Greece

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece since I was about 5 years old.  It all started with my obsession with Greek mythology, that not only had great stories but also celebrated kick ass goddesses like Athena and Artemis.  But my fascination with Greek culture expanded when I ate gyros, read the Odyssey, learned about the birthplace of democracy and the first place that made public universal education a thing.  When I went to college, I joined a sorority and served on Panhellenic.  I also went to a few toga parties…  I religiously watch the Olympics every other year.  Everything from philosophy to mathematics was developed in Ancient Greece. This great civilization had such a profound impact on our world, that humanity can attribute so many positive things in their daily lives to the Greeks.

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We were in a fantastic apartment with a view of the Acropolis.

The first evening we decided to climb Mt. Lycabbetus.  What a way to start our trip.  I had been dreaming of Athens for so long and then I got to see the city and the ocean transform at twilight.

It was a HIKE.  This is a view of Mt. Lycabbetus from the Acropolis.
It was a HIKE. This is a view of Mt. Lycabbetus from the Acropolis that we were on a few days later.
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As we climbed, we saw the sun set and the city transform.
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The Acropolis, sitting pretty at twilight.

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It was a great way to start our trip.
3 amigas, ready to take on Athens

The next day we went to Lake Voulliagmeni.  It is a beautiful, natural lake a stones through away from the ocean, about an hour south of Athens.IMG_4224

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Our threesome
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The little fishies that nibbled at our feet. Who needs a spa treatment when you’ve got a old natural spring lake.

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Greeks and tourists alike come to relax in a serene natural setting with great service and fluffy white cabanas.

After a few hours in the sun, we saw people walking up on top of the cliff.  So of course, we had to go.

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On the way up
There's the lake we were at! Lake Voulli
There’s the lake we were at! Lake Voulli
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My god, the views did not disappoint. Simply dreamy.

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IMG_4227That night, we went up to the rooftop bar of our hostel for beautiful night views of the Acropolis and to hang out with our new friends.  This hostel was fantastic in that it really fostered a community-like culture.  We met an Australian couple who are now teachers in London going on a 6 month sabbatical to travel through Europe.  A Brazilian guy traveling alone for a week through Europe, another in Athens for work.  An American guy traveling through Greek islands after his semester abroad.  A pair of best friends from Australia traveling before their graduation.  We had a tremendously fun night with them, singing karaoke classics and laughing the whole way.

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The two Brazilians sing La Bomba
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Our new Australian friends got together and sang their favorite famous Australian pop song
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New friends!
Either Drop it Like its Hot or Hit Me Baby One More Time.  I can't remember and it's probably best I don't...
Either Drop it Like its Hot or Hit Me Baby One More Time. I can’t remember and it’s probably best I don’t…

The next day we went on a free walking tour of the city.

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The Panathenaic Stadium- the largest marble stadium in the world and where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896
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Liza and Athenian guards
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We went to Monastiraki Square where there were lots of restaurants and stores. We grabbed fresh fruit during a quick break.

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This picture and the one above are the remains of Hadrian’s Library, built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The Greeks value public knowledge and public education for all because they believe that in order for a democracy to work, all citizens need to participate effectively.  For that, universal education is the key in having informed citizens. This was reflected even today- in the museums that we visited and at all of the sites, the historical context of all artifacts were really well explained. Even more, every archaeological site and the Acropolis museum had free entry for students. For the general public, everything is reasonably priced.
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The remnants of the Agora
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On top of a hill across from the Acropolis- here a number of famous speakers, including the Pope, have come and given free lectures. Another example of how Greece has advocated for accessible public knowledge.

One of my favorite things was just walking up and down the winding streets in the hot sun accompanied by groups of musicians on the street playing traditional music.

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This is where we decided to stop for lunch.

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We follow the gyros….
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Tangy Tzatziki
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Some Souvlaki

Eating in Greece is like eating in Italy.  We peasants didn’t really know what Greek food is until we’re eating fresh Tzatziki with fresh out of the oven pita covered in herbs.  It was amazing.  Every meal we ate was better than the last. Ughhhh this is making me hungry.

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Even the fast food is off the chain! 2 EU gyros literally every day. Every day. Yummy gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, tzatziki, warm pita, and fries. Gyros forever.
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Also surprisingly enough, the Greeks are famous for their iced coffee!! Trust me, this was as good as it looks.

We finished up the day with a visit to the Acropolis museum.  Here we learned about the history of the Acropolis and a number of rare Greek sculptures and original pieces of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis that are kept in the museum to better protect them.

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Kouros Girl

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The Parthenon has a really complicated history that has lasted over 25 centuries. Did you know originally was in color? We think of classical sculpture as white marble, simple and clean. That’s how we’ve modeled so much of our architecture in the US, including government buildings like the White House and the Capitol Building. But that’s not what the Greeks intended! The Parthenon is huge and was adorned with large Metopes that surrounded the building with stories of wars and other myths. The two large triangle shaped pediments on the east and west side of the buildings also told different stories through exquisite sculpture, one of the birth of Athena and the other the contest between Athena and Poseidon. What’s interesting is that in the past 25 centuries, the Parthenon has suffered arson, looting, and destruction. It has been converted into a church and a mosque. What is left of the metopes and pediments, to me, looked like just incomprehensible mush. But the historians, analysts, and artists have been able to recreate these magnificent parts and show how they might have looked in their glory days. To see science and art and history come together in this way is truly amazing.

After a long day of walking and visiting we were pooped.  We got a good night’s rest before our next day, where we visited the island of Aegina.

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We took a much larger ferry, but you get the idea.

Aegina is a small island that a number of Greeks visit when they are on holiday.  We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t really have a plan.  We walked along the docks for a bit in the morning and I told Liza and Nicolle there was a cool temple on the other side of the island that we should visit before hitting up the beach.  But how to get there? We spontaneously decided to rent these.

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All right. Yes, it looks like a sit-down lawn mower. Yes, it looks like those things fat people sit on to grocery shop. But these were fast and fun. AND SAFE.

We scootered around the little island for absolutely breathtaking and pristine views of the mountains, ocean, little houses, and farms.

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Olive Trees
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Up on this mountain far away is the almost intact ancient temple we wanted to visit

We found the island’s famous monastery.

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It was unlike any other church we had been to- so much gold, intricate detail.
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Greek Orthodox temples have a very distinct style and they remind me of Hindu temples in a lot of ways.
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One of the chapels

We got lost a few times.  Beautifully lost.

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And ended up here.
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One of the best days of my life. This is what real freedom feels like.
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Temple of Aphaea- the amazing thing about this temple dedicated to the Greek nymph is that because it sits atop a hill and is on a small island, it has been pretty well preserved.
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“Greek” Life hehe

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We rode back across the island for the most delicious lunch I’ve ever had.

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Goat Cheese (from the island) Salad
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Fried Cod and a cool ginger/potato mash

Something about the spontaneity of the day and discovering treasures across the island on our own and not through a guidebook made this day so special.  We took some risks and didn’t have a plan and it ended up being a fantastic day. We got lost, but through the kindness of a nice Greek family, we got right back on track.  It’ll be a day I’ll always remember and I can’t wait to go back and see other Greek islands.

The next day, we finally made it on top of the Acropolis.

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The Parthenon

The Parthenon is majestic.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  Despite the centuries of destruction and conversion, it still is an awe-inspiring piece of original Greek architecture.  It makes me think, what will the famous buildings of our time look like hundreds of years down the road?  Will our history reach a certain point where the White House is destroyed and international (maybe even intergalactic!!!) tourists come and visit the remains?

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The Erechthion with the famous female columns

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From here we could see the stadium and the Temple of Zeus. The columns of the temple are massive in person but from the Acropolis they look like little toy blocks.

We also went to the Theater of Dionysius, the world’s first theater.

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Theater and performance has been such an important part of my life so to be at the birthplace of theater in person- it gave me chills.  The Greeks used theater as a way to spread culture and they made it accessible to everyone.  They used the stories to not only educate people but to uplift spirits.
Theater and performance has been such an important part of my life so to be at the birthplace of theater in person- it gave me chills. The Greeks used theater as a way to spread culture and they made it accessible to everyone. They used the stories to not only educate people but to uplift spirits.

Next stop was the buzzing Monastiraki Sunday flea market.

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So many trinkets and toys, old antiques. Unfortunately, everything was unreasonably expensive. The set of pool balls in the corner were 100 euro….

At one point Liza and Nicolle were separated from me.  I saw them walking towards me and then as they were talking they quickly turned around and started walking away.  I thought, what are they doing?!  Well, they thought they were approaching me but they actually instead found my adorable twin from Utah.

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Yup, this happened. She was so cute and nice. I still laugh out loud at this picture, I can’t believe this happened. And her husband kept making the same joke over and over again- “You’ll have to excuse me if I accidentally grab your butt!!! hyuh hyuh hyuh”

Last stop- the stadium one more time to see what it’s like to sit inside.

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me & all my friends
These two nutters actually raced to the podium and fought for the 1st place spot.
These two nutters actually raced to the podium and fought for the 1st place spot.

This has been my favorite trip so far.  There were so many things to do, the history was rich and engaging, the food filling and delicious, the people warm and inviting.  We were able to lay at the lake and hike for beautiful views.  We learned about Ancient Greece and all of the things in our lives that we enjoy today that came from this civilization.  Yes, my dream of coming to Greece came true.  But I left only wanting to come back again very soon and to explore every inch of that beautiful country.

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