“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
Through my program we are given about 3 weeks off from normal classes. One of those weeks was dedicated to studying with your core course in another country (Sweden and Estonia for me), but the shenanigans that occur in the other two weeks are up to the student. During my first week I travelled to Italy and Switzerland. Following the same trend of wanting to see the ancient world I made my way to Greece, the land of democracy, gyros, and monumental marble masterpieces.
I packed my bags on Friday night knowing there would be very little time in the morning if I wanted to catch my 9:05 am flight without having to worry about missing my flight. Accompanying me on this excursion were three people from my kollegium. Eric Ong, weighing in at all of 110 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal, Brian Evans, a completely outrageous human being who brings shenanigans with him wherever he goes, and Brianne Phelan, the token mom figure, and I made up this motley crew that would spend the next four days in Athens, Greece. As I exited my room and made my way to the lobby of the kollegium I discovered that Brian had awoken just 10 minutes before. Thus, Brian successfully set the tone for the rest of the trip which entailed getting to most of our destinations by the skin of our teeth.
Mt. Delphi: The Ancient Home of the Oracle
We woke up bright and early the second day in order to make the morning bus to Mt. Delphi. Normally when on vacation people don’t want to get up early, especially not at 6:30 in the morning. However, Delphi, from what I had heard and read, was a sight to behold. Early mornings can be hard, but Delphi made it well worth it.
Brief history lesson: Mt. Delphi was essentially the religious center of ancient Greece. The mountain was the home of the Oracle who was the ultimate religious and political authority in Greece, and all ancient Greece city-states had to adhere to the orders of the Oracle. If you’ve ever seen the high-action movie, 300, then you will probably remember the scene with the disfigured priests and the young, beautiful, oracle. Although that scene was great in Hollywood, it wasn’t what it was like back in the day. The Oracle was typically a much older woman who used special smoke to induce a hallucination. The hallucination was interpreted and relayed to the king of the city-state.
Anyway, that’s enough history. We made our way up the mountain on a bus whose driver sped through the mountain curves with very little regard for human life. Once we arrived we were dropped off on the side of the mountain by a café. The food from the café was fine, but the view was even better.
Seeing the view was breathtaking. There were mountains all around with a green valley thousands of feet below. Across the horizon was a small plateau just in front of a lake front town. The view had all the majesty one would expect from the landscapes of Greece and then some. What made Delphi even more amazing was the juxtaposition of the mountainous terrain and the ancient ruins that stood at the side of the mountain. These ruins consisted of two large temples with a theater that stood at the very top of the ruins. It was a decent sized estate for the Oracle, making it that much more impressive as it was at the top of this mountain.
The Island of Aegina
Our journey to Mt. Delphi was long and tiresome, but that did not deter us from more adventures the following day. We made our way on the train to the port of Piraeus where we took a speedboat to the island of Aegina. We arrived slightly after noon and instantly went to the tourist center. There we learned that many of the attractions were several kilometers away on the island. However, this gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the island by way of ATVs. After a quick tutorial from the man at the ATV rental we were on our way to exploring the island. From here I will let the pictures speak the rest of the story.
Of course, while in Athens we had to explore the Acropolis. First we climbed to the top of Mt. Lycabettus in order to get the best view of Athens. From the top of the mountain one could see the white buildings stretch from the coast all the way to the mountainside with no end in sight. Athens is an incredibly expansive city that fills the valley surrounded by the mountains. From this peak the Acropolis can been seen perfectly lit up in the nighttime.
We climbed up the Acropolis during the day. On our way up we say the Agora along with the old Temple of Zeus. This temple was probably my favorite just because of the sheer size of the pillars. And of course there was the Acropolis itself, which overlooks the city. The most incredible part of this is the fact that these ruins have stood the test of time up on that rock. Sure, there have been restorations on the monument at all times, but that does not take away from how incredible the buildings up on the Acropolis are.
I spent a grand total of four days in Greece, but I easily could have spent a month or two in the country exploring the countryside from one city to another, hopping from one island to another. It was easily my favorite place in Europe, and I hope that I can come back there again one day.