Mt. Olympus & A Semester Abroad. . .

In retrospect, Athens seems like a complete blur.   We were so tired by the time we left Delphi it was hard to even realize that we had gotten to the big city.   However,after a good night of sleep we were ready to go again.

We took a ferry across to the mainland and it was a beautiful trip.  I can’t believe I was sailing through the Mediterannean Sea.  Wow!!!

Athens didn’t really seem that different to me than New York or San Fran.  It was interesting to see how much the culture changed from a small village of 5000 people like Tolo to a large city of over 5 million.  After checking into the hotel, Judy gave us a walking orientation tour of the city.  It was actually a good idea because not very many people had ever been to a big city, let along a city in a foreign country.

I really enjoyed the last week of class.  We had been studying classical philosophers like Socrates and Plato, both of which I studied on my own in high school, so it was a nice change to get to read more modern examples.  We talked about the meaning of life,reality, God, and evil.  Surprisingly enough these topics were much less heated than our previous classes.  I thought it would’ve been completely opposite.

The second day in Athens was a free day once we finshed class.  So, being that most of the group were female, what do you think we did?   SHOPPING!!!!!!!   There is some of the best shopping I’ve ever seen in Athens.  The good thing is that you can always negotiate the price. . always.   So not only are excited because you found something totally great, but you feel even better because you really did get a great deal.  It’s like the Priceline of merchandise.  The main drag is called Ermou  Street and it’s right off of Syntagma square.

All that bargaining can work up an appetite so it was time for lunch.   We didn’t know where to eat until we saw those golden arches. . .

The strange thing is, the four of us had shared every single meal we had had in Greece up until we went to McDonald’s.  As soon as we got our American food, that stopped.  But later at dinner, while eating Greek cuisine again it was back to sharing.  Strange how things work. . ..

Once we got home we were all super tired and just relaxed on the balcony and watched the Athenian sunset.

The next day was a trip to the Acropolis and the ancient Agora.  Unfortuantely from all the walking, my feet had swollen tremendously and I had to spend most of the day at the hotel.  Everyone said they had a good time and as soon as I get some pics I’ll put them up. However, it was nice to have some alone time.  I just relaxed with my feet in the water of the pool and stared at the Acropolis from afar, trying to soak it all in. . .

June 2nd, 2009 at 12:20 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

So I’ve returned to the states but since I was having so much trouble in Athens trying to write my blog I decided I’ll just finish it here.

Our last night in Tolo was fantastic.  A bunch of the locals we had befriended threw us a going away shindig at 12 Monkeys.  It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall but it had great music and a great people.  We danced for hours and hours and had such a wonderful time.  It was great to see how we had almost become locals ourselves.

The next morning it was time to say our goodbyes and we were off for a brand new adventure.

We hopped on the big bus and departed for Delphi.  Judy organized a special treat for us and we were able to visit a beautiful monastery.  It’s nestled in green hills of the Delphian mountains about 2700 ft above sea level.  The nuns were so hospitable and gave us a wondeful tour of the sanctuary. Everything was hand carved from gorgeous wood.

They even made us snacks while we browsed through their shop.  All of the income for the monastery is generated by goods the nuns make and sell there.  It really was a very nice surprise.

After about another hour worth of twisting and turning up the craziest mountain I’ve ever seen, we finally made it to the tiny town of Delphi.  Delphi is most famous for the Oracle of Delphi, a girl the gods we seek advice from while she was in a drug-induced stupor.  At the time they were unaware it was drugs, but archeologist later found out it was because of the emission of poisonous gasses under the site in which she stood.

Shorty after we arrived we took off for a walk, which turned out to be a 2 hour hike, down to the Temple of Athena and the old gymnasium where the athletes trained.

The next morning, we were off at the break of dawn to hike up to the upper ruins of Delphi.  The entire site had such a strange vibe to it.  It reminded of the same weird feeling I got when I visited Stonehenge.

We had a wonderful tour guide named Penny and she was super knowledgable about the site and the excavations.

This is the Temple of Apollo.  Underneath is where the Oracle was kept.

