The Past Month: Italy, Vacation, Goodbyes, and Fire & Ice


The Past Month: Italy, Vacation, Goodbyes, and Fire & Ice
It has been a while since I have been able to blog and a lot of things have happened. I could probably write a book on all the things that happened in Greece but I will keep it as a lengthy blog entry instead. I guess I will start with where I left off: around the time of the trip to Italy. Italy is another one of those places that I have always wanted to go to. It is where a lot of my family is from and it makes up half of my ethnicity. We started off in Rome and saw most of the major sites such as the Coliseum and the Vatican. The Coliseum was everything I thought it would be, huge and fascinating. The whole construction of it amazes me, from its three different types of columns to its hidden underground that the floor would cover. Even though it was raining it was still an awesome place to visit. The next day we went to the Vatican. A country of its own, this enormous palace is home to one of the most culturally significant museums in the world. Just walking through and seeing all of the art and artifacts can be overwhelming. To stop and look at each piece for a minute would take years. The best part about the Vatican was the Sistenth Chapel. Here is where Michael Angelo was forced to do a form of art work that he did not consider himself good at, fresco painting. It was beautiful and awestruck many people. Also while in Rome I visited the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. Trevi Fountain was the most impressive fountain I have ever seen in my life. It is a must see for anyone visiting Rome. It is said that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain with your back facing the fountain then you would return to Rome one day. I threw in about eight. The Spanish steps were massive steps that tourists love to visit. We hung out there at the top for a while as some other American was playing guitar and singing at the bottom. Hopefully the eight coins that I threw into Trevi fountain will bring me back to Rome someday.

Also while in Italy we stayed in Napoli and went to Pompeii. Napoli is where the Italian side of my family is from so it was exciting to stay in that part of Italy. Pompeii was incredible. This ancient city was preserved after Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered it with lava and ash. The city is very large and I was not able to see the whole thing which is sad but I plan on returning someday to see the rest of it. Throughout the city you see preserved writing on the walls and dug down streets with big rocks every here and there that help you cross from side to side without stepping down into the ditch. One of my favorite things I saw was the casts of the bodies of people that lived in Pompeii at the time of its destruction. The casts are made from the air pockets left by the peoples’ bodies after the lava had covered them. It was a little morbid but it was interesting all the same.

For Thanksgiving we got a week off to do what ever we wanted to do. So, Ry and I set out to do our vacation together. We started off in Berlin, Germany. Overall the city is very big and we did not get to see everything but we did get to see a lot of awesome things. We to the Pergamon museum, which is now my favorite museum that I have ever been to. First of all, it only costs 4 Euros to get in and you get a free headset tour which has basically all the things you need to know in it. This museum holds actual reconstructed structures of gates and other building from around the world. They use real pieces from the original and then they remake some of the other pieces to rebuild it so you can see what it looked like. The most impressive object thy have there is the Ishtar Gate. It is huge and colorful, made from bricks, some of which stick out and make it three dimensional, and all of it is glazed. It is beautiful and I put it up there as one of those things you need to see if you are in Berlin. We also went to the Berlin wall while we were there and it was amazing just to see it and think about all of its history.

After Berlin we flew to Budapest, Hungry. This was my favorite place that I have ever been to and is a place that I would live in. It is a beautiful city and is home to the oldest subway on mainland Europe. We did not stay in this country nearly as long as we should have but we saw some great architecture, including the parliament building, mansions, and the bridges that separate Buda from Pest. The greatest experience here was the thermal baths. We went to the Szechenyi Baths during a blizzard and just sat in the hot water and looked up at all the snow coming down on us. It was gorgeous. It was the highlight of the trip.

After sadly leaving Budapest we got on a plane to Paris. Here we stayed for a while. It was expensive and offered little options for vegetarians. However, we did see a lot of the city. The Eifel Tower at night was pretty with its blue lights and white stars representing the EU. We also went to the Picasso museum which was cool and I found my favorite piece of artwork by him which is called, Spanish still life: Sun and Shadow. We went to the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Catacombs. The Catacombs were awesome but I would not recommend it to those people who do not like seeing a lot of human skulls and other miscellaneous bones. A highlight of Paris was going to the Louvre. I wish that we could have seen everything there but it was just so big that we did not have the time. We saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo which I have always wanted to see up close.

After Paris we went to Köln, Germany. Here we also were able to see some good architecture at a gothic cathedral. Around the gothic cathedral were little Christmas shops set up for the season. Köln makes its own beer known as Kolsch and it is delicious. We went to this bar where we did not even sit down, we just stood like everyone else and a waiter will keep bringing you over .2 liters of Kolsch until you tell him to stop. Also that night we went to see one of my favorite bands, Gogol Bordello. The show was amazing. There was so much energy and the crowd never stopped moving. It was a great time.

The next day we were on a plane to Prague for Thanksgiving. Prague was the only place that we did not have a hostel because we had a flight at 6am in the morning. So, we planned on just staying at the bars all night until we had to go to the airport. Before that we walked around the city and took in the scenery and the architecture. We saw Prague castle where it looked like someone was getting married outside of it. From the castle area we looked down at the city as the sun was setting. Then we went to a vegan restaurant and had our Thanksgiving feast. It left us full and tired, just as any Thanksgiving feast would. After that we hit the bars and tried to stay warm. The first bar we went to was filled with older people but we stayed anyway and had some good Czech beer called Primator. We had a few of those then we went to this punkish bar. Here we had a drink that lives up to its name. It was large and blue, and we still do not know why it was blue, it also had an insane amount of alcohol in it. They called it the “Adios Motherf*cker” and it was the last drink I had before jumping on a tram to the train to the airport.

The next day we were in Amsterdam. Here we rented bikes and road around the city and saw what there was to be seen. We went to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Anne Frank Huis. The museums were really remarkable but the Anne Frank Huis was my favorite of the three. It was very moving being inside and watching all the videos of her father and the woman who watched them there. And what trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a trip to the red-light district? So, we headed that way and we saw things that you cannot see in the United States. After Amsterdam we flew back to Athens for class.

Soon after being back in Athens we went to Delphi. The whole landscape around Delphi was beautiful. Delphi itself was amazing and I ran on the ancient track which was pretty awesome. While on the way back from Delphi we got word that a 15 year old was shot by a cop in Athens and riots had broken out and that the city was on fire. We had to be brought to a metro to go back to our apartment. Things really were on fire in some areas. It got really bad the next few days and school was cancelled and our flight got cancelled. Even with all the riots and fire and tear gas, a few of us still went to our favorite taverna down the street for our last meal and to see the owner and some of the other regulars that we became friends with before we left the country (because we found out that we had a flight on Thursday). It was a very sad time filled with delicious food and lots of tears and hugging. Being back in America for less than a week, I miss it already.

On Thursday we flew back to America. I live in Holden, Massachusetts and driving home was a mess. An ice storm had hit. But not just any ice storm. This ice storm made most of the trees snap and fall into the road and take down a lot of power lines. This made an obstacle course for the ride home. When we got home the power was out and we stood outside for a little bit and every second (literally) all you could hear was the trees snapping and falling to the ground. As of right now I still do not have power and am running this computer off of a generator. I went from the fire and destruction of riots to the ice and destruction of Mother Nature.


