were pleased to find a bed and - thank Aiolos - an airconditioned room. It kept us up all night from sheer excitement. Of course, the room's tv played a significant part in this as well. Luckily, I don't really remember what happened.
Next day was a less fortunate one for me. Upon visiting the Akropolis, my eyes began to hurt, and only sunglasses could ease the pain somewhat. The way to the Akropolis was steep, and crowded with tourists, modern worshippers to the heathen temples. The Propylean columns and entrances were arranged in a chaotic fashion, but a ruin is never expected to be orderly. Besides, the pain was more than eased by the view it offered the visitor on the Parthenon, and a little further, the Erechtheon. Our guide told about the founding of Athens: Poseidon and Athena both wanted to control the city, and respectively tried to win the sympathy of its inhabitants by making a natural fountain of water, and an olive tree. It is all too obvious who won. The judge in casu, Erechtheus, then got his own place of worship. Although the Kariatids were repliclas, they still looked genuine enough to let our fantasy turn the temple into its original state. Looking down, there was the restored antique theatre, that nowadays still has shows. Watching further over the city, ancient buildings and sites seemed to emerge from everywhere like toadstools. Of course, the larger part of the city was simply modern. Then, the Akropolis itself was larger than expected. The building, testifying of Perikles' grand plans, and Athens' cultural and political power in the 5th century BC, still stood proud under the Greek sun. In spite of being seen as the symbol for Greek culture, and sometimes even antquity as a whole, it is an atypical example of Greek temples: instead of two rows of six columns, it has eight. It is also widely known that, despite the fact that it looks very straight and linear, it is in fact bent and curbed. Only, the human eye does not see this, and owes its misperception of perfection exactly to those bends. I personally found the linearity to be a little overemphasized, but others are free to hold different opinions.
The small museum on the Akropolis was a model for other Greek museums: vigilant employees, and taking pictures forbidden ("no flash", "no pictures" were frequently heard mottos in the museums), because the museums still have their own picture and souvenir shop. Anywhere in Greece, you'll come across these: usually filled with replicas of ancient sculptures (complete without their heads and all...) in all sizes and materials imaginable, and an s-load of t-shirts, helmets, mugs and other things almost genuine enough to have potential customers at least browse through the articles.
In the meanwhile, my eyes got worse, so I had to return to the hotel. Therefore, I was forced to skip the visit to Athens' largest museum, and a stadion in which a small running contest was held - luckily, none of the participants went as far as to imitate their spiritual forebears in their dressing habits during sport contests. However, at round the evening, I got better, and was able to accompany the rest to the restaurant (manned by a few "Greek lovers" who were eager to invite the females among us to a sirtaki), and a subsequent mounting of Athens' steepest hill, which provided us with a magnificant nocturnal view over the city, under the many stars.
Chapter 2: Monasteria
The day after promised to be a long one. We had barely discovered the hidden corners of Athenae, and we had to leave already. Although tour buses do generally not enjoy a good reputation, but rather one that reeks of vomiting elderly, whining children and half-mad bus drivers, Hermes had mercy on our foreign souls, and our tour bus for the rest of the trip was one with an able and competent driver, and... airconditioning. When you come out of infernal temperatures as cool northerners, there's nothing that feels more like luxury than an airconditioned bus. The driver's name being Kyriakis, I had half expected to see a far cousin of a "Days of our Lives"-actor, but luckily nothing of the sort. And so, we embarked on our next travel through Greece, headed towards the town of Kalambaka. I know, before I went there, the name didn't ring any bells either. But, it's not the town itself that is famous, but the surrounding rock formations, which could be described as Greek versions of American rocks in the far west, sculpted by wind. Only these were probably sculpted by ice, when the last ice age ended, and water rushed its way to the Thessalian plains, which are beautiful to behold from the surrounding mountains. Although the trip lasted about eight hours, it never got boring, especially not because I had a bag full of audio cassettes and a walkman. Sociopath or not, I enjoyed the ride. We also passsed the mountains where the Thermopylae are at, where the Spartan commander Leonidas gained eternal fame, by what is perhaps the most courageous defeat in classic history. I wondered what he would think of the fact that his name has now become a trademark of Belgian chocolates.
