It’s the Final Countdown

June 23

Free morning this morning. I slept around 4 and a half hours and got up to go walk around the Old Market one last time. After exploring some, I stopped for one last freddo espresso before heading back to the hotel to lay out in the sun and nap. 

After that, we hit the ferry for around 4 and a half hours to Athens. Then, the Smile Cafe for one last time (the third time we’ve been there total). I ate my weight in gyro for the last time (I keep saying “for the last time”, oops) and then headed back to the Herodion (which I typed as “home” because we always come back to it). Now here I am, sitting with some friends and blogging.

It’s apparently over, so I’ve been told. I’m done. Studying abroad has finished. I’m amazed by how fast it has gone. I was so nervous at first and now I’m so sad to go home. Greece has exceeded all of my expectations. The landscape is more beautiful than the pictures and post cards, and the people are friendlier and the food is tastier. I promise you. 

I will update this blog soon enough so it’s conducive to just a personal blog. If you’re interested, feel free to continue to read about my weird thoughts. 

Thanks for reading! And thank you, Barnes, for absolutely everything. You’re the best.

Advertisements

Headbangerz

June 22

FREE DAAAAAAAYYYYY

It was probably one of the best days we’ve had on this entire trip. A big group of us went to the Old Market and walked around a bit, and I finally bought the necklace I’ve been looking for. After a few hours of that, we left for the beach.

We went back to the Plaka beach and met up with some others from our group to play volleyball on a sand court behind our beach chairs. I apparently went too hard and tried to dive backwards for one, ONCE AGAIN hitting my head on the pole of the net. I have a bump now. I am apparently a complete dumbass. Who knew?

We moved on to the water to play volleyball there. A little Greek girl decided to join us in our circle, too. She didn’t say anything but was very excited every time we let her hit the ball.

We ate lunch at the Picasso Mexican restaurant by the beach. It was one of the best Mexican places I’ve ever encountered. I had chicken tacos. ‘Twas delicious.

After another few hours on the beach, we all decided to catch taxis home and take a nap. I slept through my alarm but luckily got up in time to get ready for dinner. We ate at the Egg Man’s gyro place again, and I had my last Greek salad. *sobs*

After wasting some time around Old Town, we stopped at a bar called Bossa’s that played the weirdest music (cue Selena Gomez’s “Who Says” along with James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something”) and watched the World Cup game, USA v. Portugal. I stayed for the whole thing until around 3am, long enough to see us tie in the last 25 seconds of stoppage time. *sigh*

FUN FACT: I have to leave soon.

FUN FACT: I don’t want to leave.

ALL THE FEELZ

I am so tired I can’t think but so happy I got this experience. Today was so relaxed and fun. I love the people on this trip. I love them all. The past few days in Naxos have been some of the best I’ve ever experienced. I will never forget this place and these experiences. I am sad to leave, but excited to share all of this with people at home (more than I’ve done already in this blog) as well as give everyone the gifts I’ve acquired. I hope my luggage isn’t over 50lbs. AIWGOLDNKVC

AJIWKLENBAWGJAFODSK:LF

I DONT WANNA LEAVE

SIGH

I will blog for tomorrow and then I suppose that’s the end of this blog! I will be sorry to end it! I may end up creating a different one just for me. Another thing this trip has taught me about myself–I enjoy blogging! Thanks for that too, Barnes. 🙂 Thanks for everything. Once again. I can’t thank you enough.

Much love to anyone that’s reading. ❤

Up on Mt. Zas to Down in Jungleland

June 21

Today I climbed a mountain. Mt. Zas is the highest point in the Cyclades, at 3300 ft high. From the summit, you can see all the islands of the Cyclades. I was indecisive all yesterday, and then finally decided at 7am to just bite the bullet and do it. After an early breakfast, around 10 of us rode the bus to the beginning of a 5km trail to the summit. The weather was extremely pleasant–warm but breezy, clear, high visibility, not humid. Basically perfect for our task.

The terrain wasn’t bad at first but gradually became steeper and rockier. I didn’t find it quite as hard as the Fortress of Palamidi’s 1000 stairs. After about 1h45m, we reached the summit. On the way, we saw some goats (“MEEEEEEHHH”) and also saw a hawk flying majestically around us. The top had a pillar with a small book in it, in which we wrote our names and the University down. We sat for a while, admiring the view and taking pictures, and had a small snack. Soon we began heading back down, which was more difficult than going up, because we kept slipping on the steep and uneven rocks. At one point I stumbled and stepped on a thornbush and my friend Alicia fell completely down at one point. Once we got back to the hotel, Barnes rewarded us all with traditional Greek sweets and then we headed to lunch at that gyro place with the guy that did party tricks.

After heading back from lunch, we all got in the hot tub and pool of the hotel for a while, then laid outside for a while, and then headed to town to check out the shops. Naxos has awesome shopping. Like, cute shops in Old Town with jewelry and clothes and scarves and such. The inside is like a labyrinth. It’s really cool.