So, an Update

We are stuck in Athens. Our flight, supposed to leave tomorrow, has been canceled, along with every other flight out of Athens December 10. There are riots, as I'm sure everyone knows by now, but everyone is safe no worries. There are lots of riots and protests around the city because a 15 year old kid was shot and killed Saturday night by police.
We are all hanging out in our Vasilios Konstantinou apartment right now. It's in the neighborhood of Pangrati, which is well south of the hot spots, and has a good police presence, and has been quite quiet this whole time.

If you want to keep up with the news, the bbc has some good coverage of what's going on, so does cnn international.

The good folks at FPU are working on getting us on a plane as soon as possible.

Oh and Ron and Jill are going to cook up some delicious eggplant parm tonight so we are making the most of what we are given here.

All is well. We are safe & witnessing history.



Amsterdam-->Best Place in the World

Friday November 28, 2008

It’s been a week since I have arrived in Amsterdam and everything that I thought this trip would be or even could be, definitely is. I have been able to sleep in until noon or even later, and take my time in getting ready for the day. (Something that hasn’t happened since we arrived in Greece in September) Jess and I had no problems finding each other in the airport, and finding our way to our 5 star hotel, the Marriott. Luckily Jess’ uncle didn’t want us to stay in a hostel so he booked us a room at the Marriott that we both got to stay at for free! I had my own queen bed in which when you laid down you literally sunk into the bed!

Jess and I went to the Rijks museum, which was incredible, and walked to all of the neighboring districts to get a feel for the area. Because we knew Dom and Leanne were coming in only four days, we decided to wait to go see the other museums together. Once they arrived they were able to stay in our room with us, which worked out nicely for everyone. We saw the Anne Frank house which was somewhat overwhelming to see knowing about the story behind this house, and being able to see it first hand was definitely something I never thought would happen. We also went to see the Van Gogh museum, which was a great experience, the only thing I was disappointed by was that I had heard that Starry Night was going to be there, and unfortunately it was not.

Thanksgiving was the most interesting Thanksgiving that I have ever had. The four of us decided to go to the Hard Rock Café since they told us they were having a Thanksgiving dinner there. Unfortunately we waited outside in the cold for over an hour waiting for seats, and finally when we got inside we realized the Thanksgiving meal was about 25 euro! I ended up getting a pulled-pork sandwich, which was not my favorite. After our dinner we walked around and ended up in the Red-Light District, which was a sight to be seen!! It was crazy just walking down the streets and looking into windows and seeing women standing there half naked.

What I wasn’t expecting was how beautiful the city actually was! The people were extremely nice, the city was absolutely breathtaking in the day and even more so at night. Just about every street had a canal going through it, and each and every single building had quaint characteristics to it. Amsterdam is a place that if the opportunity arose to go there, should definitely be taken. It was beautiful in every way possible, and there is so much to do there. It is by far the best place that I have been to, and plan to go back there if I ever get the chance to again!

Pre-Travel Excitement!

Friday November 21, 2008

Dom, Leanne, and I all are sitting around under the large tent that they made in their room awaiting for our trip to come. All the other girls in the apartment have already left, and we were the last ones to go. With my flight at 5:15am and having to be at the airport by 3:15am, we all decided to pull an all-nighter. Amsterdam was the destination, and it was the trip I had been waiting for since I knew I was coming to Greece. Sleeping was something that could not happen with the amounts of excitement that I had.

Dom and Leanne’s destination was London for four days and then meeting up with me in Amsterdam on Tuesday. My plan was to meet up with my best friend Jess from home that I had grown up with since I was in 2nd grade. My thoughts were racing with what was ahead for me. How was the trip going to pan out? Was everything going to work out okay especially since I was traveling alone? I couldn’t even think about meeting up with Jess in Amsterdam, the thought was too good to be true. What are the chances that my best friend from home was able to meet up with me in Amsterdam for 10 days for Thanksgiving break? The fact that I was able to take a break from everyone in the entire group and just chill out with my friend from home for a few days before Leanne and Dom came was a feeling of relief, especially since our group here lives together, eats together, travels together, and goes out together 24/7, a break would be nice!

All I want to get out of this trip is to be able to relax and do things on my own time and to be able to enjoy the city of Amsterdam without having to cram seeing everything in just a couple of days. 10 days to do what I want when I want, and with no one better than my best friend!


So, I had an epic Thanksgiving break.

We spent the first four days in London. I will let Leanne fill you in on our Beatles adventure, because I’m sure she will.

But, for London, I will recommend anybody traveling there, stay at the Globetrotter Hostel. Amazing. Wonderful beds, wonderful people, and cheep food.

Then, we went to Amsterdam.

I love Amsterdam.

The people are all really friendly.

Everyone jumped to help us find where we were on the maps.

That is because we got lost often on our massive hunt for as many coffee shops as possible.


Everyone bicycles there! Saving the environment!

Plus, lots of public transportation! A great break from the trillions of cars in Athens.

Also, Great MILKO. With a capital “G”.

All the cow items around, definitely takes the cake.

All of this is great, but obviously my favorite part of Amsterdam is the wonderful laws.

Coffee shops = heaven.

Great, great marijuana.

And it was legal!


The US could really learn from these concepts.

Get rid of internal possession (NH). Get a reasonable drinking age laws.

Fix our drug problems - drug addicts need doctors, not prisons.

Control the drugs, how people get it, and how old you have to be to get it.

Thanks for listening!

Everybody, visit Amsterdam!


From Final Exam to the Last Judgment

Wednesday morning I woke up, guzzled some coffee, and walked to the University where I had one class and a final exam.  I boogied through the final just in time to hop the metro to the airport for my flight into Rome.  Three and a half hours of airplane and shuttle-bus and we were checked into our hotel and ready for an authentic Italian meal.  We found this tiny pizzeria a short stroll from our hotel where we all had a quick pizza before we retired for the night after a long day of travel and test taking.  At the pizzeria the waiter was very friendly and nice to us and they didn’t let us leave without having an Italian ice on the house.

            Thursday our plan was to tour the Colleseum as well as Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, but we were held back by rain (the worst we have seen since in Europe).  We were only able to see the Colleseum and rescheduled our Palatine and Forum tour for the next day.  We were sick of the rain getting in the way of our trips so a bunch of us split to enjoy the day in Rome anyways.  We trudged through shoe covering puddles as we made an effort to see as much as we could.  We knew that the next day was going to be busy because besides our visit to the Vatican City we were going to be visiting the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well.

            We rose early on Friday so that we could get a jumpstart on our very busy day.  Our first agenda item was to get to the Vatican for our scheduled tour.  We were lucky and got to skip the line to get into the city and were blessed with a wonderful tour guide.  As a group we have become generally skeptical of tour guides so this was a pleasant surprise.  We moved through the museums and were impressed by the works of Salvador Dali, Raphael, and, of course, Michelangelo.  We moved through in awe as we anticipated our last stop, the Sistine Chapel.  With the exception of the works in the Sistine Chapel I was most attracted to Raphael’s “Scuola di Atene,” or “School of Athens.”

