A Wellesley Odyssey

A Blog of Adventures and Musings

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Book XII

After 19 hours of traveling, 12 exhausted travelers, 3 different planes, 2 layovers, and a single rose, I am finally in Crete! And boy does it feel great to be back in Greece! I’ve really missed this country, the people, the language, the food, and the scenery. For the next few weeks we will be spending our time in Chania, Zaros, Heraklion, Sitia, and Ierapetra. Pretty much the next three weeks are going to be awesome.

Thankfully our trip here wasn’t bad. Even though we were delayed due to frost on the wings leaving Boston, we still made it to Frankfurt with 3 hours to spare until our next flight. When getting off at Frankfurt, one of the flight attendants gave me a very pretty red rose. Why? I have no idea but it was a nice gesture and a beautiful flower.

I knew that I missed Greece deeply but I don’t think I realized quite how much until I was back in the Athens airport. It may be because this was a country I only thought I would visit in my dreams or because it was the first country I visited outside of the Western Hemisphere. It’s most likely a combination of both but regardless I have a deep attachment to this country and I’m beside myself with joy to be back.

Tomorrow we hit the ground running with our first language course and a tour of the city. Slowly but surely the minimal Greek I learned while in Athens is coming back and it’s nice to be able to use those skills (if I can even call my very small grasp of the language skills) again. Here’s to hoping I can recall more of the language!

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Book XI

I think it’s about time that I return to blogging.  My time since I got home from Athens has been a roller coaster of ups and downs: 

I enjoyed my summer with some of my best friends in DC and interned with a wonderful arts organization;

I was bitten by a spider and had to be medically treated;

I started my last fall semester of Wellesley;

I broke my ankle;

I’m trying to figure out what to do upon graduating;

I turned 22 and celebrated my birthday and the new year by attending a James Bond party;

and I’m going back to Greece in 3 days!

It was one of my biggest regrets that I never made it to the island of Crete while abroad.  I’m so glad that I get to correct this half a year later.  I’m spending three weeks traveling around Crete with a group of Wellesley students, it’s going to be one of the best ways I’ve ever spent my winter break!

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Book X

And now I will describe all of my feels with a series of gifs.

Spending my last morning in Athens watching men’s pole vaulting: 

Eating all of my favorite Greek foods and pastries for the last time:

Drinking my last frappe:

Packing and bringing my bags to the airport:

Saying “See you soon” to all my friends because it isn’t goodbye: 

Tearful goodbyes with Dora at Kekkos, the bakery that has gotten me through so many papers/studying and late night pastry cravings:

Thoughts on leaving Athens:

Going to London for 14.5 hours and planning to see ALL the things:

Seeing my friend in London whom I haven’t seen in a year and half: 

Going home to Florida:

How I feel about Athens:

What this semester has given to me:

 

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Book IX

My last day in Athens has officially ended and I spent it re-visiting all of the archaeological sites and shopping (of course).  It was rather sad because it was an overcast and rainy day.  I found myself sitting in the Theatre of Dionysus when all of a sudden it just started raining.  This pretty much sums up my afternoon on the Acropolis:

From there, I went to the New Acropolis Museum for the last time.  I sat up on the fourth floor watching the mini movie they have on the building and sculpture of the Parthenon and once again became rather sentimental (and I may have watched the video 3 times…)

From there, I met up with Jeni and together we walked through Monastiraki, finishing up shopping for friends and family and picking up things for ourselves as well.  I finally found the last ring that I have been dreaming about.  First, I need to preface this is stating that I am obsessed with ancient coins, especially the coins of Classical Athens.  So as we are walking down the street, I walk by a jewelry shop and stop to admire the window display.  I end up seeing a ring that has the impression of the famous Athenian owl and decide to ask how much it costs and to try it on. I really liked it but wanted something smaller so I ask if they have anything else.  The shopkeeper proceeds to show me exactly what I have been looking for: a ring that the face flips so that I can have the head of Athena or the Athenian owl.  I’m so in love with it!

It was the perfect way to spend my last (full) day in Athens. I plan to take advantage of having half the day tomorrow before I’m on my way to London for 14.5 hours.

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Book VIII

And so I am finally finished with all of my exams and papers!

To celebrate, Jeni and I went to the Acropolis to walk around and enjoy it for the last time :(.  I am definitely going to miss not being able to see the Acropolis from the school building and casually hanging out on the roof of our apartment, where we can see the Parthenon.  After walking all around the grounds, we made our way towards the neighborhood of Thissio.  We came across a rooftop cafe and decided to eat there for dinner.  It was delicious and we had a wonderful view of the Propylaia, Erechtheion, Parthenon, and Temple to Nike upon the Acropolis.  From the rooftop, I could also see the entrance to Pan’s Grotto and I was determined to get there!  It looked possible by walking up an expansive ground so Jeni and I made the trek only to realize that the rock outcropping we were climbing was not attached to the grotto.  Instead, we sat up on the hill overlooking the city of Athens and enjoying the calm (albeit cool) evening.

^The Parthenon

^Porch of the Karyatids, Erechtheion 

^View from the rooftop cafe

Afterward, we did some shopping around the area trying to buy the last of our gifts and souvenirs that we wanted.  We have SO many plans on how we plan to spend our last full day in Athens tomorrow.  It’s quite sad to think about and I’m still not ready to fully acknowledge it.  Although, I finally started packing…such an ordeal.  I will be glad once I am finished so I can stop worrying about the weight of my luggages.  Now, it’s time for bed (here I was thinking I would get to sleep early) before a day full of adventure!  

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Book VII

I can’t believe how fast the time has passed.  

I find myself returning to this blog after almost 2 months and do not know where the last 8 weeks went. Looking back on them, they were spent traveling through Delphi and Northern Greece: 

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Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon: 

^Barcelona

^Madrid

^Madrid

^Lisbon

^Lisbon

^Barcelona

^Lisbon

Prague: 

^Kafka Museum

^Kafka Museum

^John Lennon Wall

^Giant Chicken!

and the Greek Islands:

^Ephesus, Turkey

^Patmos

^Oia, Santorini

^Mykonos

^Kos

^Aegina

I think if anyone told me that I would see all these amazing places 6 months ago, I would not have believed them.  I mean, I think I would have been hopeful because these places have been long-standing dreams of mine but I wouldn’t have thought it possible.  It’s a surreal experience to be somewhere you never thought you would, though you so hoped you would be.  This moment hit when I was boarding the plane back to Athens from Lisbon and I realized that I was making my own dreams come true.  It’s almost like all my travels have been a rather elaborate dream but I have the photographs as evidence.

On the topic of photographs, I don’t think I have EVER taken as many photos as I have these past four months.  I’m about to get a bit philosophical on the subject of photography so bear with me.  A photograph is this strange momento that has so much value attached to it but it’s subjective.  I know if anyone were to look through my 5000+ photos, they may see it for it’s aesthetic appeal or laugh at whatever situation I’ve gotten myself into but to me it’s not just an image but an emotion, a sound, a smell.  I look at this photo

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^Mykonos

and I hear the waves crashing upon the sand, the clatter of eating utensils and plates, the low hum of conversations in Greek, English, French and I smell the salty air and grilling meats.  I remember the pastel colors of the sky, a little boy proudly collecting rocks larger than his hands, Jeni collecting sea glass, and I feel the awe of being in such a location, the joy and excitement of finding the exact image plastered across all the tourist postcards, the peace and calm of just being on the beach and watching the sunset.  There are so many additional attachments I have to just this one image that no one else will have, they may have their own memories and attachments if they have been here but never the same as mine. But then I also find myself frustrated because no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to capture what I saw.  The lens can only capture so much within any given frame, so you never get the ‘full picture’. It’s a strange concept to think about but is it ever possible to capture everything with or without a camera?

But enough about photography. My most recent and last trip outside of Athens culminated in taking a 3 day cruise for the Greek Easter break traveling to 4 islands and Turkey.  It was definitely one of the best decisions, ever.  We went to the Greek islands of Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, and Kos and then Kusadasi, Turkey.  While in Turkey, we went to Ephesus, which was amazing. I did not realize how extensive and well preserved the site is and had an absolute ball running amuck all the ruins and temples.

In Mykonos, Kos, and Patmos, we visited the main port towns of each.  And while in Santorini we visited the towns of Oia (the city that is famous for its white buildings and blue domed roofs) and Fira (where we rode donkeys up the cliffside to get to the town!).

^Oia, Santorini

^Fira, Santorini

^Mykonos

^Patmos

^Mykonos

^Oia, Santorini

It was a truly amazing experience and I got to see so much and have so much fun on and off the ship.  We nicknamed our trip “The Booze n’ Cruise” because we purchased an unlimited alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink package and made sure to take advantage of it all 3 days!  It was a bittersweet conclusion to all of the trips I have made this semester.  My last trip will culminate in a 14.5 hour layover in London and then back to Florida.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand I’m so excited to go home and see my family and friends and start my summer internship in Washington, D.C. but I know that after a few days home I’m going to wish I was back in Greece.  I can’t think about this now though, it will make it too real.

I first need to get through my last final and write my last paper. I’ve refused to let myself stress out about any of my finals because I’m abroad. It isn’t worth my effort to freak out and stress about it.

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Book VI

For our weekend, Ally and I decided it was the perfect time to take a trip to Meteora, Greece.  So, we quickly made all the booking arrangements Friday evening and prepared ourselves to leave early Saturday morning.  Saturday started with taking a 5 hour train to Kalambaka, which is the town right at the foot of the mountains of Meteora. Once Ally and I finally made it to the train station we had to figure out where to buy our tickets. Once we figured that out, I went to buy mine only to find out that the train had no more seats but you could buy a ticket to stand.  I then asked when the next train would be and was told there wasn’t another one until 4pm. So, Ally and I made the choice to buy the standing tickets because we wanted to get to Meteora in the afternoon and were told we could sit on the floor so we thought no problem. We get on the train and realize there really isn’t any space to sit on the floor and we were beginning to worry that we screwed ourselves over but once everyone sat down we realized there were a number of free seats so we just took those.

We made it around 2pm and after actually making it to our hotel without any wrong turns (I know, shocker!) and checking in we ask the receptionist how to make it up the mountain. She says you can walk or take a taxi and that most of the monasteries close at 4 although one closes at 5. She told us that she would recommend we walk up today and go to the monastery of Saint Stephanos and then take a taxi early the next morning to make the most of our day. It’s about 2:45pm at this time and she made it seem like walking wouldn’t take very long so we were like okay let’s walk! Little did we know we had just signed up for our own death.

After wandering a bit (in the actual correct direction without realizing it) and getting directions from a little old man with me using my minimal Greek, we found the sign bringing us to the footpath up the mountain. 

So we start up the path and it’s beautiful and not too bad and we are all like we can do this. We are taking lots of pics and this dog was following us from town and all is good.

Then we come to this fork in the path where Ally and I were like which way should we go? We decided to each take a path (because there were forks in the path like this earlier in the trail and we realized they both ended up in the same place anyway) so we thought this would be the same. I would like to acknowledge that we both now realize this was a very stupid idea and that we should never have separated but alas, we did.

So then I’m going up and up and up and I feel like I’m dying and that I won’t make it but I refused to go back because I had already gone so far and I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN!!!!

So I keep going and keep taking rest stops like every 30 feet because it was getting steep and there were some stairs and I’m just not built to hike (okay it’s because I haven’t built up any stamina but rest assured, this hike made me realize just how lacking I am). I also resorted to tricking myself to make it to the top by saying (outloud, I’m not ashamed to say that I pretty much spoke to myself to keep my morale up) “if you make it to just the next bend it looks like flat ground and you can take a quick break (even though I knew the ground wasn’t going to be flat).”


So then after about 1.5 hours of walking, I FINALLY MADE IT TO THE PAVED ROAD FOR CARS, albeit huffing and puffing and barely able to even lift my feet to keep going. I saw a sign that led to one of the monasteries and while I knew it wasn’t the one I was supposed to go to I thought that the other one was just passed it and didnt know any other way to make it so climbed all the stairs up to the monastery (I REALLY hate stairs) only to make it to a bolted shut door that wouldn’t let me further. I almost wanted to cry at my misfortune and just wanted to be back in my apartment in a warm bed but I was determined to make it to the monastery I said I would and was also hoping to run back into Ally.

^Path up to the Holy Trinity Monastery that ended with a bolted shut door

So then I realized I had a bit more of a trek but was following the paved road for cars so I wasn’t as nervous or scared of dying on the mountain. After another 10ish minutes of walking, I saw a monastery in the distance and almost wept for joy and definitely did a happy dance.

So then I made it to the monastery with about 10 minutes left before it closed and was able to see it. It was very beautiful and the church within blew my mind with how ornately decorated it was. So then I thought to myself, there is NO WAY I’m climbing back down that mountain so I was like well there should be taxis up there because that would be a prime spot for them.  Alas, I was wrong and wasn’t sure what to do. I think I looked exhausted and desperate and this ended up working in my favor.

So, I ask these three American tourists who were walking by if they happened to know a taxi number but they didnt and they were really sorry but they said their tour guide was just inside and that she would probably know.  I went back into the entrance of the monastery and ask in some broken Greek for a taxi number. The tour guide spoke English and was able to translate what I couldn’t and they both seemed very concerned for me and didn’t think I had a local phone and were trying to figure out a way for me to call a taxi but I told then I had a local phone and so the nun gave the tour guide the phone number. I exited with the tour guide expecting her to give me the number but instead she asks me where I’m trying to go and then proceeds to offer to take me down on their tour guide bus! She said they were all older people from Seattle and they were Christian and would have no problem with taking me back. I wanted to hug the tour guide!

So she brings me to the bus and asks everyone if they are okay with bringing me along and the three tourists I had asked earlier were like “oh it’s you, we felt so bad we couldn’t help you, of course you can hitch with us”.  I took a seat and the people sitting around me started asking me questions and found out that I actually did climb the mountain and they were amazed I did (I was pretty amazed that I did as well).  The bus made it back down the mountain in about 5 minutes (as opposed to the two hour hike I made) and drops me off the closest they could, which ended up being a block away from my hotel and I was just sooooo grateful to them! I made it back to my hotel and then Ally made it back about 25 minutes after I did, thankfully.

Lesson of this story, don’t climb mountains. Don’t spilt up from your traveling group, always have a taxi number, and really just don’t climb up mountains.

But I was alive and in one piece and I am actually really glad that I had that experience, but will never walk back up that mountain.

We woke up bright and early on Sunday and made the executive decision that we would take a taxi up.  After walking to the train station to get Ally’s return ticket, we made it to Grand Meteora Monastery and it was simply astonishing.  No matter where you looked, there was an amazing photo opportunity.  Many of the monasteries on the cliffs were built in the 14th/15th century and have been lived in since then.  We found ourselves having to climb up MORE stairs to get to the entrance of the monastery but after the previous day’s hike, we knew a little set of stairs were nothing.  We ended up wondering around the monastery for almost 1.5 hours before we decided it was time to leave.

At this point, we weren’t quite sure what to do about getting back down.  We thought we would come across a taxi because there were a lot of people around but there wasn’t one (we really should have come to expect this) and just decided to follow the car path down and walk by the rest of the monasteries.  We continued to take so many photos on our way down.

By the time we made it half way down the mountain, we were worried about not making it back to the hotel in time before our train left and wanted to call a taxi but we still didn’t have a number.  Thankfully, I remembered that I had the hotel’s number and was able to have the hotel call us a taxi to pick us up outside of one of the monasteries.  We made it safely to the hotel, charged our electronics, I did some last minute shopping and then we were off to the train station.  

I’m really happy that I was able to take this weekend trip and looking back on it, I had a lot of fun even though I was cursing all the gods at times.  The city of Kalambaka and Meteora are truly picturesque locations.  I honestly kept asking “is this real life?” It looked like a backdrop that someone painted for a movie set. I didn’t know places could be that amazing with no photoshop editing.  

I’m taking today to rest and relax before we start out CYA field trip to Delphi and Northern Greece, which I know is going to be crazy busy and full of walking.  But, I also know that after surviving the weekend, all the walking this week will look like nothing.

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Book V

Hell week is officially over and two weeks of traveling through Greece, Spain, and Portugal are about to begin!

My first day of freedom began with a trip to Cape Sounion with Ally and Jeni.  Apparently, there are buses that run on the hour from Athens to the cape for 13 euro round trip so we thought, why not?!  It was a rather nondescript bus stop close to Syntagma Square and we were told to just wait by the sign and the bus would arrive between 12:30 and 1.  So we wait…and we wait…and we wait some more…until about 2pm when FINALLY the orange bus we were told to wait for arrives.  We get on, chose our window seats because we’ve been told the coastal road is beautiful only to find out after we’ve started moving that we are indeed on the wrong bus.  I honestly have no idea how this ALWAYS happens to me but alas, I’m used to it.  So they let us off at the correct bus stop where the Sounion line is and we wait for another 40 min before we make it on to the correct bus!  It took us about 2 hours of seeing beautiful scenery until we reached the cape and the Temple of Poseidon. 

We quickly found ourselves on the archeological site (for free courtesy of our DIKEMES student IDs) and immediately I was surrounded by the peaceful atmosphere.  I’m not sure I can capture what it was like being there in either words or photographs but I will try to do so with both.  

There was something calming about being there, as if nothing could disturb the site.  This was the first sanctuary that I have visited that I’ve felt at peace with myself and as if I could still feel the lingering presence of Poseidon.  Whispering felt too loud.  Taking photographs didn’t feel like enough.  It was exactly what I needed after such a stressful and busy week.  I feel renewed and ready to take on anything (or at least take on the next two weeks full of traveling).

Here are just some of the many photos I took while here.

After finally deciding we had fully documented our mini excursion (mostly realizing we had 10 minutes until the bus would depart back to Athens) we left the site and went to get some homemade ice cream from the little restaurant by the bus stop.  After purchasing our ice cream, I went over to stop and saw the bus there so ran over so it wouldn’t leave without us and then was told that I couldn’t take my ice cream on with me!  So I had to shovel as much of that as I could and toss the rest away because there was no way we were missing this bus.  It resulted in a major brain freeze but I made it on to that bus.  The ride back was peaceful and I took more photos of the sun setting.

Upon arriving back in Athens, Ally and I decided that we wanted to utilize our weekend to the max and spontaneously booked a weekend trip to Meteora, Greece.  We leave bright and early tomorrow morning for the cliffs that house monasteries and I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s going to be an excellent weekend indeed!

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Book IV

Two weekends ago, I went on my first trip out of Greece to Istanbul, Turkey.

And it all started with a 15 hour bus ride.

^Ally and I starting our bus adventure

Which I thought was a great idea at the time but by the time we finally made it to Istanbul, I had a slight change of heart.  I will relay the adventures that happened on our bus trip.

It all started Thursday afternoon with trying to finish up all my homework for the weekend so I could just enjoy being in Turkey and trying to pack my small bag (I really detest packing and trying to figure out what I may or may not need).  It took us a while to find the location of the bus as we had to take the Metro to a very industrial area of Athens and one that was not fond of using street signs.  After being turned around in the correct direction by some police officers and walking for about 15 min, we finally made it to the bus with 10 minutes to spare.  The bus driver and attendants did not really speak English so we were more or less on our own trying to figure things out.  However, they did speak Greek so with our minimal Greek we were able to communicate…sort of. I was actually quite surprised by how nice the bus was.  It was pretty much an airplane on the ground with comfortable seats, a good amount of leg room, and personal televisions for each passenger (granted all the shows were either in Turkish or Greek).  Just about every hour there was an attendant who would come by and ask if we needed anything to drink and gave us some snacks.  We stopped about every 3 hours either to get off for bathroom breaks, to grab food, or to pick up some more passengers.  Thankfully, the bus wasn’t very crowded so Ally was able to grab the seats behind me and we were able to spread out with more space.  We finally reached the border around 3:00am and had to be rudely awakened as I had only fallen asleep two hours prior.  We honestly had no idea what was going on but had to give our passports to the officer waiting at the bus door as we got off.  Ally and I were the only Americans on the bus and I got a strange look as I gave him my passport.  As he took it, he asks in a gruff voice “You’re American?” and I reply, “Yes.” After viewing my student visa, he asks “You’re studying in Greece?” and I reply, “Yes.” and he just waves me off.  I was getting nervous that he wasn’t going to approve my passport and then I would have taken an 8 hour bus ride for nothing and have to be shipped back. We then had to go through passport police and after waiting at the end of the line for almost 30 minutes in 32 degree weather, the officer takes one glance at Ally’s passport and asks “Where is your visa (for Turkey)?”  We then realize that in order to get our vistor visas we needed to go to another kiosk, which no one thought to tell us! We made it to the correct kiosk, the elderly man there flirted with us (we think) and blew us kisses as we headed back to the police and all we could do was laugh because we were so tired. Finally, we passed through and were officially in Turkey  Then it was another 3 hours until we made it to Istanbul. They kept introducing the stops in Turkish so Ally and I had no idea what was going on, and before we could get off at the first stop because we thought it was where we were supposed to get off, the bus started moving again. Ally and I slightly panicked because we didn’t know where it was taking us but couldn’t do anything so ended up going along for the ride. It ended up working out that we were still on it because the bus dropped us off where the metro station was (though we didn’t know it at the time). Then we get off and look completely lost so just sort of wandered until we came across a lady and I asked if she spoke english…she didn’t really but I give here my piece of paper with the address of where we wanted to go and she says Taxi and points us in the right direction. So we go that way and taxi people start shouting to us if we need a taxi, which we really didn’t want to take a taxi because I knew we could take the metro.  Then this wonderfully nice man who didn’t speak any english, saw us in distress and asked “Metro?” and we were like “YES!” so he leads us to the metro. Then, we realize that the metro doesn’t take Euros…and the man who left us sees us fumbling around again and comes back to attempt to ask what was wrong and I was like…Euro? and he just gave us this look like “oh you dumb girls” but he was still nice enough to lead us through the terminal to the money exchange area! Then he said here and walked off with a wave. I was just so happy I could have hugged him. So then we get the correct money and make our way back to the token machine, get our token and then go through only to realize that the side that says the way we need to go is roped off and we were like REALLY? The sign was in turkish but it seemed to say it was closed from 7am-9am. It was 8:30am so we were like well, we will just have to wait…But then I decided to go and ask the security lady who was standing next to us and she told us we could just take the other stairway down. So we made it onto the metro in the correct direction. After getting off the metro, we had to transfer to the tram…but we were not sure at all how to get to the tram. A nice police officer comes up to us and asks where we are trying to go. I show him my paper with the directions and he asks us where we are coming from, he was quite surprised to hear we are from the USA. He gives us the directions to the tram and we make it there! We get off the tram at the right stop, and find ourselves looking at the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque…and we were awe-struck. I still cannot find the words to describe this moment.

^Our room in the hostel

^Standing in front of the Hagia Sophia

^Ally, Christina and me in front of the Blue Mosque

We wandered for about 30 min trying to figure out the way based on my instructions and are just standing on the corner looking at my map…until another nice parking man comes up to us and asks if we need help. Turns out we were going in the right direction and he just pointed us to the correct place and we FINALLY MADE IT! We were able to check in, and even go up to the roof and get free breakfast, which was much needed and appreciated.  By this point, Ally and I were quite delirious and I looked a complete mess.  I even had Ally take a photo of me to see how horrible my hairdo was but I couldn’t care enough to fix it.

^Slightly delirious and not caring about my hair

We napped for a few hours until our two friends and roommates, Jeni and Christina, met up with us to start exploring.  We went to the Grand Bazaar, Süleymaniye Mosque, and then went out for dinner and hookah (because we were in Turkey and felt that we couldn’t leave without trying hookah).  The Süleymaniye Mosque was definitely my favorite because it wasn’t as touristy as the Blue Mosque and was absolutely beautiful.  We were able to stay and observe the prayer, which was another indescribable moment.

^Ally, Christina and me sitting in Süleymaniye Mosque

^Ally, Jeni and me about to enter the Grand Bazaar

^At the Hookah bar, where Ally is clearly uncomfortable with the owner who also claimed I was Asian and she was American.

Saturday began with booking a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus (that we dubbed the Booze and Cruise because it was unlimited alcoholic beverages) and then heading to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  I remember learning about these structures in every art history class I have ever taken and also remember claiming if only I could see them some day. I never expected to be given this amazing opportunity to ACTUALLY see them.  It took my breath away.  From here, we walked to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, walked across the Galatta Bridge, bought fresh squeezed juice from a street vendor, did some shopping and ran back to our rooms to prepare for dinner.  There was a bus that came and picked us up from our hostel and took us to the dock.  When we walked onto the boat, we were the first ones there and were surprised by how nice it was!  We were served a very delicious buffet dinner and dessert, had unlimited drinks, watched traditional dances of Turkey (including a belly dancer), were brought up stage to join in the dancing, and went up to the top deck to see the amazing sights on the water.  The same bus brought us back to our hostel and our bus driver (who was at least 70 years old) turned the bus into a party bus when we were the only ones left by blasting the American Music and all four of us just laughed hysterically and danced around.  We are convinced that the bus driver took a longer route to get to our hostel so we could continue dancing around.  We made it back to the hostel around 12:30 and immediately passed out.

^Interior of Hagia Sophia

^Jeni and Christina inside the Blue Mosque

^At the Spice Bazaar

^Christina drinking apple tea (my new favorite thing) and me trying to decide which teacup to buy (too many options!) in the Spice Bazaar

^Successful photo bomb on the Galatta Bridge

^Drinking our delicious fresh squeezed juice

^Jeni and I on the dinner cruise

^Ally and I up on the top deck of the boat

Sunday was our last day and Ally and I decided we wanted to experience a Turkish Bath.  Christina, who had been to Turkey before, recommended we go and told us what to expect.  However, we had an entirely different experience then she did.  We honestly had no idea what we had signed up for.

When we first get to the bath, they tell us to strip down in the little locker room they gave us and to put our towel on.  They then led us through some baths to the sauna room, where mind you men were also in there steaming it up and washing up (although they did have their towels on as well) so Ally and I were super confused. They told us to lay down on this huge slab of marble that was really hot for 15 min, we had no idea if we were going to wash in that room as well with all the men so we were just really confused. From there, we went to a separate bathing room for women only and it’s just Ally and me in it. This Turkish woman comes in and takes her robe off to reveal she is only wearing a pair of small red underwear, which completely threw Ally and I big time.  She went up to Ally and tries to get her to take her towel off (she didn’t speak much english) and Ally was taken by complete surprise and refused. So then I was like, I’ll do it. I asked…is it fine that i’m not wearing any underwear? (because Christina had told us that we would be given a pair of underpants to wear) and she was like yes…so there I go in my birthday suit with the middle-aged turkish woman and Ally.  She had me lie down on my towel on the marble and proceeded to pour hot water over me, scrub my entire body to get rid of all dead skin, had me turn over to repeat the process on my front, then put all the soap suds on me and gave a very nice back massage, then washed my hair and rinsed me off for the last time before giving me a robe and going to wash Ally.

It was a very bizarre and perplexing situation that turned out to be really amazing. Ally and I have no realized that after the 16 hour bus ride and ending the trip naked together, we will forever be bound.  

^Ally and I post Turkish Bath

We visited the Basilica Cistern and did some last minute shopping before rushing off to the airport.  

^Medusa column in the cistern

^Getting fresh roasted corn from a street vendor as we shop

It was a mad dash through the airport but I was entirely happy because there was a Burger King in the airport and I was finally able to have a bean burger (which I had been craving for a few weeks).  Our trip ended with an hour flight back to Athens and then another hour on the metro and we were back in our apartments.  

^By this point, Ally wanted nothing to do with me

It was a weekend that I will never forget and one that I am so happy that I planned.  I cannot wait to go back to Turkey and explore all the other cities and sites that I wasn’t able to this time around.  Going to the school the next day proved to be a challenge.  Now, I find myself two weeks later in hell week with 2 midterms, a project/oral for Greek, and a paper (I’m 3/4 of the way done) and then we have two weeks off!  Next week, begins our travels through Delphi and Northern Greece with CYA and then I’m off to Spain and Portugal for spring break.  

We have plans to go to Cape Sounion tomorrow and hopefully one or two islands this weekend, so I will be updating my blog with those adventures!  Stay tuned.

 

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Book III

It’s been extremely busy here for the last few weeks with minimal access to the internet, hence the interruption of posting.  However, never fear, I am back with internet connection and can finally relay what has happened on my latest adventure!

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I didn’t quite make it to space, instead we took a 5-day trip to the Peloponnese!  It was a jam-packed itinerary but I was immensely looking forward to visiting so many of the sites that I have only read about.  The trip started with a quick stop at the Korinth Canal to take some pictures and get some coffee (it was only 9:30am and we still had a full day ahead of us).  It came to our attention that you can bungee jump off the Korinth Canal!  I will need to further look into this and potentially plan a return trip…image

 ^ My roommate and I posing in front of the canalimage

From Korinth, we went to the archaeological site of Isthmia, the Sanctuary of Poseidon and location of the Isthmian Games (relevant to the History of Ancient Sports and Spectacles course I am taking).  We were able to fully explore a Roman Bath House located on site, which included lots of wall hopping and crawling through small passages.  It was sort of nerve-wracking as I kept expecting someone to pop out and yell at me to not touch anything but alas, no one did and we had a really great time.  If there is anything that this trip taught me, it’s that in order to fully appreciate an historical site (that to some would just be considered a pile of rubble) you need to have the freedom to fully explore every crevice and rock.

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^Overview of the central grounds of Isthmiaimage^The Starting Gate for the original track at Isthmia before reconstruction took place 600 yards awayimage

^Exploring the Roman Bath House

From Isthmia, we went to Nemea, another location of the Nemean Games and Sanctuary to Zeus.  After exploring the sanctuary, and taking many pictures within the Temple to Zeus,

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^The remaining standing pillars of the Temple of Zeus

we first came upon the location where it is believed the athletes would strip naked, be anointed with oil and sand and then make their way to the underground crypt that would lead to the stadium.  The crypt is still there today, made of the original material and as you walk through it feels as though you are back in the 4th century BCE.  It’s even more surreal as the graffiti that adorned the walls of this passageway in ancient times, is still there today for everyone to read (mostly praying to the gods for victory and slamming the other athletes).  Being able to trace over these inscriptions, left me feeling overwhelmed and in awe that something so old has lasted until today, their names forever immortalized just as they had hoped.

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^Inscription of one of the athlete’s names 

^The stadium at Nemea

From Nemea, we left to go to Nafplio, the prior capital of Greece.  This is where we stayed for two nights and where we ate some extremely delicious gelato.  It was a beautifully quaint town, very Venetian in style and we were quite sad to leave it.

We visited Mycenae, which was one of the trips I was most looking forward to visiting.  We woke up to a rainy and cold day, but that did not lower my spirits in the least.  So prepared with rain jacket and umbrella, we set off to Mycenae.  We explored the museum first and by the time we started climbing up to the citadel, the rain had mostly stopped.  Of course, I took the customary picture in front of the Lion Gate and was so overjoyed that I now have my very own picture of this entrance.

After Mycenae, we went to Palamidi Castle, a structure erected in the Medieval times but nonetheless impressive.  We had beautiful views of the city of Nafplio from here and had fun wandering throughout the castle, even seeing the jail cell that held Theodoros Kolokotronis, a hero of the Greek Revolution.

^View of the castle from the city

From Palamidi, we went to Epidaurus, and explored the ancient theatre and the rest of the site, including the hospital and the stadium there.

^Sitting in the Ancient Theatre at Epidaurus

Our next two trips took us to Mystras and Sparta (definitely a wonderful location to spend Valentine’s day).  Accompanied with rain and the cold, we trekked through Mystras, a Byzantine/Medieval town that is absolutely beautiful.  We viewed many Byzantine chuches and admired their decoration and wall paintings and met one of the nuns still living there.  Even though it was not an ancient site, it was still amazing and one that I fell in love with.

^Interior of one of the Churches at Mystras

We spent the night in Kalamata and then we were off to Messene.  I think of all the sites we visited, this was my most favorite.  The head excavator of this site (who we were able to meet and ask some questions!) believes that we should have access to the site and not be held back by ropes marking off important buildings.  It was a very hands on experience.  We were able to sit in the theatre there (we were the first group to sit in there as they are still reconstructing it, so that was really special).  We spent about 3 hours here just exploring the grounds and taking lots of pictures.

Our final stop on this epic journey was to Olympia, the site of the Ancient Olympic Games.  Again, this site was very relevant to my history course and we were given free reign to run the track.  So now I can officially say that I ran the Olympic Stadium. :)  I can also say that I stood in the same spot that Alexander the Great did when he was in Olympia to officially announce the completion of the construction of the building shown below.

 

^My roommate as she gets a running start in the Olympic Stadium

And so our journey ended with a four hour bus ride back to Athens, in which I tried to sleep but mostly just watched the scenery and read some Judith Butler and The Hobbit for fun.  I was only too happy to finally be back in my apartment and to be allowed to sleep in the next day to whatever hour I wished.  With one day of rest, it was back to classes and so the cycle of school resumes.  I look forward to our next trip, though, to Delphi and Northern Greece!