Delphi was built by slaves.  However, the slaves of ancient Greek times were not the same sort of slaves like we think of today.  There are over 800 stones in Delphi and each one tells the story of a slave that worked there.

How Delphi came to be is a cool story. . . One day, Zeus, the mightiest of all gods, wanted to find out where the center of te Earth was.   He sent out 2 eagles from the opposite ends of the Earth and where the collided was over the city of Delphi.

The story of how Zeus came into being is also interesting.  He was the son of 2 Titans: Cronus and Rhea.  Cronus had been told that his child would be mightier than him so everytime Rhea had a baby, Cronus would eat it.  When Rhea became pregnant with Zeus she decided that she would have this baby no matter what.  So she moved away and gave birth to Zeus.  However, when she brought came back to Cronus and he asked for the newborn, Rhea, knowing he would swallow it, wrapped a stone in a blanked and fed it Cronus.  The stone is known as the navel or omphalos.

After hiking around the ruins for a few hours, we got to visit the museum.  It’s completely unbelievable how well preserved  some of the findings were.

The Charioteer was well preserved thanks to the Great Earthquake of 373 BC.  It was discoverd in 1896 during the Grand Excavation and caused quite a stir because it was the first classical bronze stature to be unearthed.

Another interesting find were the Twins of Argos.  Argos was a great city state and these “twins” were votive offerings from Delphi.  Known as Cleobis and Biton, the twins are one of the earliest examples of archaic Greek sculpture.

After an amazing, yet tiring day, it was time to head to Athens. . .

June 2nd, 2009 at 11:55 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Well , I think I must admit defeat for today.  I’ve been online for the last 2 hours writing this blog and it’s managed to get deleted twice.  AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.   It was the longest one, too.  Oh, well.  It’s dinner time so I’ll just have to start again later.  . .

May 27th, 2009 at 11:26 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Just a quick update:  I haven’t forgotten about the blog.  I’ve been so busy with the travelling the last few days and starting my online classes today that I haven’t had time to write.   Hopefully I’ll get caught up tomorrow 🙂

May 26th, 2009 at 5:08 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Although we are on a beautiful Greek island and get to be on the beach, we all are still working very, very hard.  Like I’ve said before,the thing about philosophizing is that you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn.   Everytime we go anywhere we are constantly picking at each other and trying to understand from a philosophical perspective. This is proof:  even during our “fun” time we still study. .

But yesterday we got a break and enjoyed a wonderful day out on the water.  Judy organized a boat ride for us up the Greek coast.

We got to see our hotel and town from a different view and really realized how beautiful it was.  After about an hour or so of sailing on the EROS boat we stopped at a small stretch of beach and  anchored down. It was a much smaller boat than the previous cruise so we all got to know each other better.

We jumped off the side of the boat and played around while the guys from the boat  made a charcoal grill and cooked slouvaki.  Slouvaki is the Greek version of a shishkabob and they are amazing.   I would’ve taken a picture but it was so good it didn’t stay on the plate long.   While we were waiting we also got to snorkel.  It was great!!  I saw tons of fish, sea cucmbers, hermit crabs, and a sand dollar.  After dinner I even got to play captain.

We sailed for a few more hours and just relaxed on the boat. After some more swimming and a bad encounter with a sea urchin it was time to go home. But the water felt so good it was hard to get us out. . .

But eventually we went home and got ready to celebrate.  In Greece they don’t celebrate birthdays after age 12.  From then on they celebrate their name day (Gronia Palla).  Each person is named after a saint and yesterday was the Feast of Saint Constantine.  The man who works at the hotel front desk is Constantinos, but we all call him Costas.  For his name day present we all got him a card and decided to learn some traditional Gre dances for him. . .

Tonight is our last night in Tolo so I’m sure I’ll have some great stories to tell tomorrow. . .

May 22nd, 2009 at 10:35 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

It’s been a few days since I’ve written.  I’ve decided that since I’m in Greece I don’t want to spend all my time on the net.   I’ll be uploading more pics and videos soon.

