Monthly Archives: January 2014

Living of the Edge [literally] in Nafplio, Greece

For every class that I am taking here in Athens we have a field study where we go and explore a different part of Greece for a day or two. Our first trip of the semester was to Nafplio (Ναύπλιο), Greece. This seaport town in the Peloponnese was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic at the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821. It was the capital for only twelve years before that title was moved to Athens where it now remains. In mythology, Nafplius (Ναύπλιος) was the son of the sea god, Poseidon, and was said to be the founder of Nafplio. Makes sense, as much as a myth can. But really Nafplio comes etymologically from the Greek words “to sail” and “ship” to mean something along the lines of “Good-sailing City”. Makes even more sense (words, I tell you. they never cease to amaze me).

After a two hour bus ride with my fourteen peers and our three Modern Greek language teachers, we made our way through this picturesque city to find our lovely rooms. Hotel Mariana was nestled near the top of a hill overlooking the cities rooftops.

Our little courtyard with the Palamidi Castle in the background.

Our little courtyard with the Palamidi Castle in the background.

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from my bedroom window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was our trek up the 999 steps to the crest of a hill where the Palamidi (Παλαμήδι) fortress is nestled. This castle was built in 1714 and was under the control of the Turks for a good one hundred years until the Greeks gained control. Legend says that there were originally 1000 steps until Theodoros Kolokotronis’ horse got a little too excited after the victory over the Ottomans and crushed one of the steps.

From the top of Palamidi.

From the top of Palamidi.

Bastion of Saint Andrew (Aγιος Aνδρεας).

Bastion of Saint Andrew (Aγιος Aνδρεας).

 

 

 

 

 

Every doorway you went through lead to even more steps, rooms, bridges, etc. Much exploring was done and as some one who quite enjoys climbing, wandering, discovering, and historical buildings, I had a pretty good time. As I was traversing, I found a protruding (and stable) ledge that was just calling my name. I climbed past a tree and seated myself enjoying the 65 degree Fahrenheit weather and fresh cool breeze. Later, I was approached by my teacher who was shocked that I chose to perch on this ledge. Apparently I was about 700 feet from the ground! I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have a fear of heights.

On my ledge. If you look closely in the upper left corner, you can see my Greek language teacher.

On my ledge. If you look closely in the upper left corner, you can see my Greek language teacher.

 

 

 

 

Much of the rest of the trip was up to us to wander the city and inspect by ourselves. We all met up later to have a dinner of souvlaki (σουβλάκι) together followed by gelato. Hours spent peering at the many trinkets offered in this cute town followed by sitting, sipping, and speaking at cafés. My favorite discovery was the Church of Aghios Anastasios. Saint Anastasios was martyred on February 1st, 1655 and is the patron saint of Nafplio. You were not allowed to take pictures inside, otherwise I would have of the beautiful images and wooden tabernacle. A beautiful place for a break and some prayer. Another great thing was all these little shrines, most to Mary, placed sporadically throughout the town.

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Church of Aghios Anastasios

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a peek inside the mini shrine.

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Marian shrine along the water.

A beautiful weekend and a wonderful way to spend my first weekend in Greece. Nafplio was such a lovely, pretty, and relaxed city that I would gladly visit again but after two days I was ready to head back home. And it was then on that bus ride back to Athens that I realized I had made the transition into picturing my awkward room in an apartment on a dirty street in a foreign country as my home. My comfortable, mismatched  home.

“The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” – Saint Thérèse de Lisieux

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Arrival in Athens: A Whirlwind of Travel

With a wake-up call at 4:00am, I hopped (or rather dragged) myself into a taxi to head to the airport for what would be a great feat of traveling for some one who has never traveled alone. A forty minute cab ride took me to the airport where I had difficulty trying to print my boarding pass until a nice woman helped me out. After a a quick last French croissant, I boarded the first leg of my flight which would take me to Germany. There, I disembarked my plane and shuffled my way through the crowd to find my connecting flight to Athens that was boarding as I arrived at the terminal (phew). This time I got a window seat which was a great grab as flying out of Germany was absolutely stunning.

Flying over the Alps (maybe).

Flying over the Alps (maybe).

Never has the term "mystery food" been so true as it is while flying with foreign airlines.  Who knows what I ate, but it was tasty.

Never has the term “mystery food” been so true as it is while flying with foreign airlines. Who knows what I ate, but it was tasty.

I then ventured to baggage claim, onto an hour bus ride, then a struggled my luggage onto a trolleybus that arrived a block from my hostel. I was welcomed by a friendly Greek who showed me to my room that I would be staying in for the night. After thanking God for getting me through a crazy morning of travel safely, I lightened my load and set out to explore the city. The rest of my classmates were arriving the next day but there was no way I was waiting a day to see the acropolis.

 

 

First I walked past the Panathenaic Stadium. This site was were the athletic events in the Panathenaic Games were hosted in antiquity. Later rebuilt in marble in 329 BC, then renovated again in 140 AD, and finally excavated and refurbished for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1870.