            This very abbreviated tour of the Vatican which can take up to seven years to completely see (a fact from our tour guide) took a few hours as it led up to the Sistine Chapel.  After finally arriving in the chapel I was awestruck.  The grandeur and detail in the frescoes were breathtaking, even more so than I expected.  Being inside seamed surreal as if it wasn’t actually happening.  The pieces were so bright and brilliant radiating the beauty, which they are so famous for possessing.  Being inside made me think about the numerous years of labor that Michelangelo dedicated to this work.  Seeing this with my own eyes heightened my appreciation for this place to a level that is indescribable.  My favorite part of the Sistine Chapel is undeniably the Last Judgment.

            After the Sistine Chapel we walked around St. Peter’s Basilica before heading to the forum and Palatine Hill.  At Palatine Hill we were not lucky enough to get a good tour guide, and though these were very cool attractions they weren’t as special as the other things that we had already seen, or were about to see (Pompeii).  From Palatine Hill, though, I can say that I got a beautiful view of part of Rome and was ale to more fully understand the story of Romulus and Remus. 

            Saturday we were headed to Naples so that we could get to nearby Pompeii which I will leave for someone else to talk about. 

Rome and the Coliseum!

Never in my lifetime did I think I would get the chance to study abroad, and when planning for this trip there was only one place in my mind that I knew I had to see either on my own time or through our traveling with the class. The one place that I had been dreaming about for almost all of my life was Italy. Finally we were going and our first stop was Rome. We arrived late at night on Wednesday so adventures of Italy only went as far as finding the most Italian restaurant we could find and testing out the food, which by the way was incredible!

Thursday morning we woke up and headed straight for the Coliseum. The walking distance to the Coliseum from our hotel was not bad by any means and as we approached it. Getting closer and closer to the building it grew larger and more intimidating with each step I took. As we walked inside the excitement I was feeling was overwhelming and unsure of what to expect. We went up in the elevators to get to the higher part of the Coliseum and as you walked out onto the Coliseum to look down at the pits where thousands of gladiators fought, it felt incredible. As I looked around I could picture with my own eyes how it once looked, filled with thousands of people screaming and chanting as they gazed down on the gladiators fighting to the death. The part in which the gladiators would stand was no longer there, but instead you were able to see what was down below those grounds, where they kept the lions and tigers locked up. Our tour guide told us that they do not have a definite number on how many deaths actually took place in the Coliseum but she made an estimate of about a million or so people counting the amount of deaths for each day and for how many years this went on.

Rome was an incredible city, and despite what I had heard about it being a dangerous area I felt as comfortable there as I did in Athens. The city is filled with character from the modern day buildings to the Coliseum or Vatican City that has filled the area with history that dates back thousands of years. Of any place to travel to hands down it would be Rome not only for the historical aspect, but the food was great too!



When you type “Greece November 17” into Wikipedia this is what comes up:

Formation –

The group's name, 17N, refers to the final day of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising, in which a protest against the Greek Military Junta (1967 - 1974), also known as the Regime of the Colonels took place. The uprising ended after a series of events that started when a tank took down the main gate of the Polytechneion and security forces, including soldiers, stormed the campus. 17N self-identified as Marxist. In addition to assassinations, 17N was convicted for a number of bank robberies. Members of 17N claim they stole money to finance their activities.

Today, on the 17th of November we went to the Polytechnic University in Athens and saw representatives from every political party- complete with posters, newspapers, pamphlets, stickers, etc. We also saw on display extremely powerful pictures from 1973. Pictures of storms of people, tanks in Syntagma Square, and signs that wrote “USA = *swastika*”. Wow.

This alone convinced a few of us that we were definitely going to the march this afternoon. This march proved to be a life changing experience.

The different political parties had their own ways of doing things.

Although it was storming incredibly outside, that only fueled their fire.

The Communists were the largest of the groups, and the most peaceful. We marched with them for a while, and nobody gave us any trouble.

The Anarchists on the other hand were pretty extreme. Wearing all black, and blasting head-banging music these anarchists chanted loudly while marching down the street.

A few times the chants included “F*** Americans”. They had the courtesy to say it in our own language for us to understand!

These Anarchists were followed on both sides by extreme police brigades.

These police were decked out, helmets, shields, gas masks, and the whole uniforms.

Why were they wearing gas masks you ask? Tear gas is the way to deal with these anarchists that come out of order.

Many water bottles were thrown at these police, but it did not deter them.

Only when massive chunks of stone were thrown at them did the tear gas come out.

Don’t worry, we were a-ok. A wonderful distance away to view, but not to be involved.

What really struck me personally was the Green Anarchists. They wanted to live natural without all of this hubbub is what I got out of their campaign. Sounds pretty sweet to me!

What really got me was there were secret federal agent type dudes incognito. We had to be careful taking pictures, not zooming in on specific people in certain groups, because we didn’t want them to think we were one of these undercover rats.

I guess that these guys sometimes even start the major riots, like a 50/50 chance! Just to make the marchers look bad. Peaceful marchers makes the marchers look good. The government wants them to look bad. Whhhhat!!

Overall, this day was an eye-opening experience. Very exciting!

What a great day!

One Solution...Revolution

Last night at 11:00pm, we got back to Athens from an amazing trip to Roma and Napoli. The last thing I wanted to do was to wake up at nine to traipse around Athens watching the Communist and Anarchist demonstrations. However, it ended up being a remarkable, eye opening experience that I never imagined I would ever be a part of.

On November 17, 1973 there was an anti-junta demonstration escalated into military tanks charging through the gates of Athens’ Polytechnic University. Very few deaths were recorded, but it was a massacre unlike no other, and hundreds were killed or wounded. The result of this uprising was the restoration of Parliamentary Democracy and the date becoming an acknowledged school holiday.

Today, on November 17, schools and universities close to commemorate the valiant efforts of their living ancestors and loved ones lost in the valiant effort against military dictatorship and tyranny. At the Polytechnic University, classrooms are filled with photos, videos, and presentations of the events that took place on that day 35 years ago. Flowers, banners, and photos are placed in front of the gate where the tanks entered the school. Hundreds of students gather to hand out flyers and talk about the significance of that day and how much change is still needed.

Dmitri, a professor for HAU, offered to go to the commencement march that starts at the Polytechnic University and ends at the United States Embassy. Dom, Ashley, and I were the only girls from Sina who decided to go. And we were sooo glad we did.
We walked for blocks and blocks with police officers on the left and right of us wearing gas masks, holding guns, and carrying shields. It is no understatement to say we were a bit uncomfortable. Dozens of political parties and political groups marched and chanted with drums, sticks, and megaphones. The demonstrators threw rocks at the police, and they retaliated by hurling tear gas at them.

