Posts Tagged With: Greece

Meteora Rocks My World

Earlier this semester some of my peers visit the breathtaking site of the Monasteries in Meteora. When they returned, every single one of them said that would have loved it for three reasons:

1. Stunning landscapes

2. Religious affiliation

3. The monasteries closely resembled the Northern Air Temples of Avatar: The Last Airbender

These obviously all being convincing arguments, I packed my bags for the weekend and headed to see these wonders myself.

Meteora (Μετέωρα) means “middle of the sky” or “suspended rocks” because on top of  these land formations rest Eastern Orthodox monasteries. In the 9th century, some ascetic monks moved up to these nearly inaccessible cliffs — a pretty good choice when you don’t want people bothering you. Originally there were more monasteries, but now only six remain; two of which are inhabited by nuns.

I had taken the train straight to Kalambaka (the city where the monasteries are) instead of Trikala, where I was staying for the night because I had planned on going to one of the monasteries that afternoon. Almost immediately upon arrival two things occurred simultaneously: I realized I had no idea haw to get to the monasteries and it began raining . . . a fare amount. Being stubborn, I adjusted my scarf from around my neck to around my head and wandered around trying to find my way to the top until I decided that you actually need a flying bison to carry you to the top of these cliffs. I retreated to a cafe and tried to warm up while waiting for a train to take me back to the town in which I was staying. My hostel room and a pretty little byzantine icon of Mary and Jesus, I knew I was in a safe place.

012

Meteora path

Meteora path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To walk from monastery to monastery takes about two and a half hours, I would say, and is stunning the entire way. The morning was quite brisk and although I am 90% sure I got on the wrong bus from Trikala, I made it to the start of the path to the monasteries. It turned out to be a beautiful day and had some prayerful and meditative time while I bounced from one place to another. I visited each monastery, with the exception of the last because it was closed for the span of time I was there. Some have more to offer than others, but the Great Meteora (as you could guess from the name) has some awesome museums. All had beautiful chapels and amazing views.
Ribbet collage

 

To really hammer home the pun of the title, here is a selfie commemorating me "rocking" among the rocks.

To really hammer home the pun of the title, here is a selfie commemorating me “rocking” among the rocks.

 

It was absolutely gorgeous and well worth the five hour train ride. Getting out of the city is always refreshing and this was an ideal place to get that breath of fresh air. I rounded out the trip with another cafe visit, although this one was dry and sunny then headed back to my dear home of Athens.

 

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
― Gustave Flaubert

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Walking with Saint Paul: Thessaloniki

This pilgrimage to a Saint Paul destination was quite different in a variety of ways:

1. I was accompanied by two friends.

2. It was a weekend trip to the lively, second largest city in Greece as opposed to the much quieter one day journey to Corinth.

3. It was also the weekend of my birthday.

4. I didn’t get hopelessly lost in the rain.

I have explained in a previous post my devotion to Saint Paul and inspiration behind “walking in his footsteps” so to save from redundancy, I will not reiterate the saga here. Instead, this is an attempt at a brief account of the weekend in Thessaloniki.

Milica, Ben, and I began our trip by hopping on our midnight train (literally, we left at midnight) with the hopes of sleeping through the trip before arriving at our destination seven hours later. How silly the thought of sleep was. Although we were in a cabin, we shared it with a strangely controlling, stiletto-heeled, aged Jennifer Aniston look alike who was a fan of conversation. And even though we were initially ecstatic when we discovered that the seats reclined the instance of joy immediately faded along with the leg space.

Little Big House patio

Little Big House patio

 

Not much sleep was had, but we eventually arrived at the Thessaloniki at about 6:00am. Unfortunately our hostel didn’t open until 8:00am so we took advantage of the time to help our tired bodies out with a little caffeine. Here comes a plug for our hostel. We stayed at Little Big House, a brother/sister-run business, and it was the BEST. It was tucked away in the twisted streets but seemed to be a little oasis. The hosts were extremely helpful with everything we asked and provided such a beautiful, homey atmosphere. Just look at this patio!

 

 

The well in the Crypt.

The well in the Crypt.

Saint Demetrius

Saint Demetrius

Anyway, after drinking some more caffeinated beverages at the hostel, we set out to explore the city.

 

First stop, the byzantine style Church and Crypts of Saint Demetrius (Άγιος Δημήτριος). The Church was originally built on the ruins of a Roman bath in the late 4th century AD but fires lead to the reconstruction of the building that now stands in 7th century AD. The Roman baths hold the site where Saint Demetrius was imprisoned and executed in early 4th century AD. Unfortunately, our weekend seemed to be plagued by youths so a clear photo of the beauty of a church was near impossible.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

They are just sleeping, I promise.

