Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lazy Sunday

 Lazy Sunday
Sleeping in until noon was just what we all needed this morning. When we got back from spring break everyone was exhausted but had no time to catch up on sleep. It is crunch time for course work. It’s hard to believe we have one month left here! We have chosen to travel outside of Athens a lot. Due to this we cram in a lot of course work when we are actually here in Athens so we can have more time to enjoy ourselves and explore new places when we travel.
This week course work hasn’t been the only factor in why we are so exhausted. The weather has been phenomenal here. Sixty-six degrees and sunny. We have loved the warm sunshine. Lying out on our rooftop deck in our bathing suits is where we can be found every day after class. Some of us have learned the hard way that the UV rays here in Athens are much stronger than at home. Sunday afternoon I was the shade of a Crayola red crayon. Sixty-six degrees and sunny is not what we consider tanning weather back home; especially in March! We all thought we were so funny sending pictures of ourselves tanning in our bathing suits to our friends and family back home while they are receiving another snow storm. Between our bodies not being used to the sun exposure and the sunburns we have received it has caused us to be extra lethargic all week. One morning we were all so exhausted that we overslept for class leaving Rich and Lily standing outside our apartment ringing the buzzer and calling everyone’s phone.
When people started to finally wake up this afternoon everyone once again put their bathing suits on and headed for the deck. There was a cool breeze today but we still sat out there soaking up the rays. Around 3:00 people started to come back inside because it got really chilly and we were all hungry. We had absolutely no food in our house and all the markets and Kiosks were closed. We didn’t realize that it was Greek Independence day on Monday and the celebrations start today. We learned the hard way that it is rare for places to be open the day before Independence Day here because they make a two day celebration of it.
After lying in our beds and reading all afternoon we finally decided to go to Athens Hard Rock Café. We figured between it being an American restaurant and a tourist attraction it had to be open. This was my first time since being in Athens eating at an American restaurant. Sitting looking at the menu I was overwhelmed with all my options. I love trying all the different Greek foods but I have truly missed American food. I don’t have a love for the Greek food like I do American food.I was torn between nachos, buffalo chicken fingers, or a cheeseburger. I decided I would go with the cheeseburger because it came with french fries and I could dip my french fries in buffalo sauce to fulfill my buffalo sauce craving. One thing I have noticed about Greek food is that they don’t have spicy foods like we do in American. I think everyone at the table had something with buffalo sauce on it besides Chryssie. As we sat and ate I kept thinking about the portion size that had just been set down in front of me. When I am home I have no problem finishing a cheeseburger in one sitting. Being here I think I have started to adapt to the smaller European portion sizes because I was struggling to finish my burger and fries. Everyone polished off their plates and we even made room for desert. We could not pass up an American ice-cream sundae. The sundae consisted of three giant scoops of vanilla ice-cream, a warm chocolate brownie, hot fudge, whip cream, nuts and a cherry. Words cannot describe how delicious it tasted. We were joking at the table asking Katie if she was even breathing while eating it. We split one sundae between two people. The table next to us consisted of three older couples. The six of them split one sundae and received it before we got ours and we finished ours well before them. We sat and laughed at ourselves for a while about how much we just ate and how quickly we ate it before heading back home. In my opinion it was the perfect lazy Sunday!