Professor Marra, Ron, Ry, Kayla, and Leslie met up with us, and Dmitri began to translate what the demonstrators were chanting. “The sun will weep tears of happiness when we become free.” “Psomi pedia eleftheria (bread, education, freedom).” And of course the predicted Anti-American Slander (even though Dmitri informed us that most of their platforms and ideas come from pamphlets and thinkers from the US).
It was an amazing sight. Nothing like this would ever happen in the states. Major roads were blocked off, buses and trains were closed, and police were ready for the impending riots. However, in the midst of all this chaos, parents brought their children to witness the March protest march. Ioanna and Dmitri told us that parents brought their children there so that they would learn from a young age that in order to get what you want, you need to take it to the streets and be heard. “One Solution…Revolution.”

United in Napoli

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Rome and Naples. This was especially exciting for me because I have family in Naples who I have never had the chance to meet. When we arrived in Naples, we immediately left for Pompei. I was anxious to get in touch with the relatives, but I was still interested in seeing the site of the city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius. It was incredible—the city was preserved by the molten lava—even bodies. It was so sad, seeing bodies almost a hundred years old, preserved with looks of terror on their faces as the lava overtook them. I left with a deeper appreciation for life.

We got back late so I wasn’t sure if I should call the relatives. I was getting really nervous about meeting them. I almost decided not to call. Then, I looked at my map—most of them lived on the same exact street as my hotel! I couldn’t believe it. It was a sign. I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t try to meet them.

I called a couple of numbers—no answer. I called a third number, Assuntia’s, who is my great aunt, and got an answer: “Pronto?” I had clearly woken her up. “Uh..mi nuna Anna Marie Esposito. Mi madre Diane..” She cut me off, rapidly speaking in Italian, obviously very excited. “Uh..no comprendo..Only Ingles..” We struggled for 15 minutes on the phone, but I got across which hotel I was in. “I be there in 1, 2, 3, 4..minutos!” And then she hung up. Oh my God she’s going to be here in a couple minutes! I couldn’t believe it!

I waited in the lobby, nervously tapping my toe. Then, I was told that she was here, outside calling for me. I ran outside. We saw each other, and literally ran into each other’s arms and hugged for a few minutes. I couldn’t help but cry, it was was like I could feel that we were family, like we knew each other forever. It was definitely a Kodak moment. Eventually, she motioned for me to get into her car with her. Dom hopped in too—obviously eager to meet her too!

She drove around the corner and pointed out “Esposito’s Café.” I couldn’t believe it—my family's café was right around the corner from my hotel! We got out of the car and she began yelling her brother's name, signaling that he lived on the 4th floor. Unfortunately, he was asleep so we didn’t get to meet him.

She brought us to her house next. She gave me a tour, making sure to point out the guest room, which she was very offended I wasn’t staying in. Then, she showed me photographs of my Grammy and Grampy. I had never seen photos of them in which they were so young—it was beautiful. She also showed me photos of family members I had never met: adorable little boys (with my eyes, Dom pointed out!), and her sisters, brothers, etc.

She next drove us all around Naples, showing me everything she wanted me to see. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we got our points across enough, and we learned a lot about each other. We met up with her niece, who spoke English, and helped us out a lot. When Assuntia realized that I was leaving in the morning, she was so sad—her eyes welled up with tears. She thought we’d have so much more time together. It broke my heart. I promised I would come back someday, and she promised to come visit me, too.

We stopped at her favorite pastry shop. She bought me lots of delicious native pastries—my favorites were canolis and babas—and had them wrapped them up for Dom and I. She was too cute! We continued on our tour. She showed me the church that my Grammy and Grampy married in, the funeral home of her father, castles, famous hotels, museums, and my favorite stop: the port. She told me how she used to stroll along here with my Grammy. I knew how happy she would be to know we were there together. She teased me, saying that if I lived there—like I should—I could sit and paint the beautiful bay all day. We linked arms and strolled along the port, laughing and chatting (or trying to), both happy to be in each other’s presence.

She brought us back at about 1:30 and walked me in to have the receptionist act as a translator. She said to call her as soon as I was home so that she could visit! I hope she does! It also became clear that she was not happy that I was leaving in the morning and that I didn’t call her sooner. I felt so bad! She hugged me for what seemed like forever, then pinched and kissed my cheeks. It was sad seeing her leave. We had such an experience meeting each other and I don’t know when we’ll see each other again. It was bitter-sweet; I try to focus on how happy we were to meet each other, not how sad it was that our time together was so short. I walked back up to my room with really sore cheeks with lipstick stains on them.

The next morning, we left bright and early for Rome. We had a couple of hours so I went back to the Picasso exhibit to do some thinking. I had such an experience this weekend I felt mentally drained. I’m back in Athens now and know for sure that life will never be the same.

I can't afford to walk a mile in those woman's shoes!

Before my time in Greece, I have to admit that I was a little full of myself. I loved fashion and was sure that I was extremely well dressed. I took pride in my appearance and possessed a confidence that could not be shaken. However, after living in Athens for almost two months a new feeling has come over me. Every morning I wake up 30 minutes before class. I brush my teeth and wash my face. I look in my closet and grab a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. With a peek in the mirror before I leave the house, I realize that I look like any other American college students does when they go to morning classes.

However, Toto, we’re not in America anymore. As I leave the house I walk up the street to the Hellenic American University where we have class everyday. A strange sense of inadequacy immediately engulfs me. I am surrounded by women in 6 inch heels and men in tighter pants than I would be comfortable wearing. I think to myself that maybe they just want to look nice for a presentation or something. However, that is just wishful thinking on my part. There are two kinds of Greek people. Greeks who dress extremely well and Greeks who don’t. The ones that do dress well make up about 90 percent of the population. They are on the streets, at the grocery store and even at the Acropolis. I’m sweating my way up to the Parthenon being careful not to slip in my thickly soled sneakers when all of a sudden a woman in a beautiful dress and 6 inch leather boots passes me without a heavy breath. To me, that is ludicrous. Isn’t it dangerous to climb mountains in heels?

I might sound critical, but that is not how I mean to come off. I wish I possessed the grace and courage to “walk a mile in those womens’ shoes.” Sadly, I do not. I’ll just try to look my best and leave the real panache to the professionals.


It was all a Dream, I used to read Word-Up Magazine

Anticipation was building on the long drive to Nafpoli. Though Lauren and I tried to kill time rapping to every Kanye and Biggie song that came on the iPod, we couldn’t wait to reach our destination. Yes, we heard about the castles, the ancient ruins, and even the shopping, but nothing could compare to the most exciting part of our excursion…Our last time swimming in the sea!

Before we arrive in Nafpoli, we stopped at the Corinth Canal. It connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea, and it separates the Peloponnesian Peninsula from mainland Greece. Ioanna, our Greek professor, told us that bungee jumping would be available for our entertainment, and I was ready. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time, and I wasn’t able to go. Although I was bummed, I was able to buy a traditional Greek hat. Yeah, it was wild. I wore it all day, even though Ioanna said that it was ugly and embarrassing. Haha

Epidaurus was the next place we hit on our weekend adventure. It was known in ancient times as a healing center. People from around the region would come to have their dreams read and their remedies assigned. The most celebrated point of interest at the site is the theater. It can seat over 15,000 people. Ioanna did a demonstration showing how great the acoustics were. When different coins were dropped at center of the theater, we could hear the difference in sound all the way from the very top of the theater. I was given the opportunity to sing in front of the entire audience. Ioanna also sang for us. It was a beautiful folk song from her village near Sparta.