They are just sleeping, I promise.

 

Next was my main attraction: the Roman Forum. Unlike the forum in Corinth, this one was smack dab in the middle of the modern city. I didn’t have to take a separate bus to find it and I definitely didn’t need to wander around in the rain trying to struggle through a Greek conversation. We found it easily and were apparently the only ones interested in it because we had the place to ourselves. While the Roman Forum existed during Paul’s time, he never preached in it. He did so in the synagogues which led to some angry Thessalonians who forced Paul and his companions out of the city.  It is because of this and the fact that the Modern city of Thessaloniki is built directly on top of the Ancient site that “walking with Saint Paul” is very difficult. Nonetheless, the experience was moving. After exploring the museum, we went to rest in the Odeion (a theater structure) where I read and Milica and Ben closed their eyes for a bit. It was quite peaceful to sit there and be engrossed in Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians while the hustle and bustle of the city continued around us.

Spoiling the mood slightly, was an employee who was not too thrilled about people napping in an archaeological site. The whole situation got awkward (and entertaining due to Milica’s snarky comments such as “Am I not allowed to meditate?”) pretty quickly so we set off for a new destination, kissing the forum goodbye.

 

White Tower

White Tower

 

The White Tower was our next destination. This was constructed by the Ottomans sometime after 1430 and was used as a fort, garrison, and prison. It was nicknamed the “Tower of Blood” and “The Red Tower” because of the dark uses but when Thessaloniki was separated from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, the tower was white-washed to symbolize the purification. And so the name “White Tower” came to be. There is a museum inside as you walk up to the top. Everything was in Greek so the three of us got fancy listening devices to listen to the descriptions in English. As you can imagine, we fit in really well.

With our lack of patience demonstrated in the White Tower museum as an indicator of our hunger, we found a taverna for lunch. Tasty and enjoyable as usual. With full stomachs we head back to the hostel for nap/quiet time. Later that night we met up with our three other friends/peers (Annie, Christina, and Greg) who were in the city for a field study. After being separated for almost two days, we were all quite happy to be reunited for an evening of wandering the city.

 

Arch of Galerius

Arch of Galerius

 

The following day I separated from Milica and Ben in order to visit the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Byzantine Culture. Both museums were fabulous, however not for the weak of heart for there is a LOT of material to look at. So if you aren’t a big fan of museums, I would not suggest them back to back.

On my way through to find my comrades, I passed the Arch of Galerius. Galerius was an emperor in the late 3rd, early 4th century AD and commissioned this triumphal arch for himself in 299AD. It originally had three arches and depicted both victories and ritual processions.

ginormous meal half eaten.

ginormous meal half eaten.

After a walk up to the old walls of the city, we headed back into town for dinner. We had a classic encounter with the “eyes are bigger than your stomach” issue when we ordered far more food than we could ever consume. We had a beautiful loooooong Greek dinner filled with much laughter and capped off with a waiter singing the Greek birthday song to me. All in all, awesome.

 

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

And so Sunday came. Not only are Sundays wonderful to begin with, but it is quite the blessing when your birthday falls on a Sunday during the Lenten season. Two years ago mine fell on Good Friday; a very different kind of birthday but both great gifts. Even cooler is knowing that I share a birthday with the inspirational Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Milica and I headed to Mass in the morning and found our Church in the middle of the clubbing district. A shocking and beautiful contradiction.

Rotunda

Rotunda

 

We stopped by the Rotunda for a look around. This was also constructed by Galerius but had many uses throughout the ages before it came to be the empty building it is today. From temple, to Christian basilica, to a Mosque, and then back to a Christian Church.

 

Before beginning our journey home, we stopped to pick up some of Thessaloniki’s famous trigona (τρίγωνα) and some chocolate covered tsoureki (τσουρέκι). It was smooth sailing for two of us, but due to a lost ticket, Ben and I stared through the window (like in a movie) at Milica as our train moved out of the station. Don’t you worry though, she made it home just fine by bus. Thank goodness! However we did not get of scot-free as the vandals that were everywhere we went in Thessaloniki were on our train. Apparently they were on a school field trip. Somehow I made it through the hours and hours without slapping one of them.