In the late afternoon, after having had an intermediate stop at Vorlis beach to consume our lunch, we finally arrived at Kalambaka. A clean, small town, definitely modern, and accomodated to the needs of the barbarian hordes of tourists that swarm over Greece each year. Lucky for us, our initial shame of being "tourists" was wearing, and lucky for the local merchants, they were able to earn a good dime on us. Atticus smuggled a bottle (yes, a bottle) of ouzo to our room, which was emptied mysteriously, without Lupus and I noticing. It must have been Dionysos himself paying us a visit. Entertainment enough in the town: at night, the amount of people seemed to double, and the mood on the streets was pleasant, except for an occasional quarrel between two adjacent ice cream bars. Shouting at their desperate gestures towards us that we were still comparing prices was not such a good idea, now that I look back at it. Next day, we were going to visit the rocks, or, as the Greeks call them, the meteora, which means "hanging in the sky". Of course, we weren't merely there to have a long walk through the astonishing landscape, but also to visit what was on top of the flat mountains: monastries. Yay, I intuitively hear someone think. Wait. These monastries are truly special: they were built in the later centuries of the eastern Roman Empire, which was of course completely hellenised, and controlled by the orthodox church. As there were no stairways up the steep rocks, it was quite a remarkable achievement for the Greeks to build their monastries there, on seperated small rock plateaus. Even the Turks did not succeed in taking the monastries when they conquered Greece in the 15th century.
Much of the ancient orthodox faith was still present in the air, and in the habits. Short skirts and other such frivolities were not allowed by the denizens of the monastries, as neither was singing. However opposed to profanities, the monastry did have a souvenir shop. Nonwithstanding this oddity, the rest was more than worth the effort: ancient textbooks, mainly biblical; walls and ceilings that were painted all over, showing often gruesome scenes from the early days of christianity, and of course iconographic depictions of Christ and the virgin Mary. With some imagination, it was easy to feel the atmosphere that had ruled the monastries back in the medieval times. The mixture of discipline and ascetism was visible in every expression on the faces of the martyrs and saints.
After our visit to the impressive religious keeps, a long - and hot - walk brought us almost automatically and instinctively, to a nice swimming pool. Poseidon's own rancor could not have matched the force with which most of us plunged into the water. Fun and games! While the women among us were leisurely getting a suntan, the men were trying to impress them by making the most astonishing jumps from the diving board (not a very high one, though), which provided us with a lot of laughter. Atticus had the ill luck of slipping on the board, and I was "honoured" with the title of "Vettigste Spletser", an expression which I can't (and won't) translate. Needless to say that from that point on, swimming automatically meant jumping.
Accompanied by a bottle of retsina, delicious Greek wine, Lupus and I concluded the day at the balcony of our hotel room, under a star-lit sky.
Chapter 3: Delphi
Next day would bring us to Delphi, which has been described to us as one of the hottest spots in Greece (litterally, that is). Apollo made this city his sanctemony, after defeating an enormous snake in battle, when he reached the city on a dolphin's back (hence the name of the city). His orcales, middle-aged women (they used to be younger, but for obvious reasons, this was changed over time), are still called pythiai to testify of his battle with the snake. Despite the beautiful scenery and the airconditioning, the bus trip was rather nauseating, and I think all of us were glad once we arrived in Delphi. Surprisingly, the modern town was very recent: much like in Kalambaka, the village had only seriously begun to expand in the era of tourism, which explained the many similar shops down the street, with vendors fruitlessly trying to lure us inside, and us fruitlessly trying to find stamps to send postcards back home (in Mediterranean fashion, the post office was closed almost all day long).
However, that didn't spoil it all for us, of course. After a visit to Delphi's museum, where famous artifacts such as the omphalmos were displayed (the "belly button" of the world, determined by Zeus, who had sent out two eagles in opposite directions; they met each other again above Delphi), we were accompanied by an enthusiastic guide to the actual sanctemony of Apollo himself. Being at the site, it wasn't hard to see why the ancient Greeks built it there. The spot had its natural grace and spiritual identity, and to overcome steepness of the slopes must have been a hard job for the pilgrims to do. There was not much left of the temple itself, but the fundamental structures were still visible. As promised to a good acquaintance, we offered a few moments of our time in meditation over Apollo.