We arrived at Hotel Victoria in the evening. It was a very nice Seaside Inn near many tavernas, shops, and clubs! It was the perfect location. After dinner at a wonderful little tavern (that just barely seated us all) we went to Ioanna’s favorite bar in town—The Wrong Bar. But I guess we hit it lucky and were there at the Right Time on the Right Night, because we all had a blast. We talked and laughed while Ry played guitar and sang for the bar. Even after living together for two months, every day I learn something new about these people. I was oblivious of Ry’s talent, and I was taken aback by how his talent really brought us all together as a group that night.
The next day we went to Mycenae. It was home to the legendary King Agamemnon and the site of the one of the largest findings of gold, second only to the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamen. We walked through the legendary Lion’s Gate and the Tomb of Clytemnestra. Though it was an amazing civilization that left us with great ruins to view and learn from, our new found interest in the paranormal definitely added to it. Lauren, Leanne, Caitie, Dom, and I decided to find ghosts in this ancient city. We made videos and took pictures of the supernatural activity we witnessed (Look at the ghost behind the rock in the photo!). It was fun and fascinating!

When we reached the hotel we were able to have some free time. Lauren, Shane, and I decided to go swimming! Unfortunately we forgot our goggles, but we made the best of it! It was about a 20 minute walk alongside the rocky coast. On the left were Prickly Pears. Shane thought it would be a good idea to pick and eat them. So he climbed up, picked some, and tossed them down to me. I guess we forgot they are called PRICKLY pears, and we got hundreds of prickly fibers stuck in our hands. I hate Prickly Pears! Swimming was fun, but cold! But what did we expect? It is November! It was refreshing though.

My favorite part of the entire trip was on Sunday when we went to the Palamidi Castle that sits high above the city of Nafpoli. Ioanna gave us the option of taking the bus to the fortress or taking the 1,147 stairs to the top. To my surprise, and most likely to the surprise of the others, I chose to take the stairs with Professor Marra, Shane, Kayla, Leslie, and Ron. I am sooo glad I did! Though it was one of the most difficult hikes I have ever been on, it had one of the most scenic views I have seen the entire time I have been to Greece, and it was a great feeling standing at the top and looking down at the hike I accomplished. To my surprise we all made it to the top in about 15-20 minutes, actually beating the bus!

Finally at the Top!

Shane and I decided to break off from the group and do a bit of our own exploring. Several times we decided to take the paths less traveled. We went digging through ancient tunnels and caves. We came across one that is worth noting. We walked through a small hole that opened up into a large room. We walked down the stair case and saw the domed roof. In the center of the room was a large pile of rocks and dirt that had fallen through when a small part of the roof collapsed. A couple feet of standing water filled the grotto-like structure. It was by far the coolest site at the fortress.

This trip was great! One day I hope to come back again.


Over the weekend we went to Napflio. This city was absolutely beautiful; the ocean, cute little shops and restaurants, and amazing mountain views in every single direction. We were able to see many wonderful sites and ancient ruins.

On the way to Napflio we stopped and got to see the Corinth Canal. It was great! The amount of time, energy, and money this canal saves everyone! Someday I would like to ride down the canal! Or, better yet, bungee jump off of it!

My favorite was Palamidi Castle up on the massive hill. Some braved the 999 (or more) stairs. Due to my extreme laziness and dislike for stairs, I took the scenic 5 minute bus route. The stair climbers arrived quickly though, within 30 minutes! Sadly with my clumsiness, I sprained my ankle and did not get to explore as much as I wanted. Oh well, an excuse to go back someday!

I am SO excited for this upcoming schedule of events! We are SO lucky.

Wednesday 12 November – Leave for Rome and hopefully visit Naples

Sunday 16 November – Return to Athens

Friday 21 November – Leave for London for Thanksgiving break

Tuesday 25 November – Travel to AMSTERDAM

Sunday 30 November – Return to Sina Street!

Weekend 5-7 December – Hopefully travel to Delphi, the belly button of the world!!

10 December 2008 – HOME!

WOW! All with papers and finals, time is going to fly by!

Nafplio and Mycenae

Friday we packed up and were on the bus to head to Nafplio by 11:30am. The bus ride itself took all day to get there, but we made a few pit stops along the way. The entire time on the bus I spent reading my book for my directed study which was actually one of the best books that I have read thus far.

The second we hopped off the bus it was already dark out so it was hard to truly get a feel for Nafplio right off the bat, but I knew I loved it even so. We took a scenic tour to the top of the hill to be able to look at the city from above. It was absolutely beautiful with all the streets lit up. The weather itself added to the feel for the place with its sweater weather, which is one of my favorite temperatures.

Ioanna, our professor for our class Athens Through the Ages joined us on our weekend excursion and showed us around the area. We all met up with her outside of the hotel and went to the “Wrong Bar” which was a quirky little hole in the wall that from the outside looked like a junk store, but on the inside was something so much more. It’s strange atmosphere gave it a lot of character and made it all that more enjoyable. Everywhere around you there were little antiques and old fans, miniature sewing machines and old school telephones. Everyone order a few drinks, and socialized with one another. The owner of the bar and a woman who was born in Santorini but now resided in Nafplio got together and sang in front of everyone. Afterwards one of our group members, Ry got up and played the owners guitar singing some songs himself. It was a great night and full of enjoyment for everyone in the group.

My favorite part of the trip was definitely the last day when we went to the top of the mountain of Nafplio and explored the prison and castle there. It was absolutely breath taking with tons of different nooks and crannies to find and search for. Leanne and I went on a great adventure searching through every part of the place. Two hours there was definitely not enough time to find everything and take it all in, but overall it was an incredible experience. Nafplio was my favorite place we have been to so far, the city was beautiful and the people were so nice. I would go back there in a heartbeat and I could see myself residing there one day in the future.

Yamas!! It's Halloween!!

Every year on October 31st Americans, both young and old, partake in the fun filled festivities that are characteristic of Halloween. We dress up in creative costumes and enjoy traditional activities like bobbing for apples and, of course, trick-or-treating. For 19 years, I have enjoyed said holiday and knew nothing different. Before studying abroad, I tried to prepare myself for the differences that I would encounter while living in Greece. I knew I would be using different currency, I would be missing fall in New England and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. However, for some reason, the lack of Halloween just did not register in my mind.

As a group, I think we were all a little bummed that we would be missing out on Halloween. We would miss dressing up with our friends and going out and causing a little mayhem. So we decided that we should bring a little bit of Halloween to Greece. I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the creativity of our group. Using things we already had and a few extra supplies we were all able to fashion fun and imaginative costumes. Within our group we had a cat, a dog, a couple of witches, a Greek goddess, a pirate, a couple of aerobic instructors and I was a pumpkin. Well, to be more specific I was a jack-o-lantern. As we wandered through the city, we wished everyone on the street a happy Halloween. We saw many children walking through the streets with their parents like it was any other day. It made me a little sad that none of them were in costumes trying to collect candy, but even that could not put a damper on my mood.