 

Like I said, clearly a very different adventure from my last pilgrimage following Saint Paul’s voyage. The city itself was lively and Modern, but if you let yourself be guided, you are brought to the simple beauties of reading in an archaeological site, laughing with friends, and discovering the loving embrace of  Mary waiting for you in a graffiti-ed ally.

 

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.” — Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

 “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” — Thessalonians 5:8-11

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Smattering of Sites in Attica

Field Study for class with Stavros, the most intense speaker you will ever hope to have the pleasure of meeting. Stavros is our professor for our course that travels to various places in Athens to have our class on site. Needless to say, it is my favorite class. This field study was separate two day trips to different locations in Attica, the region in which Athens resides. Basically we had class on a beach, climbed around some ancient fortresses, and listened to philosophy on the site of Plato’s Academy. Pretty solid, I’d say.

Eastern Attica:

Gulf of Marathon

Gulf of Marathon

In 490BC the Persian War began with the Battle of Marathon in efforts to stop the Grecian sea monopoly. 2500 years later my peers and I sat on the beach of the Gulf of Marathon as Stavros animatedly explained to us the Athenian strategy that lead the mere 10,000 soldiers to victory over the 55,000 Persians. To sum up how much the Athenians rock: they had trained warriors while the Persian army consisted of untrained slaves, they freaked the Persians out by screaming and running at them, they lead the remaining Persians into a hidden marsh and slaughtered them. Pretty insane. Then comes the part we are familiar with. A man is sent to Athens to deliver the message of victory and word of warning to the city of Athens. Instead of taking the long, flat way around, he ran through the mountains for 26.2 miles taking few breaks until he reached the city center delivering the message “We are victorious!” before dying (how/why this has turned into a good idea to people still baffles me).

Thorikos

Thorikos

Silver Mine with symbols of hope.

Silver Mine with symbols of hope.

 

 

Next stop, Thorikos. This was a wealthy town occupied beginning in the 6th century BC. There is a small, early theater here but there is also the ugly truth that is revealed on this sugar-coated site. The vast wealth was a result of the rich lead and silver that was mined by child slavery. Sadly, this continued even into the 3rd century AD. Contrary to popular belief, the Classical world was not just democracy, philosophy, and togas. It had a dark side just like any other era. However menacing this may sound, we can always be reminded of the hope that perpetuates this terror. The hope that there is always something greater at work. As we looked at this mine that once held sick dying children, we saw two doves; the presence of hope manifested in the symbolic bird.

 

 

Western Attica:

Phyle

Phyle

006

Eleftheres

Eleftheres

This rainy day began with two fortresses, Phyle and Eleftheres. To be honest, I don’t know very much about these two because my hands were too chilly to take notes and I mostly just wanted to climb on stuff. But they were both 4th and 5th century BC constructions and were in invade by and from the Spartans. Eleftheres was also said to be one of the mythical birthplaces of Orpheus and Dionysus Eleftheres (the identity that means “bringer of freedom”). These two locations sort of functioned as giant playgrounds for us (the more we travel as a group, the more childlike we become). We all felt pretty cool climbing trees, rocks, grassy hills, and scaling walls.

 

Eleusis

Eleusis

Eleusis. This is the religious center of the Ancient Greek world. When Demeter’s, the goddess of harvest, daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped by Hades, she wandered around the world mourning her loss.  Demeter eventually came to Eleusis and became a nanny for a mortal boy. She taught him the ins and outs of agriculture and boom, the Eleusian mysteries were born. Well, not exactly, but it’s a mystery so stories are all we have to go off of. No one knows what happened during the initiation into these religious mysteries, but they had a heavy focus on dying to the material world and dying to yourself symbolically in order to truly understand and live life. That, at the very least I can get behind. Even though the Ancient world is filled with ridiculous, mythical stories, they still hold whispers of truth. Even when you are in search of a lie you are confronted with undeniable truth.

Plato's Academy

Plato’s Academy

Our last location for our two day adventure across Attica was the site of Plato’s Academy. The few foundations left don’t look like much, but it is pretty incredible to have class where the first ever university once stood. Founded by Plato in 387 BC, it brought thinkers from around the known world such as Aristotle in order to collaborate on ideas and have access to research. It is ground that has been dedicated to growth, creation, and cultivation of the human mind. So yes, this plot of land is kind of special.

“The Study of philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is. ”
― Thomas Aquinas

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Private Paradise Paros to Nearly Neglected Naxos

Because studying abroad is such hard work, we had a break in the middle/end of March. I took this opportunity to visit two islands in the Cyclades (group of islands in the Aegean), Paros and Naxos. Initially planning the five days for a solo trip, I was pleased to be joined by the company of Miranda who had a last minute change in travel plans. Setting off early in the morning, we began our five day bonding adventure.

Part I: Paros

026

Upon arrival, we realized that March is not a popular time to visit the islands as we were given the strangest looks by locals as they questioned our presence. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our surprisingly vacant island. The three days we were there consisted in both exploration and relaxation.

Church of One Hundred Doors

Creeping on Miranda in the Church of One Hundred Doors

 

Day one included some wandering through the main town we were staying in, Parikia, with a trip to the Church of 100 Doors (Panagia Ekatontapyliani). I didn’t count them, but it did have many doors. This Byzantine church is said to have been founded by Saint Helen when she stopped here on her quest to recover the relics of Christ’s Passion from the Holy Land.

We then climbed out onto some rocks to enjoy the sunset and exchange life stories. Important Note to Those travelling during a Greek Spring: It can get real hot during the day, but don’t be deceived because once that sun goes down, it gets surprisingly chilly. Pack layers!

Paros sunset

Paros sunset

Based on the aforementioned information, Miranda and I went back to our little studio to put on virtually all the shirts we had packed before finding a place for dinner. We ended up at a charming restaurant called Ephesus where we shared an amazing meal in true Greek style: sharing multiple dishes, drinking wine, and talking for hours.

Cheese stuffed mushrooms, salad, baked eggplant, red wine, and wood-oven bread.

Cheese stuffed mushrooms, salad, baked eggplant, red wine, and wood-oven bread.

 

Day two was a bus trip to Naoussa. Although my motion sickness made the transportation a little touch and go at times, it was well worth it. Once again, we were lonely travellers as we explored the quaint town. The main theme was “Not until April”. We asked if they had sunscreen, “Not until April”. We sought out a boat rental place in hopes to find a kayak or canoe, “Not until April”. However, the lack of activities available in March didn’t stop us from enjoying every bit of our days. Just look at that water!

Naoussa Shore

Naoussa Shore

Back in Parikia we enjoyed another sunset and met a group of college guys that were travelling from Germany.  A bad call on my part of showing directing them to where we were staying so they could rent their own room (the Aegina incident apparently didn’t teach me anything after all)  ended up working out in the best possible way. We enjoyed some wine and conversation with our new neighbors before calling it a night.

Lefkes

Lefkes

Day Three was a day spent exploring with our German friends. They generously offered to give us a ride on their rented four wheelers to a town in the center of the island that Miranda and I wanted to hike from. We walked in the scenic hills as they explored Naoussa and then we met up on a beach to make our way back around the island making stops and beaches and on top of hills, and concluding the night with some star gazing and a delicious meal cooked for Miranda and I. We couldn’t have asked for much better (or caring) company for the day of exploration to cap off our time on Paros. DSCN2019

from Saint Anthony

from Saint Anthony

 

Part II: Naxos

I will spare you of the blow by blow account of our two days in Naxos but will provide the general overview. Miranda and I pretty much just ate our way through Naxos. This included pancakes (REAL pancakes. a little different, but still) and delicious fruit and yogurt by the seaside, mulitple coffee breaks, and full dinners. When we first arrived we instantly noticed that there were far more people on Naxos than on Paros; however apparently they were all just in the main town because when we ventured on a bus deeper into the island to visit two town on the request of our hostel host we encountered a very underpopulated locations. We did see a lot of sheep though.

002

There’s those white buildings of the Greek islands

In Apeiranthos we enjoyed the gorgeous sceneray on a walk followed by coffee drinks. In Filoti we ate some gigantes (giant beans) and fried potatoes and chatted then walked across the street for some hot chocolate in the biggest mugs as we waited for the bus. I also forgot to put my memory card back into my camera this day so I have few pictures. Like I said, lots of food and drink. I also found my way to the surprisingly only archaeological destination of the vacation, the temple of Apollo that you see as you enter the port of Naxos.

021

Temple of Apollo

 

 

 

 

These five days were a true vacation. I ate well, slept well, laughed well, learned well, talked well, and listened well. Not only did I get to experience some island life, but I got the unexpected opportunity to grow in friendship with a lovely woman.

Miranda and I loving life.

Miranda and I loving life.