At 8, we headed to a music festival in Halki that Barnes found last year. We ate some kick-ass food there–kontosouvli is the best meat I have ever tasted in my life. Slow roasted on a spit all day. It was so good. I will dream about that food. I swear.

Next, we went to listen to the music. The main act while we were there was a group of Greek rappers who rapped and sang over beats as well as just guitar. It was cool to be in the local element of a town. People were seeing all their friends, hugging, talking. Kids ran around and danced, adults drank and danced when they drank too much, and some 11-year-old girls knew every word to every song the group performed. They were yelling it at the top of their lungs, and at one point one of the performers gave them the mic and they became the rappers.

PAY ATTENTION RIGHT NOW, THOUGH. COOL SHIT IS ABOUT TO BE SAID. I REPEAT, COOL SHIT. BEING SAID. FUN FACTS.

One of the songs the rappers performed started off with the sax solo from the middle-end of JUNGLELAND BY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. It sampled the solo for the entire song. I freaked the hell out. I ran and told people because what are the odds that at a small music festival in Halki, Naxos, Greece, a rap group will sample BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S SONG FOR THEIR BEAT?! WHAT ARE THE SHEER ODDS?!

Anyway. Sorry. I flipped out. That’s basically my fun fact. We didn’t learn much today. Other than that climbing mountains is something to which you should always say yes.

FEELZ:

I am so deliriously happy on this island. The weather has been superb, the food has been outstanding, the beaches and the town are all so beautiful. I see what Barnes has been talking about this whole time. Naxos is the gem of Greece. I am glad we get so much free time here. I am absolutely not ready to leave. Ever.

Please don’t make me leave.

I am already looking forward to getting together with everyone once we get back. It will be nice to have everyone together, all collectively eating tons of food just like we did here. I also need to rearrange my schedule to take Barnes’s myth class, because I’ve heard how awesome it is and maybe it’ll let me hold on to this trip a little longer.

Anna Barnes, now is the time to worry about me not being able to leave. I am going to cling to the port of Naxos and someone is going to have to drag me onto the boat.

Maybe a bit of hyperbole. But you catch my drift.

This trip has been so incredible. I am so thankful. So incredibly thankful.

The Curse of Ariadne is Real

June 20

Today was packed full of good stuff. Vangelis had family things to attend to, so we got a new guide, Vicki (Americanized name), to show us around Naxos. She arrived late in the morning, around 11:30, so we got a late start and some time to sleep in after staying out until 3am watching the World Cup.

First thing we hit was the Temple of Demetri. It was the place of a secret cult, like the other Temple of Demetri we saw, so it was walled in with marble so no one could see the rituals inside. Vicki told us that these mysteries probably had something to do with people doing drugs and being told what would happen to them after they die (Demetri cults focused on the cycle of life and death). Both Ariadne and Persephone were worshipped here because they both found life after death. This temple, like many we’ve seen, was later converted into a Christian church.

After, we drove to the village of Halki and visited an old olive oil press. Vicki told us about how the press worked and the state of agriculture, especially with cheese and olive oil, in Greece. Then we walked a bit to the workshop of a ceramicist who still uses the oldest methods of creating pottery. He is 4th generation, having made pottery himself in the same way and place as his forefathers for 35 years. He first sculpts, and then leaves it in the sun for 2 days. Next, it goes in the oven for 6-7 hours at 1000 degrees Celsius, and stays in the oven for another 24 hours, and then comes painting and glaze and oven again.

This potter showed us many different traditional Greek pottery, such as the sphoune and a common bird call whistle toy. He also showed us the oldest mechanism of distillery still in use in Greece, for Raki. In addition, we saw a Pythagorus cup, which uses a mechanism that, if you drink more than you’re supposed to, you lose all that you have. I bought a lot of stuff here. It was awesome. Like, way too much stuff…oops.

Next we went to a Kitron distillery in Halki. It uses a lemon-ish fruit’s leaves to create a liquor that is either yellow, clear, or green from strongest to sweetest. I tried the green kind. It was strong but yummy.

After a quick lunch, we drove to see an ancient kouros statue that had been abandoned when it was being worked on and appeared to be broken. It is about 4m long and is unfinished, since the statue would be finished after being brought to its destination. Only major carving took place in the original spot, and anatomical details would be added later. The Germans tried to take this kouros during World War 2 and then found it was too large and left it, breaking the leg in the process. The kouros was absolutely huge and very cool to see. It gives you a glimpse into the process used to create these massive statues we’ve seen in museums throughout Greece.

Next we hit the Plaka beach and saw a cool Mexican restaurant there. As we drove home, Vicki told us about the curse of Ariadne. Ariadne committed suicide when her lover left her, and cursed the island that anyone who comes to it either a) leaves a piece of themselves and must come back someday or b) never leaves. I’ll go with either of those options. Sweet curse, yo.

FUN FACTS! FUN FACTS! FUN FACTS! FUN FACTS! FUN FACTS! FUN FACTS!

1. Good quality marble will glow from sunlight, so even locked inside the Temple of Demetri you can see.

2. When transferring large pieces of marble works, 2 boats would tie the piece under them and drag it along in the water, with weights balancing out the other side. It was too large a job for only one boat.

3. Marble from Paros and Athens is more intricately carve-able because it’s less powdery and pumice-like. It holds a cut a lot better. Naxos marble primarily used for rougher, simpler, but larger works.

4. In Greece there are more than 42 different varieties of olive tree.

5. Acidity is the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin has almost no acidity.

6. The people of Naxos have very long lives, a lot of the time more than 100 years old. 

7. Archaeologists at the National Archaeological Museum hid all their statues by burying them and kept them from the Germans. Barnes, if/when you read this, will you send me the link to that article? It sounds cool. 

8. Back then and still today, when you hit a vein in marble, you put wood in the crack and pour on seawater to make the wood expand.

That’s all I got today. Now, for All The Feelz

Well once again I’m falling asleep writing this but I am absolutely wonderful right now. The island and beaches are beautiful, the people are kind, Gordon’s Space is in my hand, and things are awesome. Every time I think about leaving, I get a slight panicky feeling as well as an overwhelming rush of sadness, like a wave of the sea washing over me with its sticky shitty Missouri-ness. The transition from this to real life will be difficult. I am overwhelmed by my unwillingness to believe I’m leaving. Sigh.

Tomorrow is a hike. The hike is supposed to be very hot and very difficult. I am still on the fence about doing it. I want to, but I also don’t want to get overheated and feel like shit on my last few days in this country. It is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, though. I set an alarm for tomorrow at 7am just in case I get the urge to go. Doubtful, but we’ll see. If I don’t go, I’ll sleep in and sit at a cafe for a few hours. Who knows. The world is my oyster.

❤ ❤ ❤

Gordon’s Space and Happy Place

June 19

Today was a free day, basically. There were no real historical sites, but we did have to get on the ferry slightly early and head from Santorini to Naxos. I met some nice women on the ferry, too.

After arriving, we walked up a hill to our hotel, Hotel Grotta. Trust me, if you EVER come to Greece, go to Naxos and go to this hotel. The rooms and people are so nice. Everything about this island and this hotel is perfect. I promise. We were greeted with homemade cake and juices.

We got situated in the hotel and then headed into town to get oriented and have lunch. We went to a gyro place by the water and a spry, goofy old man showed us some party tricks and served us a delicious lunch. We’re going back there at some point before we leave.

After, a couple other girls and I hailed a taxi and headed to the Agia Anna beach. The water had little golden flecks in it and it was calm and clear. We sat, I drank a Gordon’s Space (which is my new favorite thing in the world, by the way) and we all basically gawked at how incredibly happy we were. Everything was perfect. More than once, each of us said, “This is the best day of my life.”

Honestly, Agia Anna is my happy place. Agia Anna is the place I will imagine when I am sitting at work in a week and lamenting ever leaving Greece. Agia Anna is now the place I will name when asked, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” That’s where. Right in that place and time.

After some complications with taxi rides to the hotel, we finally made it back, quickly showered and headed to the sunset. We stood on the Palatia with the Portara, some ruins of the Temple of Apollo, and watched the sun sink down into the mountain peaks. It was completely breathtaking.

We all ate some delicious dinner and some ice cream and headed to an area to watch Greece play Japan in the FIFA World Cup. The first place was too empty, so we moved to another outdoor restaurant with some 20-something Greek dudes yelling at the TV (reminds me of home *coughJakecough*) and made it until about the 55th minute. I was falling asleep sitting in my chair in the middle of public, so we decided it was time to go back.

Fun Fact of the Day (only one): Japan and Greece tied with 0, and I went to bed at 3am.

All the Feelz: basically happiest I could imagine on that beach today. I wish I could share it with everyone I know. Naxos is perfect. You can think Barnes or whoever is talking it up too much, it won’t be THAT good…Nope. It really is that good. That’s all I got since I’m falling asleep currently.

Peace ❤

I Came, I Saw, I Concussed

June 18

Today was one of the busiest, but also one of the best. We started off the day going to a museum of Akrotiri, the city of Santorini that was destroyed by a volcanic blast in the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Santorini is actually just one big volcano, all of it. It’s one of the few super volcanoes in the world. The ash from the volcano preserved things better than other places we’ve seen. For example, the frescoes on the walls of the city are so intact they’re almost whole. The people of Akrotiri used the fresco technique not only on walls, as we’ve seen, but also on ceilings and floors. Very elaborate. Wow. Amaze.

Santorini was an important hub for trade in that time. Exports and imports to and from the island made the economy there wealthy and prosperous. Things from all over the world–Egypt, Syria, Asian Minor, etc.–made their way to and from Santorini.

Unfortunately (for us), an earthquake before the eruption caused the evacuation of most all of the residents of Akrotiri, who took all their most valuable possessions. Thus, the only gold artifact found at the site is a small golden ibex figurine. It is extremely cool to see.