We made our way to the local Irish pub. We thought that might be a place where we could find other people who were celebrating Halloween. We were right. There were a few other groups of young college students who were doing the exact same thing we were. I don’t mean to brag, however, our group had the best costumes by far. We spent the night indulging in Irish car bombs and chatting with other students into the wee hours of the morning. At home, Halloween is an event. Here it felt like any other Friday night out except for the fact that I had a face taped to my torso and a stem coming out of my headband.


Election week and more

This past week has been very busy and exciting in many different ways. On Sunday we were invited to do a scavenger hunt of sorts with other HAU students. The scavenger hunt was fun because we were able to mingle with some of the Greek students but it was not truly a scavenger hunt because a good chunk of the things that we had to find was information that most of us went to the Hellenic Union Library to look up online. We did have to go around Athens and find something and takes pictures of different sites which was fun. I rode on a motorbike for the first time which was both fun and terrifying all at the same time. At least this motorbike did not hit a taxi. After the scavenger hunt everyone met up at a taverna in Plaka for lunch.
Monday afternoon for class Ioanna took us to the ancient agora which was really amazing. There was only one significant building that was left standing and much of the site is over grown with shrubs but it was still very fascinating because the details of how the agora was laid out was very clearly defined and there were still statues and pieces of structures left standing. There is a museum as well and everything in the museum was found on site. The most interesting things in the museum were the voting devices including a black balling machine and voting discs to ostracize someone. An other interesting thing about the ancient agora is that some legendary ancient figures met there and spoke there such as Sophocles, Pericles, and Socrates. It was really fascinating to walk in their footsteps and see the places where they spoke and changed the course of history.The highlight of the week here however has to have been the election. Everyone waited up to see Barack Obama elected as the 44th president of the United States. Unfortunately this meant waiting up until the polls on the west coast closed which did not happen until 6 am Athens time and then we waited up to hear the speeches by both McCain and Obama which did not end until 7:30 am. It was fun to stay up and watch the election though. Some of us stayed in the apartment and had pizza and coffee and basically had a party in the living room while we were waiting. The only downside to staying up was classes. Morning class was canceled thankfully, but we still had an afternoon class which no one was very focused for because everyone was so tired.


Halloween, Scavenger Hunt, Elections

We had an exciting week!

First there was Halloween! We all decided to dress up, regardless of the fact the Greeks don’t celebrate this holiday. It was a challenge to our creative sides to come up with costume designs. We had Aphrodite, a Dalmatian, a pumpkin, two Jane Fonda ladies, a pirate, some witches, etc. I dressed up as my orange cat Norton.

A few of us decided to go out to the James Joyce Irish pub for some drinks. We decided our luck would be best with the Irish pub for understanding our Halloween celebrations.

The walk there was interesting, many stares. It was crazy to see little kids not knowing the fun they are missing out on, dressing up once a year as whatever you want.

There were a few cat ears, goddesses, and witches at the James Joyce. But no crowd was as classy as us in our Halloween getups.

Saturday we had a Scavenger Hunt with the students at HAU. This was a very fun experience. We all got to mingle with the Greeks, and put our skills of traveling around Athens to the test. I think quite a few of us students got to make some good friends in the process.

Tonight there is a little party at HAU from 12 am – 4 am celebrating the American Elections! It will definitely be another interesting experience to see the Greeks view of our big American event!

The weekend before this past one we were in Turkey. We went to Izmir and Istanbul. This was the first Muslim country I have ever been to and I enjoyed it a lot. In Turkey there are prayers that get blasted over loud speakers at certain hours of the day and it is really interesting to hear. While in Turkey we visited the Ephesus site which was an amazing thing to see. There were a lot of still standing ruins and it was easier to tell how everything would have been set up just by looking around and one could almost get a feel for how life was living in this area, better than some of the other sites with little remains left.
Istanbul has become one of my favorite cities that I have been to. While there we went to the Blue Mosque which was enormous and impressive. This mosque was built with the intention of being bigger and better than that of Hagia Sophia which is right next door. Hagia Sophia used to be a Christian church before the Ottomans took it over. It was decided that the Hagia Sophia would not be demolished because of cultural relevance so it was turned into a museum. My favorite part of Istanbul was the spice bazaar and food market. It really made me wish that I lived there because the food and spices were so fresh and delicious. The other thing that sold me on Istanbul was the fresh juice stands on almost every corner which sold juices from apples, oranges, pomegranates, and carrots. A return visit to Istanbul is a definite must for me at some point in my life.
Now being back in Athens, it is the day of elections back in the United States. The plan is to go to our favorite taverna for dinner and then stay up until all the votes are in. At that point it will be close to 3 or 4am here in Athens. I cannot wait to see all this go down tonight.


Scavenger Hunt

After much planning and preparation from the people at Hellenic American University we set out on Saturday morning for a scavenger hunt of sorts.  We were split up into groups of about five or six, given a bag of tasks and clues, and set free to roam around the city in a swift frenzy of riddle solving and picture taking.

            Many of the groups were organized in a way that mixed our Franklin Pierce Students with Greek, HAU students.  My group consisted of five Greek students and myself.  I was the only American in the group.  I was very excited about this; I could meet new people, mingle with the Greeks, and all of that good, fun stuff.   This excited notion wasn’t completely accurate because, though when around a majority of Americans the Greek students speak English, they speak very little when around only one.  This made it difficult for me to be included at first.  I was fumbling through their sentences trying to understand some of what they were saying.  To my surprise I could understand more Greek than I could before our adventure began in September, but still not enough to feel comfortable understanding entire conversations. 

            About a half of an hour into the scavenger hunt some questions appeared that were catered toward common American knowledge and not Greek, and the Greek students turned to me for help with these ones.  Now the English was coming out and the day began to get more fun.

            After answering a bunch of trivia questions and taking pictures of landmarks around the university we set out into the greater city to complete our list.  This was a storm of fast walking and chaotic picture taking, but we made it to our end point on time.

            At the end we all met at a taverna in the Plaka area and had a late lunch.  We talked about the scavenger hunt and determined the winners.  Unfortunately my team got second place, losing by only two points.  All in all the day was a blast for the participants and a success, I would say, for the individuals who put together and hosted the event.  

Dream Weaver

I have recently been experiencing a re-occurring nightmare that I would like to share with my avid readers. There are a plethora of museums in Athens of a myriad of different varieties. We have had the distinct privilege to visit many of them with our Athens through the Ages professor, Iaonna Kopsiafti, who seems to know the ins and outs of museum life like the back of her hand. My tragic dream occurred after a visit to one of these museums.

In my dream, The group is weaving it's way through one of these museums taking in the history and knowledge that places like these tend to provide. I am staring at an ancient statue of Zeus himself when my foot suddenly catches beneath me and I trip and tumble over myself. Clearly my sub conscious was reminding me of my recent decent into clumsiness.

