I'd Like to Be..in the Aegean Sea..in the Sun..

On Friday, September 19th, I embarked upon a journey to five of the Cyclade Islands. It would have been impossible to predict the knowledge gained and beauty I witnessed during my travels.

First stop: Paros. This ended up being my most valuable experience on the islands. We stayed at Carmel Resort, which is owned by Shane’s family friends. Rather than being in the middle of a bustling city, we were in an area called Lagaros, a more remote, less-touristy part of the island. It was refreshing and cleansing to be removed from the chaos, soaking up the sun on the beach located directly across the resort and enjoying the views from our gorgeous balconies. Here, I learned a lot about myself and had a lot of time to think, read, and draw. It was a valuable experience for me. Additionally, we spent a lot of time in the nearby taverns, making friends with the owners and waiters. We dined on delicious, authentic, and cheap Greek food, surrounded by traditional live music and free liters of wine. No complaints here; I was very pleased that this was the longest stay of our journey.

^View from Carmel Resort^

On Tuesday of our stay on Paros, we took an adventure to Delos and Mykonos. Upon arriving in Delos, I was very surprised. There were no tourist shops surrounding the port. . . or anywhere in site! Unfortunately, the island was still full of tourists. This trip, too, was eye-opening, even breath-taking. I soon discovered that it’s one of the most significant mythological and historical islands of the Cyclades. My only regret is that we did not have enough time here; to soak in all of Delos, I feel as if you need at least half a day.

This island is an ancient site, uninhibited except for a handful of archeologists living on site. As its lands are sacred, no one is be born or die here. Beginning in 6th century BC, all graves located on the island were dug up and moved to nearby islands. Probably most sacred about this site is the fact that it is birthplace to Apollo and Artemis. However, the entire island is packed with magnificent temples dedicated to many of the gods. Although I sensed its reverence, I was irked by the amount of tourists tramping on its sacred grounds, seemingly unaware of its importance to so many people before them.

When we arrived, we immediately climbed Mount Kythnos, which is the highest point on the island, topped with a sanctuary to Dionysus. From the top, we could see the island in its entirety. It was amazing to see how well-planned and complicated the layout of the site was. Here, we also built small tributes to Apollo, which is customary, by constructing small columns of rocks.

^Views from Mount Kythnos^

After this, we explored on our own. Walking around, I felt as if I had stepped back in time, and felt a sort of centrality in my soul to be stepping on such sacred lands, where much hard work, disciple, and worship has taken place for thousands of years. Then, my last stop was the museum, which was the only modern building. Here, I was impressed by all the original stones, sculptures, and works of art found on Delos. However, I was a little disappointed that the island was filled primarily with replicas. . .

Next stop: Mykonos. I’m not going to waste much time talking about Mykonos. It was similar to Paros in its beauty and landscape, but it was very high-class, touristy, and busy. Rumor has it that Mykonos is a popular vacation spot for celebrities, such as Angelina Joli and Jay-Z. The worst part was when a huge, beautiful pelican landed on the beach. She was the most gorgeous bird I had ever seen. I then watched tourists crowd her, snapping photographs and poking at her soft feathers.

^Mykonos Port^

^Poor Pelican^

One thing I enjoyed about Mykonos was the Church of One Hundred Doors. In exquisite, awe-inspiring church, we had perfect timing and we able to witness a baptism going on.

We were back in Paros at around 7pm, and I immediately caught a bite at another tavern and then hit the sack. I was pretty wiped out from the long day, but my mind was certainly filled with new thoughts and perspectives. I was itching to draw. We left bright and early the next morning. I was beginning to hate ferries.

Santorini! We arrived here on Wednesday, early afternoon. What an island! From the ferry, the island was magnificent: huge, jagged cliffs, topped with a plethora of sugar-cube houses. The port was chaos. I almost got hit by several trucks and busses and I can’t tell you how many times the group was split apart. I was seriously frightened for my life. But that’s nothing compared to the donkey ride, which you will hear about soon.

This island was also very touristy, but I can see why. It wasn’t just filled with shops and restaurants. We got to experience several life-changing adventures during our short 2 days here. First, we took a pirate ship to a volcano and hiked to the top, where steam and heat rushed to the surface and sulfur crystals glistened in the sunlight. Wow! Then, the ship took us for another exciting trip to the next island. Here, by the coast, we jumped off the edge of the boat and swam over to hot springs. The water was serene, refreshing, and the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. The hot springs, however, were a bit disappointing. They were actually not much warmer than the ocean water, but it was interesting to see the distinct line between the blue, salty water and the orange, sulfur hot springs.

Now the donkey adventure. Some of us had the brilliant idea of riding donkeys up the cliffs. We thought it would be fun. Maybe it was for some of the explorers, but my donkey hated me. He kept charging up the paths, and then ramming me into the short walls, as if he was trying to throw me off the edge—the very high, steep edge. I’m not going to lie, I almost cried and was certain death was near. I made it to the top, however, but I don’t plan on riding a donkey in a long time.

Another great aspect of Santorini was the night life.
Best clubs I’ve ever been to! If you like clubbing, this is where it’s at. And no cover fee! They start partying around midnight there, and stay out all night long. We were all very tired in the morning.

On the last day, we spent the morning on the Black Beach, which is filled with black sand. We played and laughed in the enormous waves for hours, as the salt-water cleansed our skin.

The final island we explored (kind of) was Crete. I wish we had more time here as well. We did see the Knossos Palace, which was the ceremonial and political center for the brilliant Minoan civilization. A people thriving in 9th century BC, I was amazed by their technologies, such as clay plumbing. Their developments in the arts were impressive as well. After exploring the palace, we also checked out the archeological museum. I enjoyed this very much too, but was again disappointed to see the original works of art, confirming that what I saw at the palace were all replicas.

My favorite part of Crete was our last night, when we stayed in a hostel. This was my first hostel experienced and I loved the scene. We bonded with the other travelers and backpackers here, who were all of our age, and then they took a few of us out to a Reggae festival!!!!! I had the time of my life! We danced the night away, listening to one of my favorite genres of music, making new friends with people of many different nationalities.

By the end of the trip, I was ready to go home. Home? I mean Athens. It’s strange, but I feel as if Athens really is my home. When I walked into our room, I felt the sense of relief and joy one feels when coming home to rest after a long journey. This is my room, and my bed, and the apartment is filled with my sisters. It has only been one month and it blows my mind that I already have that sense of belonging in this city. I do miss my real home once in a while, but I think of it fondly, knowing that I will be returning there before I know it, leaving behind all that I’ve explored and discovered about my surroundings here. I know, however, that I will be taking back with me all I have learned and seen, about this country and myself. I dreamt in Greek for the first time last night, and when I close my eyes to drift away, I always see the breath-taking waves of the Aegean Sea, a site I will never forget, which fills my soul with peace and sweet dreams.

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