A fun fact before your other fun facts for today: the volcanic ash that settles on organic material like people or wood will harden, and the organic material will decompose, leaving a hole in the shape of the person/wood/etc. We got to see the plaster casts of a table and chair of Akrotiri in the museum.

My favorite artifact I found wandering around other than the ibex was the fossilized plants in volcanic rock from 60,000 BC. They were olive leaves.

So, I needed to include this whether or not it’s a good idea. It’s important to remember for when I look back on today. AHEM *clears throat*. I was trying to see holes in animal-head-shaped libation vessels, so I leaned towards them. I somehow forgot that there is glass separating me and the vessels, and with a loud THUD I konked my head on the glass. People stared, I laughed so hard I cried and simultaneously wanted to cry from embarrassment.

Seriously, it was so loud and my head sounded hollow according to Barnes.

After the museum, we moved on to the actual site of Akrotiri. In 6 buildings on the site, 10,000 artifacts have been found. Ten thousand. The site is actually inside—a special ceiling allows natural light in, but the site is cool and shady. This is the first site we’ve ever been to that is like this.

We saw the box in which the golden ibex was found, next to an altar of animal bones. It is believed that they were involved in last-minute sacrifice to appease Mother Earth and calm the volcano, but when it didn’t work, the people had to leave.

We saw an amazingly well preserved ancient toilet, one of the oldest known in the world, and its plumbing, belonging to a well-to-do ship captain or seaman. We also saw the plaster casts of beds used by people trying to rebuild after the earthquake who died from the volcano. I liked that pieces of fresco were still on the walls of the place. I also liked that some of the pottery found there was left so you could see what the rooms looked like at the time of excavation as well as when they were in their heyday.

We got to walk at the level of the street of Akrotiri, which I really enjoyed. We saw the basics of what they saw at the level they saw it, walking through stone arches and next to large buildings.

Next we moved on to the beach! We stopped at a black sand beach in Southern Santorini. The sand was blistering hot but the water was warm and it was overall very pleasant. I ate a nice chicken salad, so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

We loaded up the bus after a couple hours at the beach and headed to a winery called Gaia (pronounced Yai-yuh) that uses Santorini grapes called Assyrtiko to make wines characteristic of the region. Another interesting fact: grape vines in Santorini are not grown upwards, like other vines. They are weaved into baskets to protect the grapes from the wind and the sun. Every year growers take the strongest new vines and weave them into older vines to create a basket shape low to the ground. All the vines live in volcanic ash, too. Some of the vines have long roots 400-500 years old.

After the vineyard, we had around 20 minutes to freshen up for dinner. We went to a fancier restaurant overlooking the water with a mountain to the right side. We all ended up having deep conversations on my end of the table, which I enjoyed but some people did not. Then, we went to a bar for a few minutes and went to bed.

*~FuN fAcTz~*

1. The island is ~18 miles long, and 30 square miles large.

2. In Minoan times at Akrotiri, boobs were carved out on pottery like ewers to represent Mother Earth.

3. The people on Santorini may have had monkeys as pets. They’re depicted in frescoes as blue and they’re basically all over the place.

4. There’s a legend that some believe that says the volcano burying Akrotiri in ash also destroyed the lost city of Atlantis.

5. At Akrotiri, buildings were built on large pieces of gravel so they’d shift in earthquakes instead of shaking.

6. The winemaker at Gaia was described as “a bit crazy”, and right now, he’s experimenting with a wine fermenting in an area devoid of oxygen. Its first tasting will be soon.

CAAAAAN YOU FEEEEEL THE FEEEELZ TONIIIIGHT

I’m running out of titles for All the Feels. Just so everyone knows if you couldn’t tell by that ^^.

So today was great. We kept very busy but every activity was engaging and interesting. I really liked the discussion at dinner for 2 reasons: a) I got to talk about feminism which always makes me feel happy and fulfilled, and b) I got to hear about other’s opinions on things like life and love, and it really gives you a different perspective. I’m glad I am close enough with these people that we can have these discussions, because I find them important for the development of one’s self.

I am exhausted, but I want to make the most of my trip, so I’m going with the, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” mentality, which may or may not be dangerous. I’m doing my best. I fall asleep sitting up a lot.

Yours,

Sleepy in Santorini 🙂

Fritters, Feta, and Fishy Nibbles

June 17

Today we took the ferry from Athens to Santorini, meaning we got up at 5am. We stopped at our hotel and then walked to town for lunch. I had an awesome omelet with tomatoes and feta.

After that, a few others and I decided to stop by a fish spa. We’d seen them all over and decided we wanted the experience; it was definitely worth it. The little fish nibble on your feet softly, eating the dead skin off of them. I don’t know how much it actually worked, skin wise, but it was a fun thing to try with friends. After, we got to write on the spa’s wall–I wrote, “Fish are friends, feet are food.” 

After that was free time, which we spent by the pool at the hotel. Unfortunately, a lot if intoxicated students from another university were being a bit obnoxious out there, but that definitely doesn’t negate the fact that we were floating in a beautiful pool on a beautiful island.

Then came COOKING CLAAAAAAASSSSSS!!

We were taken to a restaurant whose chef is friends with our island guide, Vangelis. He taught us to make tzatziki, veggie fritters, and Greek meatballs. I got to help shred cucumber and chop onions! Everything tasted incredible.

Then, before dinner (at that same restaurant) we had free time to walk around Firá, the town we’re in. We looked at shops (which were either tourist or designer, no in-between really) and then stopped to watch the sunset in a small ledge near the street. It was the most gorgeous sunset I’ve ever seen. Orange and purple sky broken by misty island mountains in the distance, slowly turning to the deep comfortable navy of night.

After a delicious dinner, we went out on the town to a bar recommend for us by one of the students. It was basically a giant great party complete with misogynistic music and water drinks that I was told were basically sugary water. We left it very quickly. We walked down the street and speed at a much more relaxed place. We stayed for a while and at around 1:45am, headed back to the hotel. I came back to the hotel to find my room was extremely hot and humid. I ended up sleeping on the floor of a friend’s room, whose sure was cranked so high I wrote up shivering. It was much better than sweating all night. We all know how I am with sweating. It’s a problem.

On that note, FUN FACTS SPECIAL EDITION: RECIPES OF SANTORINI

FIRST: TZATZIKI

1 kilo Greek yogurt; 1 cucumber peeled a bit (leave some skin for color) and shredded. Put cucumber in yogurt with a tiny bit of vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, parsley, spearmint, salt, white pepper, and a good amount of olive oil. Mix. Taste to see what it needs. Don’t be afraid of olive oil, be afraid of vinegar.

NEXT: VEGGIE FRITTERS

Tomatoes (maybe 2-3? They used small ones so I don’t know), chopped and press with fist in strainer; a few onions, chopped; vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and ~2 cloves of garlic; wheat flour and self-rising for. Make into a paste it cookie dough consistency. Roll into balls and roll in flour. Fry in olive oil very hot at first, slowly turning temperature to medium.

LASTLY: KEFTEDES/GREEK MEATBALLS

1 kilo minced pork, 2-3 cups bread crumbs, salt, white pepper, parsley, spearmint. Generous amount of olive oil, shot of ouzo, 1 egg, small bit of red wine vinegar. Mix with hands, roll into balls, roll around in wheat flour. Fry in olive oil using same method as above.

NOW–ALL THE FEELZ

Today I’d like to mention a lesson I’ve learned about myself on this trip. As many in my family and friends groups may know, was quite anxious about this trip. In was afraid of making friends and just traveling in general. I just get anxious often. Very often. The last time I went abroad I was with my mom, my best friends, and many other people whom I knew. Here, I was starting off blank. So the lesson is this: I can do these things alone. I can overcome anxiety and not allow it to dictate my life. I can go without my mom or friends. I can start alone and meet people who may like me and be okay. I can conquer my self-induced obstacles. So, once again, I thank anyone and everyone who helped me get the guys to apply and go on this trip, and the people on it who have made it so fun and important to me.

Peace 🙂

Forgetting Fun Facts

June 16

I know I haven’t blogged in a while–WiFi and time have been few and far between, and when they are, it’s short-lived. I’m doing my best.

Before leaving Delphi, we headed to the museum next to the site we visited yesterday. We saw the aforementioned sphinx at the top of the 9m column, as well as a bunch of other things I talked about yesterday.

My pictures are usually of ruins, but I figured I should mention that the temples and statues I talk about were usually painted elaborately, in blues, reds and golds.

We saw one of the most well-preserved temple friezes is the Treasury of the Siphnians of 530 BC that depicted an image of warriors fighting over a body on one side and the Judgment of Paris on the other. Some of the legs of the figures are completely separated from the block of the frieze, something that’s pretty different from most of the friezes we’ve seen.

Aristotle ranked his 3 most important artifacts in the museum for us:

#3: Piece of wall holding inscriptions of lyrics and rhythms for hymns sung in the Pythian games at Delphi. This was one of the few pieces of music that survived from Ancient Greece, and many people have tried to perform it in its original form.

#2: Debris from several gold and ivory statues, the only ones to be found at Delphi, depicting Apollo, Leto and Artemis. Also, a silver statue of a sacrificial bull. There were hundreds of statues like this in Delphi but many were looted, and the gold/silver/ivory ones were the most valuable.

AAANNNNND DRUMROLL PLEAAAAAASE…

#1: The votive offering of Aemilius Paulus. This is a depiction of a real historical event. It’s not a “victory” monument like many we’ve seen that could or could not have accurately depicted the battle, and it’s not a depiction of a mythological battle. It is the oldest relief work narrating an actual event in Greco-Roman history.

We also saw the only large-scale bronze statue that survived in Delphi—it wasn’t looted because it was buried in an earthquake and it shows a charioteer at the moment of his victory with four horses in front of him.

Next we looked at the Fountain of Castalia from the 6th century BC and walked down a steep path to the Temple of Athena. The temple was a circular shape and was one of the first things someone would see when visiting the sanctuary or oracle. At one point, according to legend, we stood in the place where both the Persians and the Gauls were stopped from entering the sanctuary by huge boulders thrown by 2 giants and Apollo, respectively. The area has been found to be very vulnerable to landslides and rockslides.

After the Temple of Athena, we drove for a while to the Monastery of Hosios Loukas. We walked into a gorgeous church that is almost 1,000 years old. The walls and ceilings are covered in mosaics—rich gold, deep blues and reds and greens, patterns outlining icons and saints. It seemed at first as if it was all one picture, but when looked at closely, you can see each individual rectangle of bright color fitted snugly, embraced by all its surrounding pieces.

Aristotle told us that the gold background is symbolic that the events pictured took place in transcendence, disregarding time and place.

We saw the shrine to Loukas, who founded the monastery, where people were healed in a way similar to that of the Asklepion in Epidaurus that I liked so much—sleeping in chambers and performing the processes to ask for healing. We also got to see a skeleton that is believed to be the relic of Loukas.

I bought some honey with thyme at the monastery because a) Barnes recommended it, and b) I am emotionally unprepared to ever leave this wonderful country, so I want to buy things to make it seem like I never left. I am aware the latter reasoning is flawed, but let me have my damn honey, okay?

We drove to Athens after the monastery, and we all went shopping in the Plaka (reminiscing of 3 weeks prior) and then got ourselves dolled up for the first of our farewell dinners. We headed to a restaurant’s deck, overlooking a view of the sun beginning to conceal itself behind the mountains, sending up flares of oranges, pinks, and purples.

After a dinner that was similar to our first in the country, we listened to Barnes toast those leaving us the next day (comparing our big family to a mosaic in which each person is a tesserae in the scheme of a work of art).

We then started our goodbye to Aristotle, the most knowledgeable, wonderfully dorky, paternal, passionate guide anyone could have. More on that in my last section.

We took pictures with everyone and then headed back to the hotel to continue our celebration of KATY’S BIRTHDAYYYYYY (!). I LOVE YOU KATY. I WILL SEE YOU SOON.

Then bed at 1am before waking up at 5:30 for our ferry to Santorini!

*~^~*fUn FaCtZ*~^~*

1. I just accidentally deleted my notes on my phone that had all my fun facts. I’m very upset right now.

SHEEEEIT I LITERALLY JUST DID IT. WHY AM I DUMB.

I HAD GOOD FACTS TOO!!!! SHIT. SHIT.

2. I guess I’ll just go on to my feels? AWHIEOGLKDIWEJKDS I am unhappy with myself now. Dammit.

My unwilling continuation to all of my feels

I was so sad to say goodbye to amazing people like Jane and Katy and the others. I know I will see Katy soon, but not Jane, who’s going to NY!

Honestly, I was saddest to see Aristotle go. He was obviously sad to be leaving us, and he came to our farewell dinner despite having had a migraine all day. I cried after he left, full disclosure. I can’t imagine our trip without him. He made sure to give us all the information about a site or an artifact that existed. He obviously loves antiquity and history so much, and I will always remember his little quirks, like roof tiles. Barnes, when you read this, will you please send him the link to this blog?

Aristotle, you really cared about all of us. This made you different from any other guide. You gave us your card to call if we got lost (which came in handy for some people in our group) and you always answered my questions fully and made it easy to understand. I love that you have trouble with the words “invisible” and “invincible”. I love that you read aloud from ancient texts at the sites we visited. Thank you so, so much for sharing your knowledge and passions with us.

That’s basically everything that I can possibly feel right now. I am heartbroken to leave those people. I will hopefully see all of them again one day.

THIS…. IS….. THERMOPYLAE/DELPHI/THESSALY!!!

June 15

Delphi day! This morning we drove through the region of Thessaly. Thessalians were believed to be some of the first people to use land mines, FYI. They dug trenches and placed jars and pots sideways in the trenches, and then put a thin layer of dirt on top to make it look flat. Horses and people would break the pots, fall in and get stuck.

We then stopped in Lamia for a break and a snack, and quickly got back on the road. We stopped (it was raining and hailing so we stayed in the bus) at the place of the Battle of Thermopylae, the last stand of the Spartans and inspiration for the movie 300. 

1 hour into the second half of the drive I made everyone stop and pee for my own selfish needs. Barnes, once again, I apologize. I slowed us up. θλιμμένος…Λυπάμαι, and other Google translated Greek apologies. 

Then we hit Delphi! Delphi is the site of the Sanctuary of Apollo, one of the most important sanctuaries and oracles in Greece. Delphi is considered the navel or center of the Greek world. In mythology, Zeus releases two eagles, one from the easternmost part of the world and one from the westernmost. The two met at Delphi and there, Zeus placed a pebble. (We saw that pebble…soooo..COOL THINGZ IN GREECE) In Delphi, unlike Dodona, questions were of importance–religious, warfare, strategy, political questions, sometimes given to you to ask by your home polis.

First we saw the market that was used to buy things to sacrifice, dedications, and souvenirs. To see if the oracle wanted to talk to you, you’d have to sacrifice a healthy goat. I sacrificed Jane in the example, in which I asked the oracle if I would destroy the Death Star. 

Second was treasury houses and political displays. Delphi was a place to make the achievements of your polis known throughout the Greek world. City-states commemorated victories with elaborate statues, and city-states were continually undermining one another. One of the cool parts about this site is that we walked and stood in the same places as basically everyone who was anyone in the Greek world. If Oedipus was a real man, we followed his footsteps. 

Third was Zeus’s pebble! It was a conical looking shape, derived from an object in an Asian religion. 

Fourth was the Halos, in the places where Apollo was believed to have slay the dragon. There was a 9m column in that spot with a sphinx on top that we’ll see tomorrow in the Delphi Museum. At this spot, Aristotle read part of Euripedes’ “The Ion”

Next came the Athenian stoa. We make our way up to the altar, and then see the base of a golden tripod of Plataea–a tripod supported by 3 intertwined snakes with a bronze pillar naming 31 Greek city-states. It was taken to the hippodrome of Constantinople in the 4th century AD, and it’s still there.

After, we saw the altar of Apollo, where the goats would be sacrificed before the oracle spoke. For more on how the Pythia and the Oracle of Delphi worked, you can go here. Because it’s 1am and I don’t know what I’m even typing right now. After the altar, we went into the temple, which would have had sacred tress, the navel (pebble Zeus dropped), etc. The answers the oracle would provide were twisty and hard to understand, and if they we wrong, it was because the person interpreted wrong but the oracle was right.

We also got to see the base of the tripod that the Pythia would sit in to sniff fumes to be in contact with Apollo. In 2000, a theory came about that 2 geographical fault lines crossed at that point and a type of gas was released from the earth causing the Pythia to become intoxicated or sleep deprived. Aristotle said he believes none of that, and the Pythia would bring themselves into a self-induced trance and really believe Apollo was overcoming them.

Next, we saw the theatre. It would have held 5,000 people, and in it, Aristotle read some more and Barnes recited the first lines of The Iliad in Ancient Greek. It was super epic. Very impressive. I’d seen it once before in Ancient World class, but it’s different when you hear Barnes’s booming voice staring at an Ancient Greek theatre with mountains behind me in a place where some of the most important people of antiquity made their most important political decisions. It’s so different. It’s such an amazing feeling. 

We saw the stadium next, which was roped off recently because of a rock slide a few years back. It was a bit more intact than other stadiums we’d seen. We also saw the laurel tree of Daphne, and I looked up a sculpture of her running from Apollo and turning into a tree in the same moment. It’s a beautiful work of art. Thanks for bringing it up, Barnes and Deedra!

We walked around and shopped for a while in Delphi, and I ate some souvlaki with Barnes, Takis, Naomi, Aristotle, and Lexi at a place across the street from my hotel.

FURN FERCTS [fun facts]

1. Thessalian women had a very common activity of performing witchcraft, as is mentioned in a book I read for Ancient World, The Golden Ass

2. We passed over the aqueduct that brings water from a far western area to Athens. The aqueduct was open, and we could literally see the water we’d drink or bathe in soon. The aqueduct is 200km long.

3. Unlike the Oracle of Zeus, you can only consult the Oracle of Apollo once a month for 9 months because Apollo would go on vacation and Dionysos took over.

4. Some people, it they make an important dedication to Delphi, got to cut in line. They got precedence. People from Naxos, for instance!

5. I learned a tongue twister in Greek! I can’t type it because I can barely say it, so…

ALLLLLLLL THA FEEEEEEELZ

THE MOMENT I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR….

Anna Barnes! I have been told you have read my blog! I’m very excited to hear that. 🙂 Trust me, I still have a week here and I will survive going home…barely. But I appreciate your worry. And can I say how wonderful of a job you did with your son. He is the best professor I’ve ever had and really cares about his students. Thanks for spawning him. *thumbs up*

So, today was super cool!!! Delphi is incredible. It’s a gorgeous view over a river valley, and you can see ruins below and above you. At some points, you have to stop and take it all in so you can realize where you are. The center of the world for Ancient Greece. The place where the most important political, strategic, and religious decisions were made. That’s what happens in Greece. That’s another reason I can’t leave.

Now I need to go to bed. I am exhausted and tomorrow is the farewell dinner, so I’m gonna need to rest my eyes for the crying and whatnot. Heading back to Athens tomorrow, and then a 6am departure for Santorini the next day! EXCITING. THINGS ARE EXCITING. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THE END OF THE TRIP IS NEARING ME. NO ONE REMIND ME. THANKS.

Peace ‘n’ Blessin’s ❤

Skinnings, Skulls, and Sleeping Mary

June 14

Today began with leaving the creepy-ass hotel for an hour-ish drive to Metsovo, a quaint and absolutely beautiful town of 6,000. We took a short tour of a church there and dispersed for a while. I got some coffee and sat to look at the view. Metsovo is a town surrounded by mountains, full of greenery and flowers, and has a very small-town feel. AND ARISTOTLE BOUGHT US CHEESE! Aristotle is wonderful. Let me reiterate that.

After Metsovo, we headed to Kalampaka for an expensive but yummy lunch. THEN I FOUND A PUPPY. A SMALL, FRIENDLY, FLUFFY PUPPY. Help me. I miss him already. Then we left for the 2 monasteries of the day.

Monasteries in the Meteora area are built on the top of rock formations from a lake millions of years ago that drained. The monks and nuns wanted to get as far away as possible from temptation and normal life–little did they know, thousands of tourists would visit..

I started freaking out on the way up, knowing that those buildings on those seemingly-precarious rocks were going to be under our feet soon. It was a bit scary, but also blowing my freakin’ mind. Once we got up there to the Holy Monastery of Great Meteora, though, the view was incredible. We couldn’t take pictures in the actual church, which is shaped like a cross, but it was covered floor to ceiling in icons and murals.They’re organized in a hierarchy, with Jesus in the top in the dome, and down to scenes from Jesus’s life, to prophets, to saints, to the congregation.

Some/many of the pictures–which surprised me–were graphic and violent, showing saints being tortured and killed. Stabbings, boilings, stretchings, beheadings, roastings on a grill. Nasty shit. It surprised me. More on that later.

I learned that in the Orthodox Church after 3 years, you exhume monks’ bodies. They keep the skulls and other bones in an ossuary. WE GOT TO SEE SKULLS. It was super creepy but super interesting. After that, it began thundering, lightning, raining (as it does when we go to sites, apparently).

Back in the day (I don’t know when the day is, I didn’t hear, so yeah), females weren’t allowed in monasteries (they’re too tempting, apparently) and even female animals couldn’t come in. 

We moved on to St. Stephens Holy Monastery, which was actually a nunnery. It was a bit prettier because there were more flowers decorating the place than in the one before. We once again went in the church (no pics again!) and saw more torture scenes. Quite morbid. Hooks in skin, beheadings, skinning of a person, etc. Aristotle described it as being there to remind people of the saints, and to remind them what happens to them if they aren’t good Christians. All I could think was, this is another reason that religion isn’t for me. Oops. It was a very intricate and beautiful space, though.

We didn’t see an ossuary in this nunnery, but we did see the top of the skull of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. SKULLZ Y’ALL. SKULLZ IZ KOOL.

We drove back down to Kalampaka and checked in to our hotel–not as nice as the last, but definitely in a good way. We headed to a taverna and saw Greece lose in the World Cup. 😦 Then headed back, ate some dinner and some AMAZING DESSERT (which I’m sure you’ll remember, Barnes), and now here I am blogging!

FUN FAAAAAACTZ

1. Some women in Metsovo still wear traditional garb in their everyday life.

2. The first monastery we went to had the finger of St. John and part of his cross, as well as part of the shoulder bone of St. Andrew. Creepy.

3. They don’t have pews in Orthodox churches, they have things like chairs with very high arm rests so that the person sits in a sort of cross-like position.

4. In the mural scene of the “sleeping” (death) of the Virgin Mary, there’s always a depiction in it of an angel cutting off the hands of a Jew that tried to touch her. I saw it and it’s also pretty creepy. 

5. We saw from a distance the Holy Trinity Monastery that was used for the Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only.” The first monastery we attended was featured in one of the first movies of Greece (1911 silent film) in which a real monk goes up the elevator contraption to the monastery as a sort of stunt-double for a much younger and different-looking actor who was scared to go up.

ALL ZE FEELS Y’ALL

I feel good today. Less sick but still a bit sick. The end of the trip is sneaking up on me and WHAT DO I DO. HELP WHAT EVEN DO I DO. SOMEONE’S GONNA HAVE TO DRAG ME TO THE AIRPORT. I’M NOT GOING WILLINGLY YOU GUYS.

I loved the sites today!!! It was so surreal to be on the middle of a rock jutting out of the ground as high as a mountain with a small, beautiful building on top. How do you even explain what that looks and feels like? Looking out over mountain after mountain, seeing lightning slapping the sky in the distance, petting a stray but friendly cat. That’s Greece, everyone. That’s my trip in one sentence, if you add a gyro in my hand and Barnes and Aristotle teaching me things in the background. 

I am so grateful, once again, to be here. I really liked watching the soccer game today, even if Greece did lose. It reminded me of my brother forcing me to watch soccer games I didn’t care about (bittersweet though). 

Right now I have a Charlie horse forming in my leg and I really should go to bed. Pics coming eventually! Sorry everyone! I am a lazy but busy bum. 

Peace ‘n’ Blessin’s ❤