Kristen, Student Blogger: Weekend in Greece, Part 1

ΔΙεθνής- Athens

Weekend in Greece

When else would I get the chance to go to Greece for less than $1000? Thursday and Friday, Italy celebrated their version of Independence Day, so we got a four day weekend. We decided to take a couple flights and get ourselves to one of the most talked about cities in our history books. Home the goddess, Athena, herself. We got a 3 day tourist pass which got us access to the metros and train for our weekend. On the first night, we took the metro, towards the Acropolis for dinner. Restaurants line the sidewalks and waitresses and waiters line the street offering specials and deals for your meal. After choosing one, we were finally able to chill out after a long day of traveling. From where we were, we could see the lit up Acropolis from the street. We decided to walk towards it. As we started, we noticed the road up to the Acropolis being blocked by police. Supposedly, the French Prime Minister was in town visiting and just got done with his tour. Once we got access to the street, though, we were able to get a really close view of what we planned on seeing the next day.

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We scheduled a Skip-the-Line tour at 11:15 the next morning. We planned this one better than our Rome trip. Being a student in Europe, we were able to get our entry tickets for free! Our tour guide had so much knowledge about the ancient ruins we saw. We thought coming into this trip that we had no knowledge of the the Greek language, except for sorority life. We soon learned that words like “polis” is for city in an administrative meaning and “acro” means to be up the in the air. So our words like police, politician, Indianapolis, and acrobat all were derived from their language. The Acropolis was a word that we could identify with. The Acropolis isn’t special to Athens. There’s more than 200 across Greece. They were used to protect their Gods and in cases of invasion. There were many hills in Athens but this hill got chosen for its access to water.

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Going up to the Acropolis, one can also find Theater of Dionysos. This is the oldest theatre in Europe. Theaters in Greek times were a religious place where priests would make a sacrifice, usually a goat, in the middle. They would dance and sing and this is where orchestra came from.

As with any business, you want to put your business where the people are located. Therefore, also on the way up was the ruins of a shopping mall.

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In dedicating the city, the people had a decision to make. Both Poseidon and Athena wanted it. Naturally, the people asked for a gift and whoever’s was better won. Poseidon gave a spring, which would be great, if it had not been salt water. Athena gave an olive tree. Useful for wood products, furniture and food. Therefore it is her Castle at the top and her name for the city. On top of the Acropolis there are at least 4 castles. All have been reinforced with their original material and some new in order to keep up with the wear and tear. One, Temple of Nike, was dedicated to the god who ran barefoot for many miles to bring the good news of a battle won in Marathon. Nike was known for being the winged angel that brought victory to all. Athens, selfish, cut off his wings so he would not leave the city and bring victory to other people.

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Another one of the castles was created for Poseidon and Athena as sort of a truce to stop the fighting between them.

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The Parthanon was, of course, dedicated to Athena. It took a lot of destruction when the Turks tried to invade. Inside stood her statue covered in 24 carrot gold when they were not being invaded.

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Contrary to popular belief, the Olympic flame was not introduced by the Greeks. It was introduced by Hitler in the 1936 games. The Olympics began as a religious ceremony for Zeus. They were every 4 years where there was 1 day of religion, 3 days of sport, and 2 days of festivities. From the top of the hill, we could see what remains of Zeus’s Temple.

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I’m so glad we did the tour, as we wouldn’t have really known what to think of any of the rocks. A lot of people on their way up to the Parthanon lost that information by not getting a tour, so I definitely suggest it!

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Kristen, Student Blogger: Greece Part 2

So following the Parthanon, we went to eat and relax until our next planned event. Fish Pedicures. Apparently, this is something known to Greece and some other parts of Europe. The fish are from the carp family and essentially, eat the dead skin off your feet. Such a weird experience having small fish swimming between my toes and scratching at my ankles.KR06.15.17Well I first thought that Torino’s public transportation was crowded and then I went to Rome. Well Greece is a whole new ball game. In Torino and Rome, only times like “rush hours” were bad. During Greece’s rush hours, I became a lab rat corned into a pole with everyone else’s full body on top of my own. So on Saturday in Greece we decided to go to the beach. It took about an hour to get out of downtown Athens to the beach area. An hour of lab rats making their way from the subway and then to the bus which took us to the beach. Never have I been so uncomfortable or been so aware of my personal bubble issues. Well, being that we were all stacked up on top of each other, we happened to be standing on top of a couple of Greek girls our age. Every where in Europe, students learn English for the most part, so we took our chances and struck up a conversation with them. They suggested that we go to the beach they were going to, as it would only be 4€ to get in and they would have chairs and umbrellas. Once in, we were lucky enough to find a stack of chairs before the beach was completely full.KR06.15.18
KR06.16.01On the ride home from the beach there was a whole new ordeal of public transportation. While standing, waiting for the bus, an old woman came up to us asking us something in Greek. We kindly tried informing her that we only spoke English. Well, she all of a sudden started speaking an English-very surprising for not thinking they might have enforced English as much during her time in school.  She seemed a little flustered about which bus she was to be getting on. She got on the same bus as us and that is when the chaos began. A middle aged woman, who I could only see the backside of, was sitting in the front of the bus. The older lady, who had befriended us, walked towards the front and said something to her and then came back. All of a sudden a full on Greek-woman-yelling fight was going on. The lady in front was having a fit. We were told that the older woman with us had told her to not have her shoes on the seat and to put them on, as she was in public. The bus ride lasted for 40 minutes, so did the fight. A small, young Greek man had also gotten involved. He was also telling the lady in front to put on her shoes, to get off the bus and then calling the police for the problem she was causing. Of course, this is only our view point from not knowing a word of what was being said, unless an occasional English cuss word was thrown in. After we got off the bus, the Greek man decided to push the lady carrying her shoes. Therefore, a fist fight began to happen among the young Green men. At that point, our walk became a fast, power walk away from crowd towards the metro station. If this was all about the shoes… I’m floored about the culture values in Greece.

One of the main differences that we noticed in Athens was how poor the economy is, as we have heard. Riots had broken out recently within the city. Once out of the touristic areas, the city was dirty, poor and old. Although, beautiful to see, an experience I would never take back, I would probably not go back either. I hope that Athens and Greece as a whole, can one day come out of their financial crisis, if not for the community but for the wonderful history that exists there.
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That night we decided to head more towards the busy, more modern side of Athens. Plaka is the name of the neighborhood that is known for being a tourist attraction in the area. On the way to this area there was modern architecture and global stores such as Nike, Forever 21, and McDonalds. It was a long street leading into the start of Plaka. We bought more souvenirs and did a little shopping.

KR06.15.19Our last stop was a restaurant one of the Greek girls from the beach suggested to us, known as 360. Atop the restaurant you could pretty much see a 360 degree view of the city. From the Parthanon, to the rolling hills surrounding the city and the downtown area.

By the next morning, we were ready to head back home. Still, I am grateful for less hustled and less touristy home of Torino. It is nice to take a weekend to visit the touristy city where almost everyone understands English, but it also is nice to really feel like I am abroad, with an expectancy to try at least a little bit to speak their language.

Traveling Europe while Abroad

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy was a remarkable travel experience in itself. However, due to ample amount of time overseas and yearning to explore, I decided with conscious pre-planning and budgeting to set sail from my home away from home in Florence and discover new cultures in the European countries of Greece, Spain, and France.

My first adventure began with an overnight cruise to the island of Corfu, Greece. My friends and I booked the trip with the #1 European Travel Company Bus2alps, and had a memorable time on their planned excursion. During my time in Greece I jumped the waves in the Ionian Sea, devoured one too many gyros, and even attempted to learn a traditional Greek celebratory dance, key word- attempted.

Next on my travel list was a sporadic trip to Barcelona, Spain.  Two friends and I decided to book a flight with Ryan Air to what later became my favorite visited country outside of Italy.  My first stop in Barcelona was the warm beach on the Mediterranean Sea, followed by a night of shopping down the city’s most famous streets, “Las Ramblas.” While making my way through the city I viewed the enchanting Sagrada Família Cathedral, and thankfully discovered the Spanish delicacy, Paella, which quickly became my new favorite dish!

Before my time abroad came to an end, friends and I booked one last excursion to the French Riviera. Our primary bus stop was to the popular city of Nice, where I admired oceanic views as well as inspiring French couture. In between our destinations, my friends and I took a train ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco to gamble at the world famous Monte Carlo Casino, which consequently was a loss in euros, but a gain in wonderful memories! My journey ended in the city of Cannes, where movie stars around the world gather for the annual film festival.

These three trips fulfilled my experience abroad, and allowed myself to come home a more adventurous, knowledgeable, and cultured individual. Traveling while studying abroad is a factor I am most grateful to have experienced, and has inspired me to voyage to other new and intriguing destinations in my future.

Experiencing a different lens; The cultural

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” -St. Augustine

When we leave the United States, we fly away from everything that we know as truth. Our family, friends, foods, language, beliefs and more are left behind. Other than our perspective, our culture just can’t fit inside that suitcase. It’s all left safely on the ground below the pilot’s wingtips. Where we’re headed, none of it would make sense anyway.

Students returning from studies abroad are ready to tell us all about their experiences upon their arrival. We often hear about perspective. We often hear that it has changed. Students tell us that after spending time outside the United States, they return with fresh eyes and new considerations for what was once taken for granted.

I enjoy hearing these stories, these tales of enlightenment. They remind me of similar instances I’ve experienced while abroad. They remind me that our way isn’t the only way. They remind me that our way isn’t always the right way.

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It was while lost in Greece, being led to my hostel by a woman whom I’d never met before, and with whom I could not communicate, that I recognized that hospitality only begins in the South.

It was when confronted with a French man who knew that I knew that he spoke English, but refused to speak anything but French, that I reconsidered the position of the Spanish speaker in the United States.

It was while reading about the latest Kathoey (transgendered) beauty contest winner in a local Thai newspaper that I acknowledged how much we really oppress particular genders and sexualities in the United States.

It was while drinking homemade wine with a Quechua family in the jungle of Ecuador that I truly realized happiness has absolutely nothing to do with how much or little one has.

It was while touring Cambodia that I understood circumstances can always be worse, and that smiles always do more than complaints.

It was while sitting in Office of Study Abroad that I heard a student say, “I learned to appreciate the small things in Italy, like sitting down for dinner. And not working through lunch.”

And I smiled.