Friday, July 17, 2009

On the coast of somewhere beautiful: Stories from Greece

We are departing Greece tonight. During this trip I did 2 days of SAS trips and 2 days of finding adventures on my own. On Monday I took an SAS trip to see Athens and the Acropolis. The Acropolis includes the Propylea, Pinakotheke, Parthenon, Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, it was built in only 9 years which is amazing for how immense of a structure it is. It has 8 columns on the ends and 17 on the sides. Because of the optical illusion that the eye plays on our vision with distance, the columns are slightly skewed so that they look straight when we look at them, otherwise if they were truly straight our eyes would tell us that they were crooked. The Acropolis has an amazing view of the city of Athens as well as a view of the Temple of Zeus a few miles below. Monday night I went out into Piraeus, our port of call. A group of friends and I found a restaurant/bar near the harbor and we were able to enjoy the company of a few locals without any other Semester at Sea kids around which was a nice change.

On Tuesday I took a trip to Delphi with SAS. It was a 3 hour bus ride and we hit traffic because of a strike that was going on. Strikes are pretty common in most of the countries we are visiting and they wreak havoc on the cities. Our first stop on the way to Delphi was at a Greek Orthodox Monastery. The Monastery was gorgeous and set on top of a hill overlook the valley of the mountain. Delphi was constructed as a place of worship and was known as the center of the world to the Greeks. People visited Delphi once a month, 9 months out of the year, in order to consult the gods on what course of action to take both in their public and private lives. We visited the Sacred Precinct which includes the Temple of Apollo, the theater, Archaic Treasures and the stadium. We saw the Oracle from a distance but unfortunately did not get a chance to see it up close.

On Wednesday, Julie, Elissa and I took the ferry to the island of Aegina. It was a gorgeous island and relatively small. We did some shopping along the main strip and then walked a little ways to the beach. It is a rocky beach, as is most of Europe it seems, and the water was very warm. We noticed a small restaurant around a bend of the island that we could see from the beach and we decided to find our way there for lunch. The restaurant was a perfect scene from a movie. It had white couches and comfy chairs and canopies everywhere. It was literally right on the water and there were only locals there when we had lunch. It was absolutely gorgeous and we all agreed that it was what we had been waiting for in terms of our expectations of Greece. After lunch we shopped around and wandered around the side streets. We found really friendly shop owners and everyone loved to talk to us about where we were from and our adventures in Greece. The people here are incredibly nice and most of our encounters with people all over Athens and the island were very pleasant. We stayed on the island until the late afternoon and then took the “Flying Dolphin” (hydrofoil ferry) back to Piraeus. While we were waiting for the ferry we ran into a group of high school students (probably 100 kids) and one of the counselors saw us and yelled to us asking if we were on Semester at Sea. She had gone on the Spring 2007 voyage and was now a camp counselor for American- Greek high school students. The counselors stay in Greece all summer and they get new campers every 3 weeks and take them around Greece. She had just given a presentation to her campers about SAS and then one of them told her they saw one of our students wearing a SAS shirt. She was so excited that the voyage had stopped in Greece and she wanted to go see the ship. We talked to her for quite a while about her voyage and compared it to ours. She told us what a life changing experience it had been for her and she said she hoped we had just as amazing a trip as she did. After we got back to the ship we met up with friends after everyone did their own thing during the day and we found a little restaurant on the water for a late dinner.

Today (Thursday) Julie and Elissa and I took the metro back to Athens and visited the Agora (bazaar) in downtown Athens. I bought a painting of the Greek islands and a sun catcher to hang in my window at school. We hung out downtown for a few hours and got gelato. While we were walking around we ran into one of Elissa’s professors from the ship. We were talking to him when a Greek shop owner approached us and asked if we were on Semester at Sea. We told him and we were and he pulled us into his shop to tell us how much he loved America. He had business cards from probably more than 50 Greeks who had gone to America and started their own businesses and restaurants. His father had immigrated to America when the shop owner was a boy and he started his own company there. He was very friendly and he knew all about our trip because he had met so many students from SAS over the past 4 days. He gave us a “lucky penny” and said it would bring us back to Greece

Overall, Greece has probably been my favorite port thus far. It was a very friendly place and we all felt very comfortable walking around town. The islands are amazing and I really hope to come back and visit them someday.  We have one day at sea and then we will arrive in Turkey on Saturday.

Here are pictures from all over Greece:

And here are random pictures that I keep accumulating. Some are from the bridge tour, Sea Olympics and a few leftovers from Spain.


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