Panthenaic Stadium

Next was the Temple of Olympian Zeus and its neighbor, Hadrian’s Arch.

This temple was commissioned in the 6th century BC but wasn’t completed until the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s rule in 2nd century AD Why did it take so long? Well, differing opinions of rulers during the Athenian democracy, stolen pieces, changing the building material, etc. prolonged the process by quite a bit (obviously). It’s roughly 60 foot tall columns are made of local limestone at first, then changed to Pentelic marble and are topped with the Corinthian order. You can just imagine how massive the completed temple was in the Classical period!

Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in about 131AD as a gateway from the “old” city of Athens to the “new”. The inscription on the on the side facing the acropolis reads “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus” while the opposite side says “This is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus”.  Theseus was seen as the original founder of Athens and Hadrian saw his rule as a rediscovery of the city.

Temple of Zeus the Olympian

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Hadrian's Arch

Hadrian’s Arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was the hike up the side of the Acropolis. I had to restrain myself from spending money on the actual tour and going to the acropolis because I knew we would go as a class. So seeing it from a distance had to do for the day. First “discovery” was the Theatre of Dionysus. This site belongs to about the 4th century BC where festivals in honor of the Olympian god of revelry, wine, and a sense of duality, Dionysus.

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here we come to the pictures of the Acropolis. Since I am sure to make a post dedicated to our trip to the actual site, I will spare you the history lesson for now.

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On the south side of the Acropolis (seen behind me). To say I was excited is an understatement.

The Acropolis from the Areopagus Hill.

The Acropolis from the Areopagus Hill.

The Ancient Forum

The Ancient Forum

I have craved to see these monuments in real life since I first opened my textbooks years ago and nothing but Mass could pull me away. And so I trekked down the side of the hill to weave my way through the city of crazy drivers to find the Cathedral of Saint Dionysus for an evening Mass. Dionysus was an follower of Saint Paul and was the first bishop of Athens. I was lucky enough to find myself at an English Mass in a surprisingly stunning church.

Cathedral of Saint Dionysus

Cathedral of Saint Dionysus

I got a little lost on my way home, but thanks to friendly locals and a map I found myself safe and joyful in my hostel skyping a friendly face. I may have gotten lost once, but considering how many times I could have messed up by missing a flight, getting on the wrong bus, or missing the appropriate stop; I’d call that a success. All in all, I cannot think of a better way to say “γεια σας Αθήνα!”

“For the Lord God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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Paris Day Three: As Low-key as Sight-seeing Can Get

Exhausted from the previous day’s excursion, Krista and I took this day a little slower, polishing off the last few things on our “to-do” list. We started this day’s adventure with a visit to an open air market. Here I purchased my first “abroad earrings”. A brief aside: wherever my sisters traveled outside of the country, they returned with a pair of earrings from the respective country. Now that I am abroad, I can add to my “earrings from around the world” collection myself! These Parisian earrings are my first!

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We then followed up with a lovely breakfast of orange juice, coffee, and croissants at a little cafe near by. The owner of the cafe, we found out after we said that we were from the U.S., was going to a Michael Bublé concert later that night. That, combined with the best croissant I have ever had made this cafe my favorite of our visit.

Breakfast

There is a reason France is known for croissants. Over the course of three days, I consumed at least five.

After a lunch meeting up with an old friend of Krista’s whom she met while studying abroad in Australia; a visit to the Palais de la Decouverte was our afternoon. Here we learned about the strange creepy ways of ants and listened to a demonstration on static electricity in French. We bid farewell and started our trek up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to visit the Arc de Triomphe in the sunset. Commissioned in 1806 by Napolean, this Neoclassical arch was built to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz. Many selfies proceeded from here, but I will spare you of that plague (as well as ourselves of embarrassment).

450 Arc du Triomph straight on

With the sun behind us, and a bit of the evening to spare, Krista and I decided to head back to the Eiffel Tower for an encore to bookend our trip. Lucky for us, we got there right before the hour mark when it starts to twinkle.

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What a wonderful way to spend three days before heading to Greece! From eating mysterious items that we can’t pronounce, to wandering in random Churches, to hunting down beignets. I am so blessed to have a sister willing to show me the ropes of travel and navigation in a foreign country. Stay tuned to hear of the semester in Greece!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway

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Paris Day Two: From Notre-Dame to the Louvre (Saint Denis, pray for us!)

The Day of Walking. Krista and I set out in the morning for a day that would bring chilly hands, cafe stops, sore muscles, and impressive sights.

Our first destination was our most coveted destination, the Notre-Dame Cathedral (“Our Mother”) on the Île de la Cité. Wow, from the two 43 foot in diameter rose windows to the flying buttresses, to the many side alters, this Cathedral was probably my favorite destination. Everything was beautiful. I had to fight the urge to sing like Esmeralda while exploring the corners of the Cathedral.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Close up on façade of the front entrance depicting Saints including Saint Denis, a patron saint of France and walking, holding his head! read here for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis

Close up on façade of the front entrance depicting Saints including Saint Denis, a patron saint of France and walking, holding his head!

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Madonna and Child statue front and center. Where they belong.

From the North

The French Gothic architectural style of the outside was stunning, but let’s journey inside for a few more pictures that don’t even come close to doing it justice. 

Marian altar

Marian altar

view up the nave to the altar.

view up the nave to the altar.

Next, we headed across the way to La Sainte-Chapelle (“Holy Chapel”). This weightless chapel was built to house Louis IX’s collection of relics, including the crown of thorns. These stunning stain glass windows depict scenes from the old testament on the ten windows lining the nave and new testament scenes (including the Passion in the center) at the front apse. Naturally, some was under construction, but gorgeous nonetheless.

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Krista and I then wandering down the Seine River to explore a local market (one of Krista’s favorite past times). Along the way we ate some crepes and about an hour later, some french fries (of course). One thing we learned during our brief stay in Paris is that there is no shortage of restaurants. You never have to be concerned about missing an opportunity to eat because there is always another restaurant. And you are always hungry because between every meal you are burning off all the calories you just gained from walking (or at least that’s what I like to think). We took our time meandering through random streets and investigating neat-looking churches that we came upon. Eventually, we made it to The Louvre. Fun fact, Friday evenings from 6:00pm onward, admission is free to any under 26-year-old regardless of nationality. Booyah! The sheer volume of artwork was amazing in itself; not to mention seeing some pieces of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, the Mona Lisa, Venus di milo,  the Code of Hammurabi, and many other treasures (I didn’t take pictures of everything, but let’s be real, you can just google it).

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The Louvre exterior

Apollo taking a "selfie" of himself slaying the python (actually the sword was probably made of another material that did not last through the years).

Apollo taking a “selfie” of himself slaying the python (actually the sword was probably made of another material that did not last through the years).

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Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova
This is one of my favorite Greek myths.

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova

As noted far above, this was a day that ended in two young women feeling as if they were about 87 years old as they crawled into bed that night. But then again, at least we still had our heads about us! See what I did there? If not, take a look at this little synopsis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis).

Saint Denis, pray for us! Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us! Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

“The world is thy ship; not thy home.” – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

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Paris Day One: Smells Like Paris

I said farewell to the good ole USA on Wednesday, January 8th at 6:10pm to start my first-time experience over seas. This flight was just shy of twenty-two hours after returning to Wisconsin from a Student Leadership Summit in Dallas the previous five days (shout-out to SLS14!). Up until ten days ago, I had never been on an airplane before. Since then, I have taken five flights. You could say I am a pro. Regardless, I felt more along the lines of Jim Halpert before his new job: “I am leaving early today for Philly, because tomorrow is the first day of my new job. So I figure I’d get in at 5:00, check into a hotel at about 6:00 so I can get a real good night of restless sleep and nervous puking.” Luckily, only half of this quote was my reality (the restless sleep part, just for clarification). Eight and a half hours later and on a grand total of five hours of sleep the two previous nights, I found my sister who has been in Italy for the past three months and just like that, we were ready to live it up in the City of Lights.

After squeezing out luggage in a tiny closet of our hotel by defying the laws of physics, we hit the streets with a map and a plan . . . well more like a loose list of sights we were interesting in visiting in three days. With Krista’s savvy navigation skills, we found our first destination: Basilique du Sacré-CœurTranslated as Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and has held perpetual adoration for over 125 years! Bronze equestrian statues can be seen of both Saint Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis and although you are not allowed to take pictures of the interior, I can promise you it is stunning.

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

While enjoying a tasty late lunch of cafe and beef bourguignon, we discussed our next plan of action. Silly us, what better way to start off a trip in Paris than a trip to the Eiffel Tower!  Holy iron latticework, Batman! But seriously though, the Eiffel Tower has 18,038 pieces held together by 2.5 million rivets.

Eiffel Tower Eiffle Tower and Seine

Food bed&essence of broccoli

We had to get creative with our utensils.

Ready to turn in for the night, we made our way through a grocery store to find some (more reasonably priced) dinner. In French style, we began looking through the various cheeses. We settled on some Camembert and a baguette from a bakery down the street. Little did we suspect that this cheese would taste and smell eerily like broccoli. Apparently not knowing French caused us to miss the “CAUTION: contains essence of broccoli” label. Thankfully we had also purchased some strawberry-rhubarb jam and yogurt to sate our hunger.

the cheese stands alone

Poor little cheese then needed a time out on the window sill so we could have reprieve from its pungent assail on our olfactory senses.

By the end of the night, the anxious Jim Halpert in me had completely dissipated and was replaced with Sophie and the gang. 

Through pure grace was I able to make it through the day without collapsing from exhaustion. I owe that one to prayers and adrenaline. That night definitely wasn’t a restless sleep.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

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