Yesterday we hopped aboard our big bus and visited the ancient city state of Mycenae and Epidaurus.  They were both city states in Greece during the time period of 700 to 450 B.C.  I don’t even know what I can possible write about that visit.   I got super emotional.   I think I was just completely overwhelmed with the fact that I got to stand in the same place that people did soooo many years ago did.   I guess people are always people.  They did the same things we do.  They worked, sang, learned, and loved.

We went to Epidaurus  first.  It’s most famous for the theatre ithat s extremely well preserved.  It seats 14,000 people.  and has the most amazing acoustics.  It’s called the 3 layers of sound.  There is a stone disk in the middle of of the theatre that you stand on and you can hear it all the way to the top.  I was lucky enough to be able to sing on that disk.  I performed in front of a few hundred people and it felt great.  My emotions completely took over because I could feel all the energy from lives past and I could barely finish the song.  Bill Brewer would have been proud.

We were lucky enough to finally get the entire group together and here we are. . .

I can’t get over the beauty of this place.  And since I’m such an animal loveer, here’s a picture of some wild dogs at the theatre…

After we left the theatre we made our way to the ancient ruins of Mycenae.  Mycenae was established after Perseus left his home and found a mushroom on the mountain.  After he picked the fungus water sprung up and he decided to start a city state.  Mycenae comes from the Greek word for mushroom.  It was a very small place who was ruled over by Agamemnon.  Most of us read the play about him in high school English class.

The Lion’s Gate is the entrance to the city and this where Agamemnon’s body was placed upon his murder.   This place also a superbly strange energy to it.

After leaving the city, we visited a pottery store.  It was wonderful!!!  There were tons of handmade Greek pottery and we even got a presentation on how to make it from a retired claymaker name Demitri.  (He loves having his picture made.)

There’s soooo much I could write but since my time on the net is running out I probably won’t be back in touch until we get to Athens.  But just for fun, here is a great pic of Judy our tour guide.  Without her, our trip wouldn’t have been as great.  She’s gauranteed to put a smile on your face.

May 21st, 2009 at 5:00 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

If you ever get the chance to go to Olympia please do. Although it may look like a pile of rocks and dirt it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to the Coliseum in Rome and that doesn’t begin to compare. To actually stand where the first Olympics occurred was awesome. (And for this I mean “full of awe” instead “cool”.)

It took us about 4 hrs to get there from Tolo, but we had a nice bus so it was a comfy trip. I really feel like I’ve been able to see a lot of the Greek countryside. There’s everything from mountains and windmills to wineries and olive groves.

We spent a few hours walking around all of the ruins.  One of the biggest highlights of the day was when Demitir, our tour guide, organized a foot race from the exact place the first olympians started from.  We also got to go to the museum of Olympia and it was really great to see all of the preserved ruins on display.

I know I keep saying I can’t believe everything I see, but it’s true.  It was such a nice ride back.  Judy has a bunch of cds she made of her telling the stories of all the Greek gods and they’re a very informative.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the internet cafe down the street from out  hotel.  There’s a bunch of us here.  Some are playing darts, some are writing emails, and all I can hear are the different conversations of philosophy and ethics in the background.  Sometimes it gets pretty heated but it always ends with somebody enlightening someone else with a brilliant new idea.

Tomorrow we’re going on another boat ride and having a Greek bbq on the beach.  Judy has also organized meditaion in the mornings.  Our first class was this morning and we had it in the garden beside the pool around 8 am.  There was such a gentle breeze and her voice is so relaxing.

We’re not just learning about philosophy, ethics, and business. . . we’re learning how to be better people.

May 18th, 2009 at 4:50 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Here I am on my balcony watching the little town of Tolo go about its business. One of my favorite things about this village is all of the animals. Everywhere you go there are dogs and cats running around. They’re all well-behaved and well-fed. I guess everyone here just feeds them. Other things include:

  1. EVERYONE eats ice cream.
  2. I’ve yet to see a police man or even a police car.
  3. You can’t flush toilet paper. There’s a small trash can next to it that gets emptied every day/
  4. They  are careful about electricity. We don’t have lights until we insert our key into a magnetic strip. Also, the shops keep the lights off until someone comes in.
  5. It’s cheaper to take food to go than to dine in.
  6. The Greeks are genuinely some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered.