The Hunt in Plaka

Lily McGartland
March 24, 2013
The Hunt in Plaka
            Today I woke up earlier than normal so that I wouldn’t waste my day by getting up when it was already half over. When I got up, my dad and I could hear the distant sounds of large masses of people. After a few minutes of complete confusion of what was going on, we remembered that tomorrow was Independence Day for the Greeks. And today, the local schools celebrated with parades and activities. There is an elementary school about two blocks from our apartment and we could hear their festivities all day.
            All the shops and markets were closed, as they usually are on Sundays, but they were also closed for the day before Independence Day. There was nothing in our neighborhood of Kolonaki to do or see, so we decided to walk down to the area around the Agora, the neighborhood of Plaka, and search for a few landmarks for possible class trips. We were looking for the Jewish Martyrs Square and a nearby playground, commemorating the death of 13,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust.
            As we got closer and closer to Plaka, we realized there were so many more people, especially tourists, than we expected. The streets were crowded and bustling. Compared to the week before in Plaka, the amount of tourists had not doubled, not tripled, but was about four times as many. They packed the cobblestone streets and the many tables at the roadside cafes and tavernas. It was quite off putting after weeks of hearing mostly Greek to be bombarded with many languages, the most prominent being English. It was almost a relief to hear our own tongue; yet if felt strange to my ears, like it didn’t belong.
            We walked around for quite a while, a few hours at least – looking for the two landmarks in the seas of people. We were completely unsuccessful at finding either place. The first one, the Jewish Square, we thought would be easiest to find since it was at the cross roads of two main streets. But when we arrived at the intersection, it proved to be a lot more difficult than we imagined. There were many different park-like areas that could have been it, but there were no signs, even if there were, they would have been in Greek.
            We gave up the mission to find the Jewish Martyrs Square and began looking for the children’s playground instead. We strolled up the winding street that runs all along the Agora, searching for the playground. Both sides of the street were filled with little vendors selling handmade jewelry and souvenirs. We finally found a playground, tucked in next to the back entrance to the Agora. It was tiny and rundown, but full of smiling Greek children and their happy parents. There were a few signs erected near the path into the playground; unluckily, they were all in Greek.
            After that, we gave up and headed home using the hidden pathway behind the Agora that runs along the bottom of the Acropolis. This time though, the “secret” road was quite busy and filled with locals and tourists using “our” shortcut. We came out of the path at the Roman Agora (a small grouping of ruins from the Roman Empire); there was a little taverna, called Taverna Acropolis, right there. Since we were hungry from all the walking we decided to eat there. The view of the Acropolis and Roman Agora, from the restaurant, was spectacular! We ordered a few mezedes (appetizers), tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip), zucchini balls, and gigantes, (giant white beans in tomato sauce). The food was adequate, but not great, except the tzatziki – that was delicious! The yogurt was thick and creamy; the cucumber sweet and crunchy, and there was just a tiny hint of spicy garlic. It was the perfect combination of flavors.
            When we arrived back at our apartment in the late afternoon, our attention turned to siesta (nap) time. We were extremely exhausted from our long walk. We both took long restful naps. It was wonderful! After we woke up, it was time to work on school things. For the next day’s class I had to read a few short stories, and some chapters from the book, Twice a Stranger. The book is about the Greco-Turk population exchange, in the early 20th century. It is filled with historical facts and information; but it is also full of personal accounts and photographs of the mass expulsions. My dad and I settled into a night of relaxation and reading, the best kind of evening, in my opinion.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Licabettus Sunset

Lauren Miller
Blog 3-22-2013
Licabettus Sunset

I do not think I will ever get used to the feeling of waking up and realizing that I am living in Greece. Running along the streets, smelling the fresh pastries being baked, reminds me how lucky I am to be getting this experience and how this is a once and a lifetime chance. 20th century class was cancelled today. The weather was absolutely beautiful out, high 60s with a small gust of wind. I sat on the rooftop deck, finishing my paper that was due on Saturday about a personal experience I have had in Greece. After I was finished with that, I continued to read my book. At one point, I had to put sunscreen on my face and chest because I felt as if the sun was burning right through my skin.
Once everyone else had finished with their Rhetoric and Society class, we all sat together on the roof, listening to country music that was hooked up to Katie’s speakers and eating lunch. Everyone was eating various things: salads, sandwiches, rice, and grilled cheese. Because it was so nice, I fell asleep lying in the sun. When the afternoon was coming to an end, Carolyn, Chryssie, and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and we went on a three-mile walk. We went down to a garden where there are a lot of other local people walking their dogs, running, or watching their children play in the various playgrounds. The park is big with a lot of little pathways that can get you mixed up with which way is the correct direction to get out of the park.
When I returned from our walk, I went with Katie and Matt to climb to the top of Mount Licabettus for sunset. The hike took about 15 minutes to get to the top. We also took a path that was half stairway, half rocks. At times I found myself slowing down because I can sometimes be clumsy when it comes to things like that. We chose today to climb the mountain because the sky was so clear and they weather was very warm and we wanted to take advantage of it. Once we got to the top, I noticed that there were many other people that had thought the same thing.
At the top it was much windier than it was at the bottom. We had climbed up a little earlier than the sun was supposed to set because we wanted to get some work done at the top. I sat on a ledge in the sun and pulled out my computer. There were a few people that looked at me oddly, wondering what I was doing. I took the time to edit my paper that was due the next day, and once I was finished, I read my book for a little bit. Right before the sunset hit the horizon, I looked out at the city of Athens. When I see the historic places such as the Acropolis and Zeus’ Temples, I am once again reminded how special of a city I am studying in and that it is filled with endless amounts of history. After the sun was completely behind the mountains, we were all shivering from the wind chill. We headed back down the mountain, taking our time. Once at the bottom, we passed many locals rushing home from what looked like work, carrying grocery bags. Some people were hailing taxis while others were running to the bus stops.
When we returned to the apartment, all the girls headed out to find something to eat for dinner. We went down to Xarchia Square and ate at Mystic Pizza. I had a grilled chicken salad, others had pasta and pizza. We all took bites of each others trying new things. That night, we all decided to stay in and finish our homework for the week. After I had finished with my work, I fell asleep fairly early. I am still trying to catch up on some sleep from spring break! Although today was not as exciting of some of our other days, I greatly appreciated it because I was reminded in so many ways how thankful I need to be for the opportunities that I am having here in Athens and Europe.