The road went further upwards to a stadion, past the places where Greek cities used to have their own deposits to display their grandeur and victories. Another running contest was held, under the burning sun. Luckily, everyone was well-equipped with iced water to compensate for the heat. Much of the stadion was still intact, but given the temperatures, my mind wasn't set on contemplating how it had really looked in ancient times. Without doubt, more impressive than today, when Delphi was still a flourishing centre of religious activity. As we descended again, the famous tholos of Athena became visible in the distance, as did a few other unidentified structures, that we would visit the day after.
After the apollinian visits, dionysian entertainment followed in a local dance café. In the heat of the action, I even got a vision from the wine god himself, equipped with grape staff and all, grinning at me. But that Heineken could have played a role, of course (and no matter what the rest of the world thinks, Germans, Austrians and Belgians will agree with me: Heineken stinks). Next morning, I knew why he'd been grinning: the combination of the warmth, the different living pattern and yesterday's amusement provided me with a serious hangover, all the way through the visit to the tholos, the wall and its surrounding buildings. Needless to say, I was the butt of jokes that day.
Nonwithstanding my less than optimal physical condition, the round, simple temple to Athena was pleasingly aesthetic in design, and most of it had remained intact. As of yet, the function of this temple remains unclear. It has been suggested that it served to appease the gods, and prevent wars and seismic shocks. Whatever its function was, it formed the ideal background for a lot of picture taking. After passing by the walls, which were built at an adjacent plateau (a little higher than the place were the tholos was built), we went to the restaurant to eat our lunch there, although I passed most of the time in the toilet, trying every technique humanly possible to vomit, but to no avail. Kids, don't try this at home, I'd say. Then, the bus came to pick us up, and drive us to Olympia, where we arrived in the early evening. The small hotel was run by a family, which had provided us with extra large dishes, after yours truly had mildly complained earlier to the teachers that the portions we got in restaurants were often too small. Ironically, due to my illness, I could barely eat. Dionysos had truly taken his revenge upon me, and I wouldn't forget the lesson he taught me. While most of the other members of the group were out that night to explore Olympia, I was sleeping at the room, frequently awaking to go and drink a little... tap water.
Chapter 4: Olympia
I awoke fresher than the day before, and felt that the acute sickness and probable fever had left my body. However, due to the fact that I had foolishly drank tap water during the night (I was not allowed to touch the water supplies of my friends for obvious risks of contamination), what was coming out of my body was less healthy. You get the picture. What helped to ease the pain, was that I wasn't the only one, and about one out of three fellow travellers had the same problem sooner or later.
Being kind of shaky still, I was unable to fully enjoy the ruins of Olympia. In contrast to most of the area around Delphi, a lot of the ancient ruins had been uncovered and preserved, revealing a busy and densely built ancient town with narrow roads and buildings both rich and poor. The density of the ruins posed another problem, of course, which was the lack of an overall overview, so it was often hard to tell what function a given ruin had had in antiquity. One building was clear enough: the stadion, where millennia earlier, naked Greek athletes from all over the thirsty country had run their races, to compete for immortal fame in their home town, in honour of the Gods. In the same spirit, another traditional contest in our group was held, in which I, pauvre diable, didn't participate because of the tremendous heat, and lack of shadow.
It was hard to come by the fact that here, in 776 BC, the first Olympian games were held, during which war was forbidden, and during which affairs were settled by sport, under the auspices of the Gods. The Olympian games were forbidden in the 4th century by the christian Roman emperors, but resurged again in 1896, which proves how valuable the ideal is to place sport and competition above war and greedy imperialism. The ideal is still alive today, although the belief in the Gods has mostly withered, of course, and quite a number of habits has changed (luckily, I daresay).