The last 2 days have been very relaxing. Our philosophy class got pretty heated, but it’s what we’re supposed to do. I enjoy hearing everyone’s different opinions because it really helps you get to know someone. After class we’ve been totally free to do whatever we wanted. So for the past couple of days we’ve been hanging on the beach talking about philosophy. Occasionally the conversation turns to men, shopping, or fashion but mostly we just stick to Plato and Socrates. (I don’t know about the rest of the girls but I feel soooo cool with my toes in the Greek sand discussing the innate goodness or evil of men according philosophers.) The water here is so blue it’s unreal. The actual beaches are a little rocky but they’re still great. Another thing I’ve noticed is that the water doesn’t get as deep as fast here like the ocean back home. I just try to get under as soon as possible because it’s much cooler than I had expected.

When we haven’t been at the beach we’ve been walking the streets. We’ve been able to talk with the locals thanks to the Greek Judy’s been teaching us. We’ve now had 3 classes and have decided that on our last night in Athens we’re going to dinner and are going to speak only Greek.

Two of the girls, Ashley & Stephanie, had birthdays this weekend. We all threw in money and Judy got a big cake for everyone as well as presents for the girls. They were super surprised. How cool would it be to say “Well, last year my birthday was in Greece but I guess Applebee’s would be okay”? Anyway, a huge group of us went dancing and had a blast. Then we spent all day on the beach J There’s an island a mile into the water that has only a church on it. It’s only open on the Feast of All Saint’s Day. We had planned to paddleboat over there but the owner said there was nowhere to dock the boat so we decided just to lounge.

Tomorrow we’re off to Olympia and 5 am comes early. . .

May 18th, 2009 at 3:56 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Today I tasted the salt of the Aegean Sea. We took a cruise around the Saronic Greek islands and it was beautiful. After about 3 hours of sailing we stopped in the beautiful island of Hydra. It’s inhabited by villagers that travel only by donkey. It’s a shipping and fishing community nestled in a horseshoe harbor in the crystal blue waters. There were so many great shops with handmade crafts. Obviously tourism brings in a lot of income as well.

We walked to the end of the island and decided to swim. There’s not really a beach but there are stairs going down to the water and ladders like you’d see in a pool in the states. The water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Its two different shades of blue that I’ve never seen before. I was the first to get in and it was freezing. I thought the water would’ve been much warmer than it was. The good thing about Greece is that it’s hot but there doesn’t seem to be any humidity and there’s always a light breeze. I felt so free swimming in those waters. I swam over to a small island and just hung out for a while. It was like I didn’t have a care in the world. I probably could’ve stayed there forever. But you know how swimming can make you hungry. So we hooked up with the rest of the crowd and settled on Greek Slouvaki for lunch. It’s basically the same a gyro at home. It comes with pork, cucumber sauce, onions, tomatoes, and fries all wrapped in a pita all for the cheap deal of 2 Euro.

After lunch it was time to board the Pegasus again and travel to the island of Spetses. Spetses is most famous for the lady Boubalinas who was a great shipping leader, which was very uncommon in those days. It’s a smaller island with very ritzy homes. Motorbike is the main transport and they really don’t seem to have any rules for driving. . Or if they do they don’t follow them. I think Greece may be a little like Mexico when it comes to work. They do siestas and it takes about 12 hours to get in 8 hours worth of work because of closing in the afternoon. So we decided to do as the locals do and just relax for the 2 hours we were there.

An ever present, ever knowledgeable, and ever entertaining Judy has decided to start a Greek class. Our first lesson was on the boat ride back to Tolo. We spent about 2 hours learning the basics of Greek and it seemed pretty easy to pick up. It conjugates verbs just like Spanish and the sentence structure is the same. I think this is something that she will continue for the duration of our trip. So finally after and long, wonderful day in Greece thelo nakimitho. (I want to go to sleep.)

May 15th, 2009 at 4:08 pm and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Hey all. I’m coming to you live from the back deck of the Pegasus cruise ship. Right now we’re headed for Hydra Island and I’m so excited.

Yesterday was awesome!! After leaving the internet café I decided to have a little nap because I was hadn’t’ completely recovered from jet lag. After about an hour it was time to this the bus to Napflion.

Napflion is a beautiful Greek town a few miles away from Tolo. The cool thing about Napflion is that it encompasses man y different architectural periods including the Minoan, Classic al, Neo-Classical, Hellenistic, and Venetian periods. All the walkways and most of the streets are made of white marble. I felt like I was just gliding along through the town. As usual, Judy gave us a history lesson in the middle of town. She really is amazing!!! We learned about temples and mosques and the different time periods of Greece.

We had about an hour of free time and got to roam around for awhile. My first stop: the geletaria. The gelato, and Italian type of ice cream, has been calling my name since eating it in Vatican City 3 years ago. I got the kinde flavor, dark and white chocolate, and savored every bite, all the while watching children play in the marble streets.

Dinner at the hotel was much better this time. We had grilled chicken and grape leaves, but next time I’ll pass on the grape leaves. Judy and the teachers have talked the hotel into making more authentic Greek dishes. Apparently they’re used to people not liking it so they try to make American food, but we’re all very excited to try the real th8ing. After dinner a big group of us decided to wander the streets of Tolo. We met a lot of locals and enjoyed conversations with coffee.

Well, I’d love to write more right now. This blog can’t even begin to describe what all is happening here. But seeing as how I have to get off the boat to go swimming in the beautiful blue water of the Aegean you’ll just have to wait ’til later. 🙂

May 15th, 2009 at 4:04 pm and tagged , ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

This is our first full day here in the town of Tolon, Greece.   (The locals call it Tolo.) Our hotel is the Hotel Flisvos and is beautiful 🙂

It is an absolutely beautiful little town.   It’s a village of about 3500 people located right on the coast.  I feel a million times better after having a full night’s rest and a shower.  I feel like a new woman here.   Everyone is great.  I’m lucky enough to have    amazing roommates, teachers, and neighbors.   We are also lucky enough to have an amazing tour guide, Miss Judy.   She’s bubbly and extremely knowlegable about Greece (and everywhere really).

This morning after my great shower and a lovely breakfast we had class.   Charley Anderson is our teacher and he’s super cool.   There are actually 3 classes:  Philosophy, Ethics, and International Business.   Obviously we’re split during class time, but after that, and for all of the outings we are together.  It was  so great to sit and talk philosophy with everyone while overlooking the water.

In a few hours we’ll be taking the bus to Napflion.  It’s a quaint little town one bus stop away that has lots of shops and restaurants.

So until tomorrow. . .

May 13th, 2009 at 7:12 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (3) | Permalink

So, here I am sitting in my room on the Greek coast. I couldn’t be happier. I can’t tell you what day it is or what time it is but does that really matter? We’ve taken 3 flights and a bus for a grand total of 27 hours from the time we left our homes. Wow. Our fabulous tour guide Judy was awaiting us at the Athens airport. She gave us the entire history of Greece beginning with Greek mythology in roughly 2 hours. We stopped at the Korinth Kanal. It saves seafarers 200 nautical miles by keeping them from having to go around the peninsula. It’s Greece’s answer to the Grand Canyon.

Our rooms are pleasant. We also have a great little market across the street and internet cafes down the road. We will be having dinner every night in the hotel restaurant overlooking many small islands scattered about.

Flying over the islands.

Flying over the islands.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting. . .

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting. . .
May 13th, 2009 at 6:24 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Hey everyone.   I’m sitting in the airport in Amsterdam right now, looking out the window on a beautiful day.   I haven’t slept in about 27 hours, but that’s allowed when you’re young right?   Anyway, I’ll be writing more as soon as I get settled in Greece.   2 flights down. . Only 1 more and bus ride to go until my toes are in the Greek sand 🙂

May 12th, 2009 at 4:06 am and tagged ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink