Saturday, April 2, 2016

Athens: Feta makes it betta!

On the Way to Athens and 1st Day in Athens

On the bus ride to Athens, we were able to see the beautiful Greek countryside. We then stopped at around 1pm for lunch at a cozy traditional restaurant, and ate a meal that consisted of a traditional Greek plate, with a cabbage roll, fried cheese, zucchini balls, spanakopita, and tzatziki.

At the end of lunch, Ms. Milius collected the leftover cabbage from our plates to feed to a pregnant stray dog she found outside. After the meal, we continued on our journey to Athens. Most of us fell asleep on the bus. Finally, we arrived in Athens, the capital of Greece. We caught glimpses through the bus windows of the copious amounts of graffiti covering the city, flea markets, the city square, and several tall urban buildings.

We checked into our hotel, Hotel Arion, dropped off our bags, and met again downstairs. Nikos led us into the town square for a little walk. Then, we were given 45 minutes to explore the city as well as do some shopping. Dinner was at an outdoor cafe that served cheese pie, orzo rice and gravy with sweet cake for dessert. After dinner, Nikos led us to the famous Greek Orthodox church, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, or more commonly known as the Metropolis.

He then gave us two hours to explore the streets of Athens and do some shopping. Our students bought things such as shoes, hats, sweaters, and ice cream. We finally met back at the church and walked back to the hotel to rest up for our last day in Europe.

2nd Day in Athens

We woke up early at 7:00 at Hotel Arion, and ate breakfast. The group then boarded the bus, and went on a tour of Athens, guided by a new tour guide, Tina. A few of the notable sights on the tour were statues of politicians who played important roles in the Greek civil war. We also saw the memorial of the unknown soldier. Whereas in America, the memorial contains a tomb of the remains of an actual unidentified soldier, the memorial in Athens is dedicated to the numerous soldiers who died in all the wars of the history of the Peloponnesian peninsula.

We also saw the Constitution Square, which celebrated the first constitution granted by King Otto of Greece. It’s also known as the center of Athens.

The end of the bus tour found us at the Acropolis. As explained by Tina, the Acropolis was originally built as a citadel for the city of Athens. According to legend, King Cecrops, the first king of Athens who also happened to be half man half snake, built his palace there. As time passed, the Acropolis of Athens soon became a place of worship. During the Golden Age of Athens, temples such as the Parthenon began to be constructed.

Unfortunately, the Parthenon and other temples were all had been completely destroyed, or had fallen into ruins.

Once the two hour tour ended, we were given some free time to explore the Acropolis.

We went to the marketplace to have some lunch.

We then went to the new Acropolis Museum and saw preserved statues and steles from the Acropolis. While many of the statues were damaged in some shape or form, we were able to see how careful the sculptors were in constructing them. The steles were also carefully carved with images from the battles between the Olympians and the giants.

After that, the group went back to the Metropolis on foot, seeing many sights along the way. Once we reached the church, Nikos announced that we had free time for two hours. We decided to use the church as a rendezvous point after we had finished shopping.

There was a flea market close to the Metropolis, with various products for sale. One shop sold a huge collection of weapons, armor, and helmets. We didn’t buy any weapons.

Dinner was pork gyros. We then gave Nikos our parting gifts, and took a few selfies. Look forward to them in the next post!

The group decided to split up, with some going back to the hotel, and others deciding to explore the Athenian nightlife, with Nikos as the guide.

The ones who decided to go back promptly went to sleep. The others came back at around 10:00 PM, and began to prepare for the trip back home.

On the Way to Athens and 1st Day in Athens
Written by Alex, Sian, and Cedric

2nd Day in Athens
by Brian Park

Friday, April 1, 2016

Delphi Daze

After a restful sleep on board the ferry, we began a calm morning with breakfast together at 9:30 before returning to our cabins for more relaxing or to the lobby for a competitive game of Uno.

At 12:00, we regrouped back in the lobby and prepared for our bus ride to Delphi from Patras (at the discretion of Ms. Milius, plenty of water was packed for the trip). We met our new bus driver Christos, and at roughly 1:30 embarked on the first leg of our journey. Percy Jackson stories aside, most of our initial knowledge of Delphi was centered around the legendary Oracle, so we were excited to learn more about the historical city.

2 hours later, we arrived in Glovinos for a late lunch of kebabs, fish, mousaka and plenty of fries along with a refreshing salad and fruit.

Before leaving, though. We explored the shore of the Ionian Sea behind the restaurant. Most stayed safely inland, but some dared to venture out onto the stone ledge or skip stones on the waves.

After boarding the bus, we spent a peaceful hour gazing out the windows at the winding roads of the sublime scenery. Lush green foliage covered the mountains, and water was interwoven among the land at the base of the slope, ultimately joining back together with the Ionian Sea.

Quaint villages with red-roofed, white houses dotted the shoreline as we embarked our short journey.

The grandeur of the sea was visible from all vantage points, and nets for cultivating fish and other crustaceans could be seen throughout the ride.

We arrived at Delphi at 5:30 to check into the Parnassos Hotel. From goats to stray cats and chickens, we were pleasantly surprised by the wonders of this alcove in the altitudes of Greece.

Narrow streets brought more tourists, and shops lined the roads.

For the two hours of free time we had, we shopped and waited in our hotel rooms when we finished meandering. During this time, some of us even bought pet food from a store to feed the stray dogs :)

Dinner started with soup, which was followed by salad.

Lamb stufffed with feta cheese and potatoes was served next, and dessert was a slice of sweet cake with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.

Everyone returned to their hotel rooms at around 9:30 for the exciting day ahead.

We woke up on a bright Wednesday morning, ready for a day in Delphi. After a delicious breakfast in the hotel (with some not-so-polite Canadians), we began our tour of the Delphi ruins, including the Temple of Apollo. Our tour guide Angelica first introduced us to some background on Delphi itself, the small town actually originally being a religious center rather than a city. Legend has it that Apollo's first arrival in Delphi angered Mother Nature, so to reconcile with her he demanded that priestesses instead of priests should be the main religious guides. These priestesses would enter the sixth corridor of the temple once a month and receive their wisdom by inhaling different gases, and share their prophecies with traveling diplomats or rulers. Eventually, Delphi expanded into a religious hub, and city states would build treasuries to house offerings to Apollo and serve as embassies. Our guide showed us the one of these treasuries that currently stands in Delphi, rebuilt from material found in the archaeological site.

We next saw the amphitheater before heading towards the temple itself.

The Temple of Apollo housed many precious offerings to Apollo including a large metal bull and "The Charioteer" bronze statue, both of which currently reside in the museum. Of the entire building, only 6 columns remain.

We then had free time to explore the ruins and see the stadium, which was used for local Olympic Games.

Afterwards, we saw artifacts in the Delphi ruins museum. The highlight of the museum was definitely the "Charioteer" statue, which is one of only two of its kind.

An earthquake buried this statue, saving it from emperor Nero who stole most of the others. After our visit, we boarded the bus, beginning our journey to Athens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We're having a BLAST in Pompeii!

On the previous night, we stayed at hotel Il Faro. Our breakfast consisted of bread, cheese, and juice. We then traveled by bus to Pompeii for about 45 minutes. This ancient city was around 140 acres wide.

In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompeii under 35 feet of ash, dust, and rock. While digging for water, archaeologists discovered 80% of Pompeii in 1738. The casts of three dead bodies (a baby, dog, and a person looking for air) were preserved well.

FUN FACT: In 1972, Pink Floyd played live at Pompeii (for all you Pink Floyd fans out there).

While we were there, our amazing tour guide Roberto informed us about everyday life for Pompeiians and visitors.

Pompeii was a business city, so there were small businesses around every corner. Along these streets, various items were sold: clothes, drinks, and foods.

In order to get across the roads, the habitants of the city needed to cross using the stepping stone system as the street also served as a sewer system.

The roads also served to standardized axle sizes for various vehicles. Not only that, but the inhabitants and visitors were also able to use the bathhouses. In these buildings, people could enter through the gymnasium and into the outdoor pool. Then, they could stroll into the indoor baths, which had three sections: frigidarium (cold room), tepidarium (warm room), and caldarium (hot room).

The main part of the city was the forum. In the forum, people gathered to conduct business, worship, and discuss political affairs.

We met up for lunch at a cozy restaurant, where we enjoyed traditional Napoli pizza. We also visited select stores which sold Pompeii souvenirs, coral jewelry, and gelato.

Then, we left Pompeii and took another long bus ride to an Italian seaport called Bari.

During this bus ride, Cedric and Brian created murder mysteries for us to solve. At around 5:00 pm, we boarded the ferry to Greece.

We got situated in our rooms, and then all went down to the main deck for a traditional Greek dinner(our first one)! It had scrumptious chicken, vegetables, potato fries, and bread. We finally all relaxed with our friends and a couple games of Uno.

See you tomorrow, friends.

When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello: Capri!

We woke up early in the morning to prepare for the overnight stay in Sorrento After a two hour bus ride, we disembarked at Naples and admired the view of the ocean.

We explored the docks of Naples and ran into this little guy:

We then took a 45 minute boat ride to the island of Capri. We met our guide, Sara, who told us about Capri's varied history throughout ancient and modern times. Then, we boarded a tiny boat on which we toured the island.

We were able to enjoy the gorgeous view of the distinct limestone rock formations and the crashing waves.

We were also educated on the most notable details of the island, such as a statue:

In the past, Capri has served as a vacation home for Roman emperors, such as Tiberius and Augustus, who ordered the construction of the Gardi Augusto (Gardens of Augustus). From there, we also had a breathtaking view of the oceanfront.

It also served as a home for multiple authors and artists such as Norman Douglas, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, and Axel Munthe. We finished the tour and took the Funiculare lift up to Capri village.

Ravenous, we tore into our lunch, a tomato-mozarella-basil panini.

In the village, we walked around and explored various shops and stands.

Sorrento and Capri are famous for their recipe for Limoncello, or lemon liquor. Obviously, we couldn't buy any, so we bought products made of Capri's famous lemons, like lemon soap, lemon candy, tasty lemon gelato, and even lemon pasta. After some exploring and shopping, we took the Funiculare lift back down. Then, we got on the boat again to go to Sorrento, Italy. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived and checked into Hotel Il Faro to drop our luggage off in our rooms. We then had some time to explore Sorrento and to shop. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant next to the hotel for dinner. We ate fried shrimp, fried squid, eggplant parmigiana, salad, seafood pasta, and blood orange cake. With stomachs full, we had some time to experience the Sorrento night life. It was awesome, and we bought many different things like ties, tea cups, leather gloves, sunglasses, and clothes for great prices. We even saw a mini puppet show!

At the end of the day, we were pooped from all of our activities, so we returned to the hotel and went to bed to rest for our upcoming journey to Greece!

Written by Brian Park and Helen Yang