 

 

“Truly it is a blessed thing to love on earth as we hope to love in Heaven, and to begin that friendship here which is to endure for ever there.” ―St. Francis de Sales

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Athens Loving and Letters from Sir Arthur Evans

This was a week full of love for Athens. From class spelunking adventures, to quality time with the roommates, to archiving letters dating from the 1920’s, Athens had me wrapped around her finger.

My favorite class that is spending the semester essentially exploring Athens had an extended class this past Thursday. Completely unaware of our destination, I hopped on the bus in the morning to be blindly lead. I (and everyone else, I would venture) were quite pleased to end up at the Pentelikon.

The cave from the entrance.

The cave from the entrance.

The cave from the inside.

The cave from the inside.

This is a mountain range from which they quarried marble for the Parthenon and other buildings of antiquity. This artificial cave and quarry was active from the late 7th century BC through the late 3rd century AD and is now protected by law and only used for the Acropolis Restoration Project. Deep within the cave was a place to worship the ancient mythical god of wild nature, Pan, who came to resemble the Christian devil. We tried to find it, but no matter how many holes we crawled into there was no avail.

The thing about caves is that they are pretty dark and thus impossible to capture in a photograph. However, they are also incredibly fun to explore and explore we did, emerging slightly muddier than when we entered (or maybe that was just me who may or may not have had a less than graceful slip).

When cut, the marble has a yellowish tint that glows almost golden in the sunlight, hence it’s coveted nature. Once quarried, the marble was partially worked before being transported about 15 kilometers to the city by means of a roadway you can still see today!

Ancient roadway

Ancient roadway

In the 5th century AD Christian hermits built a hermitage into the cave-side. This location was chosen for it’s remoteness but also to purify the area from the past pagan rituals. When I say “built into the cave-side”, I mean it. This construction used the sides of the cave for it’s own, becoming one in the same.

Byzantine Hermitage.

Byzantine Hermitage.

Byzantine Hermitage interior.

Byzantine Hermitage interior.

The door was wide open, so we poked around inside. I was surprised to see that there were small pictures and incense from modern times displayed throughout among the hundreds of years old wall paintings that you could run your fingers along. Pretty beautiful!

An unexpected adventure, for sure, but simply amazing.

 

 

 

The weekend in Athens consisted of plenty of quality time with two of my roommates, Milica and Annie (the third’s father is visiting!).  Friday included a trip to the open air market, fresh bread and homemade tzatziki, life stories, and a semi-Mexican dish before heading out to get a drink in a new area. However we got a little turned around on the way (my bad) so Milica decided to ask two policemen for directions (on the first day we were specifically told “these are not the friendly American policemen that you ask for directions”). Although they didn’t understand where we were trying to go, we ended up having a good half hour conversation with them! We exhausted our knowledge of the Greek language (of which we were also critiqued), deducted our way through confusing stories concerning Patrick Dempsey and the Elgin Marbles, and got advice on a new destination. After bidding “καλο βραδυ” we ventured to the suggested bar. Shortly after sitting down, we decided we would rather have food than a drink so we walked to a nearby cafe and ate a snack, ending the night with a cab ride home. We didn’t even come close to fulfilling our night plans, but instead let Greece lead us into a new, fun adventure!

Annie and Milica on Saturday somewhere in Monastiraki.

Annie and Milica on Saturday somewhere in Monastiraki.

Saturday’s main happening was our journey through uncharted (for us) Athens. We had no other goal but to wander the city and explore whatever interested us. I am convinced that this is the best way to experience a new city. Of course, along the way we stopped at a cafe to get some hot drinks on what was a chilly day for Greece (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Somehow our conversation about how friendly Greeks are in their general hospitality transformed into “story time with Emily” as I told them the long and short of the Trojan War and how it all goes back to Xenia. I stand by the idea that this concept has perpetuated time and is still demonstrated today in modern Greece. From there we continued our journey saying many expressions along the lines of “Wow, this (indicating almost anything) is what I love about living in Athens!” “Greeks are so friendly!” “I love living with you guys!” “How amazing is Greece?!” Needless to say, we are quite happy about our decision to study and live here.

About two weeks ago I started volunteering at the British School at Athens, a school of archaeology. I worked in the library (which is absolutely beautiful) with the archivist, organizing and recording information from letters that came in and out of the BSA from 1928. Sometimes it is a little tedious, but with the right tunes, you get into the letters as if they are a story. I also am a big fan of the way they sign there letters “yours very sincerely” or “yours faithfully” or “Believe me, yours very truly”. It sounds pretty intimate for a business letter, but I love it.

Letters from Sir Arthur Evans.

Letters from Sir Arthur Evans.

Anyway (λοιπον), the other day as I was jamming to some soundtracks, I happened upon some letters from Sir Arthur Evans. I do not know much about archaeology or names of archaeologists, but him, him I have heard of. Sir Arthur Evans is known for excavating the famous palace of Knossos on the island of Crete and developing the concept of the Minoan Civilization. It was pretty cool to hold his casual letter to the BSA secretary about a meeting knowing that he was discovering amazing things at the same time. His handwriting, however, was a challenge to decipher. Note to those with troubled handwriting: If you are planning on being a big deal sometime in the future, be kind to archivists and work towards having more legible penmanship.

 

As you can tell, I kind of like living in Athens. I read somewhere recently that Madison is the “Athens of the Midwest”. I am not really sure where that came from, or what it means exactly, but I love the connection between my two homes. As always, I am loving Athens, but always always sending my love and prayers back to Wisconsin!

 

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that the point?” — Pam Beesly-Halpert (The Office)

“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.” ― C.S. Lewis

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

My Grecian Valentine

I have never been a real fan of Valentines Day. Somewhere in history this feast day of a martyr that was beaten and beheaded turned into an event where everyone feels obligated to buy chocolates being held by over-sized teddy bears in order to demonstrate there love . . . what? I don’t know about you, but those things just never seemed to add up for me.

037-Saint-Valentin

That (blown out of proportion opinion) being said and set aside, Valentines Day was pretty fabulous.

Brunch on the roof!

Brunch on the roof!

The day began with a Sunny brunch on the school roof prepared by our lovely little “student council”. Complete with bacon, chocolate filled croissants, pancakes with nutella (syrup isn’t a thing here because of the obvious lack of maple trees but who can complain about nutella?), and baklava.  Apparently we just decided to eat desserts disguised as breakfast foods which I think we were all more than okay with. This was followed by some quality time with the sun by way of reading and napping.

After a shopping trip in search for shoes for one of my roommates, Milica, (in which I may or may not have expanded my skirt collection) was fruitless (or should I say “shoeless”), I became her doll for the evening. After picking out my outfit for the night, her dream of applying my make-up came true as we readied ourselves for dinner with some other ladies of the program. Like true “poor college students” we prepared a little pre-dinner dinner so we wouldn’t be as hungry and therefore able to share our pricier meals (maybe a little cheap, but hey, we’ve all been there). While eating, I popped into the lives of old roommates, Hannah and Anna, for a wonderful little chat.

After the chaos of getting six girls ready (and calling the restaurant to tell them we would be late), we all hopped on a bus, then a metro to arrive at the neighborhood near the base of the Acropolis where our restaurant was. However, we had neglected to actually find out the address of the place and only knew the rough direction. So much goes into planning your public transportation that it is easy to forget a little (and vital) thing like that. With the help (“help” being used loosely) from several strangers we were even more confused of where we were going and about a half hour late for our reservation at that point, we called the restaurant again to get the address and all agreed to hail a cab to take us. Walking down a side street to do so, Milica spotted a restaurant and suggested jokingly, “Why don’t we just eat there?” only for us to realize that that was, in fact, the very place we were in search of: Strofi. The host welcomed us graciously saying “You found us!” (apparently we don’t yet blend in with the Greeks). He then lead us to our seats which had been reserved on the first floor but since we were forty minutes late, a place on the roof opened up! One blessing after another! From our table we had a perfect view of the beautifully lit Acropolis accompanied by a full moon in the night sky. Simply wonderful.

My roommate, Christina, creeped on me gazing at my Valentine like a true Classicist.

My roommate, Christina, caught me gazing at my Valentine (aka the Acropolis) like a true Classicist.

007

Fried Eggplant with fresh Tomato and Feta cheese

008

Lamb wrapped in wine leaves stuffed with cheese

But wait, the night gets even better! Accompanied by some red wine, our dinner began. My taste-bud world was rocked by this eggplant appetizer (let’s all just take a moment to appreciate eggplant) followed by my first lamb experience while in Greece! I never wanted these flavors to leave my mouth. I highly suggest Strofi if you are looking for a wonderful view and dining experience while in Greece (thanks to roomie Annie for finding it!). It was well worth the adventure of locating it (which isn’t actually that difficult if you know where you are going. go figure).

All in all a beautiful morning, day, and night filled with tasty food and lovely company that would have happened even if it wasn’t the fourteenth of February.

 

 

 

“The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is.” — Blessed John Paul II

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

033

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.