After wandering around the various structures, ruins and gates, it was time to pay a visit to the museum, which was large, and rich in material, especially sculptures. Here, parts of the famous frieze that depicts the battle between centaurs and Lapiths - which more likely referred to Hellas' victory over the Persian army - were shown, detailed and larger than I had actually expected, along with fragmentary remains of the frieze that depicted the ancient Greek pantheon on the temple to Zeus in Olympia. Also present was the magnificent Hermes of the Greek master Praxiteles, regarded as one of the masterpieces of ancient Greek sculpture. In the statue, Hermes is holding the small Dionysos. Sadly enough the poor fellow has lost one of his arms, and um, other things. Among other sculptures, a lot of Gods were present; Antinoos, Hadrianus' young friend; horse and miniatures of the ancient city.
We left the rather smudgy new town, and headed towards Kalamaki, a Belgian vacation resort, which was meant to be a sort of "break" from all the culture, museums and ruins we had visited. Yet, a visit to Corinth and the ancient, cyclopic palaces of Mykene were also scheduled.
Chapter 5: Mykene
The ancient keep of Mykene, with its heavy gates, deep graves and cyclopic past, awaited us under a glorious morning sun. Even though my physical condition was far from optimal, it was doable. As the ancient city itself was built on a hill, which in turn rested atop a mountain, tourists were allowed to walk all over the place, which meant crawling and climbing all the way up and down. The view from the top was spectacular, and almost as good as the view we had when we were looking down the Thessalian plains a few days back: it was easy to understand why the Mycenians had built their capital here. An enemy army approaching the keep would be visible a long time before they saw the lion gates, and the lords would keep an overview of their lands.
The famous lion gates were smaller than expected, but an impressive piece of architecture nonetheless, combined with the so-called cyclopic walls. These were called cyclopic because later Greeks thought that these massive walls could only have been built by giants and cyclopses, the mythical one-eyed monsters. Mykene was also the legendary seat of king Agamemnon who, according to Homèros in his Ilias, lead the Achaian armies of various city-states and regions against Troia and its allies, under the pretext of getting back his brother's kidnapped wife. It was also here that the so-called "mask of Agamemnon" was found, along with other items: golden death masks and grave gifts that testified of a rich culture, predating that of Athens during the Peloponessian and Persian wars by almost a thousand years. This culture was spread across the Greek peninsula, and was especially concentrated in the area of Corinth, with other palaces such as Argos lying nearby. According to modern archeologists, it was very well possible for such a civilisation to wage an attack against high-walled Troia, and bring the city down.
After our visit to the ruins of the city, we went down to what was called the "tomb of Agamemnon", although the name was as fictious as that of the aforementioned mask. It was built inside a natural hill, but the way in which the roof and walls were steeply built made us stand in awe for the ancient masters who had been capable of engineering this. The contents of the tomb were, however, disappointing: nothing of any value, and a distinct odour of urine was perceived, which made the increasingly hotter sun more pleasant to bear.
Later that day, we also visited the canal of Corinth. It had been the dream of every great leader and conquerer to make a connection between the Gulf of Corinth and the Aegean Sea, so that ships didn't have to sail around the Peloponessos anymore. Greeks, Romans and French had to quit these works, until the modern Greeks finished it in 1893. It's six kilometres long in total, and fifty-two metres deep. Despite the spectacular view it offers down the artificial, sharp gulch, few ships are visible. Ironically enough, once the canal had been dug, it became useless due to the central position of Athenae as capital of Greece, that had risen from the ashes, and the coming of aeroplanes and trains as trade factors in the Mediterranean and the Greek world.
Also visited that day was the Venetian fortress of Nauplion, a confusing labyrinth of stairs and towers. Naturally, it did offer us a good view of the area, and it was there that Atticus insisted on having his picture taken next to a Greek flag, waving in the wind. The fortress had become of strategic importance again, after the Venetians had left it, and the Turks had been driven away, during the Greek war for independence. Nauplion even was their capital for a short while, before Athens assumed that role (again). It was hard to imagine that once, cannons roared here and battles were fought.
The rest of the day, and the next day, was spent at the vacation resort of Kalamaki, mainly at the beach. Philosophical and pseudo-philosophical conversations between Atticus, Lupus, I and others under the sun, going for an occasional swim in the sea, and irritation with the roommates at night were the most important activities of our short, leisurely break before our departure to Santorini.
Chapter 6: Thèra
Although I was no "boat virgin" (and so were none of us, I guess), this was the longest boat trip I had hithereto undertaken, and it reminded me of the fact that Hellas had primarily been a naval power, in contrast to Roma, which had always relied on strong land armies rather than armadas (which were of Greek design anyway). Our desitnation was Santorini ("the Holy Peace") called Thèra in ancient times.
The island used to be larger, and was one of the central points of the Minoan civilisation, until a disaster far greater than the similar catastrophe in Pompeii and Herculaneum struck the island: around 1500 BC, the large volcano, which was responsible for the island's existence in the first place, erupted. Because it was only a small island, the caldera soon collapsed, and sea water began to flow into the steaming hot crater. The result was a volcano explosion that probably caused the downfall of the Minoan civilisation: an enormous tidal wave of more than forty meters high erased the island's (probable) capital, Akrotiri, and most likely destroyed the feared Minoan armada at Krèta, which made the island defenseless, and drove its inhabitants to despair (according to recent archeological findings, they even sacrificed their children). Harvests failed, and invaders from the mainland, from the Mykenian civilisations to be more precise, invaded and usurped the island. This is also hinted at in Homèros' Ilias, when Krèta, ruled by a Mykenian king (Diomedes), also participates in the attack on Troia.
However, nothing of this violent past was visible when the boat reached Santorini, after a small stop at the isle of Naxos. Despite the late hour, the island community was still very much alive, and the lights were visible from a long distance, although the description "Greek Ibiza" was a little far-fetched. Through a maze of several narrow streets, often not accessible by car (or air-conditioned bus), we reached our hotel; an old orthodox monastry, now being hosted by volunteers as a small inn. At any rate, I was too tired to go into the town that night, and enjoyed a short sleep, in order to get up next day for the many interesting visits Santorini would offer us.
Chapter 7: Akrotiri et Kamina
Not fully conscious, but in a state that was more awake than asleep, we visited the museum of Santorini that day: a surprisingly cool museum, that was spatious, but didn't have much content to offer. Most of the sparse items were of course from the Aegean era, and included reconstructed maps and maquettes of the islands back when it was a central point in the Minoan world. From the museum, and its rather unfriendly employees, the group went on to the covered site of Akrotiri - covered, because for ruins of that age, and while excavations are still going on, sunlight, rain and wind erosion can be deadly.
While the paths through the old town were rather confusing, the sight was pretty impressive. An Aegean Pompeii was there right in front of our eyes: houses, streets, corners, rooms, cellars, windows and streets were clearly recognisible, more so than in Olympia or Delphi, even though these ruins were thousand years - or more - older. Unfortunately, the dark lighting did not allow for interesting pictures to be taken, and, in Greek custom, it was forbidden anyway. No flash. From the ancient maze of Akrotiri, which brought quite some eerie visions of such a cultured city being destroyed by rains of ash and fire, we went back into the open.
A brisk walk through the sometimes steep, but not very high, mountains of the island provided us with another set of familiar vistas, and brought us past another old site from the classic Greek time. The function of the building, which was in the neighbourhood of an ancient temple ruin, was clear by the depiction of an erect penis on one of the large stones. Of course, the building's inhabitants had long been gone, but the symbol of their fruitful profession was still standing tall after more than two millennia had passed. After several stops under the ruthless sun for drinking or the taking of pictures, we arrived into the small port town of Perissa, where we ate, and went to sunbathe on a beach of volcanic sand - which is just like any other type of sand, except for the fact that it's black.
Having been reduced to a state of utter apathy after the tiring walk, the weather and the copious meal, I was able to do little more than wade around some in the sea, and then have my white skin being baked by the sun. Atticus, Lupus and some others clearly had other things on their mind, especially when it came down to water fights. I opted for a dry return. After this short visit, a small boat brought us to the isles of Paleo and Nea Kamina, islands that had sprung to life from nothing in the fifties, when the volcanic heat source under the croissant-like island had begun to work again, this time producing two islands. While not as large as Iceland or Greenland, the islands looked bizarre in their own right: they were black and grey, and virtually nothing grew there. When turning your back to the actual island of Santorini, and looking over the grey, rocky hills, it was easy to imagine it to be an alien or lunar landscape.
The real attraction of both isles, however, were their bays. The water had an orange colour at some places, but was pleasantly warm due to the deeper heat sources, which provided for an extra swim from the boat. The orange, sticky substance on the rocks nearby was quite suspicious, though. Nevertheless, every one of us returned to the boat in one piece, and we returned to Santorini itself. Being rather tired, and the slopes of the island rather steep, we made the ascent back up by donkey. Some of the animals lived up to their stubborn repututation, but most of them were easy-going, kind of sad animals with archetypical harsh owners. I think the donkey was as glad as me to be released from the burden, but I can't deny that I'd trade a long walk by foot anytime for that donkey. Pictures of this occasion have been taken by our dastardly monitors.
Back at the monastry, we had some free time left, with another group moment, in which another member and me had put together a small show. Afterwards, there was still enough time to explore the island's night life further, but I was too tired to care about that. Next day, we'd return back to Athens, which made our return home suddenly closer and more tangible.
Chapter 8: Piraeus et Aegina
The boat from Santorini was to leave early, so we - grumblingly - got up early. The disappointment was great when it appeared that we had to wait at least an hour to get on the boat at the port. Luckily, we were able to wait in the shadow, and finally, the passengers were allowed to enter. The sea was less calm than it had been on our travel to the island, which gave rise to some distasteful scenes on the deck and most especially in the toilets. Having taken some pills beforehand, I was luckily saved from Poseidon's fury. Not that it stormed: on the contrary, the sky was as blue as ever, and now that I think of it, in those two weeks, we never saw a single cloud. Sometimes we wished we would, though.
However, late in the afternoon, we arrived at Piraeus, the port suburb of Athens, just like Rome had Ostia in ancient times. The area had what I would call an ugly charm. Rusty, metal blocks, dirty buildings and a penetrant smell of oil and industry. Most buildings were rectangular or cubic, and showed an improvised design from the sixties. It reminded me of images I had seen of the former USSR. Despite its obvious crudeness, I liked the place. Perhaps that is also why I'm able to enjoy ruins.
Except for a heroic pillow battle at the hotel, the night in Athenae offered little excitement, and more than ever, the uncultured barbaroi among us worked on my nerves, and rather than following the herd all the way, Lupus, a few others and I returned to the hotel to engage in other conversations. Atticus had already returned earlier. The tv at the room didn't offer much interesting, not even the usual pornography one could expect in hotel rooms. That night, I also had to throw away a pair of shoes due to an explicable odour that arose from them.
Next day held the promise of another early morning, and a boat brought us to Aegina, an island not very far from Athenae, where the famous, still largely intact temple of Aphaia is. In some aspects, it was similar to the Parthenon in composition (it was smaller, of course) and design, but it also excelled in simplicity and naturality, whereas the Parthenon can be called pompous in some aspects. The surrounding landscape had the same atmopshere: nice and simple. Many pictures were taken at the site, mostly because we had to use up our film rolls. After the visit to the temple ruin, we went into the town of Aegina itself, with the common tourist shops, and a beach to go for a swim.
Later on the day, when we were back in Athenae, and looking for souvenirs for the families back home, I found a nice little version of a bronze Greek war helmet. Even the spelling mistakes in English on the attached label were charming: a head used to coverning the warrior. Atticus was less fortunate. Mistakingly seeing an eagle atop a column as one and the same object, he grabbed the column, and the eagle fell into other articles. Luckily, the shop owner took things easily. After our respective searches had ended, and a last group moment was held high atop the hotel roof, under a full moon, we settled for our last night in Hellas.
Next day, obviously, we returned by plane and train, full of stories to tell, and pictures to develop. Vivat Hellas!