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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photo of the Day

27 March 2012  Florence
Today Caitlin and I went filming for our practicum class. I am still in awe of the number of tourists in town. I swear they've increased tenfold. But I don't blame them. I love this city.

Αθήνα. Athens.

Sunday started with another delicious roll and hardboiled egg breakfast. I'm now hooked on hardboiled eggs — something my mother will be thrilled to hear.
We met Claude and James downstairs at 11 a.m. Claude wanted to join us for our free day at the Acropolis. The night before James was going to say his goodbyes but decided he'd stop by with Claude in the morning to see us one more time. He fully intended to part ways there and go lay on a beach, but we're just so awesome he ended up hanging out with us for the rest of the day. What's a Greek beach next to the company of six fun American girls?
As we walked to the Acropolis, Bethany and James bickered over Mr. Darcy and the expectations he has set for British men. Thanks to Mr. Darcy, James said, women assume every British man will be exactly like the character, but in reality "we're all scumbags." It was entertaining.
We climbed the stairs to the Acropolis and got our free Sunday tickets. Free Sundays is possibly the greatest idea ever.
We passed through the turnstiles and started up the hill, trying not to slip on the smooth rock. To our right was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which we had seen from below the day before.

Saturday's tour guide said the only way to see it from the inside is to attend a concert during the summer. I wish that was an option. He made sure to note that only serious artists would be playing there. "Nothing like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears or what's the one? Justin Bieber."

Photo by Bethany 
Next up: into the actual Acropolis. The Acropolis is the name for the entire flat-topped rock that towers above the city where the Greeks constructed architectural masterpieces.
The name is used to refer to both the rock itself and everything built on top of it. The purpose of the Acropolis changed frequently throughout history.
We walked through the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis. The white marble columns were brilliantly contrasted with the sky. Athens knows how to do weather.


Photo courtesy of Caitlin
At first, there was not much to do but stand in front of the Parthenon. I've seen it in pictures hundreds upon hundreds of times, but seeing it tower above me was surreal.

We sat on the ledge for a while, chatting and looking out over the city. Everyone else sat with their backs to the city, legs safely facing the Parthenon, craning their necks. Per usual, I swung my legs to the outside and made them all nervous. It's what I do. But I couldn't resist when this was the view:

Below we could see the remains of another theater.

Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus
We meandered our way up to a huge lookout point for more photos. I was still in awe of the city. I felt like I was living on a postcard. Thank you again, Greek Gods, for that weather.

We looped around the other side of the Acropolis to the Erechtheion. 

We sat there for a while before eventually leaving the Acropolis. Saturday I had seen frozen lemonade advertised across from the entrance, so obviously that was the next destination. I really miss lemonade, but not enough to pay €4.50 for one, so I split it.

Photo by Amy
We headed to the rock once more before walking down to the Ancient Agora of Athens.

Photo by Jess
Agora of Athens

The Temple of Hephaestus sits on the far end of the Agora. Constructed around 400 B.C., it's the most well-preserved ancient Greek temple. Constructing something with such longevity seems unimaginable today.

Before we knew it, it was 2:30 p.m. The Temple of Zeus and other famous archeological sites — also all free Sundays — closed at 3 p.m. and were on the other side of the Acropolis. We hopelessly decided we'd try to make it. After about 15 minutes of power walking that seemed to lead us no closer to our goals, we gave up and headed back to Monastiraki Square. James and Claude came with me to the same sandwich shop I had gone to Saturday. The rest of the girls went to get gyros again. The crowds were unbearable. I squeezed my way out of the shop, veggie sandwich in hand, and scanned the crowd as I started to walk. I would have missed Claude and James if they didn't yell at me as I was passing. We wedged ourselves onto a small concrete ledge and ate our lunch, elbows clutched to our sides. Completely stuffed and covered in sandwich crumbs, I followed them as we looked for the others.
Eventually we did. They all waited near an overpriced shoe shop as Amy and I left to get a new suitcase. I found one for €15, snatched it up and ran back.
We started back to the hostels as a group but were quickly consumed by the massive hordes of people. I have no idea where they all came from. It was as if they got bored inside so decided to stand in the middle of the road shoulder to shoulder to block anyone needing to pass just for fun. It didn't appear that any of them had destinations. I threw some elbows and used my new suitcase to try to create a path, but every gap I created closed right behind me. I imagine it's similar to drowning.
After a good 15 minutes, I emerged with Caitlin and James in tow. The crowd had swallowed the rest of our friends. We shrugged and continued toward the hostel. Every man for himself. James carried the suitcase for a while — not too much of a scumbag — and we made it home. He had to head out to see a "footy" game, which turned into a riot that ended the match early. It's strange that something like that happened just a few miles from me. We were all clueless.

We spent the next couple of hours perusing shops and buying pointless souvenirs. Around 8 p.m. we decided to venture out to find a restaurant. As much as we loved the burgers at the fish cafe downstairs, we wanted something new. As usual, Kate made friends with one of the stray dogs. He loyally followed us around until we found a restaurant. 

We were the first and last inside with choice seating right in front of the live music. At first it was awkward, but soon a large group of people filed in and took up the table behind us.
The waiters were all absolutely delightful. They were my vision of happy Greek grandfathers. Somehow one of them overheard Jessica say the word "dance" and immediately pulled her up in front of the musicians. He guided her through the simple steps of a traditional Greek dance, and before we knew it, we were all up there kicking our feet and spinning in a circle, arms around each others' backs. The other table sat and idly watched while we had a blast. Every time we sat down, they gave us about two minutes before pulling us up again. We were always clapping, dancing or listening to Jessica sing with the band. twice.
It was a pretty slow night I think largely due to the football match. Every sports bar we passed was overflowing with people. A couple of other tables came and left. One particularly obnoxious group of about 20 Americans came in, ordered shots of Ouzo and left without ordering anything else, dirtying an entire table for the poor staff to clean for nothing. It irritated me.
But they loved us. They brought us fresh apple and orange slices and smiled every time we yelled OPA!  

When the room was back down to the six of us, the waiters and the band, the manager yelled into the back. I didn't catch his name, but this guy came running out to show us how to move our hips. He was hilarious. He got up on a chair and started gyrating like it was his last day on Earth. Caitlin took her turn on the chair next, and I was near tears laughing.

It started getting late, and we kept trying to leave, but every time they'd start a new song. Eventually things slowed down, and we said our goodbyes. 

Photo courtesy of Amy
We left the restaurant and walked over to the Temple of Zeus and the Panathinaiko.  Seeing ancient masterpieces at night is still so much more powerful. I absolutely love it. I couldn't have asked for a better final night in Athens.

Monday we had to be on the metro to the airport by 11:30 a.m. to catch our flight to Santorini! I didn't want to waste the morning, so I talked Amy into packing the night before and getting up early enough to go inside the gates of the Temple of Zeus. 

We had hoped to see the Panathinaiko, but we were out of time. We had to run back to the hostel to catch the metro. We made it to the airport with plenty of time and relaxed until boarding time. After a short 25-minute plane ride, one gumdrop candy and a glass of orange juice, we landed in Santorini!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Other than a shower, a trip to the grocery store and cooking a mid-afternoon meal, I've spent the entire day sick in bed. I excuse myself from today's photo, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

24 March 2012  αντίο
We caught our ride to the airport at 7:30 a.m., and I walked into my apartment around 8 p.m. I acquired a rather nasty cold Friday night. Nothing is worse than traveling sick, but finally being home after a week away starts to make up for it.

23 March 2012  volcano
Friday was our last full day in Greece. We took a ferry to see the volcano and swim in the hot springs. The view from the volcano was incredible. The weather was gorgeous. The water was freezing, but two out of three ain't bad.

22 March 2012  Oia
Kelsey, Erika and Yelena, who booked their Greek spring break through Bus2Alps, were in Santorini Thursday and Friday. We met up with them for the day. They had also rented ATVs. Between the nine of us and our five ATVs, we looked like a gang as we rode to Oia for the afternoon. We did some shopping, watched the sunset and ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking the sea.

I spent Saint Patrick's Day in Athens

I started Saturday with a complementary breakfast of two fresh homemade rolls with jam and a hardboiled egg. I made sure I had some green on for Saint Patrick's Day, and I was ready to go. We walked up the street to Athens Backpackers (our hostels second location) where we met a tour guide. Although he introduced himself a couple of times, I can't for the life of me remember his name. For €6, he took us on a five-hour tour around the entire city.
Before we left, the 16 of us went in a circle and introduced ourselves. There were people from everywhere from South Africa to Canada to Argentina to France. Our guide tried his hardest to remember our names and repeated them back to us a couple of times. Having a Greek name made mine easy.
And then we were off. We saw everything from the outside, but he told us if we wanted to go inside any of the sites everything's free on Sundays. I made an effort to remember which places I needed to see again. We started at Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus (photos of this are below since we could only see it from a distance during the tour).

Hadrian's Arch
We passed the old olympic training grounds and Panathinaiko, which is the stadium where Athens hosted the first modern olympic games. It was built in the late 1800s on top of the ancient olympic stadium. The modern stadium, built for the 2004 olympics, is on the other side of town.

We walked past Zappeion, the old olympic headquarters, in the National Gardens of Athens. Apparently the doors are usually open, but they weren't Saturday, so we just peered through the windows.


inside Zappeion
As we rounded the corner, Kate picked an orange from one of the trees. Orange trees seem to line almost every street, and I know she's an orange fan based on the bowl of peels she produces seemingly daily. She peeled the fruit and divided it among the six of us. As we each had a slice poised in front of our mouths, we heard our guide say, "now you can take and eat the oranges, but we usually don't."
We all stopped and shot glances at one another as the entire group turned to look at us.
"Just don't expect to be impressed by the taste," he continued. "We usually use them to throw at the police during riots."
We shrugged and nibbled at the edges. It was incredibly sour — much closer to a grapefruit than an orange. My slice joined the peels on the ground. A few people ate them, but no one seemed particularly impressed.

We kept walking, talking amongst ourselves. We passed a little pond with turtles!

The National Gardens were really pretty.

Eventually we reached syntagma square. The first thing we all noticed was this child staring down the pigeons.

He was dressed in the traditional uniform for parliament guards, which was fitting as we had arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

If the kicking wasn't enough, the pom-poms on their feet made the entire thing seem ridiculous. I know it is a serious ceremony and has historic value, but I — along with most of those around me I may add — couldn't take it seriously. It took all my willpower to hold myself together, especially when I saw this man behind me:

Next we headed toward Monastiraki. On the way, we passed the only "riot" we saw all weekend. Although I apparently failed to properly inform my dad I was even going to Athens (he thought I was spending all of spring break in Santorini), most parents were very concerned that we were heading to Athens due to the economic situation. The worry was completely unnecessary.
This protest consisted of a banner, one megaphone and four employees of a coffee shop who politely parted when we needed to pass. Our guide said even protestors in major demonstrations are polite and don't bother citizens or tourists. Had there been one, all we would have needed to do was ask to get through.

We continued onward and quickly visited a Turkish mosque and a small church. We took a break in Monastiraki Square to get lunch. We thought food was incredibly cheap in Greece. James, a british sports journalist on the tour with us, was startled we thought the prices were cheap, but our only point of reference is Florence, which is pretty expensive.
In the square and along the streets throughout the rest of the city were the usual people trying to sell us various knickknacks — many of which are the same I see in Italy. New to us however, was seeing children trying to sell things. I don't think I've ever seen a child try to sell things in Italy. We also saw a large number of children playing the accordion for money. It was really sad.

After lunch we saw Hadrian's Library and the ruins for several market places. All of the ruins were sandwiched neatly between buildings currently in use.
Hadrian's Library

It reminded me of Rome in that sense. Next up was the Acropolis. Up the hill we went.

We stopped halfway up our climb for a view of the city. People milled about on the giant rock where our tour guide said he and his girlfriend used to go for "hugs and kisses when we skipped classes."

The city was so much bigger than any of us had realized.

We walked farther to see the Acropolis (again from outside) and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

As we neared the five-hour point of the tour, my interest and attention started to wane. He was explaining things we couldn't see at all from the bottom of the Acropolis. What I do remember is him picking on James for being british. A lot. I guess Brits get that often. The most memorable part of the end was when a woman snuck up behind us and started urgently speaking to him in Greek. We parted for her to enter our circle, and Caitlin and Bethany protected their purses, confused by what was happening. After a couple of minutes she left, and we asked him what just happened. He waited until he wrapped up the tour and we were walking back to the hostels. 
It turns out the man who had spent the last five hours showing us around the city for €6 was not an official, licensed tour guide. She was. Being a tour guide requires training and a license in Greece because it is a closed profession. So when she saw him telling a group of tourists about the Acropolis, she started to get territorial I guess you could say. He sent her away by saying he was a teacher and we were his students. The teacher part isn't entirely inaccurate. He has three degrees in politics, history and education and has spent a year or two teaching. Another year of school for tour guide training and a further two-three to get the actual license didn't seem practical to him — or to me for that matter.
He brushed off the entire situation by saying, "most tour guides are just women in their 60s who are grouchy because they're deprived of sex."
We almost fell down the stairs in shock and didn't even try to contain our laughter. He didn't skip a beat and walked on as if he had just told us something as obvious and simple as "The sky is blue." I thoroughly enjoyed him as a tour guide.

The six of us started heading back to our hostel. I turned back to see James looking at us. Amy and I decided he clearly wanted to hang out. I turned around and yelled at him.
"What are you doing?"
"Come with us!"
"I would love to!"
And that's how we acquired a Brit for the next two days.
Bethany, Kate and Jess stayed at the hostel to rest while Caitlin, the ever-resilient Amy and I walked around aimlessly with James. He claimed he knew where he was, but I was never convinced. Regardless, we found our way to a cafe and ordered Greek coffee. James warned us it was very bitter, so I ordered mine sweet. It was very different from anything I've ever tasted, but I actually really enjoyed it. We sat and talked for a while, and James even tolerated the "say this in a British accent" game every American plays.
We walked around some more and headed back to the hostel as the sky started to change to pastel colors in time for James to go watch his rugby match in the sports bar.

We relaxed for a while before going downstairs for dinner. I ordered the veggie burger again. James came over from the bar and showed us his impression of an American from the south. Hilarious. Bethany and I mentioned that we were going to get banana walnut cake, to which he replied, "ohh bahhnahhnahh wahhlllnut." We repeated that in a british accent sporadically during the rest of our trip.
After we got our bahnahnah wahlnut cake, we joined James in the bar. He introduced us to Claude, a sports columnist from Oregon. Funny how six communication majors make friends with two journalists. We ran into Simon and Melanie, who were also on our tour that day. They are a French couple traveling through Europe for three months. 25 cities. 19 countries. I'm so jealous, but I feel like I don't have much of a right to say that when I'm studying abroad for four months. They're both in between jobs and figured this was the perfect opportunity to backpack. I hope I get a chance to do that and come back here again!
After a while, we decided to go find an Irish pub. It was, afterall, Saint Patrick's Day. I went upstairs to get Jess and Amy, who were still getting ready. The two of them joined Caitlin, Melanie, Simon, Claude, James and I for our trek to the pub. Once again, James was in the lead and regardless of his insistance that he knew where we were going, no one believed him. After a few circles, detours and some help from locals, we surprisingly found our way there. And it sucked. A mass of green flashed under strobe lights. The mob of people rippled with the music, which was far too loud and high pitched and not that good. It took less than a minute to get separated. Those of us still together grabbed hands and pushed our way to the bar only to find out none of us wanted the only beer they were serving. So we pushed our way back, scanning the crowd. I eventually found Claude thanks to his height and black knit hat. James was nearby. We stood on the outskirts of the crowd in an awkward lump.
After a while we gave up. James asked for directions to a better bar, and we headed that way, leaving Melanie and Simon behind. She said they were just going to head home.
We found a bar where we could just sit and talk over some beers. After a while, James led us back in a similar fashion to how we got there.

Amy. me and Claude