As an aside, I was never the klutzy one. My sister Jennifer has been known to trip in the middle of an empty room. Apparently since coming to Greece, I have taken the clumsy crown as my own. Jennifer has nothing on me now. From tripping up the steps on Delos and falling on my bad carpals, to falling at the temple of Artemis in Turkey and tearing open my knee skin, I have experienced many a folly that have caused bodily harm to myself.

Back to the nightmare. As I trip and fall (in slow motion of course. This is a dream after all), I see the statue of Zeus in front of me and put my arms out to catch myself. In an effort to avoid injury, I knock over the statue and watch with horrified panic as the statue wobbles and tips precariously. I take a deep breath as it seems to settle and suddenly the entire sculpture crumbles into dust. The last imagine I remember before waking up in a cold sweat with an overall feeling of shame and guilt, is one of everyone from the museum workers, to Ioanna, to Professor Marra, to my dearest mother Patty, gawking at me with general looks of contempt and disbelief.

After such a terrifying look into my sub conscious, I am now far more aware at the museums than I would be otherwise. In addition to trying to take in the overwhelming feeling that tends to accompany seeing an actual Spartan shield from the Battle of Pylos, I also take into account how well said shield is protected, not from the elements, but from my own personal misfortunes. Museums where the artifacts are well protected, such as the new Acropolis Museum, are far easier for me to navigate when I don’t have to worry about the entire nation hating me when I knock over a restored sculpture of Athena.

So, readers, use this tale of woe as a cautionary word. Making friends and influencing people isn’t done by knocking important things over.

Jane Fonda and other everyday occurences

Unfortunately Greece does not "do" Halloween which was very disappointing to me because it is one of my favorite holidays, however that didn't stop us from showing them how it is done and dressing up. Seeing that Catie did a good job describing every ones outfits I'll spare the details and will leave you with this....

The day after Halloween was the scavenger hunt put on by HAU so we could get a chance to meet more students from the university. I particularly enjoy scavenger hunts so I had a lot of fun and met some pretty interesting people.

while walking around the city during the scavenger hunt I was reminded of what someone told me earlier in the week. My friend told me that I should take pictures of everyday things around Athens because that's what I'll miss the most when I'm back in the states. This advice came back to me after (of course) coming across everyday sites, as i thought about this i realized how much they would be right. The thing is as much as I love Greece I'm not going to be here forever. I knew I would be homesick for the U.S. but I never thought I would be homesick for Athens, and now I know there is no possible way I couldn't miss being here. The truth is I could take dozens of pictures of the islands, and Turkey and everywhere else we go, but when it comes down to it I'm going to miss going to the kiosk at 2 in the morning for a coke and ruffles, my morning coffee at Gloria Jeans, and being able to try as many flavors of gelatto down the street without being judged by the manager.


Halloween and Scavenger Hunt in Greece!

Unfortunately Halloween is not a holiday that is celebrated here in Greece but that of course did not stop us from celebrating it by any means! We set out on a task to get costumes that were cheap and creative. All of us bought a few pieces of fabric here and there, used some clothes that we already owned, and got to work! Slowly you could see the scraps of fabric coming together and soon we all had the perfect Halloween costume!

Lauren was a pumpkin with a shirt and leggings she already owned and some creative skills in making a pumpkin headband, and some black fabric to make a face.

Dom and Leanne put their creativity together and were Hadley (Leanne's Dalmatian dog) and Norton (Dom's orange cat.)

Ashley and I put our heads together and came up with the idea of being the best 80's Aerobics queen; none other than JANE FONDA! With a pair of leggings, bathing suit bottoms, leg warmers, a bunch of bright colored shirts and a thick purple head band, we were Jane Fonda in a matter of moments!

Misty bought a beautiful white dress and a few gold strands of beads and VOILA! She was transformed into the beautiful Greek Goddess Aphrodite!

All of us gathered together at Sina Street (including kids from the VK) and had ourselves a Halloween party together. Everyone hung out and socialized and as the night grew later a few went out to celebrate a little bit more!

Although Halloween is not celebrated here, people still knew what day it was and so it was somewhat accepted.

On Saturday we all gathered at HAU and met up with other HAU students where we had a scavenger hunt all over Athens. The idea was great and successful. We were able to intertwine with more of the students at HAU and it made for a good ice breaker to get to know people. The scavenger hunt also allowed us to see new places or things in Athens that we may not have seen or noticed before, but it also allowed us to prove that we did know the city pretty well, and that even just being here for 2 months, we knew our way around the area quite well. At the end we all wound up meeting at a great little Greek restaurant and celebrated together! Dom and I were in a group with three other girls who were already best friends with one another so at first it seemed like it would be difficult to try and get to know them, but by the end of the hunt we had all opened up to each other and were able to get to know one another on a different level than we would have been able to without the scavenger hunt. I had a ton of fun and hope this becomes a tradition at HAU for all of the Franklin Pierce students studying abroad to take part in!

On Tuesday HAU informed us that they will be holding a gathering for the election in the US that goes from 12am-4am I believe in order to find out who won the Presidential election together! I am looking forward to this and think it will be interesting to see how the elections in the US are depicted here in Europe and what the people here think of who is elected President.


All Around Turkey

This past weekend we were in Turkey which was amazing! We sailed from the Greek island of Samos to the Turkish port of Kusadasi. While in Kusadasi we went to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus was really amazing because the Library of Celsus is a well known ruin but I never knew what it was or where it was before we went there. The ancient city was huge and only a small fraction of it has been excavated which is disappointing because what has been excavated is really amazing. The ruins in Turkey were better to visit that the ruins in Greece because you could get so much closer to them. There was not nearly as much stuff roped off in the Ephesus sites as there was at the Acropolis and there was much, much more to see in Ephesus than there is at the Acropolis.

Aside from visiting the ruins we also took a break from the ruins and went to a pottery shop and watched Turkish pottery being made and panited entirely by hand. Turkish pottery is very colorful and very pretty. Most of it is decorated with tulips and carnations because tulips represent love and carnations respect. Ashley was able to make her own small vase and she was allowed to bring it back with her.
After we left Kusadasi we drove to Izmir and spent the day wandering around the city with our trusty tour guide. He took us to the world’s largest market and took around the corner from where we had entered the market. Just walking around the corner took a half hour and there was every kind of shop imaginable in the tiny corner of the market that we saw. Pet shops, bridal stores, spice stores and butcher shops were all side by side in the market which made it very impressive and overwhelming all at the same time.
After our day in Izmir we flew to Istanbul. I think I saw more Turkish flags in the few days we were in Istanbul than I have seen American flags in my whole life. And every place we went into there was a picture of Ataturk, and he is on all of the money. Istanbul was okay but would have been better if it had not been raining for pretty much the entire time. I liked watching the runners in the Istanbul marathon finishing the race. The finish line was right outside the Blue Mosque which we went to visit. I had never been inside a mosque before and it was gorgeous. It was extremely ornate and lavish, or at least the part for the men was. The women were given a tiny space along the back wall to worship which was separated from the part where men are allowed to worship.
After the Blue Mosque we crossed the street to visit the Hagia Sophia which was a church and a mosque but was converted into a museum. The Blue Mosque was built to rival the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia was being renovated so it was difficult to see some things. It was okay but not the best museum. It is hard to call it a museum because basically we went to look at the building itself rather than things that had been added to it. It was still a neat site however. After the Hagia Sophia some of us tried to visit the Topkapi Palace which is absolutely enormous. We weren’t really all that interested in the museum here however because there were some parts that you had to pay extra admission in order to see and no photographs were allowed. And on top of this we were all drenched and cold from the pouring rain. So we wandered around a small portion of the palace and then left.
The next day we went to the Grand Bazaar and spent several hours there. The Turkish Bazaar was really awesome because there was so much stuff that was being sold and all of the shop keepers were friendly to talk to and were easy to haggle with. Some of them were extremely pushy though and were basically yelling at you to go into their shop and buy from them. And everyone in Turkey is your friend. They were always calling someone “my friend” which is very different from the Greek shops. In Greece the shop keepers usually won’t talk to you.
Overall I liked Turkey more that I like Greece. I think it has something to do with the fact that Turkey has grass and actually looked like people could live there. Greece just looks like dirt and rocks which is not as nice as greenery.
Yesterday we went to the New Acropolis Museum with Ioanna which is so new that nothing was really opened in the museum yet except for an exhibit that had just arrived from Italy that was all returned cultural treasures that had been illegally excavated and removed from Italy and Greece. The collection, though small was nevertheless impressive because there were some really beautiful pieces that were on display. I did not like that the museum had glass floors that allowed you to look down on ancient Roman ruins that looked like they were from a bath house. It is a really unique feature and a great idea but it was disorientating and I was afraid of falling through the glass and landing on the jagged Roman ruins below. And it was difficult to try to look down and walk and look at all of the surrounding things even if there weren’t many surrounding things to look at.

The Acropolis at Last!

This week we went to the National Archeological Museum and the Acropolis. The National Archeological Museum had a wide range of things, including weaponry, death masks, jewelry, and statues. The museum has the most famous death mask which was found by Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann believed that the mask he found was the face of Agamemnon but this turns out was a false assumption. The museum also had several statues which were very familiar. I was surprised at how many statues there were in the museum that I recognized. Many of the familiar things I saw were smaller than I thought they would be but they were more impressive in real life that in pictures because pictures cannot capture the full depth of the different artifacts and the minute details. Two unique things that were in the museum were an ancient clock that had been found in pieces and then a model reconstructed based off of the ancient pieces, and a bronze statue that had been found in the sea which was new to the museum.
We went to the Acropolis on Wednesday. I think I was expecting there to be more buildings or something because there was not as much there as I thought there would be. There was scaffolding everywhere and much of the site is undergoing reconstruction so it was difficult to imagine the Acropolis as it was in ancient times because there was so much that was covered in scaffolding. And it was impossible to get very close to anything because all of the buildings were roped off. I think the best part of visiting the Acropolis was seeing the Erechtheion and seeing the Caryatids and hearing Ioanna tell us about the women that were the models for the statues. She said that the women came from her village which is near Sparta and the village had sided with the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War. Ioanna said there were two popular explanations as to why women were chosen as models from her village. The first one she explained was that the Athenians wanted these women to carry the burden of their shame for siding with the losing Spartans forever. The other explination, which is the one that the people in Ioanna’s village believe, is that the most beautiful women in the world lived in the village and that the Athenians wanted the most beautiful women to adorn their sacred buildings. Thursday we leave for Turkey for a long weekend.


A Seventh Island and Asia!

On Thursday morning our group embarked on our most recent trip.  From the airport in Athens we flew to the island of Samos, our seventh visited Greek island, where we spent the day as we waited for a fairy to Turkey.  From the top deck of the fairy, at sunset, we made our way from the European island of Samos to Asian Turkey, a port city called Kusadasi.  We spent two nights in Kusadasi, and used it as a base point for two of our major excursions: the ancient city of Ephesus and Smyrna, or modern day Izmir.

            Our first night in Kusadasi we just got some dinner, did a bit of exploring, and hung out around the hotel, as we knew that our next day was going to be very busy.  After a good nights sleep we got up early to set out on our trip to the ancient city of Ephesus.  This is one of the largest sites of ancient ruins in the world, and most of it is still underground, waiting to be excavated.  We spent a few hours in Ephesus, and still didn’t have enough time to fully see all of the excavated ruins.  This ancient city was home to some of the most magnificent things that I have ever seen, and a very funny and informative tour guide made it all the more enjoyable.  The highlight of the ruins, I would say was the remains of an ancient library, which, in its days was one of the largest in the world.  This building was nothing short of incredible, with its colossal size and double storied columns. We saw that gates for separate, different classes of people divided the city into sections.  On the sidewalks we saw carvings and etchings, which were evidence of early Christianity in the city.  All together this tour was like gazing upon and learning from ancient masterpieces of mammoth stature.  This was the most amazing site of ancient ruins that I have ever seen in my life.

            After leaving Ephesus we headed back to Kusadasi to try our luck in the bustle and bartering of the outdoor marketplace.  This type of marketplace, we have learned, is very common in Turkish cities.  We are currently in the end of the tourist and port season so all of the shopkeepers are ready to pack up for the winter.  In talking to one of them, their summer profits last them through the winter until the next season starts.  Because the season is drawing to a close all of the merchants are in a craze trying to get rid of their merchandise, at any price.  They try to pull you into their shops and show you things.  They offer you good prices and compliment you.  In short, they will do almost anything to get you to buy something.  They want to make sales in a way that I have never seen before.  This doesn’t sound like a very interesting observation, but trust me when I say that it is a fascinating condition to witness.  I found myself feeling for the people that were trying to force things on me.

            On our way out of the market we saw a sign for a karaoke bar.  Knowing that this was a port city, and therefore a city that catered to the English language, we thought that they might have English music, so we decided to go back later in the evening.  After a buffet of Turkish specialties (which, in my opinion, are the worst specialties I have ever eaten) we ventured out to check out the night scene in Kusadasi, and eventually made our way to the karaoke bar.  Here we had a blast, and engaged in much conversation with the Turkish bar-owner and workers.  They taught us a few Turkish phrases, and talked with us a bit about their customs and way of life.  The night ended in a quick nap before the next day’s adventures in Izmir.


Our tour guide through Izmir was born and raised in the city, thus making our tour all-the-more special.  He showed us old fortifications and some of the most beautiful mosques, along with a small portion of the worlds largest street market, but did it through a more intimate and personal perspective.  This city was fascinating, especially since I had just finished reading about the Greek and Armenian genocide in Izmir in 1922, which was titled: Smyrna 1922, The Destruction of a City.  From Smyrna we flew to Istanbul, Turkey, which we arrived in last night.


Today is our fist day here in Istanbul, but we are hotel ridden due to intense rain.  Hopefully we will be able to get out today, as our goal is to see a few ancient mosques and a famous palace.