Amsterdam Blog

Zach Wasielewski
Amsterdam Blog
            The final day in Amsterdam had to be the most interesting day that I had on spring break.  This was the first day that I felt like I was back-packing around the world, because we had no place to leave our belongings.  Chryssie, Pat, Hayley, and I only booked our hostel for 2 days so we were roughing it out around Amsterdam for the last day until 7 o’clock until my friend could meet us at the Amsterdam Train Station. We were going to stay with my friend Jason for the night.  It was a different feeling having to worry about all of you belongs then just your wallet.  I didn’t ever take my eyes of my backpack or my passport and wallet. I felt like we were all guarding our bags with our lives because if you lost your bag you had no way of getting home or anything. It was hard to think that I was completely on my own because I have never traveled without my parents and this was the first time I was doing that I thought that my parents would be proud of me for traveling around by myself and not missing my planes or getting lost in a city and stuck there.  We were going to spend the night in Utrecht Netherlands were Jason studies for school.  While we were waiting we all decided that we were all feeling in a daze so we just hung around and shopped.  It was a pretty basic day living in Amsterdam going to the shops and sites.  The Anne Frank House was an eye-opening experience because it was the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her diary during the Second World War.  I couldn’t believe how 8 people actual hid in that house.
            Jason is one of my friends from Connecticut and he is studying abroad in Utrecht Amsterdam.  Once I saw Jason at the train station I was so relieved because we had been out all day with all of our backpacks and just wanted to put down our belongings.  We ended up getting on a train and heading to his school.  The train ride was about 40 minutes and we went through the countryside of Amsterdam.  Once we arrived at his school we were all blown away with the size and beauty.  It was an actual campus with gates and different buildings and dorm rooms.  It was nice to see a real campus like we have in the states not like the one in Greece were it is just one building and not really a campus.  Jason told me that it was their mid-term week so we came at a good time because they would definitely be going out and drinking tonight.  There was a bar on campus that all the students were going to go to so we could end up meeting a lot of kids.  That was fine with us because we wanted to see how a different campus was and meet some different students.  A bar on college campus may sound like a bad idea but, the campus is smart for putting it there.  The bar had 1 euro beers so it was cheap and on campus so no one was driving.  It was fun we ended up getting a few drinks having a good time. We meet so many different people.  I met a kid from Barcelona, Amsterdam, Vienna, and other places.  It was interesting because his school only had about 50 students from America.  So there school was mostly European people.  Jason said that all the European kids spoke better English then he did.  It was good to have Jason because it made me feel like I was at home.  A familiar face was a good thing to see because it has been awhile since I have seen anyone from my hometown.  We ended up having a great night and when we got back to his apartment we were ready for bed.  

Park Guell

Ashley Bruce
Blog Post 5
Park Guell
            My eyes were foggy as I woke up from a mid-day nap. I rubbed my eyes as I heard: “I was just about to wake you, get up we are heading to Park Guell!” My best friend Katie stated. My body woke instantly. I was so excited to go see one of the top tourist attractions in Barcelona. After I quickly got ready, we started off and headed to the metro. Park Guell was just a few short stops on the metro, but what a hike up! As we got off the metro we walked towards the bottom of the hill. I looked up and it looked as if it was an illusion. It looked like it never ended. Luckily there were escalators to bring you up most of it. This would have been great if I wasn’t scared of escalators! I would say we headed up at least 10 escalators once we reached the top. It was absolutely breathe taking standing at the entrance of Park Guell. The skillful man by the name of Antoni Gaudi created all of this and I couldn’t believe it. There were stunning panoramic views, gorgeous architecture, astonishing gardens, and praiseworthy tile work. I couldn’t believe how skillfully he incorporated his work into this piece of landscape. There was uncommon architecture, beautiful bright colors, and work inspired by nature throughout this park. This park was so big it was almost overwhelming, but luckily I had my best friend to tour guide me through it. Kate taught me everything I needed to know about this park! Park Guell was built in the early 1900’s and is built on the hill of El Carmel, which is located in the Gracia District. This is one of many architectural sites made by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, but definitely the biggest. This site was never fully finished due to the war in 1914. By 1922, the property was then taken over and owned by the city of Barcelona and was open to the people as a public park. Some of my favorite places to see in the park were the two gatehouses, the staircase, the serpentine bench, and the peak. The two gatehouses are at the entrance of the park. Their roof tops reminded me of mushroom like dome rooftops with colorful tile work all over. The staircases lead up to the serpentine bench and the peak. On this staircase there were a few magnificent fountains. One of the fountains was my all-time favorite. This fountain had a salamander that was covered in broken ceramic glass of all colors in a mosaic style.
Salamander Fountain:

The serpentine bench was eccentric. It was a striking tiled bench that wraps around the main square. Kate told me that this bench is allegedly the longest bench in the world! This bench was open for the public to sit on. It was the perfect place to sit and to just take in all of the beauty.

Small portion of the bench:
The peak was one of my favorite places because the view was breath taking. The peak is a stone crossed monument at the tip top of Park Guell. The peak at the top of Park Guell was like nothing I have ever seen before. We went at sunset and all you could see was the sun setting with panoramic views of what now is one of my favorite cities with the gorgeous view of the ocean. When I am older, Barcelona will be one of my top cities to visit again before I die.
The Cross: